REVIEW: Jet City JCA22H

Mike Soldano founded Soldano Custom Amplification in 1986 after years of notoriety as an amp modifier to the stars. His flagship model, the SLO-100, has found its way into the rigs of players as diverse as Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Silverchair’s Daniel Johns, Joe Satriani and even Eddie Van Halen, who used one for most of the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album. Soldano’s “strip everything to the essentials” design philosophy comes with a hefty price tag so Mr Soldano has teamed up with Jet City Amplification to offer a series of amps that carry through on the essence of his designs at a much lower price point than the sometimes shocking price tags found on amps like the SLO-100.

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REVIEW: Ibanez FRM100 ‘Fireman’ Paul Gilbert signature model

Paul Gilbert’s first Ibanez Fireman was a custom model which he designed by flipping over the beloved Iceman (Fireman, geddit?). It was available in two configurations – rare and super rare – and they were pretty damn pricey guitars. But the fans loved ’em, and when Paul appeared on the cover of his Fuzz Universe¬†album with a shiny new red Fireman, fans went understandably nuts. What was this beautiful guitar, and could we get our hands on one? Affordably? Please?

That day has come! The FRM100 is a Chinese-made version of Paul’s red Fireman. It features a solid mahogany body (if you look close you can see where separate pieces of wood are joined together, but this is pretty much standard practice). The three-piece neck is made of two pieces of mahogany flanking a slice of maple, with a rosewood fretboard featuring simple, elegant pearl dot position markers. The neck shape is huge if you’re used to more shred-friendly designs: 22mm at the first fret and 24mm at the 12th. The frets are tall mediums, which works well with the chunky neck profile. The fretboard radius is 305mm. The neck meets the body with an intriguing joint which looks a lot like an Ibanez All-Access Neck Join (AANJ), but minus the bolts.

Click here to buy the Ibanez FRM100TR Fireman from Musician’s Friend.

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REVIEW: Jet City ISO12

Before I get into the Jet City JetStream ISO12, let me give you a bit of background on how I usually record guitars. Often I use an older-model AxeTrak isolated speaker cabinet by JLH Products. It’s a neat little unit and I’ve got a lot of use out of it, and I do recommend it (especially later versions which have more features), but it has a few limitations that I have to work around. First of all, it has a small 6-inch speaker which, though carefully voiced, is still, well, a tiny speaker in a tiny box. Secondly, its internal mic is inaccessible and immovable (later models have a moveable mic via a thumbscrew, but that doesn’t help me!). Thirdly, the only way you can change the sound is via a removable bass port and a passive treble roll-off button. The AxeTrak needs some decent EQ-ing before it stops sounding honky, and you just can’t get much tonal variety out of it the way you could if you were to move a mic around to find the sweet spot for that particular amp, song or solo. So although it’s served me well, it has some limitations and if you’re considering an AxeTrak I would recommend that you look at more recent models than mine.

The Jet City ISO12, by contrast, offers a few things that the AxeTrak just can’t deliver. First of all, it features a full 12 inch speaker, by Eminence, no less. The speaker is custom-made by Eminence for Jet City, and it handles 100 watts RMS. The ability to have a full-sized speaker means there’s more area for the microphone to sense, and therefore more tonal variation to be achieved by moving the mic to different positions or angles.

And then there’s the mic: there isn’t one. The ISO12 instead gives you a gooseneck mic stand and an internally-attached XLR cable, so you can use your own mic – or, if you’re particularly adventurous, various different microphones. You can achieve a good degree of movement inside the cabinet, and whether you like your mic placed right up against the speaker, or back a few inches for a little more sonic depth, or at an angle to achieve unusual phase-cancelled sounds and what have you, the ISO12 will accommodate you.

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REVIEW: Jet City JCA20H

Michael J Soldano founded Soldano Custom Amplification in 1986 after years of notoriety as an amp modifier to the stars, and his flagship model, the SLO-100, has found its way into the quiver of players as diverse as Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Silverchair’s Daniel Johns, Joe Satriani and even Eddie Van Halen, who used one for the majority of the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album. Soldano’s “strip everything to the essentials” design philosophy comes with a hefty price tag – the best components and flawless build quality don’t come cheap – so Soldano has teamed up with Jet City Amplification to offer a series of amps that carry through on the essence of his design manifesto at a much lower price point than the sometimes shocking price tags found on amps like the SLO-100. (By the way, Jet City has also enlisted THD legend Andy Marshall for the PicoValve, a low-wattage amp based on a single 6L6 power tube which can be switched out for almost any octal-based power tube without rebiasing).

The JCA20H is stripped-down 20 watt single-channel amp with no crazy tone switches or power damping or any other such gadgetry. The power amp features a pair of EL84 tubes, partnered with a trio of 12AX7s in the preamp (the rectifier is solid state). Controls are Gain, Bass, Middle and Treble in the preamp section, and Volume and Presence in the master section, and that’s it. Not even a reverb. This really is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get amp. A lot of thought was put into the choice of transformer too, which had to be low in cost while providing boutique tone. Jet City uses audio-grade metal film resistors and high-quality copper for all internal connections as well.
CLICK HERE to buy the JCA20H from Musician’s Friend.

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