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By Craig Anderton
Senior Editor, Harmony Central
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 wasand 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(with 12" Celestion), , and (four 12" Celestions). We'll start with the RT50C.
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'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 themakes the process painless.
Theis heavy and rugged, and has the same type of metal grille as the . 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, it preserves the head's tonal quality, producing a sound that's pretty much like a louder version of the .
Theis similar to the (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 , but the added Overdrive-1 can hit equal amounts of distortion with a different tonal flavor.
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—thesounds truly sweet.
For a combination of all-tube sound, sturdy construction, and novel twists like user-adjustable bias, theis 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.