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Master TVA30 Guitar Amp Listening Impressions

By Steve DellaSala

I eagerly plugged in my custom Carvin SC90 modified with EMG 89XR neck pickup, EMG 81TWX bridge pickup and Ghost Tune-O-Matic Piezo-Electric bridge. Switched to my common sweet spot, using both bridge and Neck in single coil mode, plugged into the “Hi” input and using the “Clean” channel, I hit my first open G, C and D chords with a light, steady strum. Right away, I noticed the Amp provided a liveliness and spunk to my guitar tone that I hadn’t heard in many former guitar amps. Highs were clear, the sound was snappy and I was shamefully able to hear my fingers manhandling the strings clearly and crisp. I knew I would be in trouble as this amp would require me to clean up my playing. I then decided to switch to the “Drive” channel and worked my way from little to full over drive distortion. My first impression was amazement at how natural and long sustaining the overdrive of this amp sounded. I was so moved by the tone that I felt compelled to compare it to my Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde distortion pedal, which I’ve already put to the test verifying that it was a great sounding distortion pedal when compared to many others I’ve reviewed. I switched back to a comparable speaker volume through the clean channel and engaged the dark side of my Jekyll and Hyde. It sounded simply amazing as well, though not quite as lively. The advantage of using a distortion pedal through the clean channel was that it doesn’t overdrive the tubes thereby eliminating background noises such as hiss. In a sterile environment such as my living room or a studio, this hiss can be somewhat distracting, though as was the case with the TVA30 in overdrive, it was very minimal. My personal favorite and newfound tone was the TVA30 in overdrive. It produced a slightly more lively and natural distortion sound than my Jekyll and Hyde could emulate after playing with all the settings. A great tone for a gig.

I amp1.jpgthen switched my guitar to the Ghost Piezo bridge. I have this pickup wired as a separate output on my guitar so as to allow me to run it into a separate acoustic guitar amp such as my SWR Strawberry Blonde. I also have it wired with an optional blend into the electric output so I can mix it with the EMGs and create a hollow body guitar tone. I was pleasantly surprised to hear high frequency tones of the Piezo-electric through a single 12” speaker. Though not quite as distinct as my Strawberry Blonde which also includes a tweeter, it was sufficient enough to glean the tonality of an acoustic guitar. In comparison to the Strawberry Blonde though, there was a noticeable drop in bass punch.

I spent the good part of the day switching effects pedals, switching guitars, adjusting settings and seeking every plausible combination I could come up with. The entire time I was pleased with the overall tone of the amp; however, I did feel that the low mid-range frequency was a bit more enhanced than I desired, even with the “Middle” tone knob turned to near zero. I longed for a bit more balance and certainly a bit more obvious bass. This was especially true when switching to the Electro-Harmonix Harmonic Octave Generator (HOG). The HOG is a wonderful pedal that among other features provides an accurate representation of guitar tones with separate selection knobs for one and two octaves down, one, two, three and four octaves up and thirds and fifths. I played through the scales from low to high and found it could produce some of the bass at the lower octaves, but I definitely wished it was more pronounced and punchy. As comparison, when using the same pedal on the Strawberry Blonde, it’s as though I turned on a high powered home theater subwoofer; whereas, the TVA30 was only able to play the tones, but missed the much desired dynamics. When using the higher frequencies, the snappy punch of the speaker was pronounced making the pedal sound amazing. Adjusting the HOG correctly actually allows the musician to emulate an organ sound, and the TVA30 certainly had the mids and highs to make it very believable. Through the spectrum of settings, I still noticed the low mids being more aggressive than desired.

I then went on through the range of Reverb settings. I found the Reverb to be a nice touch with a very natural sound, though my only comment was that at its maximum setting it did not perform as dynamic as other amps I’ve heard. Though, this didn’t concern me as I really don’t use much Reverb when considering the armament of pedals I have at my disposal.


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