EVER SINCE THE ADVENT OF SUCH ICONIC GUITAR AMPS as the Fender Bassman and Vox AC30, guitar players have generally accepted that 30 to 50 watts of power is enough to get the job done in most situations. That said, most experienced players don’t think much about wattage ratings and will usually peek in the back of an amp in question to see what’s powering it. If a pair of 6L6 or EL34 output tubes or a quartet of 6V6s or EL84s are spotted, they’ll probably plug in and start evaluating the sound with more attention paid to what the tubes are contributing to the tone rather than how much power they’re pumping to the speakers. The point is that as long as an amp has enough headroom and punch to be heard clearly when combined with other instruments, wattage rarely comes up as a bragging point when comparing amps.
This month we’re evaluating four heads and two combos (one of which was reviewed by Dave Hunter) that, for lack of a better term, fall into the “medium power” category. Powered by 6L6, EL34, or 6V6 output tubes, and with power ratings from 35 watts to 65 watts, they hit the market aiming to seduce buyers who want an amp that can cut it in a variety of situations—from recording studios to large stages, with lots of “club” stops in between. These amps all generate enough volume to work in places where miking the speakers isn’t an option, so what really matters is what features they offer and how well they sound in clean and distorted configurations.
To find out how they stack up, we tested this group with an assortment of guitars that included PRS SC245 and 305 models, a vintage Fender Strat and Esquire, a Gibson ES-335 and Historic ’59 Les Paul, and a reissue Epiphone Wilshire.