Cost: $169.00, new
Huge thanks to Ed from Osiamo for lending me the new Bantamp Firebrand to try out! Get one here!
How it Works and Final Score: 7.7
The Firebrand is super simple and straightforward, making it an ideal option for players who need a practice amp or reliable live option for smaller venues. The three control knobs are pretty straightforward, with gain, tone, and volume as well as a clean and OD channel switch. The preamp is made up of a 12AX7 tube paired with a solid state power amp, making this an affordable two channel amplifier option. You can connect a phone or other device to the amp via the bluetooth switch, allowing you to use the head as a speaker or letting you play along to your favorite songs. In the back, you’ll find an FX loop, as well as an aux input jack. As the Firebrand name might suggest, this is a fire breathing amp that is built for distortion and gain sounds. Just like how each other BanTamP product is meant to model a popular amp tone, this bad boy is meant for cranked, Marshall-like metal sounds.
The clean channel takes effect pedals very well, with little buzz or or noise, but it sounds fairly sterile and simulated. Some players may like the reliability and clarity of the solid state clean tone, but I prefer to be able to dial in a little bit of chime or shimmer, and that’s not really an option here. On the other hand, the OD channel is great and the amp really shines when used for its original intention of high gain playing. While this limits the versatility, it still is a great overall sound, you just have to be willing to use it for only a handful of tonal options.
The Firebrand provides plenty of layers of thick distortion tones, great for hard rock and metal tones. The amp sounded best through my humbucker-outfitted ES-335 copy and Guild Jetstar. Drop tunings sounded great, with Drop D riffs retaining definition while still cutting through the mix with mid- and bass-heavy punchiness. Once you crank the tone, you can get more of a lead guitar sound with more note to note clarity perfect for sweep picking or tapping. The only drawback on the distorted sound settings was that the single preamp tube starts to lose that clarity and definition when it really is cranked past 4 o’clock making the amp sound a little bit muddy.
Construction & Reliability: 8
This lunchbox amp head seems really well built, and the small size makes it easy to pack, store, or use live. It’s really light as well, and I couldn’t find any noticeable flaws or factory damage. Even better, the amp didn’t have a lot of hiss or extra noise, thanks to a combination of quality wiring and decent parts. You can’t expect much more from a $170 amp that features a preamp tube, it really doesn’t feel like they cut many corners or cheaped out on anything to keep costs down.
As stated above, this is a great amp for the price that features two adjustable channels, solid construction, an FX loop, and bluetooth connect-ability. With plenty of perks and extras, this head is a perfect option for players on a budget who need tube-driven distortion that can from the practice room to the stage with ease. At a $169.00, it’s a great alternative to the Orange Crush 20W combo amp if you’re looking for the same quality distortion sound but in a head/tube powered configuration. For the money, I’m not sure there is an amp head out there that can beat it!