Tube power and digital cab sims add up to a formidable compact hybrid amplification solution.
Analog tube power meets Wall of Sound DynIR Software in a compact package. Takes pedals well. Easy to use.
Bypass doesn’t have dedicated switch. Single cabinet sim in hardware.
Two Notes ReVolt Guitar
Two Notes Audio Engineering is best known for their digital DynIR cabinet modeling technology. This tech is the backbone of the company’s Torpedo load boxes and cabinet simulators, as well as cab simulations used by Mesa, Victory, and others. But the new ReVolt Guitar amp simulator pedal is a departure. It’s a tube-driven, 3-channel preamp with analog cabinet emulation that comes in a solid, compact 7" x 4.5" x 3" stompbox. The ReVolt is intuitive, too. If you know how to twist the knobs on your amp to get a sound you like, you’ll fare well with the ReVolt Guitar. There’s no menu diving or secondary footswitches or knob functions. It’s a true WYSIWYG device.
The ReVolt Guitar uses a 12AX7/ECC83 preamp tube in triode mode running at 200 volts as an output-stage cathode follower—a tried and true amp design that adds some of the warmth and compression digital amp modelers can miss. With a built-in cabinet emulation and balanced XLR line output, it’s a powerful, economical, and very space-efficient solution for the stage and studio.
California Cleans and Metal Means
Each of ReVolt’s three channels—clean, crunch, and lead—feature independent gain and volume controls. For EQ, the clean channel has bass and treble controls, while the crunch and lead channels share a 3-band EQ with mid control. A single boost output level knob rounds out the upper panel controls. Each channel is activated by a footswitch, and the unit is bypassed by pressing the clean and crunch channel footswitches simultaneously.
The clean channel, modeled on a Bassman 100, is classic Fender stuff—glassy top end, scooped mids, and round lows. It has headroom for days—maybe even too much for some players. It doesn’t break up at high gain, but imparts mild compression that feels like tube rectifier sag. With the tone controls at noon, it’s boomy and bright, and, generally, I needed to run those controls at more modest levels to get the right balance of warmth and sparkle.
The crunch channel offers a broad drive range. Below 11 o’clock, the sounds are old-school plexi, complete with grinding and chunky Super Lead-style tones. Beyond the halfway mark on the gain control, you’ll start to hear hot-rodded Marshall tones with husky midrange and tight distortion. Some preamps miss the mark when approximating the toothy upper mids that are a Marshall signature. But Two Notes approximated this characteristic well. Paired with a low-gain drive pedal, the output takes on an intensity and warm thickness that avoids being shrill. And it’s reassuring to know you can drive the ReVolt’s front end aggressively without sacrificing sweetness.The 3-band EQ, with crossover at 100 Hz, 750 Hz and 1.5 kHz, makes it easy to fine tune as you move between screaming and merely heavy.
The lead channel is inspired by the Soldano SLO-100, and it has much of the heavy low end, scooped midrange, and rich high harmonics that are Soldano hallmarks. Lower gain settings (below 10 o’clock) yield tight, responsive overdrive. Like the crunch channel, the lead channel is reactive to gain pedals, and placing a low gain overdrive or boost before the input adds similar thickness. It also sounds articulate through its gain range and almost never muddled or fizzy.
Though the ReVolt Guitar responds well to drive pedals, you don’t necessarily need one. It comes with a boost that’s activated by pressing a footswitch and is shaped by the boost knob. The boost is inserted in front of the preamp.On the clean channel, it helps generate classic Tube Screamer-meets-Fender sounds and a very useful range of low- to mid-overdrive tones. But I was less impressed with how the boost paired with the crunch and lead channels. In both cases, using the boost came at the cost of the inherent warmth in both channels, lending an edgy feel. Some players may find good use for this tonality, but I found the warmer side of crunch and lead more useful. The good news is that some of this issue can be remedied with a tweak to the rangy 3-band EQ. And while I didn’t find the ReVolt’s boost a best match for crunch and lead, both channels sounded good with external drive units, including a Barber Burn Unit, Greer Lightspeed, and a good klone. I also had success using the mono effects send-and-return for time-based effects, and pedal integration via that method is a breeze.
The cab-sim mini-switch on the front panel enables an internal cabinet simulation, which can be routed via the balanced XLR output as well as the headphone output. The ReVolt Guitar is bundled with the Wall of Sound cabinet collection, which utilizes Two Notes’ DynIR algorithms. You’ll need to experiment to find out which cabinet emulations work best with each channel. But the algorithms give you a lot of tone-shaping flexibility—particularly when working in a DAW.The ReVolt Guitar is MIDI-enabled, by the way.
You can also use a 4-cable method, which is enabled by a mini-switch on the front panel, to utilize an effects loop amp and create four discrete channels. In this mode, when a ReVolt channel is activated, the signal is sent to your amplifier’s effects return, bypassing your amplifier preamp so you can pair the ReVolt directly with your amplifier’s power amp—subtracting your own preamp colors from the blend.
