Nuno Bettencourt uses a simple rig to create his rocking live tones with both Rihanna and Extreme. Like any great player, his dextrous technique accounts for the core of his sound, of course, but his signature Randall NBKing amps certainly help things along too.
We gave the 100W head full marks for sounds during our review, and now we have the 30W combo on review. The livery is similar to that of its more powerful cohort, complete with B-movie master control and backlit VU meter; it also offers two channels, with a third that shares the overdrive channel's EQ section while offering separate drive and volume controls.
"The shared EQ allows the overdrive and solo channels to be set to provide the same tone with channel three providing a higher volume for solos."
All are switchable via the included three-way footswitch, and it's also possible to connect the NBKing 112 to your choice of MIDI compatible switching devices, should you so desire.
The valve complement includes a quartet of EL84s in the power section with three 12AX7s and a single 12AT7 in the preamp. The tidy chassis is secured both by four hefty screws and two small wooden 'shelves' set within the nine-ply laminate cabinet.
There are no portability issues to speak of, as Randall gives the option of attaching four castors, and the unit itself is easily lifted thanks to the two top-mounted handles.
The single speaker is a 25-watt Celestion Greenback, centrally positioned in the almost closed-back cabinet, save for a 480 x 85mm ventilation gap.
Bettencourt's percussive clean tones are a big part of his sound. The 30-watt power stage, coupled with the hot preamp means they're neither as strident nor abundant here as the 100-watter, with the clean channel beginning to break up once the drive control passes four.
The upside is that you do get to feel the dynamics of the power section at a reasonable volume where a bigger amp would feel comparatively more 'hard'. If you need huge, loud cleans, buy the big one.
Turning the drive and volume controls up gives a lovely squashy, British-style tone. The EL84s don't give any other discernible Voxy colour to the performance save for a slight boxiness to the drive. The overdrive channel is slightly darker in voicing and offers a significantly higher level of saturated gain.
The shared EQ allows the overdrive and solo channels to be set to provide the same tone, with channel three providing a higher volume for solos and licks. Another application would be to use the separate gain controls to give two different tones that are suitable for any hard rock or metal style.
In fact, the ability to add a predetermined level of gain via the solo channel gives the amp another feather in its versatility cap, but we wouldn't be at all surprised if that channel was used simply as a volume hike for excursions above the 12th fret.
As with all 1 x 12 combos, projection can be somewhat laser-beam like, though the almost closed-back cab gives good low-end thud and chunk. If you need more spread, an extension cab works wonders.
This is a very versatile amp that comes in an enigmatic and eminently portable package. From classic rock to all-out metal and beyond, it provides an impressive range of tones.
Anyone looking for bold clean tones at high volume is better served with the 100-watter, but the 30 has more real-world appeal, given that you can crank it for normal pub/club gigs, jams and what have you.
On the face of it, the amp is expensive: a Chinese-built combo with few 'glamour' features for £1,233. But as its tonal uses are so widespread, it'll surely pay for itself in no time. Now, guys, about that 50-watt 2 x 12 version…
Listen to our audio demos to hear what the NBKing can do:
Example 1 - Clean, drive 2, volume 10, treble 5, middle, 8, bass 9
Example 2 - Clean, drive 6, volume 5, treble 5, middle 8, bass 9
Example 3 - Clean, drive 10, volume 9, treble 5, middle 8, bass 7
Example 4 - Overdrive, drive 5, volume 5, treble 6, middle 4, bass 7
Example 5 - Overdrive, drive 7, volume 6, treble 7, middle 3, bass 8