The Thankyou I’ve been looking for a new amp for many months now, and finally made a purchase last Saturday I just want to say thanks to all you TGPers who have helped me out with knowledge, tips, pointers, sanity, insanity and humour along the way these past few months. It was something of a rollercoaster journey with my budget going up significantly during the search, and then finally coming back down to a purchase that actually left me with change! Also, what I was looking for changed over time and, in the end, came back to a set of specs that are pretty much the same as where I started … but I feel educated. If this sounds like a last sign-off, it isn’t. Too much fun to be had around here ... The Amp The amp I bought was a Hughes & Kettner Quad EL84 40w combo. I can give you my initial thoughts on the amp (why I bought it) but I haven’t had time to thoroughly explore it yet. Amps I tried along the way … all combos except where noted: Fender – HRD, DRRI, SRRI, 57 Deluxe Mesa Boogie – LSS, 5:50, 5:25, Rectoverb Orange – AD30TC, Rockerverb 50, Rocker 30 Head + 2x12 Hughes & Kettner – Duotone 50, Edition Tube 20th Anniversary, Statesman Quad EL84 Genz Benz – Black Pearl 30 (2x12 combo) Victoria – 20112 Soldano – Astroverb 16 Blackstar – Artisan 15 and 30 Marshall – Vintage Modern Vox - AC50CP2 Rivera - Clubster 45 There may be others that I’ve forgotten. The two amps I came closest to buying, but backed off at the last minute, were the Duotone and the Black Pearl. They seem like very different amps … as I mentioned I was on a learning curve during the search, part of which was finding out what I was looking for. That said, the common element to those two amps is that I had a huge amount of fun playing them and they both sound very natural and respond extremely well to your pick and fingers, allowing you to express what you want to express. I bought the Statesman because, for me, this is the best blues/roots/classic rock, 2 channel, portable, volume-flexible combo that I could find within my budget (in fact well below my peak budget). By volume-flexible, I mean that it does home, jamming, band rehearsal and performance volume levels with tone that makes you want to play longer. Important for me as I'm intending to stick to one amp at a time ... limited finances and space. I hadn’t really considered Hughes & Kettner before this search. I had heard of them, but I associated them more with very expensive heavy rock/metal only amps. I plugged into a Duotone one day and was floored by the tone … I came very close to buying but backed away when I realized that, as great as the Duotone was, it was a little too modern sounding on the gain side of things for what I was after. I spent months after that trying and failing to find something that left me with the same experience/child-like grin as playing the Duotone and it was that amp that caused my budget to increase by 50%. In hindsight, thankfully, it was that experience that also really turned me onto Hughes & Kettner. In the end, I ended up getting the Statesman for $300 Aussie dollars (about US$250) more than a Hot Rod Deluxe at street price. Value for money-wise I'm amazed and delighted. In terms of quality of tone, feel and response/articulation, I honestly feel the Statesman is very close to the Duotone, but it is a less modern sounding amp, and it obviously doesn't have the huge feature set that the Duotone has ... or the stage presence of its backlighting. Generally, the Statesman has a vintage oriented EL84 tone and one thing that stands out across both channels is that it’s easy on the ears at higher volumes ... no harshness or irritating frequency traits. It's fairly smooth too ... I've played EL84 amps that are much more aggressive and raw sounding, like the EL84 Hiwatt Customs. Clean channel starts coming alive at fairly low volumes ... nothing that would annoy the neighbours. There's no master on the clean channel. It's very articulate and clear with the warmth of the EL84s coming through … no brittleness. There is a "twang" button that is designed to re-voice things a bit more towards Fender cleans. I don't think it does quite that, but it does make things a little more spanky and it's quite subtle ... which I like ... I would liken the difference to playing with strings that are a few weeks old, versus playing with new strings, though that's not to say that the amp is dull at all with twang disengaged. Hair around the edges starts appearing after 12 o'clock with single coils ... still clean if you pick lightly, but you get some bluesy sustain when digging in. With the volume wide open and humbuckers, chords are pretty crunchy and single notes are full of sustain and feel under your fingers ... blues heaven ... and this is achievable without making your ears hurt. I found it tempting to just stay on this channel alone, even though other reviews I’ve read seem to rave more about the overdrive channel. Compared to other 40W amps (SRRI, HRD), this is on the quiet side ... still plenty for a small venue scenario I would think (I haven't actually tried that yet). The overdrive channel, which I believe cascades more gain into the clean channel, gives a great, full, creamy overdrive in general, but still with good string to string separation in chords. I'm not sure what to compare it to, but it's head and shoulders above any other amp near its price range (that I've heard or tried! ... and remember, I wanted a blues/roots/classic rock type of OD) and having played some much more expensive amps, I don’t feel like I’ve compromised too much there either. You can get mild OD right through to typical Gary Moore levels of saturation if you engage the boost button. Sounds thoroughly convincing at moderate levels too. The boost is more about added creamy drive than volume. I should say that I've only played the amp with an HSS strat, so this initial review is all based on that. Reverb sounds good to me. I was considering a SRRI + quality OD pedal at one point ... the SRRI is my benchmark high-point for bluesy reverb. I don't think the Statesman's reverb is quite as well done as that, and it's of a different kind (more airy/swirly than springy) but it's certainly better than what I had before (Classic 30) and SRRI/DRRI aside it's on par or better than the reverb on the other amps I tried ... put it this way, a nice reverb was a must for me as I usually use a little all the time to add a bit more talent, so I wouldn't have bought without it passing the reverb test. Icing on the cake is it's a very classy looking amp. The website pics had me a little worried as the tolex looks a bit shiny and plasticky ... not so in the flesh.