Hands-On Review:Alesis SpitFire Amps
Alesis SpitFire Amps
Digital FX excellence made affordable for everyone
By Ruth "Banshee" Benedict
The folks at Alesis did their homework to create a battery of extremely gutsy and musical high-quality effects to drive their SpitFire60, SpitFire30, and SpitFire15 amps. That makes the SpitFires the world's first amps with pro-quality effects that even starving guitarists can afford
Test of fire
I suspect that Musician's Friend picked me to review these amps because I have the perfect gig for testing them. I host an open blues jam two nights a week at a pizza joint here in Brisbane with my trio, The Percolators. The pay's not great but the pizza rules. Since a lot of the folks who come in to jam don't want to lug an amp along, I keep a couple of amps onstage for the guest musicians to use.
I brought in the SpitFire60 and let a series of players ranging from old hands to newbies have at it. I offered about 10 words of instruction to those who needed it, but most just plugged in and found a sound they liked with a quick turn of the jog wheel. I soon noticed that a lot of players tended to get so into playing with the effects they wouldn't get down to playing the blues. And the younger players tended to be too loud. So I brought in the SpitFire30. That made it easier to control the volume freaks, though even the SpitFire30 is still amazingly loud.
Now, a smokin' guitar ace can take a piece-of-junk amp and make real music come out of it, but most of the people who come in to play on our stage are not in the Robben Ford category. And those little SpitFire amps sounded good even in the hands of some of our more mediocre players. Almost everyone who played through them had some pretty good things to say. I used the SpitFire60 myself for one entire gig and was really impressed with how responsive and versatile it was. In particular, the SpitFire doesn't have that brittle, tinny sound that so often plagues inexpensive amps. The bottom-end tones come through full and round while the digital effects maintain their clear, sharp definition.
The SpitFires have by far the friendliest effects interface I've encountered, even on dedicated effects boxes. I didn't crack the manual until I'd pretty much figured everything out. You can access the 80 editable, restorable presets by just setting the effects knob to play and spinning the value knob, which is an endless rotary selector. Or you can access the presets by pushing the up or down arrow buttons.
If you find a preset you like but want, for example, a little longer delay, you can simply turn the effect knob to the effect mode in question and use the value knob to adjust the parameters. If you like your new settings better than the original preset, just push the value knob twice. To save to a different location select the new location before you push the value knob the second time. It couldn't be easier and you have plenty of control to create exactly the sound you're after.
By storing my customized presets close together, I could group the effects I would need for any given song right next to each other. That way, a quick turn of the knob, arrow push, or footswitch step could get me straight to the next sound I needed. The footswitches aren't included, but standard on/off switches serve the same functions as the arrow buttons. Hence it's much more functional and advanced than the standard multiple-channel amp with stomp boxes.
The SpitFire amps feature an accurate and easy-to-use in-line tuner plus a stereo link output that lets you use another amp to get the full impact of the SpitFire's stereo effects. There's also a speaker out that lets the SpitFire drive an external speaker rather than the one onboard. Left and right RCA inputs let you play along with your favorite music using the line out from your stereo or the headphone out from your portable CD player.
A 1/4" stereo headphone jack lets you hear it all in pristine stereo without stressing out the neighbors. An expression pedal in lets you control wah, phaser, tremolo, ring mod, cry, step filter, flanger, rotary, chorus, doubling, nine kinds of delay, and special sampling effects plus level.
The SpitFire60 cranks out 60 watts into a 12" speaker and offers bass and treble controls as well as a drive knob that controls the value of the distortion effects. The SpitFire30 generates 30 watts into a 10" speaker and provides the drive knob as well. The SpitFire15 pushes an 8" speaker with 15 watts and offers all the effects and rear panel options of its larger sisters.
In all, the SpitFire amps are brilliant, low-cost, single-unit powerhouses that make advanced professional effects available to guitarists at all levels. On a scale of one to 10 for value and performance, I give 'em a 10!
Features & Specs:
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