There seems to be a hole in the market for a decent busker’s amp that has true rock cred. Even some established brands that make really well spec’d amps seem to skimp on the cool factor, and frankly, when your’e competing with those flamenco guys and the dude with the weird double-necked guitar in Bourke St Mall, you need something a little extra to set you apart. Hiwatt has addressed this very real and very universal problem (I’m sure players in Times Square have the same trouble competing against the Naked Cowboy) in the form of the Maxwatt Busker BSK 158 amp.
LOOKS TO BOOT
This clever little unit is designed to not only sound the part — obviously that’s very important — but to also look the part. Part stage-ready monitor wedge, part classic Hiwatt combo, this little bugger looks like it really means business. Mean business. If you happen to be a rock guitarist in a busking situation, the last thing you want is to have your mad licks emasculated by a wimpy looking amp. You can rock out with pride when this prime-pedigreed piledriver is backing you up.
FULL OF LIFE
But looks aren’t everything. Really. So the Maxwatt Busker BSK 158 features some pretty impressive specs. For starters, its layout means you can either orientate it in the aforementioned speaker wedge format (great for shooting the sound up towards listeners so your rock power can penetrate beyond the shins of the first row of people), or you can turn it on its side and stand it up on the four little feet. It’s nicely adaptable. Importantly, the amp can operate on either AC or DC power, with an internal rechargable battery. It includes a DC socket as well as a 12v car charger input, and the battery life is between two and eight hours, depending on how much volume you make the amp crank out. There are two channels: a microphone channel with high and low inputs, a level control and a tone control; and an instrument channel with a gain control and three band EQ. There’s also a boost channel for cranking out more volume and gain. Oh, and there’s a headphone output too.
ROCK THE MIC
The microphone channel works well enough, with an acceptable level of tonal control available, although some kind of ambience effect, even a very simple one like a basic reverb, would be welcome. The instrument channel is voiced to get along well with a wide variety of instruments, from electric ones with magnetic pickups to acoustic ones with piezos and even keyboards, and there’s a great degree of tone control available. There’s a definite midrange ‘poke’ to the sound which will definitely help you stand out in a loud environment, like some kind of natural mixing/mastering perfectly tailored to a busking setting. When you kick in the boost, a great distorted guitar sound is available. It’s thick and warm with nice dynamics, and great for everything from blues solos to rock and metal leads.
The Maxwatt Busker is a surprisingly versatile amp that will serve you well at home or at a jam as well as in a busking situation. There’s no dedicated mp3 input or reverb control, but if you don’t need those particular features there’s a lot of other stuff to love here.
By Peter Hodgson
Price: RRP $295
Distributor: CMC Music
Phone: (02) 9905 2511