2011 has been another year of fierce competition in the world of guitar amplification. The gigging guitarist has more choice than ever when it comes to affordable backline, but those small 'lunchbox' valve amplifiers keep coming thick and fast. If the worrying increase in the number of UK venues utilising volume limiters is anything to go by then the small amp is here to stay...
In the microscopically subjective world of guitar tone, it's so hard to find an amplifier with universal appeal, but honourable mentions for 2011 in this category go out to Fender's Mustang series, Hughes & Kettner's do-it-all Tubemeister 18, Orange's ferocious Dark Terror, and at the boutique end of the spectrum, Two-Rock's Gain Master 22 and Studio Pro 35. It's a little too early to tell whether or not Yamaha's innovative THR series amps will deliver on their game-changing potential, but they are certainly ones to watch. Also, be sure to look out for the Dr Z Maz 8 and the Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier in 2012; we can't wait to get our hands on them.
Although our recent Best Amplifier In The World Today poll proved that there's still plenty of life in tried-and-tested classics, when it comes to new-school success stories, in the class of 2011, there's one amp that stands head and shoulders above the rest, despite its diminutive proportions.
The awesome HT-1R has become such a fixture at so many of our practice and recording sessions and low-volume rehearsals that the realisation that it only came into our lives at the start of the year is a genuine shock. With street prices currently averaging out at around £170 or less, it's hard to imagine a guitarist who couldn't justify owning one.
BUY: Blackstar HT-1R currently available from Andertons Music Co. | Thomann | Coda Music | WoodBrass