Would Jimi have played PRS? We just don't know, but he'd certainly be very interested in the latest addition to the Maryland maestros' guitar amp family because it's got his classic late '60s tones firmly in its sights.
The new PRS HX amps are a surprise – not just following so soon after the Archon 50 refresh but the fact the company are being so open about chasing down a specific player's tone. One who isn't an endorsee, for obvious reasons.
"PRS HX amps capture the circuit and the flexibility and power of late '60s British-inspired Jimi Hendrix tone in a straightforward design," says the company. Ever succinct, Paul Reed Smith himself picks up the theme…
"Designing the PRS HX was not an exercise in over-engineering," he explains. "It’s a fairly straightforward build with the right parts and circuit. We kept historic specs where it made sense, and we made substitutions based on availability, safety, and experience. In the end, I think we have made a great-sounding amplifier with exceptional build quality and enough power to blow your pantleg when you play it,”
Ooh-er. These are actually a continuation of PRS’ HXDA amplifiers with a "refined" control layout and a "newly-documented Hendrix Touring Circuit". And that's really the part where tonehounds are going to be pointing their snouts. So what is it?
It's a circuit "heavily inspired" by one of Hendrix’s personal guitar amps that he purportedly used at the Woodstock festival in 1969; a 100-watt Marshall Super Lead.
Paul Reed Smith and PRS Amp Designer Doug Sewell were able to study the amp in 2018 with permission from Paul Allen and The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Washington and Janie Hendrix, the late legend's sister, President & CEO of Experience Hendrix L.L.C. & Authentic Hendrix LLC and Founder of the Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation.
“When the HXDA first came out, we were able to look at one of the amps used by the Allman Brothers for Live at the Fillmore," says Paul Reed Smith. "Now, we’ve had the opportunity to examine one of Hendrix’s touring amps and understand not just the circuit but the modifications and the parts choices that were made as Hendrix continued to use the amp.
"These HX amps are intended to sound exactly the same as Hendrix’s touring rig, not look exactly the same. But we know this is hallowed ground. We feel privileged to reach back into history and bring something special into the current music landscape.”
The 100-watt '68/'69 Marshall Super Lead amp at the Museum of Pop Culture had its own mods by “Amp Doctor” Dave Weyer of West Coast Organ and Amp company. It needed to work on American power when Hendrix was touring in the 1960s, the guitarist and Weyer were honing in on tones. The PRS HX is not an exact clone of it, and wasn't supposed to be either.
“This is not a painstakingly historical re-creation of the amplifier Hendrix used, but a snapshot in the development of a series of modified amps he came to use on tour and in the studio," says Doug Sewell. "Consideration was given to reliability, compatibility with his effects and guitars, the tones he achieved, and the feel and response of the amp.”
“We have made an exhaustive search for all the critical parts that would enforce the original objectives Hendrix and the amp techs explored. We have married our part selection process with historical research and The Museum of Pop Culture amplifier to create an amp with the same great tone, feel, and reliability.”
The new PRS HX amps will be available in both 100- and 50-watt formats. PRS says that they are designed to push the high-end so it is very clear, without becoming harsh.
The HX amps' also have internally bridged channels with individual volume controls to eliminate the need for a jumper cable and allow players to blend the lead and bass channels easier for overdrive.
Matching 2x12 and 4x12 cabs will also be available, loaded with modified Celestion G12H-75 Creamback speakers.
The PRS HX50's list price is $2,900, HX100 is $3,150. The HX 2x12 cab $899 and the 4x12 $1,199. More info at PRS Guitars.