Ibanez Tone Blaster 100H
By Terry Buddingh
Since its rise to instrument-building prominence in the 1970s, Ibanez has produced a staggering range of guitar designs but very few amps. Prior to the introduction of the Tone Blaster 100H ($400
retail/$300 street; footswitch included), the Ibanez amp line was limited to a few small combos. But the Tone Blaster 100H, when teamed with its complementary Tone Blaster 412A and 412S ($400 retail/$300 street each) speaker cabinets, casts a looming presence over its predecessors, while signaling Ibanez’s dramatic entrance into the heavyweight concert-stack arena. And do I have to point out that you can bring home a head and full-stack configuration for around $900 street? (A 2x12 combo version, called the Tone Blaster 100R, is also available for $499 retail/$369 street.)
Made in China, the amazingly affordable Tone Blaster 100H flaunts an impressive list of useful features. The solid-state, two-channel amp sports Clean and Overdrive channels with independent EQ, Reverb, Gain and Volume controls, plus the amp comes with a rugged four-button footswitch that activates Boost, Channel, Mid Shift, and Reverb. The Tone Blaster’s designers didn’t ignore convenience factors either—the effects loop and headphone jacks are located on the front panel, and plugging into the headphone jack automatically disconnect the speakers for silent practicing. There’s also a Velcro-attached hatch on the rear panel that conceals a storage compartment that’s large enough to hold the footswitch.
While the two channels are voiced with different tone and distortion characteristics, they also share some functions. A global Presence control regulates both channel’s highest frequencies, and the Boost option functions on both channels to provide extra gain for more overdriven textures—it’s like having a built-in overdrive pedal.
The Overdrive channel’s cut-only Middle control can provide the deep midrange scoop necessary for modern metal tones, and its push/pull function offers two center frequency options (600Hz or 1kHz) for different flavors of scoop. This powerful midrange shaping option essentially doubles the Overdrive channel’s range of available tones.
The 100H is a mighty aggressive animal when paired with the TB412A cabinet (see sidebar), but I was still able to get some surprisingly warm and dynamic jazz and country tones from its Clean channel. Single-coil bridge pickups sounded detailed and sparkly, with plenty of bell-like ring for crystal-clear fingerstyle playing or snappy chicken-pickin’. Humbuckers sounded fat and intense, but always remained clearly defined. At higher gain settings, it was easy to extract chest-pounding crunch tones—the Clean channel has an especially punchy dynamic response, even when overdriven.
The Overdrive channel excelled at higher-gain tones—it was easy to dial in heavily scooped midrange textures that possessed thundering low-end rumble with an edgy top that could cut through a thick band mix without sounding shrill or harsh. Engaging the Boost option pushed the gain over the top for unlimited sustain. The 100H retains its authoritative tone at lower volumes, and for truly low-volume playing, the headphone jack provides an accurate representation of the amp’s sound because it taps from the speaker outputs.
The Ibanez Tone Blaster 100H offers so much tone for so few bones that it’s practically a no-brainer if you’re looking for a modern sounding stack or half stack. Its thoughtful design, respectable build quality, and list of hip features set a very high standard for amps in this price range. It’s simply amazing what you can get for 300 bucks these days, and that’s why the Tone Blaster 100H head and Tone Blaster cabs receive our coveted Editors’ Pick Award. If you’re looking for a powerful, stageworthy, and modern-sounding amp for the lowest possible price, you owe it to yourself to give the 100H a shot.