By Tom Beaujour | Photo by Massimo Gammacurta
Unlike many boutique-amp builders who are content to replicate or refine classic tube circuits, Eric Pritchard has an almost evangelical faith in the practical and tonal benefits of solid-state circuitry. It’s a belief not shared by much of the guitar community, and one that compels Pritchard, who has registered more than a dozen patents while developing his product, to build amps that are probably more difficult to sell than comparably priced upscale valve units.
So it was with great curiosity that I unboxed the 1x12 Pritchard Sword of Satori I received for review. This two-channel 180-watt combo is fitted into a compact cabinet that features a unique, patented “tunnel back” design, which works as an acoustic crossover to greatly enhance and focus low-end frequency response. The amp’s control panel has two rows of knobs that include a global input gain that allows a player to perfectly marry the amplifier’s circuitry to the output characteristics of his guitar. Both channels have their own treble, bass, and mid controls as well as six-way voice switches that select between settings that include the clean and acoustic-friendly Airy Art, the jazzy Smooth Solo, the Fender-inspired Famous Flat, the British-flavored Moderately Bright, Bass Boost, and the ultraclean country- and bass-friendly Precision. There is also a global watts control for power attenuation, a global reverb control, and buttons to engage channel switching, channel one’s variable boost, a noise gate, and an output-stage tone selector.
I tested the Sword of Satori with a new Fender USA 1956 Telecaster reissue and a 1964 ES-335, and was greatly impressed by the amp’s euphonious harmonic content, convincing sag and compression characteristics, and ultra-responsive overdrive sound that mimics the reactivity of the best tube amps. If you require shredular high-gain settings, you’ll need to hit the amp’s front end with a pedal, but for singing mid-gain tones reminiscent of Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, or Eric Clapton, you won’t disappointed for even an instant that you decided to eschew the world of tubes.