Pros: Surprising versatility and sound in a tiny package.
Cons: None. This delivers what it promises, at the right price.
I love toys. I especially love toys that either go fast and make really loud noises, and like them best when theyre in that combination, like a 69 Camaro without a muffler. Now, the Crate Power Block amplifier head doesnt go fast, but it sure makes a lot of noise.
And perhaps the coolest thing about it is that its not a toy. This is a serious amp head that, for a measly $200 street (although I just saw it on sale at GC for $99), can really provide some service to the right guitarist. The Power Block is a 75 watt stereo/150 watt mono at 8 ohms head that will nearly fit in the palm of your hand. Literally. This solid-state machine weighs a ridiculous 4.6 lbs and is an unbelievable 3.2 by 10 by 5.6. To paraphrase the poet, I cant believe its an amp.
As you might expect, a head this size doesnt have a lot of controls and jacks, but, as the saying goes (in a somewhat different context), its not the size that matters but what you do with it. The front panel contains controls for gain, highs, mids, lows and volume. In addition, on the left there is a 1/4" input jack for your instrument and a stereo head phone jack on the right. Use the headphones jack for practicing without connecting external speakers. The tone controls are 20dB at 110Hz, 15dB at 1kHz, and 20dB at 10kHz. Important fact: the headphone jack has circuitry that will emulate the sounds of a 4x12 half-stack to enhance your headphone experience. In addition, using headphones will not affect the Speaker Out, Line Out, and Effects Out signals. There is also an LED power light.
The reverse panel has surprisingly versatile features. There are three external speaker output jacks, one mono and two for left/right stereo. A Bridge Mono switch is effectively the Mono On/Off switch. When depressed, it sums the outputs of the internal stereo power amps into a single mono signal for use with the Mono jack. Otherwise, use the two stereo jacks. A Level control adjusts the signal at the Line Out jack. In turn, this jack may be used to send a signal to another amp, a house mixing board, or recording console.
But thats not all. There are two RCA jacks for connecting a CD or mp3 player. (The signal level must be controlled by the source and they are not processed so your signal will be unaffected.) There are also two Line In Right/Left /Mono/Effects Loops jacks. You can send a signal into the amp for processing or you can connect an external effects device using a 1/4" TRS Y-cord (stereo to dual mono adapter) inserted into the Effects Loop Snd/Rtn jack. Finally, there is a power switch and AC power cord connector.
The whole deal comes in the aforesaid light and apparently sturdy cast aluminum package with a padded gig bag. You can buy speaker cabs from Crate as well, but my local store had this hooked up to a little quarter stack. One very minor knock: the labels are written in a faux-hand printed style that I find a little silly. The short eight-page manual describes the amps functionality and has a couple of useful diagrams.
Lets talk two points here. First, how does it sound? The answer is: surprisingly good. You can dial in anything from straight clean jazz and rhythm (low gain setting) to funky country to (with lots of gain) nice hard rock chunk and mild distortion. Its not a Triple Rectifier, but youre not paying Triple Rectifier prices, either. Like I said, for the $200 you need to drive away with this baby, and an inexpensive cab or two, youll have a nice little set-up.
So, that leaves us the second point: who should buy this head? I think it is ideal for someone looking for a practice head, especially for playing CDs/mp3s, or using it to boost some pedals or a multi-effects box. Another ideal use is as a back-up head for gigging. At $200, this is pretty cheap insurance.
This head obviously isnt for everyone. But, for the money, it has extraordinary volume, convenience, functionality and value. A young player can literally put it on his bedroom bookshelf when hes finished (a very nice birthday present for the right kid). A rehearsing player can chuck it on his front seat with his music on his way off to practice. A gigging player can almost carry it in his back pocket just in case his main amp blows up. Plus, it looks cool.
Here are my other amplifier reviews:
Marshall Super 100 JH
Peavey Classic 30 Combo
Crate Power Block
Roland Micro Cube
Mesa 5:25 Express
Mesa Stiletto Ace
Fender Cyber Twin
Line 6 Vetta II Combo
Mesa 5:50 Express
Line 6 Spider III 75
Mesa Lone Star Combo
Vox Valvetronix AD60VT
Mesa Stiletto Deuce
Mesa Triple Rectifier Head
Fender DSP 65
Peavey Triple XXX Head
Fender Super Sonic 1x12 Combo
Hughes and Kettner Switchblade 50 Combo
Fender MH 500 Metalhead
64 Fender Vibroverb Custom Blackface
Mesa Dual Rectifier Roadster
Peavey Penta Head
Peavey JSX Joe Satriani Signature Head
Line 6 Spider II Head
Crate Acoustic CA30
Line 6 Flextone III Plus
And you may also be interested in a few books such as:
Hugo Pinksterboer Tipbook Amplifiers and Effects
Ritchie Fliegler Amps: The Other Half of Rock and Roll
Michael Ross Getting Great Guitar Sounds: A Non-Technical Approach to Shaping Your Personal Sound