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Perhaps best known for their speaker simulators, Palmer has a knack for amplifier innovation, too. The Drei enables you to combine the outputs from three types of GZ34/5AR4-rectified power tubes—an EL84, a 6V6, and a 6L6—via the Eins, Zwei, and Drei (One, Two, and Three). By varying those knobs, in addition to the preamp’s Klang (Tone), Normal Sättigung (Low-Frequency “muddy” overdrive), and Höhen Sättigung (high-frequency “tight” overdrive) controls, you can create numerous unique amalgams of Brit and Yank tones.
Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18
Powered by twin EL84s, the TubeMeister features twin channels, each with Master and Gain knobs, a shared 3-band EQ, and Lead Boost and Channel Select buttons. Around back, there’s a four-step power soak for cranked-tube dynamics at whisper volume, in addition to built-in Red Box circuitry for silent recording with the company’s famous cabinet simulation.
Orange Dark Terror
The Terror just keeps getting more terrifying. A stroll by the bright and sizable Orange booth found us ducking a barrage of gain-charged riffery from the new Dark Terror. Like its blockbuster predecessor, the featherlight head doles out 15 class-A watts (switchable to 7) via two EL84s, but its tone stack—which is controlled by Volume, Shape, and Gain knobs—has morphed in a way that enables insanely dynamic switches between all-out Norwegian black metal evilness and cleaned-up bluesy wailing.
Stark Amps Stark 1
This handsome little point-to-point-wired head features a delectable textured-grid covering and knobs for Gain, Drive, Treble, Middle, Bass, Presence, and Master. It can run off EL34 or 6L6 power tubes for 20, 35, or 50 watts of class AB power, and its single-channel design is made more versatile by a boost feature that’s activated via the front-panel toggle or a footswitch. Rear-panel features include an XLR direct out and a serial effects loop.
Koch Jupiter and Startrooper
Koch Amps’ two new hybrid amps—the Jupiter and Startrooper—pair a 12AX7-driven preamp with a solidstate power section. Each has two EQ-sharing channels and a boost function. The Jupiter summons biting cleans and brawny blues-rock distortion via a 12" Jensen with a neodymium magnet, while the Startrooper uses a Koch 12" speaker that’s voiced like a Celestion Vintage 30 to prime the storm trooper in you for higher-gain applications.
You couldn’t miss the IronHeart barking, purring, and roaring from Laney’s impressive demo stage at Musikmesse. But despite its raw power and intimidating moniker, it’s an amp of many personalities, thanks to its three flexibly voiced channels and a continuously variable 1-120-watt output knob that helped it sound sweet when purring low or screaming like a banshee at full force.
Fender Super-Sonic Twin
Fender’s Super-Sonic line has always offered Jekyll-and-Hyde vintage and modern voicings wrapped in classic Fender livery. The 100-watt, 6L6-driven Super-Sonic Twin (lower left; at upper right the new Super-Sonic 100 head sits atop Super-Sonic 100 4x12 cabs, and the Super-Sonic 60 combo is at lower right) has a 25-watt Club mode, can be switched between Twin and Bassman voices, and has an exceedingly nasty Burn section that covers major sonic territory.