Huge thanks to Ben from BandLab Technologies for loaning me this awesome combo amp!
How it Works and Final Score: 8.5
Harmony’s recently released 8418 combo amp was one of my most anticipated amps of 2019. I’ve been dying to try it since I first saw it was available for sale last Fall. Luckily, Harmony agreed to loan me one of these 5 watt beauties for review. The 8418 is a reissue combo amp that boasts the same looks, circuitry, and construction as their original 8418 amps from decades ago. 6V6 vacuum tubes paired with an Italian-made 6″ Jensen speaker provide classic ’50s and ’60s guitar tones in an apartment friendly package. The amp has two input lines, but only one controllable parameter. A volume knob lets you go from subtle tube tones that never really get clean to Jack White-friendly crunch that never really gets distorted.
Harmony’s 8418 provides some very interesting sonic soundscapes. It kind of sounds exactly how I imagine every amp in Dan Auerbach or Jack White’s garage sounds like, just much quieter. The tones you can produce are phenomenal but lack clear note to note definition. This should be expected though as this classic ’50 amp is meant to provide a ton of vintage vibes. It’s got an almost radio-like quality to the tone, and I mean that as a compliment!
I noticed that after the launch of the amp, the 8418 was advertised as doing two things: taking pedals great and having plenty of headroom for clear tones. First off, this amp does take effects, especially drives and fuzzes, incredibly well. You can warp the fuzzy, crackly tones from the the amp with ease through a Blues Driver or Big Muff. However, I really didn’t feel it actually had much headroom and the clean tones still retain some sizzle (which sounds great!) and lack note definition. Overall it limits the versatility of the amp to be a true practice amp unless your playing styles are limited to the blues and crunch-drenched rock. BUT, every tone you can get of this amplifier is otherwise fantastic and inspiring!
Durability & Construction: 9.0
Despite an incredibly budget friendly price, this amp boasts the original handmade construction and wiring of the first 8418s. That craftsmanship is evident and the amp not only looks awesome, but seems perfect for a bedroom or studio setting. The Tolex wrapping, compact size, and lack of complicated wiring make me think these things will last a lifetime. Sometimes it is hard to judge an amps durability in comparison to a guitar, but considering this amp isn’t likely to hit the stage soon, I’m a big fan of the job Harmony did here.
In addition to stellar vintage tones, the 8418 is also incredibly affordable. Coming in around $400, this makes the amp even more appealing for players who want a smaller combo amp to pair with their main gigging amp. In my opinion, it isn’t quite as versatile as something like a Vox AC4, but it has just as much, if not more character and magic inside. Overall, Harmony knocked it out of the park with this one and perhaps even I’m being too hard on this little amp. Check out the 8418 soon as they are only a limited edition reissue!