I bought a Quilter 101 Mini Head 50 to 100 watt amplifier. If you saw my previous post, you know this. I described how I mounted the amp to a pedalboard in that post. This post reviews the amp.
I’m not an amplifier connoisseur who has owned or played every amplifier make and model or who collects classic amps. I’ve owned about 8 amps in my life, three of them currently. My first amplifier was a Silvertone Twin 12 with a separate head and 40 watts of power from 6L6 tubes. I sold that when I went to college. My most recent tube amp was a 1970s original silverface Princeton Reverb (with point-to-point wiring, not a re-issue). That was a great amp. I sold it when my wife and I downsized to move south.
What were my reasons for wanting a new amp? What was I looking for in an amplifier? I wanted something that sounded good for jazz and blues. But, see above, I wasn’t trying to match Mesa Boogie, or Vox AC30 or something really specific or vintage. More important to me was that the amp should be small and light. Space is at a premium in our new home. Also, I don’t want to carry around a tube amp. Even the Princeton Reverb, though small by tube amp standards, was bigger, heavier and more delicate than I wanted to deal with at my age.
Part of my motivation was the two amps I kept during my downsizing adventure no longer thrill me. A Vox DA5 amp with modeling has been a great little go-to amp for sitting in the den and practicing. But it is over a decade old and beginning to sound — off. My other amp is a ZT Lunchbox. It’s never been a great sounding amp. It’s been — adequate. It’s also limited in versatility. I’m tired of it. And, it’s given me problems over the time I’ve owned it. It’s working fine now — as fine as ever — but the tone makes me think “blah”.
I’ve kept track of the gear I sold up north with the thought that some of it, such as the Princeton Reverb, would be replaced with something else. Until recently I was leaning towards a Quilter MicroPro 2, a Henriksen Bud or a Henriksen JazzAmp 310, all combo amps. But the idea of a separate amp head and speaker cabinet combination must have stuck with me from my Silvertone days. It seems more versatile.
Many of the YouTube videos for Quilter amps attempt to show how well these mini head amps work with pedals or how much drive you can get out of them without pedals. My interest was to determine if I can get good clean sounds out of the amp and whether I could also get a nice, soft, mild overdriven sound — if I wanted it.
So far, the answer seems to be that it does both clean and soft break-up overdrive. The five voice selector switch combined with the other setting allow different character amps to be selected. However, these shouldn’t be seen so much as a Marshall or Fender sound but rather as some new boutique amp maker who is combining familiar sounds in a new way.
That said, this amp does not sound as good as my old Princeton Reverb. Several jazz players at the Jazzguitar.be forum tried and returned this amp. I think it’s better than anything I have. Better than my Line 6 modeling amp which I sold. Definitely better than my ZT Lunchbox. My current inclination is to keep this amp. It was what I was looking for in a new amp. Small, lightweight, versatile and good sounding. But if you were expecting a classic Fender sound from any of their amps from the 1950s through the 1970s, you might be disappointed.
The controls on the Mini confuse many guitarists. Gain and Master are easy enough to understand. Voice is only a bit confusing. Anyone who has used a modelling amp should be familiar with at least a few of the five labeled settings. Tri-Q and Hi-Cut are less intuitive if you’ve been playing classic tube amps for years. Where’s the Low, Mid & High, alternatively known as Bass, Mid and Treble controls?
As I said, I’m not amplifer geek nor am I an electronics guy. But I seem to remember that Treble controls usually only cut high tones. Full clockwise on a classic amp treble control is no cutting of the high frequencies. It seems as what Quilter has done is label the control the way an electrical engineer thinks. OK, I can understand that.
The Tri-Q is harder to understand but the graphic is fairly explanatory. The mids are scooped in the counterclockwise position. The lows are reduced in the full clockwise position. In between, the response is flat.
The big question is how difficult is it to get your sound? I’ve found it takes experimentation but is doable. The controls react differently depending on the voice setting. I like the Tweed for mild, responsive overdrive. The Jazz and Surf both sound good for clean jazz guitar. The Lead voice isn’t my style but provides more overdrive if that’s what you want. So far I haven’t had much use for the Full Q voice. That is supposed to be the clean voice of the amp. It is based on EL-84 / EL-34 tube sounds. I’ve always preferred the American sound of 6V6 / 6L6 tubes. But it’s just personal preference.
The back panel has jacks for one or two speakers with a minimum of 4 ohms for a single speaker and 8 ohms for two. There is no line/direct out although the effects out jack can be used for that. There is also no input for backing tracks, play along tracks etc.