Download Example 1
12 Watt Class A mode with Les Paul, heavy crunch
Download Example 2
25 Watt Class A mode with Hamer Korina Special
Download Example 3
50 Watt Class A/B mode with Strat
All clips recorded with a Chandler LTD1 mic pre into an Apogee Symphony I/O to Pro Tools HD9. SM57 off axis to 1x12 cab. Slight addition of Lexicon hall reverb in mix.
Hailing out of Haltom City, Texas, Jackson Ampworks is a small amp company that’s fast attracting the attention of some heavy hitters. Jackson’s compact, hand-built English-flavored amps have piqued the interest of Paul McCartney and John Mayer sideman Robbie McIntosh, among others. And the Britain 3.0 is the latest addition to the Jackson family of amplifiers (the Atlantic and Union Jack models are receiving design overhauls at press time) that continues to evolve. Jackson’s growth into a five-man manufacturing and production team (Brad Jackson, John Lynn, Benjamin Hazlett, Cole Novak and Keller Knoblock), has also enabled Jackson to deliver these products with an efficiency that’s resulted in a $500 price reduction for the Britain—a discount that’s made an already appealing amplifier a good value for a hand-built amp too.

Stout and Potent
Weighing in right at 30 pounds, the 14”x 9.25” x 8.5” head is both sturdy and portable. And dressed up in deep red vinyl with a white “V” stripe surrounded by gold trim and a stainless steel faceplate, it pulls off looking simultaneously cute and badass. The front panel controls are packed pretty tight, but that translates to a lot of functionality for an amp of its size. From left to right, there are two inputs (1/2 and 2) followed by Channel 1 Volume, Treble and Bass, and Channel 2 Volume, Treble and Bass. An LED indicator above the tone knobs of channel one designates the switchable tone stack bypass and a jewel power indicator glows on the far right. The back panel is pretty packed too. Adjacent to the mains fuse and standard IEC power cable input you’ll find a Bias trim pot for external biasing then two toggles for power and standby followed by a 3- way knob that enables the switch between 12-, 25-, and 50-watt operation. A 16/8/4 ohm switch is located next to two speaker output jacks as well as two effects loops and the Channel 1 footswitch jack. It’s a testament to the Jackson team that they can pack this much functionality in such a compact amp.

Tubes consist of an EF86 preamp in Channel 1 and a 12AX7 in Channel 2. The four-tube output section contains a pair of EL84s and a pair of EL34s. When running in the Class-A 12-watt mode the power section utilizes the two cathode biased EL84s. In the 25-watt Class A mode it uses two cathode biased EL34s. And the 50-watt Class A/B mode uses the pair of fixed biased EL34s. There’s also tube rectifier emulation circuit that mimics a 5U4G rectifier in both the 12 and 25 watt Class A modes while a solid-state rectifier is used in the 50-watt Class A/B setting.

Installed in the amp to cool the tight chassis is a 4” high flow fan. All wiring is done with silver-plated Teflon hookup wire on a precision-cut aluminum chassis with ceramic tube sockets and rubber grommets to reduce vibration. F&T caps, Mallory 150 coupling caps, carbon comp and film caps as well as custom iron round out the component selection. Fit and finish on the head and cabinet is top notch. The vinyl covering is perfect and there wasn’t a flaw to be found. The cabinet is also a thing of beauty. Redesigned with a double baffle on the left and right side it offers the best of closed and open back design. The sturdy cab houses a Celestion Alnico Gold 8ohm speaker. And a handle on the top of the cab makes for easy and balanced carrying.

Jack of All Trades
Eager to fire up the Britain, I lined up a rack of guitars and flipped the power switch to warm up the amp. The first thing I noticed, however, was that the internal fan used to cool the head was quite loud. In a studio setting I tend to keep the head nearby and use the cabinet in another room, but the fan proved to be a little unnerving. That said, it’s an understandable trade off given the tight quarters inside the amp and proximity of all those tubes together. Nobody wants an amp fire, after all.

That quibble aside, the Britain is a surprisingly versatile amp. My first thought upon looking at the controls was that I would miss a presence and mid control. That concern was wiped away as I plugged into the 1/2 input, which bridges Channels 1 and 2. Just working with the Channel 1 controls and set in the EL84 power position the sound of the EF86 tube shone like a beacon of chiming light. The decidedly Vox-like sound was bright and present with a beautiful three-dimensional quality that had me banging out Beatle chords and Tom Petty riffs. There was a surprising amount of tonal variety on hand just through mixing the bass and treble controls—which also contributed significantly to the gain of the channel. The interactive combination of volume, treble, and bass was infinitely valuable. And I was able to tailor the amp to move from fairly clean to crunchy to singing lead tones with ease. Because there is no master volume the sound does get up to decent decibel levels fairly fast. But the bonus is the attack, clarity, and punch that only come from a wide-open circuit. This is an amp that will stand out in the mix and never get buried.