REVIEW: Jackson Ampworks Britain

Jackson Ampworks was founded by Brad Jackson in 2003. All the way up until 2009 the company was a one-man operation but after that point, with demand skyrocketing, a few extra hands were brought on board. Jackson Ampworks is still a small operation, but with increased production 11 capacity to get their lustworthy boutique amps onto more stages and into more studios than was previously possible.


The Britain amplifier is now in its third incarnation. It’s been redesigned with suggestions from users of the original Britain and Britain 2.0 amps but, as the company points out, 3.0 is ’18 pounds lighter than its original predecessor, 8″ more narrow and three times more powerful!’ But the differences aren’t only in the physical dimensions and the ability to push out extra volume: the amp now features a second channel as well as a footswitchable boost circuit, series effects loops for each channel, and selectable 12 Watt Class A, 25 Watt Class A or 50 Watt Class A/B operation.


Channel 1 is the same EF86-based preamp as the original Britain, but it’s been updated with a footswitchable boost circuit that bypasses the Treble and Bass pots. It offers higher gain than the 12AX7-based Channel 2. The two channels are internally linked so that plugging into the ‘1/2’ jack selects them both, which means you can then blend each channel’s Volume, Treble and Bass controls for a custom tone. If you plug into the other input, the internal connection is broken and each channel operates independently.


Then there are the power tubes.


Remember those three power modes? 2 Watt Class A, 25 Watt Class A or 50 Watt Class A/B operation? The 50 and 25 Watt modes use EL34s, while the 12 Watt mode uses EL84s. There’s a hell of a lot of tubes in this little box! The Class A modes are cathode-based, and they include a circuit that reproduces the natural compression and sustain of a 5U4G rectifier. In 50 watt mode, the amp switches to high voltage operation and is fixed-biased.


I tested the Britain with my Ibanez Talman with Ibanez Super 58 vintage PAF-style humbuckers, and my Fender American Vintage ’62 Reissue Stratocaster. A lot of players these days are more used to digital recreations of boutique-style amps. If this describes you, then say hello to the real thing! There’s a special kind of punch, a sparkle and a three-dimensionality available in the Britain that digital amps just can’t give you. Single notes stab and jab with confidence, which chords jangle and ring with clarity and separation that must be heard and felt to be believed.


The Talman’s humbuckers sounded fat yet clear, with plenty of low-end thickness balanced by a strong high-end ring. The neck ‘bucker sounded sweet and mellow for chord work, with a big more muscle coming from the bridge unit. The Strat’s single coils sounded somehow simultaneously steely and juicy: squeeze a string and the high end will remain constant while the midrange almost seems to morph over the arc of the note. The in-between, 2 and 4 positions on the Strat’s pickup selector had plenty of pick attack and thin-string ring, but with plenty of growl around the edges right where you want it.


The 12 Watt mode is the softer, warmer option while the 25 Watt mode rocks with plenty of punch and roar, particularly in the mids, while the 50 Watt mode kicks with attack, power and projection the kicks the note clear across the room and bounces it back across the room right in your face. In a good way.


The Britain’s preamp is so positively interactive that any pedals you use feel like an integral part of the circuit rather than something sitting on top of the amp sound. Meanwhile the ability to run two separate effects loops on simultaneous channels is mindblowing: run a reverb through one, a delay through the other, mix the channels and enjoy!


This is a killer amp for rock and blues players who are tough enough to handle the kind of power it dishes out. It’s one of those rare amps that translates everything you do so clearly, so musically and so powerfully that you really better have your playing in check, because your audience will hear everything that you do. It’s that very level of interactivity that makes this amp so rewarding to play.


Link: Jackson Ampworks

[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]This is an extended version of a review I originally wrote for Mixdown magazine.[/geo-in]