Where the Performer really stands out from its elder sibling is in its expanded features. The two channels each have ¼" inputs, independent active EQ, an Anti Feedback control, Phase and –10dB Pad switches, an LED clip indicator, and an Effects Level control for the loop. Channel 2 adds an XLR input with selectable 48-volt power, a ¼" Aux In jack with Level control, and a Mute button. The Performer’s DSP section offers chorus, two hall reverbs, and two plate reverbs. You select effects with a 5-position rotary switch, and use the aforementioned Effects Level controls to determine how much effect you want on each channel. The amp also has a Master Volume and a Level control, which acts like a master volume for the digital effects.
Spinning the Performer around, we find ¼" Send and Return jacks and an XLR Mix D.I. (pre EQ) recording out for each channel. There’s also a ¼" Mute Footswitch jack (footswitch not included), a Tuner Out jack, and a global XLR Mix D.I. (post EQ) out that can be used to send a combined signal from both channels to a mixer or slave amplifier.
To audition the Performer, I used a Takamine EAN16C guitar equipped with a Cool Tube preamp/pickup system and an L.R. Baggs M1 soundhole magnetic pickup. The first test involved running just the Tak’s piezo pickup (no Cool Tube added) into Channel 1 of the Performer, which, in response, kicked out a bright, snappy tone with all the zingy top-end presence one would expect from an undersaddle piezo. Some twiddling of the amp’s Low, Mid, and High controls was necessary to soften the piezo’s bite and warm up the bottom, but once dialed in, the sound was satisfying.
The Performer has plenty of tone-shaping capability, which is good, because as soon as I started turning up the Cool Tube knob on the guitar, I had to readjust the amp’s EQ settings to take advantage of this tube-enhanced guitar signal. With some trimming of the lows and a slight boost in treble, the Takamine suddenly sounded very focused and full-bodied—as if it were being run though a good studio monitor. And no matter what combination of piezo, Cool Tube, and mag pickup I concocted, the Performer made it all sound very natural.
Though limited in scope, the Performer’s effects are handy and welcome. They’re surprisingly quiet too. Basically, you can choose between brighter or darker reverbs, with more spatial diffusion offered in the two hall settings and more classic studio texture in the two plate modes. Modulating in a medium-slow tempo, the chorus is smooth, washy, and kind of subtle, which is cool.
As its name implies, this is a loud amp, and when higher volumes begin to elicit feedback, a twist of the Anti Feedback control quickly reigns in the offending frequency, giving you more freedom to work the higher volume realms without fear of howl. Just remember that this variable notch-filter can only attenuate one narrow frequency band at a time, so once you’ve deployed it against the initial feedback (which typically starts in the lower range), you’re not going to get a whole lot louder before secondary feedback occurs. This is usually a result of sound pressure from the speakers causing the top to resonate uncontrollably, and a push of the Phase switch can often help mitigate the problem. If not, you’ll just have to turn down—it’s hard, I know.
I’m impressed with the Loudbox Performer. It has lots of clean headroom and great dynamic response, and the sound delivered by its three-way speaker system is crystal clear. The dual-channel configuration makes it well suited for players who like to switch between instruments (or sing though their amp), and I dig how much lighter it is than the original Loudbox—you won’t feel like you’re risking a sprain carrying it to the gig. The Performer is compact enough to sit comfortably on the front seat of a small car, and everything about this amp seems perfectly in sync with the needs of working musicians. Performer is an appropriate name indeed for this hip new amp.