DESIGNED FOR PLAYERS WHO WANT an amp that can deliver a great sound whether it’s ultra clean, viciously overdriven, or somewhere in between, PRS offers the appropriately named Recording Amp. This limited-edition 50-watt head sports a beautiful curly maple front panel and top-mounted controls, but what primarily distinguishes it from other PRS models are the six mini-toggle switches that accompany the cream-colored knobs. With these switches you can boost the gain on either or both channels, enhance the Treble channel’s brightness, and increase gain overall or in the power-amp stage only. There’s also a High-Cut switch that globally trims the top frequencies.
As with PRS guitars, the Recording Amp is a high-grade product. The majority of the caps and resistors are mounted on a thick PCB, and all of leads to the pots, jacks, switches, tube sockets, and fuses (all five of ’em) are hand soldered. The workmanship is neat and rugged, promising a long duty life with minimal servicing. Curiously, there were numerous scratches on the surface of our test amp’s aluminum chassis, which, of course, you can’t see unless the chassis is out of the cabinet.
Biasing of the output tubes has also been facilitated by including test points and an adjustment pot on the back panel. All you need is a digital voltmeter and a screwdriver to do this procedure when changing the power tubes. There’s no need to remove the chassis, which is great because the bolts that secure it are mounted inside the cabinet, requiring a socket wrench and bit of finessing (removing the rightmost power tube helps) to get them out.
We tested the Recording Amp with three different PRS 2x12 closed-back cabinets: The birch Recording Amp cab with a Black Gold maple faceplate (also offered with a Faded Black maple plate), a Stealth pine model, and a birch Stealth Deep Big Mouth cab, which is smaller and deeper. All come loaded with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. (The Stealth line also includes an open-back 4x10 in pine, a 4x12 closedback in birch, and a pine 1x12 closed-back.)
In spite of the multitude of switchable functions, the Recording Amp is a breeze to use. The Treble and Bass channels are internally linked, so you simply adjust their levels independently to get a balanced tone. The gain range of the channels is abundant, with Low settings providing clean, Fenderlike tones that sound great when you add some reverb. The short spring tank delivers a nice bloom and has an exceptionally smooth decay.
Dialing the Gain knob up to half or higher brings on increasing amounts of meaty sustain with good low-end girth. The distortion tones can be enhanced by activating the Gain switches on either or both channels, and the noticeably increased gain is especially handy for single-coil guitars. I also got some happening hard-rock grind with a Les Paul by cranking just the Bass channel with the Gain switch engaged. Other options include leaving the channel gain switches off and using the Overall Gain switch instead. Its effect is more subtle, though not so much as the power amp Gain switch, which you only hear when the Master is turned up fairly high. The tone controls are voiced well for most guitars, though they weren’t quite able to elicit the in-your-face presence of a vintage Marshall. It may have been PRS’ intention, however, that the Recording Amp have a somewhat less aggressive sonic stamp given its primary mission as a flexible studio machine. (PRS amp designer Doug Sewell says that this model uses a lower plate voltage in order to produce a “browner” sound.)
The Recording Amp has plenty of volume and more than enough tonal options to suit almost any style. It also responds differently with the various cabinets. I tended to like its chunking response with the DB Stealth best, but the larger Stealth cabs also sounded great, adding other interesting elements to the sound courtesy of their birch and pine construction. Despite its name, the Recording Amp would make a good stage rig too, although the absence of an effect loop or any footswitchable functions might make it less suitable to some for live playing. Bottom line: PRS has created a unique animal with the Recording Amp, and if you’re in market for an amplifier with a wide-open palette of sounds, it’s something you should hear.
CONTACT PRS Guitars, (410) 643-9970; prsguitars.com
PRICE $3,120 retail/$2,835 street
CHANNELS Two (non-switchable, internally bridged)
CONTROLS Treble Channel Volume, Bass Channel Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, Master, Reverb
SWITCHABLE FUNCTIONS Treble Channel Gain, Bass Channel Gain, Treble Channel Bright, Overall Gain, High-Cut, Power Amp Gain
TUBES Two SED EL34 power tubes, three JJ 12AX7s, one JAN Phillips 12AT7WC, solid-state rectification
POWER 50 watts
EXTRAS Five speaker jacks (2x4Ω, 2x8Ω, 1x16Ω). Biasing test points and adjustment pot.
SPEAKER Tested with a PRS Recording Amp 2x12 cabinet (with figured maple faceplate and Stealth covering), a PRS Stealth 2x12 cabinet, and a PRS Stealth 2x12 Deep Big Mouth cabinet ($775 street, $699 street, and $699 street respectively)
WEIGHT 33 lbs (head)
KUDOS Wide spectrum of tones. Delicious reverb. Lots of options.
CONCERNS No effects loop.