The ReVolt Guitar’s ease of use and intuitive interface make it quick and easy to integrate into a creative flow. It delivers tube-amp-like response and dynamics as well the natural compression that a tube amp gives you as you advance the gain. You sense warmth, you hear that slight buzz as the front end of the amplifier overdrives, and feel real, interactive, push and pull. And you can access all these elements while using the ReVolt at low volume with your DAW. This combination of attributes results in a lot of exciting and practical amp tones that I don’t always hear and feel in DSP-based amp sims. This well-thought-out and well-executed design makes ReVolt Guitar a great hybrid alternative to those all-DSP compact amp solutions.
For DAW recording, bedroom players, and gigging, the ReVolt is a solid choice—especially if you like a little hair and aggression in your tone. The bundled Wall of Sound software has a dizzying array of options and ups the tonal versatility. Used together, the ReVolt and Wall of Sound offer the best of analog and digital modeling.
If you're a diehard devotee of tube-amp filth but want in on IR action, this innovative architecture may be just what you've been waiting for.
Recorded using an Eastwood Sidejack Baritone DLX with Widerange Jazzmaster pickups and a Gibson Les Paul with 57 Classics into an Audient iD44 going into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.
Clip 1: Eastwood bridge pickup through gain channel in wide voicing (aggression set to red), bypassing the G20's power amp and using virtual-cab preset #1 direct into GarageBand. G20 gain at max, treble, mid, and bass at noon.
Clip 2: Same settings as clip 1, but with G20's power amp in-line.
Clip 3; Les Paul 57 Classic bridge pickup through gain channel in wide voicing (aggression set to red) with gain and bass maxed, treble at 10 o'clock, mid at 2:30, and volume at 2 o'clock, with an Ibanez ES-2 Echo Shifter in effects loop and G20's speaker output routed to a Celestion Ruby-stocked 1x12 miked by a Royer R-121.
Clip 4: Eastwood bridge pickup through gain channel (aggression off), bypassing the G20's power amp, and using virtual-cab preset #1 direct into GarageBand. G20 gain at noon, treble at 1 o'clock, mid at 11 o'clock, bass at noon.
Clip 5: Same settings as clip 3, but with G20's power amp in-line.
Clip 6: Eastwood's middle position, then bridge pickup into gain channel (aggression off, gain at 2 o'clock, treble at 1 o'clock, mid at 8 o'clock, bass and volume at max) with Ibanez ES-2 Echo Shifter in effects loop, through Celestion Ruby-stocked 1x12 miked by a Royer R-121.
Clip 7: Eastwood (middle position) through SoundBrut DrVa (boost side), Ground Control Tsukuyomi mid booster, Ibanez Analog Delay Mini, and Anasounds Element, then into G20's clean channel (treble at 1 o'clock, mid at 11 o'clock, bass at noon), bypassing the G20's power amp and using virtual-cab preset #1 direct into GarageBand. Clean first, then with Jordan Fuzztite pedal engaged.
Clip 8: Eastwood's neck pickup through gain channel (aggression on), bypassing G20's power amp, using “Doom mooD" 2x15 cab IR (based on a JCM800 bass cab) with simulated Audio-Technica MB2k mic 100-percent off axis direct into GarageBand. G20's gain, treble, and bass at max, mid at minimum.
Almost limitless range of heavy tones via Two Notes IRs and MIDI control capabilities. Works well with pedals.
Some may wish for more brutal gain and/ or more clean-tone variety. 4-button footswitch not included.
Ease of Use:
Pretty much no one is gigging and everyone's getting more into recording, so the prospect of a straightforward tube amp that makes our favorite quarantine pastime easy and super flexible is pretty intriguing. With last year's unveiling of the D20, Revv Amplification became the first tube-amp manufacturer to incorporate cab-and-microphone impulse responses (IRs) from industry leader Two Notes Audio Engineering directly into its architecture. But where the D20 was intended as a pedal platform for the masses, the G20 aims to put high-gain sounds inspired by Revv's Generator series into a similarly simple, portable, and recording-friendly head.
The Sixes Have It
Modeling amps aim to meld massive tonal flexibility with portability and convenience, but the 20-watt G20 achieves flexibility via bona fide valve tone. 6V6s—the power tube behind clean-tone champs like Fender's Princeton and Deluxe Reverbs—seem an obvious choice for a clean platform like last year's D20. Some may be surprised to also see a pair of them at work here. But the more you think about the big G20 picture, the more 6V6s' clean-slate capabilities make sense here, too.
Not that there has to be just one big picture, though. Part of the amp's appeal is how it enables you to walk the line between über-simple tube-amp operation and 21st-century digital sophistication. For all the power behind the best modeling gear, many players still find interfacing with modelers overwhelming or just plain overkill. The allure of the G20 is that its 2-channel, shared-3-band-EQ design features just six knobs and canbe as plug-and-play simple as a basic modern tube amp routed to a single extension cabinet of your choice.
