REVIEW GUITAR AMP £1509.82
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Set clean, the True Tone demonstrates a surprising degree of headroom. It sounds like it’s producing 15 or 20W; you could certainly use it on smaller gigs. With Master maxed out, the clean action occurs in the first quarter of the Volume control. The True Tone retains its clean headroom best with Freeze fully up, and when you dial it back a hint of extra overdrive accompanies the overall volume drop.
The Compass control is a ‘variable tone network’ rather than a simple treble cut, and the most conventional tones are at its lower end. It sounds at its most neutral around a quarter of the way up, between south and south-west; moving south rolls off the top end for mellower, woody jazz tones, while heading north brightens the tone. As you approach north and head east the amp gets very bright. A gradual bass roll-off emphasises the effect and there’s an increasingly noticeable resonance that moves from the low to upper mids as Compass is turned up.
For single coils and even most PAF and P90 guitars the first third of the Compass range should be more than adequate for most purposes. The tone is very bright and edgy above that point, but if your guitar has dark, high output pickups you’ll be able to tap into some sparkly clean tones.
Things change quickly when you use the Volume and Compass, so
Despite the two 6V6 power valves, this is far from a typical small amp design
The Celestion Vintage
30 is protected by a wire mesh grille
If you play a high-output rock guitar and want a high-gain sound, this could be the boutique low-power amp for you listen carefully as you make slow adjustments. While there’s plenty of scope for fine-tuning gain levels, all the clean, mildly overdriven and classic rock tones can be found before you hit halfway on the Volume. Past that, the True Tone morphs into a firebreathing rock monster. Gain levels can get extremely saturated, and you can set up Master and Volume to balance preamp and power amp overdrive. This is where Freeze really comes into play: shifting from Class AB to A allows you to drop the volume without losing the smoothing and fattening effects of an overdriven 6V6 power stage.
In rock mode the True Tone has natural aggression and bite – impressive for modern distortion voicings. Chords retain clarity and harmonic definition, while sounding solid and punchy. Our PAF-loaded LP went from bluesy rock to ’80s ZZ Top in an instant, with oodles of upper midrange cut and deep, ballsy lows. The natural treble roll-off that accompanies backing off the guitar volume warmed things up nicely without losing too much of the drive and grind.
Verdict If classic overdrive is your bag, the True Tone probably goes beyond what you might need. Other sub-10W amps do the vintage/retro thing with more finesse and touch sensitivity, but that’s not really what the True Tone is about. Most low-power valve amps seem to be geared towards retro and rootsy players who play conventional guitars; the True Tone covers some of that ground, but if you play a high output rock guitar and you’d prefer a high-gain amp with modern, high-gain tones, this Sheldon could be the boutique low-power amp you’ve been waiting for.
FINAL SCORE SHELDON TRUE TONE 2 COMBO Build Quality 17 /20 Versatility 19 /20 Sound 17 /20 Value for money 15 /20 Vibe 17 /20
72 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012