Hands-On Review:Randall G3 amps
Totally unique tube/MOSFET power section with premium punch
By Victor Leyson
In the new G3 series, Randall has created a line of affordable combo amps and heads with superb tone resulting from an entirely new tube/MOSFET power section called "Valve-Dynamic." Spookily accurate and responsive tube tone is combined with advanced features like switchable gain voicings on the lead channel, boost on the clean channel (all foot-controlled), dual three-band EQs with a unique midrange voicing shift and contour control on the lead channel, spring reverb, effects loop, line out, genuine Celestion speakers, and a full range of DSP effects on select models. The G3 amps are a breeze to transport and easy to love.
Hearing is believing
I received the G3 amps before I had learned anything about them and pulled the RG75G3 out of the box to give it an objective spin before my judgment could be swayed by the folks at Randall. I plugged in my Les Paul and was favorably impressed by this new tube amp. The clean sound was warm and full, as I expect from an all-tube amp, and the distorted sound had that gritty punch, natural compression, and lively response that only a tube amp can generate.
I was particularly curious about the light weight (43-1/2 lbs.) for a tube amp with 75 watts of power. When I got to poking around, I couldn't find any tubes. Then I called Randall and got the lowdown on the Valve-Dynamic power section.
Though I can't leak the details, the basic design involves a 12AT7 tube incorporated into the power section, rather than the preamp like most tube/solid-state hybrids. The combo of the tube and the MOSFET circuit creates a much more accurate emulation of an all-tube power section in serious performance mode than has ever been created before. The G3 amps dish out true tube reactivity, warmth, and musicality without the high-maintenance and high price of an all-tube amp.
I was sent the RG75G3, RG100G3, and RG200DG3 combos for review. Since I spent the most time with the RG75G3, I'll focus on it. All of the G3 amps share the same Valve-Dynamic power section and advanced features (with the exception of built-in digital effects on the DG3 models, which don't have the spring reverb).
A feast of features
Though it's billed as a two-channel amp, the RG75G3 actually functions as a three-channel amp by virtue of its footswitchable dual gain stages. Gain 1 has a throaty traditional tube distortion that's great for hard rockin' and distorted rhythm sounds while Gain 2 pulls out all the stops for an incredibly ballsy sparkling modern lead sound saturated with upper mids and higher harmonics.
The voicing button on the lead channel subtly shifts the mids to get the most out of your guitar. The Contour knob dials in progressively more upper mids as you turn it. It added a real boost to my lead tone when I cranked it all the way to the right.
I was very impressed by the clean channel on this amp. It produced everything from spanky country tones to round jazz sounds to chunky, edgy rhythms with the Boost function punched in. The clean channel's natural, warm sound makes it the perfect platform for distortion pedals and other floorboard effects.
I set up a standard song format with a crystal clean reverbed intro, punched the Boost and turned off the reverb for the initial full-bodied rhythm tones, switched channels for distorted chorus chords in Gain 1, then switched to Gain 2 for some vicious shredding. This is the way an amp should perform--it left my hands free for the serious work while still providing a broad range of tones.
The built-in effects on the RG200DG3 (as on all the DG3 models) comprise 16 presets selected by one knob on the face with level controls for each channel. These combinations of chorus, flange, reverb, and delay sound totally professional and are the most usable effects presets I've encountered.
Back panel goodies
The good news doesn't stop on the front panel. Around back, a footswitch-activated effects loop with dual level controls lets you use higher-end rack effects that require a preamped signal. A line out lets you run the preamped signal directly to the board for recording or for very large halls in which you require PA assistance. But even the 75W RG75G3 is really stinkin' loud and the RG200DG3 provides enough volume to handle anything short of the Astrodome unassisted.
External speaker outs on the RG75G3 will drive 4 ohms at 100W, powering both the internal speaker and an external 8-ohm speaker. And the internal speaker is nothing to sneeze at; a custom Celestion Seventy 80 handles what this baby puts out with a bold crispness and modern, brilliant voicing. The RG200 model feature paint-peeling G12T-100s. Class 2 wiring throughout and a ground lift button ensure quiet operation and resistance to outside interference.
For my money, Randall has produced a great line of pro-featured amps without the scary price tags. The Valve-Dynamic power section is worth its weight in gold.