Hands-On Review:Randall RT Series Amps


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Affordable all-tube amps with some interesting surprises

By Craig Anderton
Senior Editor, Harmony Central

 

Randall RT Series Amps

Full disclosure: I never paid much attention to Randall amps. But at  the 2010 Winter NAMM show, I heard a really sweet guitar tone wafting  from a booth—beefy and defined. It was Randall's RT series and yes, it got my attention. So when Musician's Friend asked if I  wanted to spend some quality time with the RT series and write a  hands-on review, I jumped at the chance.

 

Randall sent the RT50C combo amp (with 12" Celestion), RT100H guitar amp head, and RT412CX cabinet (four 12" Celestions). We'll start with the RT50C.

RT50C combo amp

The all-tube signal path has five 12AX7 preamp tubes and two 6L6  power tubes that can deliver 50W into 8 or 4 ohms. You can swap out the  6L6 tubes for other types (5881, EL34/6CA7, E34Ls, 6550), which probably  makes you think, "That's cool, but re-biasing is such a pain." Well,  keep reading.

 

The amp weighs 60 pounds and the front panel knobs are recessed, so  if the amp falls flat on its face, they won't break off (ditto anything  plugged into the rear-panel jacks). What's more, the front has a sturdy  metal grille. If you're playing in a dive where people throw bottles at  you, you may not survive—but the speaker will. There's also a finer-mesh  metal grille on the back to protect the tubes.

 

The two-channel design features Clean and Overdrive, each with gain,  bass, mid, treble, and level controls (the Clean channel also has a  bright switch). A front-panel switch, paralleled with a rear-panel  footswitch connector, switches between the two (the included footswitch  has a second button for turning reverb on and off, and a third for  bypassing the effects loop). The master section offers a reverb level  control for the spring reverb, and master volume.

 

It sounds to me like the RT50C's  priority is tone, not volume. Sure, it can get plenty loud—but you  don't need to turn everything up full to get it sounding right. The  Overdrive channel's gain provides smooth crunch up to about 2/3, then  introduces an edge that lets the sound cut more (great for leads). The  Clean sound is indeed clean, but if you max out the gain, you get some  nice grit without it sounding "jagged." Want to add effects? The effects  loop has a bypass switch and pedal/line level switch.

 

There are two big surprises. First, the amp is remarkably hiss-free.  Any guitar hum notwithstanding, turn everything up, grab the strings,  and listen: There's an obvious lack of hiss that, coupled with the tone,  makes this amp a fine choice for studio recording. The other surprise  is that the RT series makes it easy to adjust bias by putting easily  accessed test points and a trimpot on the rear panel. All you need is a  voltmeter that can measure in the 0-100mV range, and you can adjust bias  when swapping output tubes, or tweak bias to your particular taste. You  can also check how well the output tubes are matched—handy. Granted,  you can adjust bias with most tube amps, but the RT series makes the process painless.

RT412CX cabinet

The RT412CX cabinet is heavy and rugged, and has the same type of metal grille as the RT50C.  It produces 100W (at an 8-ohm impedance) and features four Celestion  G12M-25 "Greenback" speakers. A switch on the back selects between  driving all four speakers at 8 ohms or two sets of two speakers at 4  ohms each (technically "stereo," but don't expect separation). The cab  comes with four removable casters—a good thing, given the size and  weight.

 

And the sound? I'd say it's "vintage," with the type of brash, big  sound associated with a lot of '60s British bands. However, when paired  with the RT100H head, it preserves the head's tonal quality, producing a sound that's pretty much like a louder version of the RT50C.

RT100H amp head

The RT100H head is similar to the RT50C (including the "DIY" biasing option), but has a third channel for more  intense overdrive, delivers 100W of power, and has a totally cool blue  glow, courtesy of multiple LEDs. The triple-switch footswitch foregoes  switching the effects loop and reverb in favor of selecting among the  three channels; the panel's channel select switch toggles among the  three channels. The Clean and Overdrive-2 channels are similar to the  ones on the RT50C, but the added Overdrive-1 can hit equal amounts of distortion with a different tonal flavor.

Conclusions

Randall definitely brings something new to the guitar amp party. The  easily adjustable bias will get people's attention, but the tone—and  sonic flexibility—remain long after the bias has been tweaked. I also  really appreciate the lack of hiss, the suitability for recording as  well as playing live, and the reasonable pricing for an all-tube amp. If  you (like me) hadn't paid attention to what Randall was doing before,  you couldn't have picked a better time to take notice—the RT series sounds truly sweet.

Features & Specs


  •   • All-tube signal path with 12AX7s and 6L6 power tubes (swappable for other types)
  •   • Easy bias adjustments with a common voltmeter
  •   • Effects loop level drives stompboxes or line-level devices
  •   • Rugged construction
  •   • Triple-switch footswitch included
  •   • Very clean and quiet
  •   • Full, beefy (but nonetheless defined) tone
  •   • RT412CX cabinet matches RT100H head

For a combination of all-tube sound, sturdy construction, and novel twists like user-adjustable bias, the RT series is a workhorse for stage and studio. Order today with the complete  assurance of Musician's Friend's 45-Day Total Satisfaction and Lowest  Price Guarantees.