Hands-On Review:Hughes & Kettner Warp 7 Head and 4-12 Cabinet
by Eric Kirkland
Wowing audiences with blazing leads isn’t as chic as it used to be, but—with post-grunge rockers, at least—pummeling bass-hungry fans with detuned power riffs is as popular as ever. However, this extra girth requires special consideration; it’s not enough to simply tune the guitar down for that wicked rumble if the amp and cab aren’t tuned to perform in that range. The engineers at Hughes and Kettner have found a solution with the Warp 7 head and 4-12 cabinet. Built especially for detuned players, this rig caters to those who belong to a Black Label Society and thrive on a cult diet of Korn and Bizkit.
The 100-watt solid-state Warp 7 head is a no-frills two- channel amplifier that is solidly built and pleasantly lightweight. Each channel has its own volume and the familiar bass, mid and treble tone shaping; the high-gain “Warp” channel has the added features of gain and presence controls. Rounding out the front panel are a series FX loop, a push-button channel switch and a headphone input. On the backside, there’s a single speaker out and an impedance selector that switches between 4 or 8 ohms.
The oversize 4-12 is wrapped in the same deep black pebble-textured tolex as the head and is loaded with Celestion Rockdriver Jr. speakers. An industrial-looking expanded metal grille protects the drivers and a recessed jack provides both an input and output. For a cabinet this size, however, I would have liked to see casters as standard equipment.
When I initially fired up the Hughes and Kettner Warp 7 with my guitar in standard tuning, I was fairly disappointed—something was definitely wrong. It took me a few minutes to remember that this amp and cab were specifically designed for detuned players. And so when I dropped my guitar to an approximate D flat, everything came into focus: the harmonic response was correct and the frequency range regained balanced. Now that I knew what to feed this beast, I hit the power switch and was instantly ready to rock—no waiting for valves to heat up or voltages to stabilize.
Since there are no tubes to drive into distortion, just unaffected transistors, the clean channel bypasses mellow and sweet for clear and cutting tones that have plenty of headroom. Whether the EQ was set for dark or bright, it stayed tight, focused and very punchy. This is a great clean channel for stage use, where clarity and power are a must for getting through a heavy mix. The Rockdriver speakers were pleasantly well behaved, even at high volumes, with a laid-back character that added a musical touch to the pounding clean tone. And the extra edge this amp possesses makes it a good match for someone who wants to run effects in the loop, as many of them tend to knock a little off the highs.
In diametric opposition to its neighbor, the Warp channel is very heavy, with enough distortion for any playing style. Riding low notes actually walked a water glass across my bench, and the Warp’s ton of subharmonic resonance induced thumps on the wall from the neighbors—what higher praise could I ask for? Even with moderate output pickups, there’s no need for extra distortion or an overdrive. I really dug the unholy pinch harmonics that effortlessly sprang off the fretboard and were easily sustained, with a harmonic feedbacklike feel—pretty impressive for a solid-state amplifier. In this sense, I liked it even better than many of its tube kin.
While the Rockdriver Jr. speakers in the mated cabinet are voiced similarly to Vintage 30s, they’re smoother and without the low-mid trough—this maintains the punch and clarity in the downward-shifted tonal spectrum and is particularly effective with heavy distortion. This amp isn’t overly expressive or dynamic, but it allows you to lay down monster chords for a sonic foundation that would require two guitars in standard tuning. And, while it doesn’t sing or articulate like a tube amp, it will hammer out fast lead lines that are both accurate and controlled.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Hughes and Kettner Warp 7 head and its behemoth 4-12 cabinet create diabolic detuned tones for dino-size chords and downright evil harmonic blasts, with a surprisingly loud and punchy clean channel. If you’re budget conscious and prefer the no-maintenance advantage of solid-state circuitry, this could be the high-gain rig for you.