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Electroplex Rocket 22 Amp Review

Electroplex Rocket 22 Amp Review

Electroplex has jumped back into the fray with the Rocket 22—a 2-channel amp powered by a pair of 6V6 tubes

Download Example 1
clean channel with reverb
Download Example 2
overdrive channel with gain at around 8
Download Example 3
overdrive channel with gain at around 8
Clips recorded with a Gibson 1963 ES-335 Historic into the Electroplex Rocket 22 amp miked with Shure SM57 into ART Tubeamp studio into GarageBand.
Back in 1994, when the boutique amplifier craze was just gathering steam, engineer and electronics buff Don Morris started building amps in his Fullerton, California garage. (Sound familiar?) His main model was the Electroplex Rocket 90, a burly 90-watt 2x12 combo driven by a quartet of 6L6GC power tubes. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Rocket 90 owed a tip of the hat to Fender’s Twin Reverb. In the years that followed, Electroplex added such lower-wattage models as the Rocket 50 and Rocket 35. Morris’ company flourished and found favor among superstars—including the Rolling Stones, who used Electroplex amps on their Voodoo Lounge and Bridges to Babylon LPs.

Despite all the success, Electroplex shut shop in 2000 so that Morris could spend more time with his teenage kids. A decade later, Morris’ children are out of the house and Electroplex has jumped back into the fray with the Rocket 22—a 2-channel amp powered by a pair of 6V6 tubes—that we were stoked to audition.

Space-Age Cosmetics

The Rocket 22 is available in a variety of configurations. You can choose 1x12, 2x12, 2x10, 4x10, or 1x15 combos, or select a head-and-cabinet setup. You can also choose speakers from Celestion, Tone Tubby, Jensen, Weber, and Eminence. Standard cabinet finishes include black vinyl with a wheat grille and beige vinyl with a burgundy grille, though custom colors are also available.

Our review amp was a Tone Tubby–equipped 1x12 combo. A real looker, it sported custom dark-green vinyl and a gold grille with green accents. Rocket 22s are spruced up with cool space-age design details and flourishes, including Electroplex’s trademark metal rocket in the center of the grille cloth and two silkscreened versions of the missile—with stylized engines ablaze—above the control knobs. The amp’s “on” light shines in the lightning bolt section of the Electroplex graphic—a very nice touch. And depending on which channel you’ve selected, smaller round lights shine at the aft end of one rocket or another on the control panel. The 11 black chicken-head knobs add another cool touch to an imaginatively retro outward appearance.

The Rocket 22 is solid and built to last. But the high-quality construction means it’s heavy too. On a digital postal scale, the amp weighed in at around 50 pounds—about 10 pounds more than a Fender Deluxe Reverb. For this reviewer, that’s a little heavy for a combo—especially if you’re toting the amp up several flights of stairs to a gig—though the typical gigging guitarist might not concur.

The Rocket’s control panel is straightforward and feels familiar. At far left, there are two inputs, followed by controls for the clean channel, which has a simple Volume, Treble, Mid, and Bass control set. The Volume knob has push-pull functionality for switching to the overdrive section, which has its own group of knobs for Gain, Volume, Treble, Mid, and Bass. Just to the right of the overdrive channel are universal controls for Presence and Reverb.

The back panel reveals Electroplex’s focus on making the Rocket 22 adaptable to a modern player’s stage and studio needs. You’ll find a switch that toggles between power settings of 22 and 12 watts, power and standby switches, two ¼" speaker outputs, an impedance switch (for selecting between 16-, 8-, and 4-ohm speakers), ¼" jacks for line-level output, a channel footswitch, and a separate return/send effect loop for each channel.

Classic Valve Sound

Given its very Fender-like design, it seemed only natural to test the Rocket 22 with a recent 1963 Stratocaster NOS from the Fender Custom Shop’s Time Machine series. I plugged straight into the clean channel (on the full-power setting) with the tone controls set flat and was immediately impressed by the amp’s sparkle and headroom— particularly given its relatively low power. The clean channel was wonderfully responsive and seemed to pick up nuances from the fingertips that evade lesser amps. To say the least, the clean channel was very musical and dynamic.

At times, the Rocket 22 seemed a bit bright. At first I attributed this to the Strat’s single-coil pickups, so I pulled out a 2009 Gibson Custom 1963 ES-335 Historic equipped with BurstBucker 1 and 2 humbuckers. This Gibson, which through any amp is a bit darker than a Stratocaster, still sounded just a hair reedy, even with the tone knobs rolled back a bit. But turning the amp’s bass way up and the treble in the opposite direction tamed the high end and brought the amp alive, allowing it to accent individual note detail and demonstrate great sensitivity when playing complex arpeggiated chords.

The spring-based reverb sounded smooth and gorgeous at all volume levels. And even on the most intense reverb settings, chords and single-note lines alike were clear and well defined. The presence control was much more subtle—not so noticeable at low volumes and adding just a hint of a boost at louder settings.

In the 12-watt, half-power mode I admired how the amp broke up nicely without being excessively loud—an especially handy attribute for apartment dwellers and guitarists who play in small clubs. With the volume turned up about two-thirds of the way, the Rocket had the beautiful, but aggressive bark of an old Fender tweed.

Playing through the Rocket’s second channel, I encountered the same brightness I heard on the clean channel. And once more, I easily counteracted this high-end spike with a flick of the Bass and Treble knobs. In this setting, the amp is really impressive: With the gain cranked up around 7, it produced an excellent crunchy, classic-rock tone that kept individual notes of each chord clearly discernable. And just as a fine tube amp should, on the overdriven setting the Rocket responded beautifully to single-note jazz-blues lines, singing assertively in a warm-toned voice.

The Verdict

The Rocket 22 is a terrific Fender-flavored tube amp that offers modern conveniences, such as a half-power switch and twin effects loops. At 22 watts, it’s perfect for a classic rock or roots guitarist, especially one who dwells in smaller venues and spends a lot of time playing at home. And with two channels, it’s ideal for the player who likes to work through a variety of voices without introducing a lot of pedals to their tone equation. All in all, the Rocket 22 is a great evolution of a timeless Fender-style circuit with enough retro visual trappings and easy-to-use controls that will satisfy the purist.

Buy if...
you want to sound like Keith Richards in the privacy of your home or in small clubs.
Skip if...
your style demands a bit more power than 22 watts and the money’s a little tight.

Street $2399 - Electroplex Guitar Amps -