During the LA-based guitar boom of the late '80s/early '90s, Mike Soldano's namesake amps were everywhere. The SLO-100 is arguably his most iconic design, a high-octane monster that allows tonehounds with enough cash to fill their nostrils with the stench of free-range valve distortion.
The Soldano sound wasn't available on a budget… until now.
Late last year, Soldano cofounded Jet City Amplification with an aim to build affordable valve amps, and Jet City has just touched down in the UK with its flagship offering, the JCA100H.
This model features the same circuit design and identically labelled controls as the SLO-100, giving you two channels (Normal and Overdrive), a shared three-band EQ section and a master Presence control.
The preamp uses four 12AX7 valves, with four 6L6s in the power stage delivering 100 watts of power. There's also an extra 12AX7 that buffers the effects loop.
The Normal (clean) channel is bright, but with a slight scoop to the mid range thanks to the 6L6 valves, and the preamp stays clean until you push it to around halfway.
Try some neck position single-coils for that classic woody blues sound, and add some gain and presence for some Gaslight Anthem style chiming open strings. Boosting the preamp further takes you into chunky classic rock rhythm territory.
The Overdrive channel picks it up from here, and there's a noticeable kick that results in an overall 'larger' sound. We're talking fat-ass, harmonically rich powerchords and just enough gain to make hammer-on and pull-offs lead lines easy without becoming fizzy.
There are a couple of niggles, though. Channel switching is handled exclusively by the included footswitch, with no control on the panel. This might seem like a moot point, but if you lose or forget the footswitch you'll be stuck in whichever channel you left the amp on until you get another footswitch.
The other point is that there's no onboard reverb. OK, so it's not a huge problem but similarly priced competing products on the market have kept it in.
Soldano's input here carries a hefty chunk of credibility and quality. And let's be honest, only a numpty leaves gear behind at gigs, and the lack of reverb won't be a problem for many.
Jet City's mantra is "100% tube tone; 0% Bull****", and, interestingly, we found ourselves concentrating less on tweaking the tone controls and more on just playing the damn thing - which is always a good sign.