There is only one tone in this box, but it’s a good one: a nice sag and lots of compression, so it’s very warm even on the cleanest settings; obviously, there’s not a ton of headroom, but it doesn’t lose any of its clarity as you crank it up. An amp like this doesn’t call for lots of clean time anyway, since classic blues-rock is where this thing lives—and it’s got its act together. If you like that sound, this amp will reward you, and no need to screw around dialing in the sweet spot. If you want the smoothest overdrive, this amp is not for you; but if you dig the raw edge and bite of the EL84, you’re not going to be disappointed. I could wish for a bit more fine control over the tone shaping. The amp has a very bright character, so you have to be careful about the guitar you plug in. Hotter pickups can push into harsh territory pretty quickly, and I haven’t been able to push the single tone past 3 o’clock without gritting my teeth—but it’s perfectly usable up to that point.
When you push the People’s Amp, it’ll give you a lean, sinewy distortion that’s not too creamy or fat; at lower volume it’s a bit dry, so greater sustain would be desirable. Of course, the cabinet you run this amp through will make a big difference, too. I happened to have on hand Category 5’s slant-front 2×12 loaded with G12H Heritage speakers. That seemed like a pretty righteous match, but I have to say that even with the ample low-end response of this cabinet, the amp is much stronger at the top end. I thoroughly enjoyed the pushed tone with my Nash S63 strat outfitted with Jason Lollar’s pickups—straight up with pedals, very Texas blues sounding. Plug in some mellow humbuckers, crank the volume, dial up the tone just to the edge of brittle, and you can do gritty slide blues à la ZZ Top all day.
The Final Mojo
For the recording studio, or someone who’s looking to expand a collection of smaller, lower power amps, the price tag on the People’s Amp would make it a pretty easy choice. For small club gigs, rehearsal, or a full PA setup, the choice gets a bit harder to make. For a big stage, or regular road trips, I’m not so sure. It has its limitations, but it does what it does pretty damn well. While I wouldn’t recommend it as a workhorse, it would make a solid addition for players who want that sound, or who find its unorthodox looks appealing.
you're looking for an inexpensive low-power amp for blues-rock.
you need more control over your tone.