A small outfit run by Riverfront Music of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Komet is considered by many to be the torchbearer for the late Ken Fischer of Trainwreck Circuits. This rep comes not because they copy Trainwreck’s legendary Express or Liverpool amps (they don’t), but because the brand was launched more than a decade ago on a then-new model, the K60, designed from the ground up by Fischer himself and put into production by Komet with close guidance from the New Jersey tube-amp guru. Since that time, Komet’s Michael Kennedy and Holger Notzel have branched out into their own original designs, of which the hotly awaited Aero 33 is the latest.
The Aero 33 is entirely what we’ve come to expect from Komet: single channel, no master volume, a versatile EQ, and an emphasis on tone, articulation, and playing dynamics. A lone Volume control governs multiple gain stages fueled by two of the amp’s three 12AX7 preamp tubes, in a contemporary re-think of an old-school “high gain” design, intended to be controlled with playing dynamics and your guitar’s volume control. And while the EQ facilities might look like a somewhat modified Brit-inspired tone stack, nothing within the circuit is directly lifted from anything that has gone before—other than a little past Komet here and there. In addition to the front-panel offerings, the back panel holds what is arguably the most powerful control in the Komet arsenal—a Fast/Gradual Touch Response switch that dramatically alters the playing feel of the amp, as well as the gain and the degree to which playing dynamics induces breakup.
Inside the chassis, the Aero 33 reveals Komet’s adherence to Fischer’s “no effort or expense spared” ethos. The chassis is 1/8”-thick aircraftgrade aluminum, laser cut and welded; transformers are custom-designed and built in the USA; and all switches, jacks, tube sockets, and other components are of the highest quality (often military spec)—including stainless-steel PEC 2-watt potentiometers and a big outputimpedance switch that barks a sturdy “click” when you twist it. All signal capacitors and resistors on the 1/8"-thick fiberglass circuit board are individually concealed in black shrink wrap, although I have no concerns about the veracity of what’s inside. Everything is immaculately strung together with silver-plated Teflon wire.
I tested the Aero 33 with a Les Paul, a Telecaster, and a Thorn SoCal C/S, through 1x12, 2x12, and 4x12 cabs loaded with a variety of Celestion and Scumback speakers. First reveal: toss your preconceptions about classic EL84 chime out the window. Oh, the Aero 33 will do that, but this is an amp that’s born to grind, wail, and roar, and it does so pretty quickly once you get the Volume up beyond 10 o’clock. This amp to be governed by your guitar-volume settings and picking attack, so once you find your sweet zone, clean to mean is only a twist or a quick away. Push the Volume past noon with Touch Response set to Gradual, and the Aero 33 is thick, rich, and more classic-Marshall-y than you’d ever expect from EL84s, but with a fine texture and glassy clarity that you don’t get from bigger bottles. My Les Paul ate this stuff up, churning out vintage-rock tones of the sort that dreams are made of, with easy, controllable feedback at the ready.
Switching to Fast mode not only ups the gain and volume, it increases the rapidity with which your pick attack spurs the Aero 33 into overdrive. With the Tele and the amp Volume backed down to 11 o’clock, the Aero 33 delivers some of the sweetest hot-country sounds you could wish for, slipping from throaty twang to snarly, wiry lead tones at will. The Aero 33 is loud, too, so it simply ain’t a bedroom amp. That said, it responded well to the three quality output attenuators I used to control its volume: an Alex’s Attenuator, Weber High-Powered Load Dump, and a Dr. Z Air Brake. Throughout its range, and no matter what I threw at it, the Aero 33 delivered like few amps I have ever played. Make no mistake, though, this is predominantly a lead player’s amp. Sure, it’ll eat chunky, power-chord rhythm work for breakfast, but its abundant harmonic texture and “wired to your fingertips” playing feel urge you to tear it up in a major way. For all of this, and more, the Komet Aero 33 earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
PRICE $3,799 street (head only)
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Midrange, Bass, Presence, Hi-Cut, 3-way Bright switch (low/off/high); Fast/ Gradual Touch Response switch on the back panel
POWER 33 watts
TUBES Three 12AX7 , four EL84
EXTRAS 4/8/16Ω impedance switch, dual speaker outs
WEIGHT 38 lbs
KUDOS Top-tier build quality and components. Extremely deep, rich tones. Superb dynamics and playing feel.
CONCERNS Expensive, but you get what you pay for.