When PRS introduced its first tube amps a few years back, the products earned praise and acceptance from the company’s core customer demographic of classic rock, blues and even country guitarists.
However, the numerous hard rock and metal guitarists that PRS attracted in recent years—thanks to endorsers like Frederik Åkesson, Marty Friedman, Clint Lowery, Zach Myers and Mark Tremonti—might have felt a little left out by the company’s initial amp offerings.
With the introduction of the PRS Archon Series, PRS has delivered a line of high-gain amps that will satisfy not only its current hordes of metal guitarists but also a new generation of players who may not have considered PRS products in the past.
FEATURES The Archon Series includes a 25-watt combo, a 50-watt head and combo, and a 100-watt head. We took a look at the 100-watt Archon head, which features two fully independent Clean and Lead channels each with its own volume, treble, middle, bass and master volume controls and bright switch. Both channels share the presence and depth controls.
The head can be powered by a quartet of either EL34 or 6L6 tubes—our test example came with 6L6s. The preamp section features six 12AX7 tubes that provide more than ample gain.
Like the Archon’s front panel, the rear panel is similarly uncluttered and straightforward yet powerful. An output power switch selects either full 100-watt output or half output. There’s also a mono series effect loop with 1/4-inch send and return jacks, a pair of 1/4-inch speaker outputs and a four-/eight-/16-ohm output selector switch, and a set of bias jack terminals that lets users adjust the amp’s bias without removing the chassis or panels. The amp ships with a two-button footswitch that plugs into the rear footswitch jack and controls channel switching and loop bypass functions. The footswitch also has LEDs that indicate which settings are selected.
PERFORMANCE Like all PRS products, the Archon 100-watt head is visually stunning and classy looking, featuring a Paul Reed Smith signature logo in gold on a black-stained and lacquer-finished slab of flamed curly maple on the front panel. The construction is solid and immaculate, and the amp should withstand years of gigging abuse while looking like new and providing trouble-free performance. The rear chassis panel is held in place by four screws, which allows users to change tubes quickly, and the bias terminals allow quick bias adjustments.
The control layout is uncomplicated and logical. The Clean channel offers impressive headroom at high volume levels, but it can also deliver satisfyingly gritty overdrive and punch when the volume control is turned past 12 o’clock. The clean tone is tight and percussive, and the EQ controls provide a wide variety of tones that include crisp, jangly treble and fat, warm midrange. The Lead channel is a monster, providing thick, densely saturated distortion, crisp crunch, and tight low-end thump that maintains well-defined attack and individual note definition. The bass on this channel is huge but not overwhelming, allowing the nuances of the midrange and treble frequencies to come through loud and clear.
Although the Archon doesn’t have boost functions or a third channel, those features really are not necessary as the Lead channel is so well defined that solos cut through with just a subtle volume boost from the guitar. I’ve long been a believer that the simplest circuit paths result in the biggest tone, and that’s certainly on display in the Archon, which is designed with tone as its foremost consideration. If you want more colors, the Clean channel is an excellent foundation for a pedal setup, while the Lead channel is absolutely killer on its own and needs no further embellishment.
LIST PRICE $2,299
MANUFACTURER PRS Guitars, prsguitars.com
Two fully independent channels with separate volume, EQ and bright controls provide outstanding clean and high-gain/lead tones.
Bias terminals on the rear panel make it easy to evaluate and adjust power tube bias without removing the amp from its chassis.
THE BOTTOM LINE Delivering both killer clean and lead tones, the PRS Archon is a versatile amp head that delivers the high-gain textures that metalheads have always wanted from PRS amps.