For anyone who has been intrigued by the amp offerings from PRS Guitars but was hoping for a smaller, lower-wattage, or less-expensive option, this might just be your lucky day. Meet the Sonzera 20, a hip, sweet-sounding combo that won’t overplay the room, won’t break your back, and won’t break the bank.
Like all PRS products, the Sonzera (which apparently is Portuguese for a cool or stunning sound) looks beautiful, decked out in black Tolex with gold piping and lettering. The control layout is simple and straightforward for the two channels. The back panel is similarly clean and uncluttered, with jacks for external speakers and effects loop, plus super-handy bias adjustment points.
I plugged in a PRS McCarty Soapbar and auditioned the Sonzera’s highly touted clean channel. It was immediately obvious why so many of the online videos rave about this channel. It’s big and full, with massive lows and sparkling highs. With just a Bass and Treble control, it couldn’t be easier to dial in. I loved how it sounded on both pickups on the McCarty: warm but spanky on the neck and bright and jangly on the bridge. The clean headroom is impressive, and this thing can get loud. At Volume settings above high noon you can coax a Townshend-esque breakup out of the Clean channel for dynamic power chords and edgy funk parts. The spring reverb sounds luscious and deep, and even though it is foot-switchable, I left it on all the time.
I was convinced this channel would be very pedal-friendly, and sure enough, it responded wonderfully to a Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive, an MXR EVH Overdrive, and an Xotic EP Booster. Kicking in delays and modulation effects was also glorious. You could absolutely use the Sonzera with a full pedalboard and never need to access the Gain channel.
So, how about that Gain channel? Like its clean counterpart, it is very easy to dial in. Setting the 3-band EQ at noon, turning the Drive almost all the way off, and then inching up the Level gave me a tone that was like a bigger, boosted version of the Clean channel. This is a really vibey sound—ultra-dynamic and very alive with harmonic complexity. Kicking in the EP Booster tore my head off, with a Paul Kossofflike roar and tons of volume. Higher gain sounds instantly produced satisfying feedback all over the neck. The EQ is powerful but forgiving, with no bad sounds, and the Bright switch is expertly voiced. I chose to keep it engaged, but the Sonzera sounds great in both positions.
This little powerhouse should definitely make a big splash in the combo market. It’s stylish, easy to use, relatively lightweight, inexpensive, and it sounds righteous. And on the subject of sound, as much as PRS understandably likes to make comparisons to “American amps from the ’60s and ’70s” to describe the Sonzera’s clean channel, this amp absolutely has its own voice and personality. Anyone looking to make a cool and stunning musical statement would do well to plug into a Sonzera. Muito lindo!
PRICE $799 street
CONTROLS Bass, Treble, Volume (Clean channel); Bass, Mid, Treble, Level, Drive (Gain Channel); global Presence and Reverb
POWER 20 watts
TUBES One JJ ECC83, three 12AX7 AC5 (preamp); two short bottle 6L6GCMS (power)
EXTRAS 2 x 4Ω, 2 x 8Ω, and 1 x 16Ω speaker jacks. Bias adjustment jacks.
SPEAKER 12" Celestion V-type
WEIGHT 42 lbs
KUDOS Stellar clean and harmonically rich distorted tones. Sweet cosmetics. Very portable.