OH SAY CAN YOU ROCK
Increasingly, amp builders appear to be exploring the 20w arena as untilled soil. Portability and affordability seem to be the impetus behind this trend and from where I sit there are some interesting results coming to the fore. With two EL84 power tubes opening the gate for a herd of five 12AX7s charging through the preamp paddock this design seems to have balanced low wattage with tonal grunt work. The result is a crystal clear, mid-focused voicing that aims at anything from classic country twang to searing metal heat. That’s not to say that there are strict limitations in place. I had a wild time dialed back on the gain finding dozens of little nooks of chiming, incredibly present colours not too far removed from the Tele-into-Tweed Hail Mary play. And that’s only with the gain rolled off.
The hi-gain arena is where this amp really gets to work. The crunch channel is purportedly modelled on that ‘classic British’ tonality that just about every amp builder has pinned to the workshop wall. According to the handbook, this particular iteration has purposefully lessened the amount of clip in order to do two things. On the one hand, as I’ve espoused above, it allows you to revel in some silvery cleans around the lower quadrant. On the other, as soon as you push it past a quarter of the way you unveil a tube-driven, reside warmth that would be just as at home on a Cream record as it would some of their descendants.
Switch to overdrive and you’re offered a much more modern variant on the gain theme and it’s clear that this is where Jet City really hits a stride. It’s a hot as hell crunch that, depending on which side of the mid/fat boost switch you lean goes from Dimebag scoop to Soviet wall of fuzz with sustain for days. I must admit I missed a lot of the bottom- end rumble that you get from a more powerful circuit, but the trade off here is that there is so much control in the mids that finding your place amongst the rest of the band is easier than ever before. It’s a low-headroom, singed saltiness that falls at the feet of the EQ rather than dictating to it. In a lot of cases, it is much more like what the doctor ordered.
HAIL THE CAB
Now, lets talk about the throne upon which The Little Prince is perched. I feel as if I’ve seen a mirage. The JCA24SVe cabinet is about the size of a bar fridge, black as pitch and you’d be mistaken for thinking it was a cheap, imported knock off of the angled Marshall cabs people have been stacking to the ceiling since the ‘60s. Don’t for one second let yourself be fooled though. I honestly think that this cab is responsible for majority of the tonal control I applauded the head for. Two custom engineered 12” Eminence speakers are mounted offset from each other with the top angled towards the face you intend to melt. It’s a diminution of the time-tested staple of cabinet world who’s closed back and convex front side are built to bark at you from the other side of the room and, far from losing anything to shrinkage, you almost accentuate that tightened, spanking shoulder of frequency boasted by the amp.
In the end the two go hand in hand like leather and leopard print. Simple, eager and encased in monster truck ready, 16-gauge rolled steel, The Custom 22 is built on a meager 20 watts of power. However turn it on and stack it atop the tiny-but-mighty 24SVe and you’d think Mt. St Helens was about to go over again.
For more details, head to ambertech.com.au.