Review of HiWatt G50CMRA Amp -
Love the idea of a mighty HiWatt guitar
amp but just can't find the cash? What if we said you could get
'that sound' (or pretty close) from a very affordable new combo?
Rick Graham plays very loud...
The past few years have seen the emergence of
several venerable British amplification brands that had seemed to
go dormant after their heydays in the 1960s and '70s. Take Hiwatt
for example. Back in the late 1960s it became known as about the
only viable alternative to Marshall - and it had a distinctly
different sound, too. It lost its way after the death of its
founder, Dave Reeves, but in the past few years, under new
ownership, it has come back strongly, finding favour with a
completely new generation of musicians including major bands like
Coldplay, The Killers and the Arctic Monkeys - to name, as they
say, just a few!
Hiwatt's strength was always the impeccably
made vale/tube amp. Cleaner than a Marshall, with a biting sound
and immense loudness, a Hiwatt was a force of nature - strong as an
ox, as well!
But what if that sort of handbuilt valve
sound is beyond your reach? The usual answer has been to buy a
cheaper, Asian-built valve amp or, maybe, a solid state amp with a
valve stuck in the pre-amp, the sales pitch being that it sounds
'like the real thing'. Only it rarely does, of course!
The other alternative, a 100 per cent solid
state amp, has usually been thought of as a bit of a poor relation
- fine for beginners or messing around with at home, but not ideal
for gigs and rehearsals with a proper band. Well Hiwatt begs to
differ so, sceptical as we were at GI Towers, we agreed to take a
look at their latest offering n this area - the amazingly
affordable (if not so catchily named) G550CMR.
This model comes from the company's
entry-level Maxwatt range and is a solid state combo capable of
delivering 50 Watts from a tidy little package. As a dual channel
amplifier, the G50 should have plenty for its potential users to
get their teeth into. The normal (clean) channel features a three
band EQ stage of Bass, Middle and Treble controls as well as
Volume. The Overdrive channel offers the same features but with the
addition of a Gain control should you wish to turn up the heat.
Hiwatt has also included a switch which changes the gain
structuring from a 'classic' to a 'modern' voicing, which is a nice
feature. The G50 also includes an onboard spring reverb feature
which is controllable via the 'Reverb' knob on the front panel and
is shared between both channels. The headphone jack, which allows
for silent practice, can be found adjacent to this. At the rear of
the amp you'll find several useful features such as a speaker out,
which allows the user to hook up a cabinet of between 4 and 8 Ohms,
a line out for direct recording and an input for the optional
channel and reverb switching footswitch.
Build wise the G50 is a very sturdy piece of
kit - in fact more like the sort of construction you'd expect from
the next class up. Although it's not a back breaker, it has a
weight which reflects the quality and sturdiness of the cabinet, a
quality I find reassuring in an amp that is likely to be gigged
hard - which I suspect this will.
To kick things off, I fired up the G50 with
the normal channel engaged and it was clear from the outset that
this is really where this amp would shine. Offering a big and full
clean sound with an impressive amount of clean headroom through its
single 12" speaker, the G50 performed very well with a very
responsive sound and lots of volume on tap when needed. The three
band EQ offered further scope for tone shaping but perhaps could
have done with just a shade more, if I were being really picky.
Kicking in the Overdrive channel, the G50
does a very decent job of achieving Rock rhythm and lead tones,
with plenty of gain to keep the metalheads happy. Dialling in a
more low-gain, Bluesy, lead tone that was pleasing to the ear
proved to be a somewhat elusive task but I've yet to find a solid
state amp that can do that particular task well.
Does this matter? No. This Hiwatt isn't aimed
at budding Joe Bonamassa tone purists, it's been designed for
hard-up gigging musicians in Rock and Pop bands, who will love its
affordable price, great sound and excellent build quality. It may
not sound quite as distinguished as its bigger, valve/tube, Hiwatt
brothers, but just look at that price! We reckon it's cracking
value for money!
Check out the full review inc. video of
the HiWatt G50CMRA amp by Rick Graham featured in Issue 14 of
Interactive Magazine (pg