A few months ago I reviewed the Egnater Tweaker 40. It was a fun little amp, with plenty of switches for customising your tone, but as enjoyable as it was to play, it seemed like some of the fine sculpting options were best at really zeroing in on the best possible version of the Tweaker 40’s own unique sonic character, rather than as a way of reconfiguring it to suit particular and disparate voices. I wonder if a big part of this is due to the 6L6 power tubes, which are often known for their slightly cold feel and super-tight bass frequencies. This is one of the reasons 6L6s are used in super-high-gain amps for the metal crowd, but it doesn’t make for a full-on tonal chameleon.
And following on from that, I wonder if this was Egnater’s consideration when designing the Tweaker 88, which takes the basic premise of the Tweaker 40 and recasts it with a pair of KT-88s. Found in amps such as the Marshall Major, Orange Thunderverb, Fryette Two/Ninety/Two power amp, Blackstar Series One 200 and Splawn Nitro, KT-88s are capable of high power and low distortion. They offer less even-order harmonics than, say, an EL34, which gives them a bit more ‘poke’ within a mix.
The Tweaker 88 is an 88 watt all-tube amp with two KT-88s in the power section and four 12AX7s in the preamp. The two channels – Rhythm and Lead – share a single tone stack with Bass, Middle and Treble controls and a three-way USA/AC/UK voicing switch, but each of the two channels has its own little set of additional switches for further refinement. These include a quartet of little switches: the Tight and Bright voicing switches work on the low and high ends respectively, a Mid Cut switch re-voices the mids from thick to scooped, and a Clean/Hot switch flips between low and high gain configurations. Each channel has a Vintage/Modern switch next to its associated Master volume, and there’s a Boost section too with Off, Clean and Gain modes and a boost level pot for each. The purpose is pretty self-explanatory.
Around the back you’ll find a simple serial effects loop and a pair of speaker outs (one labelled ‘Main – Use First’ and one labelled ‘Extension’) as well as an impedance switch (4, 8 or 16 ohms). Just like the Tweaker 40, the Tweaker 88 head itself is quite small and portable, and again it pairs nicely with the Tweaker 112x extension cabinet, which includes a single 30 watt, 12″ Celestion G12H-30 speaker.
Instantly the Tweaker 88 seems more flexible than the Tweaker 40, especially once you really crank those KT-88s. The tight bass and glassy highs of the 6L6s are replaced by more upper midrange cut, a slightly fuller yet still tight low end, and rattier highs. This makes for some almost saxophone-like lead tones, and it helps the amp to sound a little earthier with semi-driven rhythms. It’s still not a death metal amp and it doesn’t have the almost John Petrucci-like power chord rhythm tones of the Egnater Renegade but it’s capable of a lot of great organic-sounding tones, and there’s plenty of scope for variety. The mini switches seem to do more to change the fundamental nature of the sound compared to the Tweaker 40. The USA/AC/UK switch in particularly is fantastic for re-voicing the amp to be better at single notes, chords or a combination.
So when it comes down to it, which is better? The Tweaker 40 or the Tweaker 88? Well that’s really a question of what you’ll be using it for. The Tweaker 88 is more versatile but the Tweaker 40 has a clear identity. Players who demand more uniqueness or who wish to emphasise the character of different guitars and pickups will really dig the Tweaker 88, while those who want more of an all-round great sound with a little more of a uniform quality from one axe to the next will like the Tweaker 40 because it’s very hard to make it sound bad! So I can’t really tell you to choose one after the other, because it depends on what your tonal goals are, but I hope this review and the earlier one for the Tweaker 40 have given you an idea of what to look for when testing both amps, because they share a lot of common ground, and it’s the little deviations from each other that make each amp such a different and equally worthy proposition.
[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]Egnater is distributed by CMC Music.
This is an extended version of a review I originally wrote for Mixdown magazine.[/geo-in]