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The new PRS Archon is available as a 50-watt head with two separate cabinet choices: a 1×12 and a 2×12, or as a 50-watt 1×12 combo, which is the version we got to test out. Each channel sports a Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass and Master Volume, along with a bright switch. A global Presence and Depth control covers the overall high and low-end response of the amp’s sound. The back panel features additional speaker out options at 4 and 8 ohms, as well as an effects loop and bias jacks. Speaker wise, it’s sporting a 70-watt Celestion V-type.
The bright switches do make a difference; on the clean channel, we really found the bright switch did bring in a lot of presence, and when paired with a drive pedal, was a nice touch, adding in just that little extra without having to mess with the EQ of the amp or the pedal. It’s noticeable on the lead channel, just adding a bit of kick that’s not harsh, but allows for some noticeable cut.
The Presence and Depth control really interacts with the EQ quite nicely. We found they helped tune in the overall top end and low-end thump, and didn’t thin out or muddy the overall tone. It certainly gave an added touch of adjustment. We found it was best to start at noon on both, then adjust as needed, per the room’s feel.▼ Article continues below ▼
The tubes are by JJ, with six ECC83S tubes in the preamp, with a pair 6CA7’s in the power amp section. The 6CA7’s are supposed to be a happy medium between 6L6’s and EL34’s. While they do have a bit more lower end roundness, there’s certainly a EL34 flavor that seems to find its way through the mix. It’s not a bad thing, as that EL34 bite and attack really gives an aggressive definition. 50 watts is plenty, with no issues of volume or clarity, headroom wise.
We put the test amp through its paces with a few PRS guitars; a 1993 CE24, Mira maple top, and a SE277 baritone. Yes, it paired nicely with those guitars, that’s a no brainer. We also ran our Partscaster Strat, a Tele and a Kramer Tracii Guns Signature into it, and were also pleased with the results.
The big signature of any high gain amp is articulation, and that is present in both channels. There’s no big overcoloring of the clean channel to fight against or compensate for. Increasing the volume really brings in a fullness and depth that is robust and well defined. On the lead channel, the articulation was phenomenal and crisp throughout, with chunky rhythms sitting right where they needed to, while lead parts didn’t get fizzy or hissy even at maximum gain settings. Single coils didn’t get shrill in this area, the bite was still there, but not the shriek. Getting great lead tones was just plain easy, with plenty of gain for sustain and thickness across the board.
On both channels the EQ was very flexible; players who usually push the highs and lows in drive settings will find that bringing in the midrange wasn’t an issue. It provides a more musical focus, rather than “honk.” Yes, you can go super saturated, and scooped, but the added midrange created a fuller sound, with depth and definition. Don’t sleep on the mids, people!
It can do modern, but classic drive sounds that are on the high gain side are also easily obtainable (think late 80’s). It really makes this an amp for a guitarist who needs great drive tones that won’t sound dated in a couple of years.
Regardless of gain options, the pedal platform concept is an option most players can’t dismiss, so we paired it with our Nobles ODR-1 mini, and on the clean channel, we got the flavor we desired from the pedal’s drive, along with the articulation of the amp’s EQ. Using the bright switch in this setting helped set the desired tone easily. We also paired it with the lead channel, using the pedal as a boost and were surprised at how it just accentuated the EQ a bit more, giving a “3rd channel” feel to the amp in a practical sense.
High gain amps used to be the territory of large heads, mega power amp tubes, and massive wattage. PRS has shown that you can get those characteristics in a small 50-watt combo that’s priced for the player who wants the tones easily, without any hassle. Versatile enough for both studio and stage, we heartily recommend it.
Articulate, excellent EQ, perfect cleans, lead channel is glorious