If players like John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Eric Gales, and Joe Bonamassa start singing the praises of your amplifiers and relying on them when they tour and record, you’re doing something (or even quite a lot) right. These are just a few of the notable artists that Two-Rock, a Northern California–based boutique company, has converted since launching in 1999 with little more than a $600 nest egg.
Once we had unpacked our own Gain Master 100, we immediately understood why. All Two-Rock amps are handcrafted to the highest tolerances, and the review amp was superbly constructed and finished. The blond tolex (black is also an available option) was perfectly applied to the birch cabinetry, all corners featured metal reinforcements, and the hand-wired circuitry was spotless. The non-reverb Gain Master 100 head boasts a roaringly loud four-6L6 power section and a passive effect loop that services both of the cascading channels.
The clean channel features controls for treble (with a pull/bright feature), mids (with pull/boost), bass (with pull/deep), gain (with pull/bypass), and master volume, which engages the lead channel when pulled. Lead channel controls are limited to lead gain, lead master, and contour. Finally, a supplied footswitch toggles between channels and can engage the EQ bypass, which adds an extra measure or girth, grind, and honk to the lead circuit.
Powering a Two-Rock Signature 2x12 cabinet with a semi-open design and a tuned rear port, the Gain Master was not only loud enough for any application but also graced with a very wide soundstage with an incredibly generous sweet spot. When confronted with a Fender Custom Shop Telecaster, the clean channel was snappy and reactive but retained warmth and substance as the gain was increased. The lead channel, meanwhile, provided a very pleasing, glassy mid-gain grind. A Gibson Custom Jimmy Page Les Paul performed equally well and really allowed the tight, controlled low end and open and euphonious top of the lead channel to seduce us.
This is a high-performance amp with a refined and eminently useable vocabulary, and players in the market for a real no-compromise rig would do well to put it (or one of its smaller 35- and 22-watt siblings) through its paces before making a major purchase.
List Prices: head, $3,295; 2x12 cab, $1,095
Two-Rock Amplifiers, two-rock.com