amp review

A modeling amp in vintage disguise.

Pros: Great balance between digital power and simplicity. Lightweight and super affordable. Nice app for editing.

Cons: Footswitch not included. Some functions are not intuitive and require a look at the manual. No digital readout.

$399.99

Line 6 Catalyst 100
line6.com

4
4.5
4
5

Line 6’s Catalyst series is the latest in a generation of amplifiers bridging the gap between digital modeling’s enormous possibilities and many players’ desires for old-school simplicity. These amps offer detailed, convincing amp models—but not too many of them—in a compact, vintage-style design that makes avoidance of option fatigue a priority. The very accessible prices also make the series a direct competitor to Boss’ ultra-successful Katana amps. The Catalyst is offered in three models: Catalyst 60 and Catalyst 100 (both of which have one 12" speaker), and the Catalyst 200, which has two 12" speakers. For this review I tested the Catalyst 100, which sells for a very modest $399.

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Scorching distortion meets vintage cleans in a lunchbox that's featured filled, light, and easy on the pocketbook.

Light package, heavy sounds. Interesting variety of brutal to vintage-y clean sounds. Handy features.

Clean-channel volume can't always match dirty channel's. Slight scratchiness in dirty channel gain control.

$1,250

Ugly Amps "Lil" Ugly
uglyamps.com

4
3.5
3.5
5

In approach, if not aesthetic, Steve O'Boyle of Ugly Amps got his start much like the folks at now-defunct Analog Outfitters. Like A.O., Ugly Amps initially used parts salvaged from vintage PA systems—thus the tongue-in-cheek company name. These days, he stocks his small-batch designs with all-new parts. His latest offering, the 5881-powered, 20-watt "Lil" Ugly, puts a high-gain channel alongside a clean channel whose tones are a welcome departure from many amps in this category—all at just 12 pounds.

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Heavy amp hardware in a petite package.

Dirty channel sounds amazing. Portable and light.

Clean channel isn't particularly loud on a 16-ohm cabinet.

$399

Hughes & Kettner AmpMan Modern
hughes-and-kettner.com

4
4.5
4.5
4

Hughes & Kettner are good at anticipating trends. The 1991-introduced Tubeman, a pedal-sized preamp, offered full-spectrum DI sounds years before the modeling craze. Released two years before that, the Red Box was among the first cabinet simulators. Decades later, Hughes & Kettner is still tweaking those formulas to make amps a simpler, more flexible proposition. Their new AmpMan is a Red Box-equipped, all-analog, 2-channel, preamp and class D power amp—all packed into a compact, 2.5 pound, pedal-sized unit. And it's one of the most potent distillations of the H&K amp-slimming formula yet. The AmpMan is offered in two models: Classic and Modern. But for this review we took a turn with the higher-gain Modern version.

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