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Heatseeker HS-18 Review

This hand-wired 18 watt boutique amp has two EL84 power tubes and one 12ax7 preamp tube. It is a very simple amp, just one channel, three knobs, one input jack, on/off switch and an 8 ohm speaker out. The Heatseeker features a solid-state rectifier. Many boutique amps use tube rectifiers. The Heatseeker has some sort of circuitry downstream which supposedly does the same thing. This amplifier has power amp overdrive, so you turn it up a bit to get the EL84 power tubes producing a warm tube tone with maximum wattage of about 18 watts.

There is a gain selector knob, or "character switch", with 3 options:

  1. Hot - Rich and warm tube tone with not so much gain.
  2. Burn - The mids are more pronounced the bottom end has more definition. The gain is a bit higher.
  3. Melt - Bigger bottom end, and more aggressive tone. Still not overly distorted with single coils - just a little crunchy.

Besides that gain selector knob, there is a tone knob and a volume knob. That's it. Very simple amp, but it kicks some booty. It actually reminds me of some Dr Z amps - they are also often very simple but with serious tone to boot.

Not having eq controls means less choices for shaping the tone. However, this type of design will reduce signal loss, which is a factor when you add passive tone controls to the design of the amp.

The amp is very quiet. Even when cranked, there isn't much audible noise or hum happening. I like this. It's also very light - great for taking to gigs!

This 18 watter does not have reverb. Instead, Mack Amps give you the option of adding a quality effects loop, in which you can plug in your favorite reverb or effects unit. I intend to use my Lexicon LXP-1 for reverb.

Specifications:

  • Handmade, point-to-point wiring, all tube
  • 18 watts
  • 2 X EL84 power tubes, cathode biased
  • 2 x 12AX7 preamp tubes
  • Solid state rectification with €˜sag€™ circuitry
  • Volume, tone controls
  • Character Switch, 3 position: Hot, Burn, Melt
  • Rugged cabinet finished with textured, synthetic coating -stain resistant and extremely durable
  • 18 ½€ W x 8 ½€ H x 8 ½€ D
  • 117/120 VAC, 60 Hz

Read more about this amp over at MackAmps.com.

Summmary

This amp gets two big thumbs up from me. It comes at a reasonable price, it is small but powerful, it has big and dynamic sound, and the amp is a joy to play. Any guitar I have tried playing through the amp sounds just fabulous. The design is simple, but that makes it more affordable, and the simplicity in design is a big plus if you are serious about tone. Less features - better tone? Well, I'm not stating any undisputable facts, but if you ask me - I definitely think so.

I am currently endorsed by Mack amps.

Sound and Video

Strat and 18 watter

Using my Fender Deluxe Players Strat with no pedals, just guitar - chord - amp. This was the first time I played the amp.

Telecaster with 18 watter

On the video clip below, I am using my Squier Telecaster with DiMarzio Virtual T pickups. My Tele never sounded so good! Here I'm also using the great clean boost pedal called 19 Sixty 3, by my friend Todd at GtrWrks.com.

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All contents Copyright Robert Renman.
Free Guitar Lessons
New Course - Comping with Triads -

Learn 6 common chord progressions.
"You are simply the best teacher on the internet. Always cool, explain things well, and relevant stuff for beginners to advanced players. Even my kids are into your lessons now!"

I was chosen as the 2013 Next Top Guitar Instructor at Truefire!