Hey guys it’s Brian from World Music Supply here again, and today I get to bring you three cool little combo amps from our friends over at Randall. The combos in question are all signature models, which are all patterned after their larger, higher wattage brethren. The three I got to test today are the Kirk Hammett Signature KH15, the George Lynch signature LB15, and the Nuno Bettencourt NB15.
Now lets be honest, these amps are only 15 watts, running through a 6.5 inch Randall Jaguar speaker, these amps are not designed to compete with a band, and they certainly aren’t designed for stage use. These are practice amps, but what I’ve found out over the past few years, is “practice amps” tend to make great recording amps. The point of a practice amp is to get a good sound, but at a very low volume, and while this is great for jamming out in your bedroom, it’s also a great feature to have in the studio. Using a simple set up of a single SM57 and a cheap little USB Mixer, I was able to get what sounded like a giant 4×12 version of these little amps, all with the signature tone of their namesake intact.
First up was the KH15, which to my understanding was based around the swappable preamp modules that were featured in his signature amp head. The KH15, and for that matter all of the amplifiers in today’s review, features a three band EQ, a clean channel, an overdrive channel, a boosted overdrive channel, and lastly a master volume. I was a really big Metallica fan when I first started playing guitar, and as such I have my fair share of Metallica licks memorized, and while the tone of this little amp wasn’t 100% accurate, it was as close as an amp can get that won’t set you back a few hundred, if not a few thousand dollars.
The clean tone was majestic, which I honestly found strange as when you hear Kirk Hammett, the first thing that comes to mind certainly isn’t sparkling Fender like clean tones. All things considered this amp sounded great just as a practice amp, but it also sounded pretty awesome when I had it all mic’d up running into my simple recording rig. This amp starts to have far more of that classic Black album style Metallica vibe once you flip it into the overdrive channel.
The overdriven tone had none of that annoying fizz that you can sometimes get from smaller speaker equipped practice amps, instead you were awarded with lots of tight sounding, barking, Metallica esc grind. Running through a barrage of Metallica riffs, this amp sounded almost perfect, especially through the recording rig, where the tiny 6.5 inch speaker suddenly sounded like a full 4×12 set of roaring speakers. Switching over to the boost channel, and of course cutting back the mids a great deal resulted in an almost exact replication of those classic mid scooped tones from those beloved early Metallica albums. For its ability to react and sound far bigger, and far bolder then you would expect it to, the KH15 earns itself a 10 out of 10.
Next up is the LB15, which is based on the Lynch Boxs circuitry, and the result is just amazing. The clean sound was just gigantic, with lots of head room, and sparkling high end, with just then enough mid cut to help you get through the mix. Recording with this amp was great, because tiny little mic tweaks really transform the sound, with all of the tones sounding smooth, and musical.
This held true more so when I switched it to the overdrive setting, as I was able to get what sounded like totally different amplifiers by slight tweaks of the microphone, which I think had to do with the large harmonic content being driven through such a small speaker. This actually was a good things, and pulling the mic back a foot or so, or using two microphones gave me dozens of very useable, very heavy tones.
No matter what you feed this little amp you always get a very Lynch style tone, with those tight lows, thick midrange, and piercing highs which create Dokken esc bite and power. Fans of George Lynch will no doubt love this little amp, but so will fans of recording with littler amps, or people who have to record in a home or apartment as even though it sounds massive, its all at a level that won’t get the cops called on you. For all of this power in such a small box, the LB15 easily scores itself a 10 out of 10.
Last up in today’s rundown, is the NB15 which modeled after Mr. Bettencourts unusually designed, and fantastically voiced line of Randall amplifiers. While its two tone grill cloth might make it seem otherwise at first, this little guy features the same 6.5 inch Randall Jaguar speaker as the other amplifiers in this review. Its voice is a different in many ways from the other amplifiers in today’s review, as its clean channel is far less pristine then the other amps thus far, by this I mean that this amp features a much warmer sound, as opposed to the sparkling clean tones that the LB15 and the KH15 featured, the NB15 had a much warmer, and low end focused sound.
This was great in all honesty, as I was able to comp thicker sounding jazz lines, and warmer sounding country licks, not to mention swirly chorus tones without taking everyone’s head off with a ton of high end, which can sometimes happen with smaller speakers. Overdriven this little guy had a very 80s sound, with tons of focused, soaring lead tones on tap, and when used in conjunction with Nuno’s signature guitar, this set up sounded almost identical to anything he did with extreme, or solo, which was truly surprising.
On the boost setting the NB15 was just piercing, able to comp a giant roaring lead tone, in a package that fits in a back pack, and isn’t loud enough to wake up the whole neighborhood, so just like its brothers in this little series of signature amps, the NB15 also earns itself a very well deserved 10 out of 10.