By Art Thompson
Low-tuned guitars have been rumbling the airwaves for years now, so it’s no surprise that some manufacturers are focusing on designing high-gain amps that can dish out concrete-crushing low-end. Hughes & Kettner’s Warp 7 series (which consists of a head/4x12 rig and 1x12 and 2x12 combos) offers reasonably priced, solid-state amps that are specially voiced to satisfy the needs of nu-metal players.
The smallest member of the Warp family is the model 112 ($640 retail/$449 street), an 80-watt, 1x12 combo with dual channels and a 100-watt Celestion speaker in a sealed-back cabinet. The shiny black panel and grille and red-illuminated Warp 7 logo give the 112 a sinister look, and the tones this little beast produces back up its no-jive vibe.
The 112 is about as plug-in-and–rock as an amp gets. Both channels have their own gain and EQ controls, so there’s little hassle in dialing-in good clean and overdriven sounds. The effects loop operates on both channels, and the only bummer is that you can’t adjust the send/return levels. If you want to drive an external power amp, you can do so via the 112’s send jack, which provides a line-level signal that’s independent of the master. (You can also connect the send jack to a mixing console, however, H& recommends putting their Red Box Pro in line to buffer the signal and provide speaker emulation.) A welcome feature is the extension-speaker out, which, with its 2 to 16 capability, allows you to plug into a wide variety of cabinets.
The 112 delivers impressive thud for a 1x12 combo. Auditioned with an ESP/LTD Stephen Carpenter signature 7-string, the clean channel produced tight, articulate tones to the limit of the amp’s volume. A small amount of grind was noticeable when running flat-out, but at that punishing level it was hard to tell whether the distortion was being generated by the circuit or the speaker. With its excellent headroom, the clean channel worked well when I plugged in a Prescription Electronics Experience pedal, yielding big, ballsy fuzz tones with blistering attack and a stout bottom—definitely a chunkier, more modern distortion than you’d get running the same pedal through, say, a Fender Super Reverb.
With its Warp channel engaged, the 112 turns into a raging metal beast with gobs of sustain and low-end. Pummeled with the EMG-equipped ESP/LTD, the 112 kicked out a massive roar with good low-string definition and—if you so desire—totally scooped mids. Turning up the treble control adds a lot of bite to these tones, though, at high volumes, the highs also become very hard-edged. Depending on what kind of tone you’re after, this chainsaw rasp could be a good thing. But if you seek a smoother treble response, keeping the treble below the halfway mark and turning up the presence knob (which has a subtler boosting effect at the 1.1kHz to 1.8kHz range) allows you to obtain good definition while keeping the tones from becoming overly nasty.
One aspect of the 112 that was less controllable, however, was its squealiness at high volumes. Whether using the ESP/LTD, a Hamer Studio, or a Schecter PT Custom, annoying shrieks were the order whenever the amp’s master volume was set to seven or higher—which, of course, is very loud. If your songs have lots of breaks, you’ll probably need to use a noise-gate in the loop to keep things quiet when you stop playing.
The 112 pumps out a lot of volume in stock trim, but it sounded noticeably more massive and dimensional when driving a Marshall 4x12. Considering also how violently the 112’s cabinet vibrates when pushing it hard with a low-tuned ax (which would seem likely to affect the electronics over the long haul), it might be worthwhile to consider the Warp 7 Half Stack ($1, 140 retail/$799 street). The 112’s compactness makes it an attractive choice for small clubs, but given that there’s no substitute for speaker mass when your goal is gut-shaking grind, the Half Stack would be a better choice if larger stages are in your future. No matter which Warp 7 you choose, however, you’ll find it a kick-ass amp that’s custom-made for modern metal.