Review: Epiphone Century

Celebrating Epiphone’s 75th anniversary, the “1939” Century reproduces the elegant amp model from Epiphone’s early years.
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Celebrating Epiphone’s 75th anniversary, the “1939” Century reproduces the elegant amp model from Epiphone’s early years. Coming from a time when Art Deco was all the rage, the reissue Century features the original’s 1930s-era cabinet design, including bent rims, an all-metal handle, vintage style grill-cloth, and original-style 6-point star screws. Not to worry, these screws are only on the front; the back sports standard Phillips head screws for easy servicing.

The electronics have been redesigned to create an 18-watt amp with two 6V6 power tubes (replacing the original beam tetrode tubes), two 12AX7 preamp tubes, and a diode rectifier with a filter choke (the original model would have had a tube rectifier). The controls are limited to a Volume knob with a pull-boost mode and a Tone control. Additional tone shaping is available by choosing between the Bright, Normal, or Dark inputs. A footswitch jack for the boost (switch not included) accompanies the knobs and extension speaker jack on the back panel. The amp drives a 12” 8Ω Electar speaker.

I tested the Century with a humbucker equipped Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster, a Fernandes S-Type, and an Epiphone Casino Coupe with P-90 pickups. It always amazes me how the same tube configuration can sound different from amp to amp. An Orange Tiny Terror sounds nothing like a Fender Blues Junior despite sharing a twin EL84 power stage. Likewise, the Century sounded little like a 6V6-equipped Fender Deluxe, but definitely had more of a Gibson amp vibe.

The three inputs offered radically different voices. “Dark” was warm and, well, dark. With no hint of muddiness, though, it was ideal for clean jazz and Chicago-style blues. Normal produced more sparkle and chime for modern blues and jazz excursions, and Bright was fairly extreme, but still offered musical tones that would more likely to find their way into a mix than onto the stage. In every input configuration, the Tone control let me sweep through an array of useful sounds, helping tailor the amp to the instrument or style of music.

Even driven by humbuckers, with the boost engaged, the Century evidenced an unusual amount of headroom for an 18-watt combo. It broke up to crunch level when chords were pushed by P-90s, but for sustaining single-note solos, a pedal was a must. In fact, the Century proved a terrific pedal amp, maximizing the character of anything I threw at it. Its boost function added a clean midrange spike that helped it cut through on stage. The amp produces mild electronic hum when turned on that doesn’t get any louder when you turn up the volume. You might want to gate it in the studio, but it would probably be inaudible above a live audience’s hubbub.

The Century amp’s classic looks will spice up your live show, where you can stick with a favorite input, or run an A/B/C box for an amazing array of tonal colors. In the studio, its plethora of frequency ranges will make it easy to stack guitar tracks, each in its own sonic space. Offering all this at such a great price, the Century earns an Editors’ Pick Award.


PRICE $399 street


CONTROLS Volume (with pull Boost), Tone.
TUBES 2 x 6V6, 2 x 12AX7
POWER 18 watts
EXTRAS Bright, Normal, and Dark inputs. Extension speaker output Boost Footswitch jack (foot switch optional). Internal bias adjustment.
SPEAKERS One 12” Electar
WEIGHT 21.3 lbs.
KUDOS Awesome vintage look. Wide range of distinctive, vintage-style amp voicings.
CONCERNS Slight hum.