REVIEW: ZT Custom Shop Jazz Club Combo Amp

There’s plenty of power in the new ZT Custom Shop Jazz Club combo amp in a pretty tiny package, with 220 watts of solid state juice available for plenty of headroom in just about any situation. It’s enough to drive an external speaker, along with the internal 12” one on-board. Want to run it into just an external cabinet? No problem, it has an internal speaker shut off as well. This pairs nicely with the XLR DI Out, for silent recording or running into a PA for live gigs. An effects loop is also offered up, and works great with all the stompboxes we threw at it.

Now when the term “jazz amp” gets thrown around a few things are kind of assumed: clean, which is always a good thing, and the other is usually dark. A lot of traditional solid state jazz amps fall into this category. Thankfully, not here. There is plenty of high end cut that projects with a rich top end, while maintaining clarity. This isn’t your traditional “warm” jazz combo. 

Yes, it can be clean as you want it to be. The EQ is really nice overall; we found starting at all EQ’s at half-mast was the best starting place, and working from there was the best process to dial everything in. It’s really snappy overall, with excellent presence. The closed back design gives plenty of tight low end as well, with no flubbyness or mud. Great for those super-fast jazz runs or octave solos. We had no problems finding happy tonal places for humbuckers as well as single coils. It didn’t feel too Hi-Fi either, just nice and natural. Which brings us to the reverb. It’s based off of a spring style verb, and is really nice and lush. It’s what guitar players think of when reverb is mentioned – which is a good thing.

Turn up the gain, and it behaves more like a tube amp. Again, it’s nice and natural. Players might like to crank the gain up and ride the volume controls on their instrument, for better dynamics. The gain is plentiful as well, and at higher volumes it can get gritty/sweet like a driven Fender-ish flavor. It feels and responds great and one thing must be noted: IT’S LOUD! This is not one of those low headroom bedroom volume amps, it can hang on stage with ease. 

The only downside was some of the amp’s higher gain settings didn’t translate as well through the DI channel, while the lower gain sounds had no issues. But to make things stranger, a gain pedal with it running DI, was fantastic. Just like our findings with the Lee Ranaldo signature amp we also reviewed this month. 

The street price is $1299, which might seem a bit steep for a solid state combo, but no one flinched when low wattage, lower headroom combos, started to be common at that same price. Considering the available headroom, and natural feel, the fact that you’ll never have to buy another tube, and yet still gave a great tone, it all starts to make sense…

PROS:

Great natural feel and response, excellent reverb, warm gain tones.

CONS:

Some of the higher gain tones are kind of meh with the DI, but remedied with a decent gain pedal.

STREET PRICE:

$1299

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