Pros: It has SansAmp recording technology.
Cons: It has an 8-inch speaker.
TECH 21 TRADEMARK 10 TM GUITAR AMPLIFIER
As some of you may know from reading some of my previous reviews, I have a very musical family. One of the great benefits of coming from a family of musicians, is that I can get to play with some of their great musical equipment. A relative of mine who has a small recording and rehearsal studio has his recording studio outfitted with a number of different name brand tube amps, modeling amps, and related recording devices. I recently visited with him and tried out his Tech 21 Trademark 10 Direct Recording Amp, Tech 21 Trademark 30, Tech 21 Trademark 60, and a Tech 21 PSA 1.1. I was very impressed with all four of these devices, but for different reasons. For simplicity sake, I will stick to discussing the Trademark 10 in this review.
The Trademark 10 is a remarkably versatile tool for any guitarist. It is a good beginners amp because it is relatively easy to use. It is good for experienced guitarists who want a practice amp that will sound good at low volumes. It also has the additional feature of having the capability of modeling 3 of the most popular guitar amps, namely Marshall, Fender, and Mesa Boogie. Finally, it is a direct recording interface that can be readily hooked up to any recording device. In the following review, I will discuss the pros and cons of each of these aspects of Trademark 10.
The Trademark 10 is an amp with 10 watts of power output, with an 8-inch speaker rated for 15 watts. It is very light and compact, and weighs a mere 14.25 pounds. The weight distribution is very even, and the amp feels comfortable to carry, and somehow feels even lighter than it weights.
As to its use for the beginning guitarist, a beginner wants and needs to be able to understand how to use the equipment that they are working with, without being confused and frustrated. That is easy to accomplish with the Trademark 10. The controls are simple to understand and are ergonomically laid out. The control panel has one input jack for a guitar. Next to this is the CHARACTER set of controls which permits the user to model different amps, and finally there is the MASTER set of controls which allows you to control the Volume, Reverb, and EQ settings. The cons of the Trademark 10 for a beginner are several. One is that a beginner does not need to spend a minimum of $250 for a starter amp. There are plenty of less expensive alternatives out there. Another is that a beginner does not need all of the different permutations of sound variation and modeling that this amp is capable of. Finally, a beginner does not really need the SansAmp technology because a beginner would not usually be expected to be making recordings that require a direct recording interface. As such, a beginner does not really need all the versatility that the Trademark 10 is capable of. On the other hand, this is an amp that a beginner would not readily outgrow over the years, because it is also a very good sounding practice amp, as well as a direct recording device
The Trademark 10 is ideally suited to mid-level and advanced guitarists who want a preamp with direct recording capability and SansAmp technology, that also has the added capability of being a very inexpensive modeling amp for recording purposes. To my mind, the fact that the Trademark 10 is also a small power amp with a speaker section, as well as being a very good sounding practice amp, should be considered to be bonus features, and not its main selling point.
For more advanced guitarists, the CHARACTER SECTION of the Trademark 10 permits the user to model the sound and tonal characteristics of three of the most popular amps today, by simply flipping the three position AMP switch to either TWEED (Fender style), British (Marshall style) or California (Mesa/Boogie style). Next to this is the MOD switch, which permits the user to choose among CLEAN (what can I say, clean is clean), HI GAIN (which gives a bit more edge), and HOT (an over the edge overdriven sound). Next to this is the SPEAKER switch which permits the user to choose among three different speaker sounds. The Flat position reproduces the sound of the built in Tech 21 speaker. The UK position emulates the sound of an old style Marshall 4 X 12 cabinet with Celestions. The US position emulates the sound characteristics of an Electro-Voice speaker found in vintage Mesa/Boogie cabinets. This gives the user the ability to choose 27 different permutations of sound characteristics. The DRIVE knob permits one to adjust the overall amount of gain, and adds an additional level of control.
The MASTER SECTION of the Trademark 10 has 3 EQ dials, LOW, MID, and HIGH, which permits the user to control the tonal characteristics of the sound you are trying to achieve. Next is a REVERB dial, which activates a real 3-spring reverb. Finally, there is the LEVEL dial with controls the overall volume of the amp.
The rear panel of the Trademark 10 has a Headphone output, which when engaged, will cut out the speaker section of the amp. The Headphone output also doubles as a ? inch direct out to a recording device in the event that the recording device you are using does not have an XLR input. The Trademark 10 can also be used to drive an external speaker cabinet. However, the ability of the Trademark 10 to closely model the sound of the other amps previously mentioned, is greatly based on the specific qualities of the specially designed internal speaker that comes with the Trademark 10. Change speakers, and you may not be able to emulate the exact sound you are looking for.
The heart of the Trademark 10 is based on a modified version of the mid-priced SansAmp GT2 pedal (not to be confused with the SansAmp Classic pedal which is much more versatile). Notice, I said modified version of the GT2. With the Trademark 10 you have most of the capabilities of direct recording that the GT2 provides. However, unlike the Trademark 10, the GT2 additionally allows the user to modify the subtle characteristics of tone that different microphone placement would allow. This limitation can easily be compensated for by simply using a microphone to record the sound of the Trademark 10 as one would do in a traditional recording situation.
The SansAmp Direct Out allows the user to directly connect to a recording device or a PA system. Since I was in a recording studio, I had to give this a try. My goodness, I was impressed. Although the sound of the Trademark 10 driving its own internal 8-inch speaker is impressive for a little amp, the sound of the SansAmp tube emulation technology was absolutely remarkable. I was more than surprised when I heard the sounds this little creature could produce on a recorder (I was using a Roland VS 880). By using an additional little the EQ, delay, or reverb from the recorder, this little amp, sounded like a MONSTER. (I was disappointed with the sound of the reverb for recording purposes that the Trademark 10 produced). My relative, the engineer of this small studio, keeps a Trademark 10 in the recording booth so that a guitarist can sit next to him and record directly into the board while laying down overdubs while listening to the foundation tracks of a song, as the recording engineer performs the various tweaking (i.e., chorus, flange, etc.) that a sound engineer is there for.
Are there any weaknesses with this amp? It really depends on your needs. If you are looking for a great sounding stand alone amp suitable for playing even small clubs, look elsewhere, as10 watts is simply not powerful enough on its own for this. If you like the sound of the Trademark 10, then consider two of its bigger brothers, namely the Trademark 30 or the Trademark 60. Another drawback that stuck out for me was the sound of the reverb. It was fairly mediocre to my ear. Remember, I said to my ear, as my cousin feels it is just fine. On the positive side, this amp represents a great value because of its versatility as a direct recording device, an inexpensive modeling amp, and a good practice amp.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review, but now I must get back to my practicing.