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Juketone Rival Son 1x12 Combo review

A tweed-dressed tube combo to muscle in on the Blues Junior's hegemony?

  • £445
Juketone Rival Son
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

MusicRadar Verdict

This would make a fine choice for the intermediate player, for those looking to get their first tube amp, or for a simple budget runaround for those requiring something dynamic, old-school and affordable.

Pros

  • +

    Magnificent tube tones.

  • +

    Very attractive price.

  • +

    Nice finish and simple design.

  • +

    Adequately powered for small gigs.

Cons

  • -

    If you want overdrive at home, you'll have to make noise.

Juketone Rival Son 1x12 Combo: What is it?

If the Rival Son is anything to go by, Juketone sure knows its way around a guitar player’s pressure points, dressing a 1x12 tube amp combo in tweed, the bright polished metal control panel with just enough black chickenhead knobs to dial in a tone but not messing around. 

Oh yes, keep it old-school, keep us alive with the promise of a Proustian rush of Fender-esque tweed tone, and above all, keep it simple. And the Rival Son is indeed a guitar amp of simple pleasures.

It is a single-channel combo, with no bass or treble control, instead, leaving EQ responsibilities to a single master tone control. This sits alongside Volume, Speed and Intensity controls for the onboard tremolo, and Reverb. There are two inputs, Normal and Bright, handy for preserving headroom when swapping to a guitar with hotter electric guitar pickups.

Juketone Rival Sons combo

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Inside the plywood cabinet we have a Celestion 12” Seventy-80, an 80-watt driver that Celestion describes as “detailed and crisply defined with a tightly controlled low-end and punchy aggressive upper mid-range.” Not to mention more presence in the top-end.

The Seventy-80 is driven by a pair of Ruby EL84 power tubes, while the preamp’s tone-saucing sparkle comes by way of a brace of 12AX7s. There’s no effects loop, emulated speaker output or anything fancy like that. Remember, Juketone’s keeping it simple.

Juketone Rival Sons combo

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Juketone Rival Son 1x12 Combo: Performance and verdict

The build and design of the Rival Son calls to mind hundreds of tube amps that have come before it, each chasing classic Fender tweed tone or looking to put their own spin on it. But perhaps the most obvious competitor on the market would be Fender’s own bestseller, the Blues Junior.

Spec-wise, they stack up similarly, certainly in terms of power and vibe, though the Blues Junior’s control panel presents us with more options, with a three-band EQ and a Fat switch for good measure. It, however, does not have tremolo, and the Rival Son does, and the Juketone amp is also a little cheaper.

It also has a little more of a Vox-y chime to it, splitting the difference between the raunchy Americana of vintage Fender and a more aggressive British character. This Transatlantic accent can be dramatically coloured by that tone control, and it makes the Rival Son a flattering vehicle for single-coil and humbucking pickups alike.

Juketone Rival Sons combo

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

There is no master volume here, which is bad news for domestic bliss; you’ll have to give it some welly to get it to sparkle, and that is loud, loud enough for a small gig if you don’t mind it gritty. But in such domestic situations, it makes a sound pedalboard platform.

Also consider...

Best guitar amps: Fender Blues Junior IV

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender Blues Junior IV
The sounds are top-drawer, comparing well against many so-called boutique amps costing four times the price. Factor in the compact dimensions and lightweight, and it’s easy to see why the Blues Junior remains a firm favourite. 

Laney Cub-Super 12
If you are looking for an affordable 1x12 tube combo, the Cub-Super12 is hard to beat. Its one-watt input makes it bedroom-friendly, while at 15 watts it is punchy and musical, with superb clean and drive tones.

Orange Rocker 15
It’s built to a very high standard, looks great (as long as you don’t hate orange!) and has a strong, if not overly versatile range of tones that will handle a variety of classic genres.

As with many tube amplifiers that sauce US tweed with a lash of bracing HP, the Rival Son is something of a blank slate, with an overdriven hot sizzle that could get airtime playing boogie-woogie blues down Nashville and Texas, or dialling in vintage rock ’n’ roll sounds.

It is a very user-friendly amplifier. Dime it until it’s howling and you can attenuate the gain nicely with your electric guitar’s volume knob.

The tremolo is not in keeping with the tweed livery but is always welcome nonetheless, particularly when its good friend and drinking partner, spring reverb, is in close quarters. The reverb, which is placed before the tremolo, is powered by op-amp and works gangbusters for adding musical warmth and depth to your tone or soaking everything for surf rock and spaghetti western twang.

For the price, there’s a lot to like about the Rival Son. Countless amp makers have riffed on tweed amps and presented vintage-inspired offerings for eye-watering prices. In comparison, this is peanuts, with a performance that is reassuringly simple, redolent of a simpler age, and ultimately catering to our primordial tastes for amplified guitar tone.

MusicRadar verdict: This would make a fine choice for the intermediate player, for those looking to get their first tube amp, or for a simple budget runaround for those requiring something dynamic, old-school and affordable.

Juketone Rival Sons combo

(Image credit: Future / Phil Barker)

Juketone Rival Son 1x12 Combo: Hands-on demos

Juketone

Mike Bradley

Juketone Rival Son 1x12 Combo: Specifications

  • ORIGIN: China
  • TYPE: Valve combo
  • OUTPUT: 15W
  • VALVES: 2x 12AX7, 2x EL84
  • DIMENSIONS: 415mm (h) x 475mm (w) x 260mm (d) 
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 14/31
  • CABINET: Plywood 
  • LOUDSPEAKERS: 1x Celestion 12” Seventy-80
  • CHANNELS: 1 with Normal and Bright inputs
  • CONTROLS: Volume, tone, tremolo speed and intensity, reverb level 
  • ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Built-in tremolo and spring reverb
  • CONTACT: Juketone (opens in new tab)

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