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Jaguar Junior Amp Review

Jaguar knocks it out of the park again with the 17-watt, Class A Junior

Video Review:

Click here to see the full-size video review.
When we guitar players think about getting new stuff, nine times out of 10 we think of new guitars rather than new amps. I know this to be true because I just made it up, but it was true for me for a very long time. And maybe it is cooler and more fun to get a new guitar, but what finally made it through my thick head about ten years ago is that the amp is at least as important to your sound as the guitar, and may be even more important. Happily, numerous companies out there are trying to build the next holy grail of amps, and I say, “Go for it!” By now, Jaguar Amplification may be familiar to PG readers as one of those companies—and as the winner of a Premier Gear Award for their Twin amp (Dec. 2008). In today’s adventure, we explore the Jaguar Junior, 17 class-A watts of down-home tone goodness.

Only 17 Watts…Really?

A big tone error guitarists often make is buying a zillion-watt amp and then using stompers for overdrive. Why not use a lower-wattage amp and crank that sucker up? That’s how you get that really juicy tube saturation, which is what we really crave. Enter the Jaguar Junior. Feature-wise, it’s very simple: two inputs (high and low) and chickenhead Master Volume, Volume, and Tone knobs. There’s no steep learning curve here—it’s plug and play. You get one channel with a pentode/triode switch that, when flipped to triode mode, lowers power output to 7 watts. The tubes onboard are two 12AX7s, two EL84s, and a GZ34 rectifier. The speaker is a customized Celestion G12H Anniversary model. Our review Junior was done up in creamy white and had a very classic look about it. The cabinet is 13-ply, finger-jointed birch that’s solid as a rock. The whole thing weighs in at 45 pounds and comes with a cover.

Let’s Crank It!
I will start with my only gripe: I wish the Jaguar Junior had reverb. The rest is all good. This baby cranks like mad. You’d swear it has double the claimed wattage. The Tone control gave me all the tweakiness I needed in one knob, and I love that. This amp just sounds great, and those of you who play studio stuff will quickly learn to appreciate the ability to cut the output down even more to get that grit at a very low volume. It makes recording easier for everyone. As is usually the case with pentode/triode switches, the low-power setting yields darker, creamier tones. Set for clean, it is everything you’d want: big, fat, tight bass response with a clear-but-not-harsh top end. Jazzers who like tubes will really dig the Junior. The touch sensitivity is very good, and you can get such a nice dynamic range here.

Playing around with the balance between the Master and the Volume, I was able to dial up more grind. What you get is a very earthy sound. This is not a metal amp. Rather, it’s more for blues, roots-rock, or Americana tones. But it really is rich and full, with lots of harmonic content—my cup o’ tea, for sure. Another great thing is that you have so much control over tones just by using the volume knob on your guitar—way more fun and expressive than stompbox distortion. Dialing around with the two Volumes gives a good range of grit, but even cranked all the way it has more of a classic, gritty grind—think Billy Gibbons or George Thorogood. It’s just hard to beat that power-amp distortion (as opposed to preamp distortion). And, being in such tight control over your dynamics and the cool way it gets grittier as you turn up—I love it!

The Final Mojo
It’s cool to be living in the age of boutique amps and guitars—there’s so much great gear to check out. Of course, the sad part is that boutique gear comes with boutique prices, so many players might have to pass. But sometimes it’s worth it to save up your pennies and buy into a piece of gear that will still be going strong long after we’re dust. Roadworthiness counts for a lot, and it’s the hardest thing to measure, because you can’t really know for sure except by looking back at performance over time. But you can look for gear that uses top-quality components, point-to-point wiring, and chassis-mounted (as opposed to PC board-mounted) tube sockets. For guitar amps, I actually prefer solid wood cabs, but quality ply is in second place—and of course this is a matter of personal taste. There’s not a lot more to say about a three-knob amp. This beast is about as good as it gets in a roots-rock amp with delicious tone-osity, solid build quality, and good looks. Jaguar is making some truly great gear and should be well pleased with what they’ve done here.
Buy if...
you want juicy, classic tones.
Skip if...
you’re looking for a high-gain metal monster.

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