Randall RG50TC

Randall definitely put the focus on value with the RG50TC, which comes with a sturdy four-button footswitch and a bevy of LED illuminated functions. The amp is light and easy to carry, and it looks quite purposeful with its black cabinet and control panel, and knurled, black-finished metal knobs. Tube access is very easy once the protective metal screen is removed, and only one of the preamp tubes wears a metal shield.

The RG50TC’s Clean channel sports a footswitchable Boost function that greatly increases the utility of this channel by allowing you to set up a good clean tone, and then hit the Boost switch for a more grinding rhythm or lead sound. The clean sounds are good overall, and the tone controls are well voiced, but the speaker tends to flub out on the lows at higher volumes. This was most problematic when going for a loud, clean jazz sound using the Ibanez George Benson, which kicks out a very thick tone from its neck pickup. I like the range of sounds you can get from this channel, but you’ll need to use an additional speaker cab to keep the tones clear and tight at moderate and higher volumes.

A bigger problem is the RG50TC’s small-tank reverb, which sounds rattly and indistinct—especially when hit with lower frequencies, where it also produces an annoying resonance that sounds like a soda can filled with BBs. Turning the reverb completely off was the only solution.

Switching to the Overdrive channel opens the door to the some very Marshall-sounding tones with good midrange color and ballsy lows. The Gain controls provide the identical amount of overdrive, so you can easily configure your crunch and lead tones by using a lower setting on one of the Gain knobs, and a high setting on the other. At bedroom levels, the amp delivers distortion tones that sound impressively tight and deep. You could record these high-gain sounds, and probably really dig the results, but, here again, once the volume gets closer to performance levels, the speaker becomes progressively more unable to handle the lows and starts flubbing out. You can hear the pained crack of the cone, and see the amp’s grille cloth jumping uncontrollably when you hank on your guitar with a drop tuning, and the only thing you can do about this is to turn down, or lighten up on your picking. This is a vexing situation—one that makes the RG50TC difficult to recommend for serious gig use. A seemingly better option would be the model RH50T head, which costs $20 less, and can be paired with a speaker cabinet of your choice.