Premier Guitar

PRS Sweet 16 Amp Review

January 14, 2010


Download Example 1
Clean - Bright Off, Volume 7 o'clock, Reverb 10 o'clock, Treble, Middle and Bass at noon, Master 11 o'clock. Fender VG Strat.
Download Example 2
Head then Combo with same settings - Bright on, Volume 5 o'clock, Reverb off, Treble 3 o'clock, Middle noon, Bass 2 o'clock, Master 10 o'clock. PRS Mira X.
Download Example 3
Classic Rock - Bright on, Volume 3 o'clock, Reverb off, Treble 1 o'clock, Middle 2 o'clock, Bass 11 o'clock, Master 8 o'clock. PRS Mira X.
All clips recorded with a Shure SM57 with Digidesign Pro Tools
Paul Reed Smith and master amp builder Doug Sewell have teamed up to create a new amplifier called the Sweet 16. This new single channel amp combines excellent tone and quality aesthetics and a not-so-expensive price point, and is available as a head or a combo amp. The Sweet 16 amp has 16 watts of cathode-biased 6v6 output tube power and is hand-wired in Stevensville, Maryland.

Sweet Simplicity
The Sweet 16’s simple controls include volume, treble, mid, bass, master volume and a bright switch. The preamp section consists of two 12AXT tubes and two 12AT7 tubes. The power tubes are biased to near Class A, so they run a bit hotter than normal. There is also a tube-driven 3-spring Reverb with a medium decay. The back panel of the Sweet 16 stays simple as well, with only an impedance selector and speaker outputs.

Plug In
I hooked up the Sweet 16 to one of the new Paul Reed Smith 1X12 speaker cabinets, and cranked the volume up all the way for a distorted tone. The Master Volume was set fairly low and all parameters were set to 12 o’clock. I plugged in a variety of humbucker-equipped guitars, such as a Schecter Horton with Seymour Duncans, an Ibanez 540 with EMGs and a PRS Mira X. Power chords were fat and chunky, with plenty of bite. I was able to get a good distortion with a classic British rock vibe immediately, without even spending any extra time knob twiddling. It was a nice, thick and smooth overdriven tone, with a fat controlled bass and a strong mid character. The Sweet 16 offers a voicing that can’t easily be compared to a sound such as a Marshall or a Vox. It has its own thing going on, which is a good thing. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how robust the volume and tone are with the Sweet 16, which proves that good things do come in small packages!

I really liked how responsive the Sweet 16 was, depending on how hot the pickups are. With each guitar I tried, the tone was sweet and warm with a very musical distortion when pushed hard. Backing off on the guitar’s volume, the Sweet 16 proved to be quite touch-sensitive. You can start off with a clean tone, and the amp reacts well to the velocity of your strumming by adding a touch more crunch and bite when you dig in a little harder. A guitarist will appreciate being able to control the amp just by the attack of the pick or a turn of the guitar’s volume knob.

The Sweet 16 sounds great with single-coil pickups as well. With a clean tone, the highs were crisp and sparkly but also had plenty of warm and boomy low end to round out the sound. It offered great tones for blues, funk and country playing. I really liked the sound of my Strat’s single-coil in the neck position, for playing either rhythms with a clean sound, or leads with a more distorted tone. Also, the “edge of breakup” tone to full distortion sounded great with a Strat. The tone remained clear without getting too fuzzy or muddy.

You can clearly hear the range of certain parameters when using a clean sound. The bright switch definitely adds more shimmer and sparkle for more bell-like cleans. Also, the bass control is more useful in the clean setting. I found that turning up the bass a lot in overdrive made the tone a little too rumbling and buzzy for my liking.

The Combo
I was able to test out the Sweet 16 combo amp as well as the head. The combo has the exact same features and control panel as the head version, and includes a Celestion G12H-30 speaker. The amp’s sound is basically the same, although there was a slight difference in tonality between the combo amp and the head & cabinet combination. The new PRS closed-back 1X12 cabinet features a Vintage 30 speaker. Paired with the Sweet 16 head, this combination results in a very large-sounding and resonant tone. There was a really ballsy sound and bass response from this cabinet that I really liked and preferred over the combo version.

The Final Mojo
The Sweet 16 has tones that will please any rock, blues, country or jazz player. You won’t get an instant high-gain metal sound with the amp alone. However, I tried the amp with a high gain pedal and a guitar with active EMG pickups, and the amp was instantly transformed into a modern metal machine! So it is versatile enough that a guitarist can use this amp for a jazz session one day, and a metal gig the next day. (And yes, I do know many guitarists who work like that!)

Overall, I thought the Sweet 16 was amazingly well balanced, with really nice overtones. Guitarists will appreciate its portability, and can be used in the studio or on stage, as well as backstage or at home. It’s priced lower than other PRS amps, so it’s like getting a boutique amp without the big price tag. The Sweet 16 a small, single-channel, low-wattage amp with great tones and good looks, and is definitely an amp worth checking out.
Buy if...
You’re looking for a boutique quality amp at a reasonable price
Skip if...
You need an amp with an FX loop or more than one channel
Rating...
4.5

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