“Plugging in to a TCT is like hearing your instrument for the first time. So much detail…”
A few months ago I reviewed the Wharfedale TCT100H stack. Now I’m taking its smaller sibling, the TCT35C combo and the WGR10 practice amp, for a spin. Wharfedale, a renowned pro-audio manufacturer, teamed up with veteran guitar amp designer Steve Grindrod in 2008, to produce great sounding amps with a boutique feel. Impressed by the TCT100H I was keen to see how the quality holds through the price range.
As I mentioned in my previous review in December on the TCT100H, looks- wise, the black, gold and red design doesn’t thrill me. Apparently it’s not just me, as I am told that the new stock will have a darker finish with an ash black strip as opposed to the crimson red. Another minor issue I had with the TCT100H is also in evidence here, although luckily not nearly as much. The weight is unevenly distributed, making it a bit uncomfortable to carry as it leans to one side.
This 1 x 12 foot-switchable, 2 channel, all-valve 35w combo differs from the TCT100H with the absence of the Phase Inverter, Shift , Tight and Deep switches. However, the other TCT features remain. The Power Reduction switch lowers output from 100% to 33%, allowing the same cranked-valve tone at a fraction of the volume. The Tight/Loose switch affects power amp response, Tight – controlled, modern response and Loose – raw, gutsier, tactile response. The Edge knob controls the master presence by not only boosting but also cutting, achieving smoother tone. The input circuit components greatly reduce internal noise while increasing all that is desirable from a valve sound. Also included is a natural sounding, foot-switchable, digital spring reverb, adjustable with the Mix knob. There’s a solid-state series Effects Loop with switchable level. The amp drives a specially designed Wharfedale G1270C 12 inch speaker that easily handles serious abuse.
Each channel has a bass-mid-treble EQ configuration with an abnormally wide range (boost/cut) and two gain knobs. Gain controls the first input gain stage. Drive controls the second and third. These interact to truly broaden the palette of overdrive sounds – on both channels. This means there is no designated clean or drive channel. They each do both differently. That definitely sets this amp apart from others.
The TCT is pretty much a Fender Twin Reverb (channel A) and a hot-rodded Marshall Plexi (channel B) in one. None of the sonic sweetness, detail and ‘bigness’ of the TCT100H is lost in this combo – a feat that cannot always be said of many more famous brands.
Each channel has its own flavour. Channel A with EQ set pre gain – taking you from surf rock to swampy, raunchy blues. Even just strumming the most basic barre chord sounds magical and full of character.
Channel B, with its EQ set post gain, is grittier in nature. A JCM 800 comes to mind, going from vintage plexi-like tones to balls-to-the-wall metal tones.
The EQs are very powerful. The treble really opens things up past 5. Boosting mids gives a lot of body, while cutting enhances the Fender Twin character on Channel A and 80s metal ‘chug’ on Channel B. Both channels have ample bass that remain musical at full boost or cut. The Edge knob has a dramatic effect on the overall tone. Boosting provides enough cut-through to be heard over an orchestra of screaming chimps fed through an army of Boss Metal Zones and should be used sparingly in my opinion. Cutting makes things dark and smooth. Gain is the main source of dirt. Drive adds more midrange sizzle.
The beauty of this amp is its seeming generosity with any guitar. Plugging in to a TCT is like hearing your instrument for the first time. So much detail. It fattens up Strats and tames Les Pauls beautifully. It’s as if it finds something good in any guitar and amplifies that. The same with effects pedals. My ancient Bluesbreaker and Rat pedals purred.
Again words like ‘honey-coated, striking, musical and boutique’ come to mind. This amp will certainly be of great value to anyone wanting easy access to great tonal character on stage or in studio. It certainly does a lot for R 8 995 it’s suggested retail price.
For those on a budget, looking for a simple practice amp, Wharfedale offers this 10w, 1×8 combo amp.
With a slanted front and a Vox inspired top mounted control panel for Power – Treble, Middle and Bass knobs – a Drive switch and a Gain knob, this hybrid amp, with a voltage FET and valve preamp design and solid-state power-amp, features a mini-jack Aux In (for connecting an iPod or mp3 player) and Headphones Out (for silent jamming).
Starting with controls set to 5, Drive disengaged, the tone is full and pleasant with a touch of the now familiar Wharfedale ‘air’ and sweetness and only a hint of that practice amp harshness. The tone controls are smooth but offer little dramatic tone shaping. Overall, it’s reminiscent of (as the control panel suggests) an AC15. Engaging the Drive switch introduces a fizzy distortion that is to be expected from an amp of its class. It does fare much better with a drive pedal though and jamming to an iPod is a great way to learn. I would recommend it over a number of other entry-level amps because its basic tone is sweeter than most.The suggested retail on the WGR10 is R 1,595-00.
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