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During the time I spent playing through the amp, it became clear to me that this amp really loves single coil pickups on Channel 2. With a 2008 Fender Strat plugged in there was more than enough saturation and sustain in the “Lead 1” position to stand up to most amps in the high gain category. Again, the tone of the Strat really came through and the Brutus highlighted the beauty and sweetness of the single coils, offering a snap and swirl that can only be appreciated by playing this amp live. Switching over to “Lead 2” stepped things up considerably and offered a thickening and slight buzziness to the sound that reminded me of a higher gain setting on a Mesa Dual Rectifier. Channel 2 is much more aggressive and tends to erase some of the personality of the guitar due to the higher gain settings, which is a tradeoff that may or may not appeal to some players. It just depends on what your purpose is with the amp. The fact that you have Channel 2 as an option to footswitch over to is more than a bonus, considering Channel 1 has options that rival most two-channel amps in the first place.
Overall, the Brutus delivers a very wide range of tones from beautiful cleans to aggressive distortion. The width of coverage from the three tone knobs yielded much more control over the voice shaping than any vintage Marshall or Fender could boast, while still being usable in just about every setting, depending on the guitar. The bonus of having mini-switches to change the voicing of each of the channels really adds a lot of versatility to the sound as well. One thing that came back no matter what guitar I played through it was the tightness in the feel of the amp. This is not an amp with a lot of sag to it, which limited me to playing a little more on the safe side than I’d like.
That said, I checked out Donato Begotti’s MySpace page (myspace.com/donatobegotti), and if he is using the Brutus, which it sounds like to me, he is clearly more than able to pull off masterful chops regardless of the type of feel this amp has. Cicognani has certainly put together a unique and very usable amp setup with the Brutus Live head and 2×12 cab. In any studio or live situation it will deliver a cool new color to your tonal palate.
After the review had been printed, I brought the head over to my tech’s place and played it through our trusty eighties Marshall 4x12 with Celestion Greenbacks. DANG! It really sounded killer and extremely Marshall-like on the crunch channel. Played it for an hour at least, right after we had played my JCM 800 and 75 Superlead. It was very cool.
You want a portable yet powerful and unique sounding amp perfect for recording or live use.
You like a lot of sag in your lead tone.
Head Street $1699 Cab Street $524.99 - Cicognani - cicognaniamps.com