REVIEW: Randall Diavlo RD100H

Randall RD100H

Plenty of great players have used Randall amps over the years: Dimebag Darrell, George Lynch, Nuno Bettencourt, Phil Collen, Scott Ian, Kirk Hammett… and one thing that has been consistent between them all is the up-front quality of the distortion, whether it’s being achieved by tube or solid state means. Randall’s Diavlo series looks very metal-oriented – and it is, with its horned-skull-adorned graphics and none-more-black exterior – but Randall seems to have worked hard to create a versatile clean channel too. Let’s investigate…

The RD100H is a 100 watt, three-channel, all-tube head packing a quartet of 6L6 power tubes, a bunch of 12AX7s in the preamp, and a handy boost feature for kicking things up a notch when you need a solo to scream. All three channels share the same EQ section of Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence, but each channel has its own individual gain and volume controls in addition to the amp’s master volume, so you can get all sorts of nice balances happening. Channel switching is controlled via a push button on the front panel (each press advances you by one channel) or via a foot switch.

There’s a speaker emulated XLR direct output with ground lift, Class A Discrete instrument level FX loop, and a four-function footswitch to help you work your way around the various channels and the boost. There’s no reverb though but hey, that’s what the effect loop is for, right?

I tested the RD100H with my Ibanez UV777BK 7-string modified with Seymour Duncan pickups (a Pegasus in the neck, SSL5 single coil in the middle and my Custom Shop pickup, the Alnico 8-loaded Magnetar, in the bridge). I started with the clean channel. It’s a very flexible channel, especially for those who play rock or metal and require a lot of headroom for ambient effects. But it’s also great for those who want to push the clean channel to the edge of overdrive for classic rock or punk tones. You’ll get a great Pete Townshend chordal crunch here, for example. It’s not quite as characterful as blasting through a cranked Fender Bassman but it’s surprisingly useful for non-metallic clean sounds.

The two distorted channels won’t get you anywhere near a clean tone though! The first starts with a punchy crunch and works its way right up to a Metallica-like wall of metal. And the second is dripping with harmonics and saturated sustain, which makes it great for soloing. The tube boost is effective on both of these channels, so you can get all sorts of textures depending on the musical setting. In fact, more often then not I found myself setting up a crunchy rhythm sound on the first overdrive channel then just hitting the boost to get my primary lead sound, then using the other distortion channel for a totally separate, third lead sound on top of that.

There’s one thing that’s consistent no matter which channel you choose or how much gain you employ: a bold, cutting midrange which will ensure that you stand out in the mix in a live situation. When playing at home it might sound a little harsh, but the amp is voiced with frequencies that are very stage-friendly, and once you sit it within a mix it all makes sense. Even when you scoop the mids you’ll notice that this upper-midrange bark remains present, ensuring that your tone doesn’t get lost amidst thrashing cymbals and walloping kick drums. Personally it’s not something I dig – I prefer my amps to sound a little more open than this – but if you’re into aggressive metal tones with grinding upper mids and plenty of nice smooth compression, you’ll probably love this amp.

The RD100H is definitely a metal guitarists’ amp, but it’s a great choice for those who explore all sorts of different aspects of heavy guitar tone, whether it’s crunchy rock, brutal metal or savage grindcore. And that clean channel is much more useful and usable than you might expect from a metal-oriented amp. If you do a lot of playing at home there are Randall amps that are much more bedroom-friendly, but this one is made to be played loud, preferably with a thundering band behind you.