Feature rich, versatile head, highly dissappointing tones.
I was tired of lugging around my AC30 for my rock gigs and my 6505 to my metal gigs...so I was in the market for a lightweight, mid wattage amp head that could cover all my needs. I saw the Grandmeister 36, and after reading the glowing reviews, it seemed like a no brainer. I'll break it down in a few categories.
Sound: I'll start with the most important factor to me, and this is where I was disappointed. When I first plugged this in, I hooked it up to a V30 equipped Orange 2x12 with the amp set to clean. I used a heavily upgraded PRS SE custom 24 that typically sounds fantastic on any amp I plug it into, To me, the clean is the most impressive channel on the amp. I was getting very nice, warm, and beautiful clean sounds. The onboard sounds great as well, and really added some dimension to the cleans. It was a breeze to dial in good cleans. Next, I moved to the crunch Channel, and this is where things went down hill, The crunch channel sounded absolutely "cold" and "sterile" no matter what I did. Beyond that, there was this really "brittle" quality to it, that made the high strings just sound plain bad. I couldn't get a warm, classic overdrive to save my life. After about 20 minutes of frustration, I decided to come back to it later and try to coax some metal tones out of the next two channels. I switched to the lead channel and was instantly warped into fizz city, I really had to up the resonance and really turn down the presence to get any useable sounds. The Ultra channel was no better, just with more gain. It was so fizzy on the high end, and not pleasing to the ear at all, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that the el84 power section just couldn't produce those huge, warm metal tones. After reading up on some forums, I decided to retube the whole amp and buy some darker speakers to see if they tamed the harsh/fizzy high end, The new tubes had some mild improvement in clarity and took away some brittleness. The preamp tubes I got lowered the gain by about 20%, and I felt like this warmed things up a bit, but I still wasn't getting "my sound". Next, I swapped out the V30's for a Eminence Canabis Rex and Wizard. This was a huge improvement, as the Canabis Rex is such a dark speaker, it really mellowed out the fizziness...but I could still tell it was there, and the amp was still far from delivering what I consider to be a great tone. All in all, I was hugely disappointed with this after all the upgrades, and I sold it as fast as I could.
Features: I'll keep this short...this amp has just about everything you could want. You can fully program this thing like a well oiled machine and make gigs a breeze. The effects are digital, but sound quite good, If you can get along with the amps tone, then this amp will truly cover all ground. The red box DI works fantastic, as do the smart knobs, and noise gate. Unfortunately, I just hated the tone.
Value: For $1,200, purchasing this does not make sense to me. To get the full benefit, you'll need to buy the sold separately midi footswitch that cost an additional $200. That's $1,400 for a fully functioning amp...an American made Mesa Mark V 35 is $1,600 and can cover just as must ground as this amp, but with a tone that smokes this amp in every conceivable way. I know this, because me and my bandmate who owns one did a drawn out comparison one day, since they are both mid 30 watt, el84 powered, multi channel/mode amps. If I were to attribute a dollar value, the Mesa sounded an easy $1000 better. And I feel that that is not an exaggeration.
I know I'm the minority here, and I can't help but think that maybe I just got a lemon...but the amp itself, had no functional issues. It just sounded very cold, harsh, and fizzy no matter what I tried, I would not recommend this amp to anyone.