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.

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.

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.

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
Web­site: www.cmcmusic.com.au

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