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August Issue
more... GearAmpsTube HeadSound SamplesReviewsEL34August 2010Port City

Port City Sahana Amp Head and Wave 2x12 Cab Review

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.