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September 2014
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PRS 30 Amp Review



Download Example 1
British - Bright on, Volume 5 o'clock, Reverb off, Treble 2 o'clock, Middle 1 o'clock, Bass 4 o'clock, Master 10 o'clock. PRS Starla X.
Download Example 2
Country Rock - Bright off, Volume 2 o'clock, Reverb off, Treble 3 o'clock, Middle 2 o'clock, Bass 10 o'clock, Master 9 o'clock. Fender Strat with pickup settings.
Download Example 3
Heavy Rock - Bright on, Volume 3 o'clock, Reverb off, Treble 3 o'clock, Middle 8 o'clock, Bass 3 o'clock, Master 10 o'clock. Peavey PXD Tomb II with EMG 60/81s.
Download Example 4
Increasing Guitar Volume - Bright off, Volume 12 o'clock, Reverb 10 o'clock, Treble 1 o'clock, Middle 7 o'clock, Bass 10 o'clock, Master 9 o'clock. PRS Mira X, switching pickups.
All clips recorded with a Shure SM57 into Digidesign Pro Tools.
Many guitar manufacturers try their hand at making amplifiers, to varying degrees of success. Perhaps many believe that since their guitars are a big hit, they can easily branch out and manufacture amps that will be just as successful; some guitar companies do okay, while others fail miserably. It’s a rare and difficult task to create guitars and amps of equally high quality, and then to be able to maintain those high standards and good reputation. Paul Reed Smith seems to be headed in that direction. The company known for making amazing looking and sounding guitars is quickly gaining a reputation for making high-quality amps as well.

Paul Reed Smith joined forces with master amp designer Doug Sewell and collaborated for nearly four years before unveiling the highly anticipated PRS tube amp line in early 2009. With a tip of the hat to both classic American as well as British amps, PRS produced a line of amps that catered to the needs of varied playing styles and served up some distinct and unique tonal possibilities. PRS released the Blue Sierra, the Dallas, and the Original Sewell tube amps to rave reviews. Now, Paul Reed Smith is rolling out a series of lower wattage amps, including the 16-watt Sweet 16 and a new 30-watt cathode biased amp called the PRS 30.

Described as “an English sound with an American twist,” the PRS 30 features a quartet of EL84 tubes and a control layout similar to the PRS Dallas amp. The preamp section includes two 12AX7 tubes and two 12AT7 tubes. It also features a 3-spring Reverb with medium decay, and a special Master Volume that is dialed out of the circuit as the amp volume reaches the maximum setting. The amps are handmade in Stevensville, MD, and are available in head and combo versions.

The front panel of the PRS 30 includes controls for Volume, Reverb, Treble, Middle, Bass and Master Volume as well as a bright switch, a power switch and one input jack. The rear panel stays simple with an impedance selector, a fuse compartment, and an extension jack included in parallel with the speaker out jack. For those guitarists who weren’t crazy about the paisley look of the original PRS amps, they will be happy to know that the PRS 30 amps, along with the Sweet 16 and the accompanying new speaker cabinets, come in the new PRS tuxedo (black and white) tolex, which makes for a very classy look.

Plugging In
I received a PRS 30 head for review along with a 1x12 PRS speaker cabinet. I wasted no time in setting everything up and plugging in. I naturally chose a PRS Mira X guitar with humbucking pickups for the initial test drive. When some people test-drive a new car, they immediately want to see how fast the thing goes. My first instinct was to dial in my favorite distortion setting on a tube amp—Treble and Middle up half way, Bass and Volume (gain) cranked, with the Master Volume up a couple of notches. I quickly discovered that those general settings don’t really work on this amp! First of all, with the 1x12 closed-back PRS speaker cabinet, the bass response was rumbling and plentiful, so there was no need to crank the Bass up all the way. The distortion was pretty fuzzy and grungy with those settings, so I decided to start from scratch and dial all of the parameters to neutral, 12 o’clock positions. I then got an instant British/ classic rock tone with thick, creamy distortion. I only had to adjust the Treble to brighten up the tone slightly, but otherwise it was a ballsy overdriven tone with plenty of low end.

I also plugged in my Slash Les Paul with Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro-II humbuckers and got more of the same warm overdriven sound. It’s a great classic rock tone: punchy with a strong attack. The midrange is very rich and reminds me of a VOX tone, which has a lot to do with the EL84 tubes used in the amp. Playing around with the Volume knob on the amp, you can find your sweet spot at different locations of the sweep, depending on your pickups. There is a point in which the actual volume stops increasing, while the tone becomes thicker and more compressed. It seemed to be different with every guitar, so it’s best to experiment a bit to find your favorite setting.