While PRS might hold the current record for the world’s most expensive signature guitar amp head with their John Mayer J-MOD 100, it’s reassuring to see it is still catering for us mortals with products like the deservedly successful Sonzera series.
For its latest signature amp, PRS has thankfully stayed at the affordable end as they introduce its first all-steel lunchbox head in the shape of the MT 15, designed in association with long-time PRS endorsee and Alter Bridge axeman Mark Tremonti.
Tremonti is well-known as an avid gearhead and first impressions of the MT 15 are of a purposeful, working player’s tool with no unnecessary bells or whistles. A matt-black finish on a robust chassis with plain white markings gets a visual lift from the PRS and MT 15 logos on the perforated steel lid, together with some smart red side inserts that add a touch of style.
The MT 15 has clean and lead footswitchable preamp channels, with gain and master volume on the lead channel, and volume on the clean channel. Both channels have their own bass, mid and treble controls with a master presence control and a pull boost on the clean channel to add a mild overdriven edge.
Around the back things are kept simple with a series effects loop plus a half-power switch which drops the MT 15 from 15 watts RMS down to around seven watts.
At first glance there’s no channel indicator, however, when powered up all the MT 15’s valves are lit by LEDs which change colour: red for lead, blue for clean; very visible and very cool. PRS has also thoughtfully added external bias test points and adjustment for the 6L6 output valves.
Inside the chassis, the electronics are typically neat and robust; most components sit on a large PCB which also supports the front panel controls and six 12AX7 preamp valve bases, with short ribbon cables to a pair of smaller boards for the rear panel sockets. The resistors in our sample have been marked with small dots, sometimes an indicator that they’ve been hand-selected.
As with the Sonzera amps, the MT 15’s 6L6 output valves are hand-wired, which adds significantly to reliability by keeping the hottest part of the amp away from PCB tracks.
Overall, the build standard and features inspire confidence, and thanks to a pair of generously-sized transformers, the MT 15 feels as solid as it looks, capable of handling anything constant gigging may throw at it.
Many of the MT 15’s competitors favour the EL84, however, the 6L6 has its own distinct character with ideal qualities for a modern rock/metal head, including a sparkling treble, tight bass and balanced midrange.
The MT 15’s clean channel illustrates this perfectly, with plenty of headroom to cater for any guitar, while pulling the channel mid-boost function adds a sweet vintage Fender overdrive with a medium-fast response that’s great for country picking or blues.
As usual, we tried out the MT 15 with a selection of single coil and humbucking instruments, and while there’s enough gain to turn even the weediest single coil guitar into a fire-breathing monster, the MT 15 seems to work at its best with humbuckers. Our PAF-loaded Les Paul has rarely sounded as good as it did through this head.
The lead channel has no less than five gain stages and the amount of gain and distortion on tap is huge. However, it’s also been carefully sculpted into a stunning barrage of harmonic filth that flatters every note and power chord.
Often, very high gain can easily descend into an unpleasant mush that’s perceived more as noise than music, yet the MT 15 manages to avoid this and retains exceptional clarity and articulation, with a slightly more compressed feel in the low power seven-watt setting. It’s also capable of impressive big-stage volume and headroom when used with a suitable cabinet.
The all-steel lunchbox format is as popular as ever, so it’s no surprise to see PRS launch its own contender. While it may be compact and portable, the MT 15 is a proper heavyweight when it comes to modern rock and metal tones, with killer sounds rivalling some heads that cost four or more times as much.
Offshore manufacturing helps to keep the MT 15’s price affordable, but there’s still the same enviable PRS build quality and attention to detail we’ve come to expect from all PRS products.