Kustom '36 Coupe

With its sparkling blue tuck ’n’ roll trim and classic script logo, the ’36 Coupe ($899 retail/$639 street) revisits Kustom’s colorful amps of the ’60s and ’70s. But that’s not all it shares with those classics. While this new model (along with is larger sibling, the ’72 Coupe) is fresh from the ground up, design chief James Brown (formerly with Peavey) says that the Coupe’s EQ and reverb Tone control—as well as the speaker’s aluminum dust cap—were all inspired by vintage Kustom amplifiers.
Publish date:
Updated on

The ’36 Coupe (which very honestly states that it’s made in the USA with U.S. and imported parts) sports Rhythm and Lead channels, which can be selected via footswitch or top-panel toggle. The channels share a common set of Tone and Reverb controls, and the amp offers such amenities as an XLR out with speaker emulation, dual speaker outs, an effects loop, and a footswitchable Boost function with Level control. The speaker emulation circuitry is designed to replicate the sound of the amp’s cabinet and speaker through a P.A. or recording console. A “mixed biasing” system (a combination of cathode- and fixed-bias techniques) allows you to change the output tubes without the need to re-bias the amp.

The Coupe’s Rhythm channel is crisp and well balanced at lower settings, and it distorts with authority when turned up. You can get some serious crunch at high Volume settings, and I found that putting the Volume at about 11 o’ clock with the Master dimed was perfect for live use. I was then able to get a fierce lead sound by simply clicking on the Boost function. The EQ is well implemented, and having a Bright switch on both channels is a smart idea when you’ve got a shared set of tone controls.

The Lead channel’s ultra-smooth voicing will please those who love buttery, high-gain textures. However, as the Coupe’s moderate power doesn’t provide a great deal of clean headroom, it can be challenging to get enough definition from this channel when you’re competing with loud bass and drums. Keeping the Lead channel’s Volume knob at or below 9 o’ clock helps, as does using the speaker-emulated D.I. out. Brown says his team designed the circuit primarily for stage use, and it worked great, producing a sound through the mains and monitors that sounded exactly like the amp—only bigger and louder.

A buzzing noise from the speaker did rear its head late into one gig, however. Brown attributed this to a loose dust cap on a pre-production speaker that may have been used in early review versions of the amp. After installing a fresh KEI speaker, I ran the amp flat out for several hours on a second gig without any trouble.

The ’36 Coupe is an intriguing and well-conceived amp that has what it takes for anything from jazz to metal. With its classy looks, great clean and overdriven tones, and affordable price, there’s a lot to like about this new Kustom.

Kudos Wide ranging Rhythm channel. Ultra-smooth overdrive tones. Excellent speaker emulation on direct out. All birch-plywood cabinet construction. Footswitch functions clearly indicated.

Concerns Reverb tank bag needs to be better secured to the cabinet.

Contact Kustom, (800) 999-5558; kustom.com