This amplifier is extraordinary. A possible 200 watts emanates from a 165mm specially designed, customised speaker encased in a snazzy brushed steel and polished, coated MDF cabinet measuring just 4.4” x 7.3” x 9.8”! And if that doesn’t grab you, get this: it weighs in at a ridiculously light 9.5 lbs. Designed in California by a group of audio scientists, who also happen to be musicians, the ZT team started out with what they call “a clean slate”. That is to say, while they didn’t totally disregard conventional amplifier design, neither did they take it as gospel. They applied their sophisticated technical understanding in this surprisingly complex audio field to re-write some of the “rules” whilst still working within the more traditional methodology. The question is, have they, as they put it, “cracked the code”.

The Lunchbox is certainly a beautifully simple little amp to use. Behind the solid polymer handle on the top panel is a row of recessed controls which includes an input jack and a powerful on/off red neon. The controls feature solid knurled knobs adjusting the ambience, tone, volume and gain. Whereas the latter three are a pretty conventional set of amplifier controls, it is the ambience control that is the most intriguing. ZT tell us that they have been able to create this subtle effect that mimics the natural short term reflections produced from the rear of an open – back amp/cabinet by expanding the proprietary technology used in the signal chain. All very technical! But what it does in reality, is to allow the player to dial in luscious levels of depth, width and fullness to the sound. And what a sound! The Lunchbox has a remarkably clear and clean tone, with a very open and direct response. Even when working at high volumes this little monster loses none of its integrity, delivering the same quality of sound reproduction across its full range.

Coming with a voltage selector, a speaker on/off switch, a speaker out jack, auxillary and headphone inputs – the latter with a volume control, I reckon that the Lunchbox is set to become one of the all time “classics”. For more go to

If retro-1950s sounds are your thing, then this is the amplifier for you. French manufacturer and luthier Michele Dupont purchased the Stimer trade mark so as to bring back this iconic valve amplifier which accurately reproduces the original tonal quality while preserving that very distinctive look. Made entirely by hand in his Cognac workshops, the combo is constructed of parts made to the original specification of the original components. And there’s no built-in reverb, this baby comes as a pure and simple amplifying setup. I thought I’d try it out with its related kit, the Macafferri Selmer-style guitar, using a Dupont instrument and a Stimer ST48 retro pickup (also made by Dupont to the traditional specs). There’s no denying the retro sound. It’s bright, gritty and has an edge that could burn through the seat of your pants. Although the overall sound might be considered thin by today’s standards, when it’s fully cranked up and toned down, the ST48 delivers that typical svelty warmth of a traditional valve amplifier. So for those of you who are looking for the joie de vivre and authentic sounds of Paris in the late-40s this is it.

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Finding an amplifier that will faithfully reproduce the sonic characteristics of an instrument without in some way tainting or colouring the sound, is almost akin to finding the holy grail. OK, it’s great to have the option of room/hall/chorus/delay etc – and the Shire King will offer you no less than 16 FX programmes on its high quality Alesis digital effects chip. But critically, should you want your amplified instrument to sound identical to it’s unamplified form, this particular 60 watt combo has been built to deliver a clean, neutral and unadulterated sound – and does it deliver! The 68w RMS continuous output power is fed into an 8 ohms, 8” cast frame enlarged magnetic loudspeaker and a 3” moving diaphragm tweeter placed in the small birch ported cabinet ( 17 Litre volume), it’s truncated wedge shape having been finely tuned to offer exceptional tonal evenness, whilst also maximising the projection of the acoustic guitar range. The control panel is recessed into the rear of the top of the cabinet where there are two channels.

The first of these comes with a 3 band interactive EQ and carries two high impedance inputs – one of which is an extra high > 20 meg ohms and is uniquely optimsed for ultra high impedance passive pick ups. The second channel has a high impedance input that will take active as well as undersaddle pick ups and a balanced locking XLR microphone socket, which can accept both dynamic and phanthom powered mics, the latter being activated by means of an accompanying switch. There is also a balanced XLR D.I. output, a line out, tuner out, FX loop send and return and a jack socket for phones. However, perhaps the most useful addition to this combo is the 230V to 115V voltage selector switch, which means that you can happily plug in and play whether you’re in London, Lisbon, Lusaka or L.A.

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Guitarists looking for that smooth, silky jazz vibe need look no further, this latest 140 Watt combo from Fender has everything you’ll ever need. Based on Fender’s already successful ‘Steel King’, this solid state amp has been specially voiced for jazz guitar. The all new preamp design has been specifically tailored to provide clean and versatile tone shaping, and is paired with a 15” USA made Eminence ‘Legend’ speaker, to deliver stunning sound, with a big full bottom and a smooth high end. Added to this is a long spring Fender reverb for that extra depth, plus a professional XLR line output with level control, ground lift and pre-post EQ, together with an effects loop and tuner output with mute. Also included is a three-button footswitch and a rather swish fitted cover. There never was a better time to get plugged in!

This neat little 110 watt amp with its angled control panel is a welcome addition to the jazz guitarist’s arsenal. With two separate input lines, loop option, XLR, phone, external speaker socket and a digital effects base, this is a serious piece of kit. There are a staggering 16 reverb settings, from Hall 1, through Chorus 2 to Rotary, many of which are actually very similar. But playing around with the various combinations and level adjustment can either confuse or delight. Yet one thing’s for sure though, you’ll need a spare hour or two to really find your sound – but believe me, it will be in there somewhere. Quality amplification requires quality speakers, and they don’t come much smoother and richer than Eminence. The JazzKat supports an 8 inch, which when fully driven conjures up smooth, liquid-y Polytones, which take you back to those jazz amps of choice for many a six stringer. We liked the clean lines and compact nature of this unit, with its clear control panel and its top set grab handle and sprung recessed heavy duty side handle. It’s also nice and light, so it won’t break your back. Info:

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