Chasing '60s Fullerton zing and muscular drive, this re-vamped compact combo excels in both realms.
Returning to the lineup after a brief reprieve, the PRS Sonzera is a moderately powered 20 watt 1x12 combo amplifier. The Sonzera offers mid-1960’s American-style tone with two independently controlled, footswitchable channels designed for maximum versatility. The Sonzera’s gain channel can be set as a boosted clean channel or with heavy distortion, and the spring reverb and built-in effects loop allow players to easily expand their tonal palette. This is a distinct amp in the PRS line up, which also boasts the Archon, HDRX, DG Custom, and MT-15 amplifiers.
“I am very happy to re-release the new Sonzera 20 combo with improved construction techniques, refined voicing, and fresh cosmetics. Their design inspiration draws from the purity and tonal beauty of vintage American reverb amps of the 60s. The two-channel design is currently unique to the PRS lineup in that the Gain channel is simply the Clean channel with additional gain stages and its own tone stack inserted for discreet lead voicing control,” said PRS Amp Designer, Doug Sewell. “The 12 to 35-watt classic American reverb amps were very inspirational to me as a beginning amp designer in Texas. I consider the Sonzera amps an homage to those early days, and it was especially satisfying and nostalgic to be a part of their development and production.” (Specs courtesy of PRS.)
Our columnist shares a love story about his longtime passion for the 1965 heavyweight that’s his No. 1.
Let me tell you the story of my first vintage Fender amp, which I call “No. 1"—the 1965 Super Reverb that I consider the greatest guitar amp I've ever heard and played.
When I was a teenager, in the late '80s, I had a 25-watt Fender Sidekick and a bigger, 2x12, 40-watt Marshall Valvestate. They worked well for the Gary Moore and Jeff Healey blues-rock licks I was into then. When I moved to Trondheim, Norway, in 1998 to study at the university, I went back in time and listened to classic blues from Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Albert King, B.B. King, and Freddie King. I learned they all played Fender amps, at various times, and when I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan's legendary Live at the El Mocambo concert film, where he played a Vibroverb and a Super Reverb, I knew I had to get a black-panel Super Reverb. So I got in touch with a local guitar shop called Tre45, and they helped me find a Super Reverb in the U.S.
A few months later, I paid €1,400 for a beat-up Super Reverb dated January 1965 that came via boat. The amp looked real rough and had large cuts in the aged brownish grille cloth. It had replacement Mojotone speakers with weighty ceramic magnets and large speaker coils. The shop installed a heavy-duty step-down transformer in the back to cope with 230V, making the amp extremely heavy. Despite the weight and rough looks, I loved it. It played twice as loud as my brother's 1968 transition-era Super Reverb with original square-magnet CTS alnico speakers. Back then, volume and punch meant everything, and I hadn't yet developed an appreciation for the CTS alnicos, which later became one of my favorite speakers. Neither did I have much experience with how speakers affect tone. My No. 1 sounded louder, more mellow, and creamy compared to a typical black-panel Super. Because of my amp, my brother sold his precious, vintage-correct '68.
Twelve years later, in 2010, I started trading Fender amps on a larger scale, finding them on U.S. eBay and importing them to Norway, where I swapped power transformers and did basic service like tubes and cap jobs. I eventually developed a taste for vintage-correct tone and pursued amps in original or mint condition. I was eager to learn, and systematically A/B-tested all black- and silver-panel Fender amps, with all possible speakers and circuits. I also experimented with newer replacement speakers from Weber, Jensen, Eminence, Celestion, and WGS, and tried all kinds of circuit mods.
"Because of my amp, my brother sold his precious, vintage-correct '68."
I decided to replace my Super's Mojotones with a set of vintage-correct speakers for an authentic pre-CBS sound. I found a 1965 Super in really poor technical condition and swapped the grille cloth and the factory-original CTS ceramic speakers into my No. 1. Now my amp was restored to original condition, with speakers with matching manufacturer date codes, and, more important, it sounded better! The new-old speakers added more clarity and crispness, which I particularly enjoy with a Strat's out-of-phase, quacky tone in the in-between pickup positions.
Other amps have caught my affection, too. Not surprisingly, I find the narrow-panel Fender Bassman a great amp, but unfortunately it lacks reverb, which is a big deal to me. Same goes with the Marshall JTM45 and JMP50 amps from the '60s. They have great crunch but lack some transparency and clarity when used with closed-back 4x12 cabinets. I've also had the pleasure of owning and playing some popular boutique amps, like the Two-Rock Custom Reverb, Victorias, Headstrongs, Bad Cats, and others. Compared to vintage amps, they are more robust and have high quality materials and components that survive longer on the road. I also like how the solid, thick cabinets in some modern amps produce a tight low end. All the boutique amps I've tried sounded good, different, and had more tone options than my Super Reverb, but when I played those amps for a long time or at gigs, I found myself confused with all the tonal options and I end up dialing in a sound as close as possible to a Super Reverb. I can't help it. That is how a guitar is supposed to sound, in my ears. And nothing sounds more vintage Fender than a black-panel Super Reverb, in my humble opinion.
If you haven't played one, try the huge tone and dynamic response within the big and airy 4x10 speaker cabinet of a Super. It offers a pure, natural, and transparent tone and connects with your guitar in a physical way when you crank the amp a few meters behind you on a larger stage. If you need a little more crunch and early break-up, add an Xotic RC Booster and see my April 2020 column, "How to Get Big Tones on Small Stages."
The company's flagship amp packs a mind-boggling amount of features in a robust four-channel setup.
The Revv Amplification Generator 120 MKIII is the world's first stereo-direct-output reactive load & impulse response tube amp. Not only does it bring you 4 channels of all-tube finely-tuned boutique Canadian tone based on feedback from world-class touring artists, session guitarists, & audio engineers – it also features Two notes Audio Engineering Torpedo-embedded DynIR Virtual Cabinet technology for going direct to FOH, studio monitors, or headphones. No cabinet required.
But it doesn't stop there! A state-of-the-art noisegate & lush reverb are built right in! All accompanied by a host of switching & voicing updates to make getting the sound in your head faster than ever.
Generator 120 MKIII features all 4 of Revv Amplification's channels, each an original circuit! These have received many voicing updates for MKIII. The clean Blue Channel is chimey with tons of headroom, & now includes a "Wide" switch to give you a wide-range frequency boost for more push & sustain. The crunch Green Channel feature 3 all-new drive modes to take this dynamic channel from edge of breakup, to clear overdrive, to classic stack tones. High gain Purple Channel is famous for its razor-sharp metal clarity, & now in MKIII it receives more low end & saturation with no loss in tightness. Finally, highest gain Red Channel has an all new touch-sensitive feel which takes you from warm oldschool overdrive to the most massive modern tones available.
Revv Amplification is committed to bringing you the most complete amplifier experience available. Clarity, feel, & tone – for stage, studio, & home