By Daniel Fisher

When we were much younger, "The Future" promised us many things some of which are still long overdue (like flying cars, friendly robots, and zero-gravity romance), while others have come true in ways that have far exceeded even our most optimistic visions.

One area that has truly lived up to the promises of The Future is music technology. Few of us in the '60s could have predicted the power that a 5-pin MIDI connector would offer or the effortless flexibility found in hard disk recording and editing.

Equally unimaginable were guitar amps that could emulate many of history's favorite amplifiers, feature a full pedalboard's worth of studio quiet, sparkling effects, require no miking to sound fantastic in a recording studio, have little or no maintenance issues, could be easily carried with one hand, and would be affordable for both pros and beginning guitar heroes.

Sweetwater is proud to carry the Johnson Mirage JT50 (list $649.95), a 50-watt modeling guitar amp combo with a custom 12-inch Johnson Premium loudspeaker. The Johnson Mirage JT50 is extremely versatile, easy to use, and delivers several of the most sought-after amp tones in the world with twelve different high-quality amp models, a host of various modulation and pitch shifting effects, delay, reverb, and an easy-to-use interface at your command. The JT50's digital V-Tube technology modeling sets a new standard for what a modeling amp should be.

The Mirage comes with 21 pre-programmed User Presets. These Presets were designed to provide a wide array of sounds perfect for a variety of musical applications. The straightforward controls makes Preset selection and fine tuning the effects a breeze. Programming menus have been replaced with clearly labeled knobs (hooray!) making Preset creation easy.

Each of the 24-bit digital effects have specific knobs, which are used to vary the values of their associated parameters. The amp section has a Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Preset Level knob, as well as a 12-position knob to select your Amp Type. And the EQ controls on the Mirage amplifier uses the same authentic EQ points as the famous amps that are being emulated. For example, if you choose the "Black Face" as your Amp Model, the tone controls on the Mirage will respond exactly as if you were using a real vintage Fender Black Face amplifier, circa 1964.

The Mod / Pitch Effects section has a Speed / Level and Depth / Gate knob along with a 7-position knob to choose from the 6 types of Effects or Effects bypass. The Speed / Level knob adjusts the rate that your selected Modulation effect sweeps back and forth. When the Pitch Shift effect is selected, this knob will adjust the interval of the shifted pitch. This knob also functions as a Level control for the Modulation Effects when used in conjunction with the Tap-It / Shift button. The Depth / Gate knob adjusts the depth or intensity of the modulation effect. When the Pitch Shift effect is selected, the Depth knob will adjust the amount of detune added to the shifted pitch. This knob also functions as a Gate Threshold control when used in conjunction with the Tap-It / Shift button.

The Delay section has a Level / Time, and Feedback knob and includes a Tap-It / Shift button to synchronize the delay time with the tempo of the music. This knob adjusts the volume of the Delay effect. This knob also adjusts the Delay time when used in conjunction with the Tap-It / Shift button. The Feedback knob adjusts the number of Delay repeats.

The Reverb section has a Level / Type knob which varies the Level of reverb in your mix. This knob is also used to select Reverb Types when used in conjunction with the Shift key.You can adjust any of these parameters to your liking, and your creations can be stored to any of the 21 User Preset Locations.

By adding the optional J3 Footswitch, you can select Presets 1-3 for each of the seven Banks. The more powerful J8 Footcontroller, in addition to providing extensive control of the JT50, also adds a Guitar Tuner, a Wah-Wah effect, and a Volume pedal to the functionality of your JT50. The J8 features 8 switches, an LED display, and an Expression Pedal. The switches will turn Effects on and off within a program, select Presets 1, 2, or 3, and change Banks.

But all of this technical information is pointless if the amp doesn't sound great. So how does it sound? Well it sounds, uhh...Great! Its 50 watts of power through a single 12-inch premium loudspeaker makes it a perfect amp for rehearsals and smaller clubs, and I have to say that it is a very cool looking amp. From the front you only see the vintage-looking grille cloth with the elegant gold trim and the Johnson logo; no flashing LEDs, calculator digits, or wiring diagrams that take away from the classic good looks.

Amp models include: Jhnson Clean, Johnson Dirty, Johnson Gain, Rectified, Brit Modern, Brit Master, Brit Class A, Blues Combo, Black Face, Tweed, Boutique and Hot Rod Combo. Ask me which are my favorites and I’d be hard pressed to choose any over the others. Each one has something special going for it and they all sound quite different (you won’t be switching back and forth saying’ “What the heck’s different about this sound?”). In a live situation, you might end up using most or all of them.

But the real magic of the Johnson JT50 amp occurs when you plug in headphones. Now your burning guitar sound takes on a full-field stereo image that sounds like it’s coming off a professionally-produced CD. And that’s the whole point. If you use the speaker-compensated Direct Stereo Output to feed your studio’s recording console or the house PA system you’ll get the huge guitar sound you’ve always dreamed about, without having to carry and set up racks of effects and agonize over placing microphones.

But if you are one of those hyper-tweaky guitarists that already owns one or more pieces of stereo rack processors, you’ll be thrilled to know that this little amp has built-in true stereo (!) effects Send and Return jacks. This Effects Loop is placed just after the smokin’ Johnson Modeling Preamp, so your digital effects will stay perfectly clean no matter how hard you drive the preamp.

And the best part is that you can choose whether the internal speaker is On or Off, so you can listen to yourself from your amp and still feed the house PA for an arena-sized performance that will blow the crowd away. Then, at the end of the night, you can pick your JT50 up with one hand, grab your guitar with your other hand and leave the stadium. What a great era to be a guitarist!

If you’re already raving and drooling about this gift from the future, give us a call and get ready to make the dream of easy-to-carry power and flexibility a reality right now. Your Sweetwater Sales Engineer can tell you more about the amp and will also give you a great, low Sweetwater price . . . you know, just to sweeten the deal.