Tones of the Beast: Five Essential Heavy Metal Amps, Part 2
Last week, we posted our picks for five essential heavy metal guitar amps. It featured a quintet of out-of-the-box, ready-for-business bruisers built for purveyors of the heaviest of rock.
The story was so popular -- and there were so many other fine amp choices available -- that we found ourselves asking each other, "Why limit it to five?"
Here, therefore, is an additional serving of five essential metal amps, presented in no particular order. Like last time, this list was compiled by a group of Guitar World staffers, including Technical Editor Paul Riario.
We considered power, versatility and stage-worthiness, narrowing our picks to five amps that will have you ready to seek and destroy right out of the box, no pedals required.
Most high-gain fiends know that Peavey’s 6505 Series amps are evolutionary creations that began with the Peavey/Van Halen–designed 5150 heads. When Peavey’s association with Van Halen ended in 2004, the company continued to build the same insanely high-gain amp under the new 6505 name and went about updating some of the amp’s ancillary features.
However, they didn’t change the amps’ extreme-gain circuits, die-hard construction and affordability.
The amp (which comes in a ton of variations) is primed by up to six 12AX7 preamp tubes and driven by four 6L6GC power tubes, delivering brutal high-gain power.
Try plugging into the high-gain input to double the input gain for crushing overdriven tones. You also can create a second "lead" tone by engaging the Crunch option on the rhythm channel. In the master section, you'll find the Resonance and Presence controls. Resonance acts as a low-frequency boost, while Presence acts as a high-frequency boost, both allowing you to sculpt your tone. All of this tonal power is housed in an exterior that is built for the rigors of the road.
MSRP: $1,349.99 | Buy at Amazon
If you're into built-in gain, you'll dig Marshall's all-tube, four-channel JVM410H 100-watt head. It actually sports more gain than any other Marshall model ever made, which is kinda saying something.
One thing's for sure: This is a feature-packed machine. There are four channels, each with an independent EQ. Volume and Gain controls run through separate, footswitchable master volumes driven by four ECC83 tubes (or "valves" in the UK, where this amp is made) in the preamp, one ECC83 and four EL34 power amp tubes. Each channel comes with three separate gain modes -- green, orange and red. Each one reconfigures the gain structure of the channel to offer gradually increasing levels of gain. You could say (as Marshall does) that this amp is 12 Marshalls in one.
The JVM410H also offers digital reverb with a level control for each channel. This also is footswitchable, as are the amp's two Master Volume controls and the Series/Parallel effects loop. Resonance and Presence are equipped with master controls.
If you're shooting for a classic name with an updated, brutal sound, this is the Marshall for you. (But remember, this thing will provide some super-clean tones as well.)
MSRP: $2,999.99 to $3,400 | Buy at Amazon
Orange Amps Dark Terror
Based on the size of this amp, it could've been called the Tiny Terror, but that name is already taken, of course.
Simply put, the Dark Terror is a lot like Napoleon Bonaparte -- small but very aggressive. This distinctive-looking head produces a mind-blowing sound that combines the Shape control of Orange's Thunder series with the weight and size of its Terror family. The result is plenty of lovely gain and responsiveness.
And speaking of gain, due to its high-gain preamp, the Dark Terror is the highest-gain amp in the history of Orange's Terror series. It also comes with a handy, tube-driven FX loop. So we agree with Orange when they say, "It is uncompromisingly brutal, doubtless unhinged, even ferocious. The Dark Terror rises from the ethereal depths to fulfill the every desire of the heavy metal and rock guitar players. With its characteristic fearless Orange Amp looks, heavy duty construction and portability, guitar players everywhere will quickly become attuned to this scary dark force of nature."
For more about this amp, check out Paul Riario's video review.
MSRP: $829 | Buy at Amazon
Hughes & Kettner Coreblade
Germany's Hughes & Kettner offers a huge range of gear for players in search of an assortment of tones. It dabbles in "the vintage thing" with its Puretone amps and produces several cost-effective solid-states, including the Attax. The Coreblade, however, is a bit different.
For starters, compared to some others, this is a very big head -- but the sound it produces is also big, if not huge. The amp, the flagship head in the brand's Pro Class, delivers seriously tough tone, dynamic response and an explosive punch. Two of the four channels are voiced to offer completely different high-gain alternatives. The amp's Drive channel supplies the classic sounds of the early metal era. The Clean channel offers tons of headroom, rendering even the most aggressive attack with sparkle and chime.
Boost is separately switchable and three effect modules may be used simultaneously for each per channel. The ultra-precise, remarkably musical IDB noise gate is available for all channels. Programmable potentiometers enable settings to be stored in 128 memory slots, and the included MIDI board affords easy access to these presets.
The Coreblade is the first tube amp that downloads presets directly to USB sticks and uploads new presets at the touch of a button. Best of all, every sound is all tube with no modeling.
For more about this amp, check out these two review videos featuring GW's Paul Riario. The top video checks out the amp's sounds; the bottom video focuses on its features.
MSRP: $2,649 | Buy at Amazon
EVH 5150 III
The EVH 5150 III all-tube amp head was developed to meet the specs of one Edward Van Halen. The cool thing, however, is that, while you certainly get his patented "brown sound" out of this attractive amp, you also can dial in a much more metal-friendly, high-gain, saturated tone with tons of harmonics and sustain.
The 5150 III is a three-channel amp that sets players off in three different directions -- high-def cleans, the brownest of brown sounds with punch and definition, and maniacal high gains. We're talking an attractive range of crunch to all-out mayhem. To be honest, the 5150 III sounds like no other amp and should be applauded for its versatility alone.
And let's not forget the EVH 5150 III 50-watt head, which is a smaller-sized version of the 5150 III. Its size and portability make it perfect amp for players who want arena volume, tone and performance from something that will fit in your bedroom.
MSRP: $2,399.99 | Buy at Amazon
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