Don’t let anyone tell you there’s anything more
important to your tone (besides your technique)
than your amplifier’s preamp section. There are
no pickups, speakers, cables, DSP effects, or
guitars that will sound pleasing with a preamp
that sounds like garbage (experimental tones
excepted). Bold statements require bold proof,
so here’s Exhibit A—Port City Amplification’s
45-watt, EL34-powered Sahana head.
Sound and Vision
||Download Example 1
Gain 11, Bass 4, Mid 11, Treble 2. Both pickups.
||Download Example 2
Gain 11, Bass 2, Mid 2, Treble 11. Bridge pickup.
||Download Example 3
Gain dimed, Bass 3, Mid 9, Treble 3. Neck pickup.
||Download Example 4
Gain 10, Bass, Mid, & Treble 2. Bridge pickup.
|All clips recorded with a Gibson SG, mic'ed with a Studio Projects C1 large diaphragm condenser.
On the surface, the Sahana is a work of art, as
well as a utilitarian tone machine. The burly,
finger-jointed case bears a resemblance to a
Marshall plexi, and the knobs, switches, and
inputs are top quality. The preamp features three
12AX7s and the power section uses two EL34s,
all of which are JJ brand—my favorite, because
their full-bodied clean tones and dynamic distortion
sound like vintage tubes at a fraction of the
price. I frequently hear guitarists mention that
an amp’s weight plays an important role in their
buying decisions, and these guitarists will be
pleased to find that the Sahana is surprisingly
light, due in part to its aluminum chassis.
Technically, the Sahana is a single-channel amp,
but it includes a footswitch to toggle between
two gain stages that have independent knobs—
Gain 1 and Gain 2—on the front panel (you can
also switch from Gain 1 to Gain 2 by pulling out
the Volume knob). I tested the Sahana with Gain
1 at moderate settings, so it functioned basically
as my clean channel, while Gain 2 was set higher
for overdrive. There are also Treble, Middle,
and Bass knobs that provide a lot of flexibility
for shaping your desired tone. There’s almost
nothing worse than spending money on an amp
only to discover it has a timid EQ, and that’s not
the case here. Other features include a Master
knob that lets you dial in that juiced preamp
sound at reasonably quiet volumes. In fact, it’s
advised that you roll up the Master carefully,
because this is the loudest 45-watt amp I’ve
ever heard! This is partly because of Port City’s
ported 2x12 Wave cabinet, but the amp also
features an output impedance selector knob
(4, 8, and 16 ohms) that lets the Sahana shine
through any of your cabs. Port City began as a
ported cabinet maker, and they only recently
ventured into the world of amp making. As
such, they make beautiful cabs. The 2x12 Wave
cabinet I tested wore the same chrome logo, silver
piping, and high-quality Tolex as the Sahana.
With the Sahana resting on top, you’re looking
at a unique and stylish package.
The cabinet is constructed with an internal
sound-deflecting board that’s positioned at a
45-degree angle, facing downward. This panel is
designed to push speaker sound from the top of
the box to its bottom. There, a second angled
deflecting panel pushes sound outward and
upward through the horizontal front port. Port
City offers numerous speaker options, including
Celestion, Eminence, and Jensen. The cabs can
also be configured with optional colored Tolex,
wired in stereo, or even purchased empty.