If you're willing to go further with your PC or Mac, you can marry real-tube-amp operation with one of six onboard cab-and-microphone impulse response models, which you can send to a live mixing board or a recording DAW—even if you're also using a physical cab. G20 comes preloaded with six diverse options designed by noted session player/IR creator Shawn Tubbs that you choose via the front-panel knob. But if you want to go full-bore, Two Notes' free Torpedo Remote software lets you create an almost infinite array of other combinations to load into the six available slots.
Other notable G20 features: a power-scaling button (which takes the amp from 20 to 4 watts), a “wide" voicing switch, a 2-voice “aggression" button for the gain channel, a pre/post switch for removing the power section from the rear-panel XLR output's signal path, a store button for use with the rear-panel MIDI-in jack and your favorite controller, a level control that governs both the 1/4" headphone and XLR outputs, rear-panel power-tube bias points, a series effects loop, and a jack for Revv's optional 4-button footswitch for MIDI-eschewers ($129 street).
Walking the Tightrope
I tested the G20 with an Eastwood Sidejack Baritone DLX and a Les Paul with 57 Classics, first through a 1x12 cab stocked with a ceramic Weber Gray Wolf, then through a different 1x12 loaded with a Celestion Ruby, then via XLR and an Apogee Duet straight into GarageBand. Through real cab or IR, I found a ton to like. Full disclosure: Working with the G20 was my first foray into IRs (hey—I've got nice mics and a basement studio where I can crank as loud as I want!), but getting cool tones wasn't any harder or more time consuming than throwing up a mic. And this is coming from someone who kind of loathes plug-ins and menu diving. The ability to load six IRs into the G20's front-panel control means once you've found or customized your own faves, you may never need/want to do so again.
The preloaded IRs are based on Revv cabs featuring Warehouse Veteran 30 and ET90 speakers miked with a Shure SM57 and a Royer R-121 (my favorite was a punchy and articulate dry 4x12 image), but the range of options in the Torpedo Remote software is extensive—from a who's-who of mainstream cab and speaker brands, sizes, and configurations to more niche IRs based on, say, Fortin Amplification designs or rare one-offs. Then there are the virtual mics, with everything from the usual suspects to Neumann, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Miktek, and Blue simulations you can mix and match, put on the virtual front and/or back of the cab, arrange at close or short distances, at varying angles off axis, and with a variety of ambience choices. Needless to say, if you've got a MIDI-controller setup, the sky is virtually the limit for how many heavy sounds you could wring from this 9-pound head on the fly.
In terms of an all-in-one tool, Revv's tightrope walk between digital IR flexibility and the straightforward tube-amp world yields one of the smartest, most intriguing options on the market. Two Notes' Remote software is super easy and intuitive to use, and since you're not perusing an endless collection of famous amp models, the G20 makes it easier to focus on playing.
I doubt I'd ever go full-IR—in my book nothing beats the interactivity you get being in the same room with a cranked amp. But there's no denying it's an incredibly handy tool to have at your disposal, particularly if your physical cab collection is limited. The IR capabilities open the doors to everything from punchy hard rock to seething black-metal and bludgeoning doom tones (2x15 bass cab, anyone?). The gain knob doesn't apply to the clean channel, which doesn't really break up when cranked, so for semi-clean tones you may have to rely on outboard stomps or guitar-volume maneuvers on the gain channel (both of which work wonderfully). But, in all, a lot of players may find the G20's approach a near-perfect balance between yesterday and today.
Cop-call-deterring boxes from Weber, Two Notes, Bugera, Radial, Mesa/Boogie, and more.
Sure, you could simply roll down your amp’s volume when you receive the evil eye (or worse) from your bandmates, engineer, spouse, or neighbor, but then your tonal sweet spot disappears. We’ve rounded up 10 attenuation options, from $50 to $550, that’ll let you hit your amp as hard as you like, while still maintaining your friendships.
Not just an attenuator, this little powerhouse also functions as an IR loader and cab simulator, and can be paired with your laptop or mobile device for expansive tone shaping.
This inexpensive and different device to attenuate allows you to tame your volume—while still pushing your amp’s front end—by placing it in your series effects loop.
For any tube amp up to 45 watts, and for use with 4, 8, or 16 ohm loads, this attenuator mounts inside your favorite combo and out of the way while you enjoy bedroom-level audio volumes.
Ideal for tube amps up to 30 watts, and pedalboard friendly, this petite version of the company’s 100-watt unit attenuates your amp’s volume with the very same reactive load and transformer-coupled tech.
Priced attractively, this 100-watt unit’s multi-impedance input connectors will match virtually any amplifier for cranked-amp tone at manageable volumes.
Developed in coordination with Tonehunter amps, this passive, point-to-point handwired attenuator features 200-watt power soak and is suited for amps with 4, 8, and 16 ohms.
Designed for 35-watt amps and lower, this box features a 3-position treble compensation switch and an actual speaker motor for realistic interaction between the attenuator and the amp’s output circuit.
This load box offers selectable output levels or complete attenuation, and features a built-in DI and EQ as well as an onboard headphone amp for those times you need to be completely silent.
Rated for guitar amps up to 150 watts, this attenuator features five levels of power reduction, a 3-position voicing switch (normal, bright, or warm), and a speaker/load switch for options galore.