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MF MD HG01 Electric Guitar Month 06-19-18

Kustom The Contender 18W 1x8 Hybrid Guitar Combo Amp

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Product 482292
Product Price $0.00
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The Contender borrows special features from its big brother, the all-tube Defender 3/4 guitar amplifier from Kustom. Using a high-voltage 12AX7 tube ...Click To Read More About This Product

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Boutique-styled, 18-watt tone machine.

The Contender borrows special features from its big brother, the all-tube Defender 3/4 guitar amplifier from Kustom. Using a high-voltage 12AX7 tube preamp design, The Contender harkens back to the small tube guitar amps of yesterday: chock full of sweet tone and snarling attitude.

The Contender combo amp is housed in a '60s-era pine speaker cabinet, a key ingredient in its lively tone. Controls provided are Volume, Bass, Treble and Master, as well as Bright and Master Volume Bypass switches. With the Master engaged, it's easy to get chubnky overdriven tones that ring with clarity. With the Master Bypass swithc engaged, the amp is pure old-school, eliminating the Master Volume circuit entirely. Speaker duties are handles with authority by an 8-inch Eminience speaker.

Special details include an exclusive stitched-pattern covering, an oversized, cushy leather handle, plywood baffle, jewel light and vintage-style power switch. Tube Tone lives inside The Contender.

  • 12AX7 Tube Preamp
  • 18-watts RMS
  • '60s-era Pine Cabinet
  • 8" Eminence 1/2 speaker
  • Master Volume Bypass
  • Bright Switch
  • External Speaker Jack
  • Deluxe Leather Handle

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Review Snapshot

by PowerReviews

(based on 5 reviews)

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Reviewed by 5 customers

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(5 of 5 customers found this review helpful)


Surprisingly Awesome Little Amp!

By Thunderthump

from DC

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All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this amp. As I mentioned before, the Master Bypass is a pretty useless feature...that is, unless you want a super loud amp that hisses like a leaky garden hose. Keep the Master Circuit engaged and enjoy! With the stock preamp tube, the amp is surprisingly good. With the Groove Tube Gold 12ax7R plugged in, the amp simply rocks!!!
Has all the basics here...Volume (Gain), Bass, Treble, Master Volume, Bright Switch, Pine Cabinet, 8" Eminence Speaker, External Speaker Jack and Headphone Out. The amp also features a "Master Bypass" switch, which wires you straight from Volume Control to the power amp. Though bypassing the master circuit gives you an amazing amount of volume (it's freakin' loud), I find it rather useless because it also boosts the high frequencies, giving the amp a loud hiss. Because I think the "Master Bypass" is a feature that Kustom could have done away with, I dock the amp a point. That aside, with the Master Circuit engaged, you get a really nice, warm-sounding amp that you could probably gig with (mic'd, of course), depending on the music you play. Mind you, I haven't cranked the amp beyond louder bedroom levels yet, but I really dig the sound I've been getting. The amp has a distinct mid-rangey character to it - perfect for classic rock and old school punk. The highs are clear without being ice-pickish. Lows are decent, giving you just enough bottom to round out the sound.
The amp seems to be very well built. The pine cabinet is solid and probably adds quite a bit of character to the amp's sound. The knobs seem snugly in place and the amp corners are protected by metal caps. The stock 12ax7B tube (no-name brand) is actually pretty good. I play a Gibson Les Paul Junior with a single P-90, and with the gain at 10 o'clock and Master at 9 I can get a nice "clean to crunchy" sound. The amp also handled my Digitech RP355 quite well (amp modeling turned off, of course).

Just for kicks I popped in a Groove Tube Gold Series 12ax7R and the amp really came to life. I sat there like an idiot, plucking and bending random notes just to hear how the amp made them sound. Lots of warmth and character here.
What can I say? For a great price, you get a warm-sounding Tube/Solid-State hybrid that I daresay you can gig with. This is a pure, vintage-toned, classic rock beast of an amp.

(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)


Great little amp

By Santos

from New England

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Verified Reviewer


  • LOUD
  • Takes Pedals Well
  • Versatile
  • Warm sound


  • Small speaker

Best Uses

  • Practice
  • Rehearsals
  • Small gigs

It's unfortunate that this little diamond-in-the-rough was discontinued. With the right marketing - and small, good sounding practice amps are more of a thing now than they were a few years ago - this could've been a...well, you know.

Some backstory: I gigged regularly with a funk/soul cover band for 8+ years. After leaving that band I turned in my heavy tube amp for a Fender Pro Jr. Well, while doing some quieter gigs the Pro Jr. started having issues and I needed a quick replacement and decided to try the Contender.

I've always liked hybrid amps - regardless of what anyone says, the tube lends some extra warmth that many (not all) SS amps are missing. Frankly, the Contender sounds much better than my Pro Jr. for living room levels, and works just as well for low volume gigs. Not a knock on the Pro Jr., it's just an amp that needs to be turned up a bit to get the best sound from. The Contender is very small and light, but it feels very well made. The knobs look cheap, but frankly I don't really care about that too much, and they're easily replaceable.

I've owned the amp for about 3 years now and I'm still very happy with it. I've never had the chance to try it against a full, loud drummer, but you could probably gig with it by micing it through the PA. It has very nice cleans and excellent mildly overdriven sounds. I'm not a fan of the amp with the gain maxed - just a bit too grainy for my tastes. takes dirt pedals very well. I've tried everything from various tubescreamers and TS-based circuits to higher gain and fuzz pedals - all sound really good.

I tend to set the Contender to slightly dirty - which cleans up nicely with lighter picking - and then add dirt as needed from my pedalboard - currently a BBE Window Pane fuzz, Visual Sound Route 66 and T-Rex Crunchy Frog. For reverb I use a Boss Fender Reverb pedal (the one based on the reverb tank).

I love this amp.

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(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)



By D-I-Z-Z-Y

from Russia

I'm playing mostly 50's music-from 'billy to country and this amp is PERFECT for these styles.Jangly and bassy,it delivers that vintage tone.Also it's a perfect amp for gigging as it's easy to carry and LOUD!!! - (it will blow up your flat and clubs on volume about 4 with master bypassed)It was tested on temperatures as low as -18C and falling in snow (I'm from Russia=))AND IT SURVIVEDBuy it and don't waste your time.)

(1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)


Kustom Contender - the hybrid amp champ

By rfd

from park ridge, nj

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This is an amazing hybrid tube/solid state amp that delivers pro tone and performance in a tight 'n' light package. I have a huge stable of hand wired tube amps and the Contender is the ONLY s/s amp that can compare to the warmth and tone of a real tube amp. You'll need to trial one for yourself ... and having done that, I've just ordered another. Check one out, and play on ...

(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)


Fogerty Fun

By Mycroft Holmes

from Ravenna, NE

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Okay, so I like John Fogerty and the Creedence sound. The Kustom Contender gives a good, clean jangle with the bright switch on, the volume at 1/4 and the master at 1/2. This has headphone and line out ability, so it can drive a larger cab. As is, it makes a very fun practice amp. It's compatible with Marshall, Ibanez, and Danelectro pedals. It doesn't like the Behringer reverb as much as a Marshall amp does. If you want clean, go easy on the volume, heavy on the master knob. If you want tube overdrive, go easy on the master at first, and heavy on the volume. If you want to irritate everybody, hit the master bypass switch. Geez its loud. Which is good when you need it!

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