The Amp: Fender Humboldt Hot Rod v2
The Point: EL 84 based tube amp
The Damage: $529
Chances are that if you play electric guitar and take your craft seriously, you probably use a tube amp. That’s not to say there aren’t other good alternatives— there are. But a good tube amp, despite being an old-school technology, continues to be a must-have for most guitarists.
The good news is there are tons of choices available these days. So what makes one amp better than another? Actually, it’s not often which is better, as that’s quite subjective. Rather, it’s what makes an amp best for your needs. Key factors in helping you decide include budget, features, and of course the tone of the amp itself. Within that last parameter, I would also include distinguishing between an amp that has a sonic signature, such as a Marshall JCM800 or a Fender Deluxe Reverb, or a platform amp that’s more akin to a blank canvas— one that works well with effect pedals to create a multitude of different tones.
Platform Amp or Sonic Signature?
The Fender Humboldt Hot Rod v2 is one such amp that falls into the platform category–it sounds great with just about any kind of pedal you throw at it. And while it doesn’t have an obvious sonic signature of, say, Fender’s own Princeton or the Deluxe Reverb; it has a warm, clear, quality of its own. The highs are pronounced, the bass is tight but warm and authoritative, and there is plenty of midrange that can be accentuated or scooped, based on your preferences. The Humboldt also features an authentic spring reverb.
If you crank the Volume (gain) control with the Master Volume up you get a nice, bluesy, gritty overdriven tone. For added growl, there’s a fat switch control which boosts the drive even further. But be aware, this is not an amp designed for metal or hard rock. It can only do so much. With the right pedals though, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what it can do.