PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE WHO LAID EYES ON THE DOUBLE CROSS WAS KNOCKED OUT BY ITS COOL look, with a hardcore metal front, shiny knobs, and slick graphics. The only throwback to the tuck-and-roll jobs of the Creedence era (which were bitchin’ in their own right) is the classic Kustom logo. I plugged into the Rhythm channel and heard a big, bold clean sound with lots of depth. Tweaking the EQ revealed a huge range—so much so that we assumed it was an active circuit. It’s not, but Kustom explains the interactive nature of this EQ: “As the Treble is increased, the Bass automatically decreases and the Middle slides down in frequency.” The converse is also true and it makes for extremely flexible, if maybe slightly touchy, tone shaping. This channel has a Gain control, which for me is a must on a clean channel. Turning this up brought in great swampy overdrive, perfect for blues or alt-rock. Engaging the Drive switch produced an excellent rock tone (the manual calls it Black Angus!).
Hitting the footswitch (which is itself a gorgeous piece of industrial design), I kicked on the Lead I channel. Even though the Gain knob was fairly low, there was an intense amount of distortion. Even for the heaviest music, I couldn’t really see turning the Gain up past high noon. I had a little more trouble dialing in the EQ on this channel, and actually preferred the tone with all the EQ knobs cranked. Both Lead channels feature “The Cross,” a collection of four sliders labeled Bright, Gain, Tight Stage, and Thick Stage, the latter two actually blending additional 12AX7 tube stages. These tone modifiers can be used in any combination for subtle but musical changes. Lead II looks identical to Lead I but is voiced differently, with more gain and a darker, throatier sound. You can pile on the distortion here, and by notching the Middle and boosting the Bass and Treble, you can get some super-heavy death tones. All that gain comes with a price, however, and the Double Cross puts out a fair amount of hiss. Still, it hass got plenty of power, and notes and chords sustain endlessly at even moderate volumes. This could be a good choice for heavy players who not only want a ton of tonal options at their disposal, but also want to get off the beaten track with a great looking beast of an amp. —Matt Blackett
(859) 817-7100; kustom.com
MODEL Double Cross
PRICE $1,999 retail/ $1,599 street
CONTROLS Front panel: Channel Selector switch, Presence, Treble, Middle, Bass, Volume, Gain, Cross Switches for Bright, Thick Stage, Tight Stage, Gain (Lead I and II channels); Presence, Treble, Middle, Bass, Volume, Drive switch, Bright switch (Rhythm channel); Boost, Master Volume. Rear panel: Impedance Selector, Ground lift, DI Cabinet select, Direct Out volume, Effects Send and Return controls, MIDI Save switch.
POWER 100 watts
TUBES Five Electro- Harmonix 12AX7EH preamp tubes, one 12AT7 power amp buffer, six Sovtek 6L6WXT+ output tubes (can also use EL34s)
EXTRAS Normal and Tight Inputs, Effects indicator, Boost indicator, Direct Out jack, MIDI In jack.
SPEAKER Coupe 412b 4x12 w/Celestion Vintage 30 speakers: $1,399 retail/$1,099 street
MAXIMUM MEASURED VOLUME 117dB
WEIGHT 47 lbs (head)
KUDOS Great look. Lots of tone-shaping options.
CONCERNS Noisy at higher Gain settings.