||Download Example 1
clean channel with reverb
||Download Example 2
overdrive channel with gain at around 8
||Download Example 3
overdrive channel with gain at around 8
|Clips recorded with a Gibson 1963 ES-335 Historic into the Electroplex Rocket 22 amp miked with Shure SM57 into ART Tubeamp studio into GarageBand.
Back in 1994, when the boutique amplifier
craze was just gathering steam, engineer and
electronics buff Don Morris started building
amps in his Fullerton, California garage. (Sound
familiar?) His main model was the Electroplex
Rocket 90, a burly 90-watt 2x12 combo driven
by a quartet of 6L6GC power tubes. Perhaps
not surprisingly, the Rocket 90 owed a tip of the
hat to Fender’s Twin Reverb. In the years that
followed, Electroplex added such lower-wattage
models as the Rocket 50 and Rocket 35. Morris’
company flourished and found favor among
superstars—including the Rolling Stones, who
used Electroplex amps on their Voodoo Lounge
and Bridges to Babylon
Despite all the success, Electroplex shut shop
in 2000 so that Morris could spend more time
with his teenage kids. A decade later, Morris’
children are out of the house and Electroplex
has jumped back into the fray with the Rocket
22—a 2-channel amp powered by a pair of 6V6
tubes—that we were stoked to audition.
The Rocket 22 is available in a variety of configurations.
You can choose 1x12, 2x12, 2x10, 4x10, or
1x15 combos, or select a head-and-cabinet setup.
You can also choose speakers from Celestion, Tone
Tubby, Jensen, Weber, and Eminence. Standard
cabinet finishes include black vinyl with a wheat
grille and beige vinyl with a burgundy grille,
though custom colors are also available.
Our review amp was a Tone Tubby–equipped
1x12 combo. A real looker, it sported custom
dark-green vinyl and a gold grille with green
accents. Rocket 22s are spruced up with cool
space-age design details and flourishes, including
Electroplex’s trademark metal rocket in the center
of the grille cloth and two silkscreened versions of
the missile—with stylized engines ablaze—above
the control knobs. The amp’s “on” light shines
in the lightning bolt section of the Electroplex
graphic—a very nice touch. And depending on
which channel you’ve selected, smaller round
lights shine at the aft end of one rocket or another
on the control panel. The 11 black chicken-head
knobs add another cool touch to an imaginatively
retro outward appearance.
The Rocket 22 is solid and built to last. But
the high-quality construction means it’s heavy
too. On a digital postal scale, the amp weighed
in at around 50 pounds—about 10 pounds more
than a Fender Deluxe Reverb. For this reviewer,
that’s a little heavy for a combo—especially if
you’re toting the amp up several flights of stairs
to a gig—though the typical gigging guitarist
might not concur.
The Rocket’s control panel is straightforward
and feels familiar. At far left, there are
two inputs, followed by controls for the clean
channel, which has a simple Volume, Treble,
Mid, and Bass control set. The Volume knob
has push-pull functionality for switching to the
overdrive section, which has its own group of
knobs for Gain, Volume, Treble, Mid, and Bass.
Just to the right of the overdrive channel are universal
controls for Presence and Reverb.
The back panel reveals Electroplex’s focus on
making the Rocket 22 adaptable to a modern
player’s stage and studio needs. You’ll find a
switch that toggles between power settings of 22
and 12 watts, power and standby switches, two
¼" speaker outputs, an impedance switch (for
selecting between 16-, 8-, and 4-ohm speakers),
¼" jacks for line-level output, a channel
footswitch, and a separate return/send effect
loop for each channel.
Classic Valve Sound
Given its very Fender-like design, it seemed
only natural to test the Rocket 22 with a recent
1963 Stratocaster NOS from the Fender Custom
Shop’s Time Machine series. I plugged straight
into the clean channel (on the full-power setting)
with the tone controls set flat and was immediately
impressed by the amp’s sparkle and headroom—
particularly given its relatively low power.
The clean channel was wonderfully responsive
and seemed to pick up nuances from the fingertips
that evade lesser amps. To say the least, the
clean channel was very musical and dynamic.
At times, the Rocket 22 seemed a bit bright.
At first I attributed this to the Strat’s single-coil
pickups, so I pulled out a 2009 Gibson
Custom 1963 ES-335 Historic equipped with
BurstBucker 1 and 2 humbuckers. This Gibson,
which through any amp is a bit darker than
a Stratocaster, still sounded just a hair reedy,
even with the tone knobs rolled back a bit. But
turning the amp’s bass way up and the treble in
the opposite direction tamed the high end and
brought the amp alive, allowing it to accent individual
note detail and demonstrate great sensitivity
when playing complex arpeggiated chords.
The spring-based reverb sounded smooth and
gorgeous at all volume levels. And even on the
most intense reverb settings, chords and single-note
lines alike were clear and well defined. The
presence control was much more subtle—not so
noticeable at low volumes and adding just a hint
of a boost at louder settings.
In the 12-watt, half-power mode I admired
how the amp broke up nicely without being
excessively loud—an especially handy attribute
for apartment dwellers and guitarists who play in
small clubs. With the volume turned up about
two-thirds of the way, the Rocket had the beautiful,
but aggressive bark of an old Fender tweed.
Playing through the Rocket’s second channel,
I encountered the same brightness I heard
on the clean channel. And once more, I easily
counteracted this high-end spike with a flick
of the Bass and Treble knobs. In this setting,
the amp is really impressive: With the gain
cranked up around 7, it produced an excellent
crunchy, classic-rock tone that kept individual
notes of each chord clearly discernable. And
just as a fine tube amp should, on the overdriven
setting the Rocket responded beautifully
to single-note jazz-blues lines, singing
assertively in a warm-toned voice.
The Rocket 22 is a terrific Fender-flavored tube
amp that offers modern conveniences, such as a
half-power switch and twin effects loops. At 22
watts, it’s perfect for a classic rock or roots guitarist,
especially one who dwells in smaller venues and
spends a lot of time playing at home. And with two
channels, it’s ideal for the player who likes to work
through a variety of voices without introducing a
lot of pedals to their tone equation. All in all, the
Rocket 22 is a great evolution of a timeless Fender-style
circuit with enough retro visual trappings and
easy-to-use controls that will satisfy the purist.
you want to sound like Keith
Richards in the privacy of your
home or in small clubs.
your style demands a bit more
power than 22 watts and the
money’s a little tight.