“It’s like déjà vu all over again.” Yep, Yogi Berra, your eyes don’t deceive you – it’s definitely the PRS Sonzera 20 combo, but not the one you’ve seen before. In what appears to be a “New York minute” hiatus, PRS surreptitiously yanked the former titular amp and replaced it with the now-revamped Sonzera 20 combo amp.
According to PRS chief amp designer Doug Sewell, “I am very happy to re-release the new Sonzera 20 combo with improved construction techniques, refined voicing and fresh cosmetics…”
And while some of us didn’t notice, I can report the refresh is welcome, and I’d go further to say that the overhauled PRS Sonzera 20 has re-emerged as a combo-slayer that punches above its wattage with killer tone that seriously outguns most other studio- and gig-worthy amplifiers in its class.
Just like its predecessor, the Sonzera 20 is an all-tube 20-watt combo with a single Celestion V-Type 70-watt 12-inch speaker housed in a hybrid open/closed back cabinet. Its plywood cabinet is handsomely dressed in textured black vinyl with a salt and pepper grille cloth and silver piping (so much more attractive than its previous gold piping and gold motif).
The combo features an instantly familiar layout of two channels with independent EQ controls with the Clean channel providing bass and treble controls, and the Gain channel offering bass, mid and treble controls. The Clean channel also has a volume control, while the Gain channel has level and drive knobs plus a bright switch.
Besides a channel select switch, both channels share global presence and reverb controls. This Sonzera 20 came loaded with a pair of Sovtek 5881 tubes (or 6L6 short bottle) and four 12AX7/ECC83 tubes for the preamp and tube-driven spring reverb.
Peering around back reveals the Sonzera 20 Combo is built like a tank with custom-wound transformers, a mounted bias adjustment section, speaker output jacks (16-ohm, a pair of 8-ohm and a pair of 4-ohm parallel), mono effects loop send and return jacks, and a footswitch jack for the included footswitch for switching channels and turning the reverb on or off.
Firing up the Clean channel, I found the Sonzera 20 comes out swinging with authoritative and robust cleans, much in part to the Celestion V-type speaker filling up space with blunt force and high headroom that belies the amp’s size.
Moving the knobs around, I found it’s a beautifully voiced channel with a smooth attack that’s less twangy or airy, and moreover, its duo of 5881 power tubes offers a pushed musical compression that yields a boosted boldness, making its presence known with fattened cleans.
Even at high volume levels and regardless of pickup output, the channel retains definition and clarity and is perfectly primed as a pedal platform.
There’s a clear seamlessness in tone between the Clean and Gain channels – as if they were meant to complement each other when switching from one to the other. PRS made it a point to make the Gain channel similar to the Clean by inserting additional gain stages and its own tone stack, which reveals its multi-layered saturation and sweetened crunch that never sounds boxy.
It’s quite a feat, because the Sonzera 20, to my ears, has the overdriven complexity of boutique amps twice its price. The amp sounds best with the Drive control hovering around noon, and increasing it only makes the distortion sound “hotter” rather than sustained, which is why the amp has the potential as a force to be reckoned with when paired with the right gain pedals and boosts.
Finally, the ambient warmth of its spring reverb is gorgeous and never gets in the way of the amp’s character, but if you want splashy, you’ll need to find that enhancement elsewhere (and hey, the amp has an effects loop for that). Overall, the Sonzera 20 combo is so damn impressive that it’s only a matter of time before many players will be singing its praises.
- PRICE: $999 / £949
- TYPE: Tube combo amp
- POWER: 20W
- TUBES: 4x JJ ECC83S [preamp], 2x JJ 5881
- CHANNELS: 2
- CONTROLS: Presence, Reverb [global]; Bass, Treble, Volume [Clean channel], Bass, Middle, Treble, Drive, Bright switch [Gain Channel], channel-select switch
- FEATURES: Tube-driven spring reverb, MOSFET driven series effects loop
- SPEAKER: 1x12" V-Type Celestion, 70W
- WEIGHT: 49 lbs
- CONTACT: PRS Guitars