Henriksen Bud SIX
I've been using Roland JC 120 amps since about 1990. Before that I used a Polytone 102. I still use a Polytone Mini Brute or a Polytone Baby Brute on small Jazz gigs now and then.
The Roland is the best amp for me, ever. Great clean tone, best-sounding chorus (true stereo), plenty of power, versatile and extremely durable. I own three JC 120's. All three of them are well over 30 years old and I've not had a single problem with any of them.
But...I'm getting old and the JC 120 weighs over 60 pounds.
For several years I've been on the lookout for something smaller that has a sound I can live with. Long story short; I've tried several to no avail.
A few months ago I heard one of my friends, Charles Gatschet, playing in a club using a Henriksen Bud SIX. He's a jazzer and was using a large hollow body guitar. I was amazed at how good it sounded. The amp is the size of a freakin' toaster! It weighs 13 pounds!
I talked to Charles on a couple of occasions about it and did some of my own research.
I discovered Henriksen has no local dealers in the US. They're in Colorado and if you want one of their amps you have to purchase it directly from their website. There's a 30-day return period; if you don't like it you can ship it back for a full refund.
Until now, I wouldn't buy an amp that I can't play on a gig first. Amps will sound great in the store or in your basement but when you get them on an actual gig it's a very different thing. The amps I've tried out on gigs were loaners from a local music stores; I'm not gonna buy an amp I can't test drive on a gig. Plus, the Henriksen amps are pretty pricey. The Bud SIX is $1299.00.
So that's why it took me several months to decide to pull the trigger.
My past experience had convinced me that I have to have 12-inch speakers to get the sound I like. The Bud series of amps come in 6.5, 10, and 12-inch models. They also have a tweeter that you can turn off or on. If I hadn't had the conversations with Charles I would've gone for the 12-inch speaker ($1879.00 - ouch!). Charles convinced me otherwise. He had originally bought the Bud TWELVE and sent it back. He was using the Bud SIX the night I first heard it.
The amp arrived on a Friday just as I was leaving for a gig. I didn't have time to check it out. The next day I decided to throw it in the deep end; I took it to the Saturday Afternoon Jam I've been playing for over 30 years. That gig sometimes gets stupid loud, especially later in the day. Yeah, I said, "Stupid loud!" That's almost an oxymoron, coming from a guitar player.
Anyway, I hauled my JC 120 in as usual and set my little Bud SIX on top of it.
I like to run the amp volume up and my guitar volume down. The main reason is I like the resulting tone better; it's a rounder, darker jazz tone and gives me the headroom to turn up a little bit for the solos.
At the beginning of the gig the Bud SIX sounded great. Impressive even. The first set is quieter; more Jazz, less Blues. I was running the amp volume at about halfway, with my guitar turned down as usual. Yeah, man - it's a tone I can definitely live with! As things escalated over the first hour and a half, whenever I would dig in - increasing the output from the guitar, playing chord solos or octaves, it was breaking up a little bit. Kind of like the Polytones, only not as bad.
My conclusion was that I could get through the gig with it, but it just wasn't gonna have enough clean volume to compete. The other factor is that it's designed for Jazz; there's no overdrive or distortion setting. So a pedal would be necessary for something like that.
I used the JC 120 for the last set, but the Henriksen was real close, man. I just couldn't ... squeeze ... enough ... clean ... volume. Nevertheless, I was very impressed. It will work for most gigs I play.
I took it home and ran every guitar I have through it. That includes acoustics; both steel string and nylon string instruments. Every one sounded great. Then I plugged in my looper and stacked up a bunch of loops to see if it could handle several guitars at once; it did.
I'm gonna keep it. Like I said, it'll work for 90% of the gigs I play, but I'll still use the JC 120 for the Saturday Afternoon Jam, as well as bigger shows.
More about the Bud SIX that makes me excited about it:
It has two completely independent channels, each channel has its own input, volume, 4-band EQ, presence and reverb. Each input can take either a 1/4" or XLR.
Yes, I plugged a microphone into it and it sounded pretty good; you could forego a PA if the gig is small and low-volume.
The 2-independent channel thing is huge for me. I've got a pedalboard that I designed specifically for the JC 120 that has two signal chains for two channels. The Bud SIX will accommodate that. The pedalboard is 4 times the size of the Henriksen amp and weighs almost as much as the JC 120!
The back of the amp has a line out that's post EQ and reverb so it can go direct into a PA. It has effects loops for both channels; again, that will accommodate my current pedalboard nicely.
There's a switch that will turn the tweeter on and off. I turned it off during the Jam thinking that might be what's breaking up, but it didn't make much difference. The tweeter definitely needs to be on when running any kind of acoustic through it. I have to say, my modified Crafter nylon string sounded great! I spent over an hour looping and jamming with it.
In my opinion, this is by far the best-sounding tiny amp I've ever played (that includes Quilters). If you want to read my amp journey previous to this current episode, including my test driving the Quilters, see Tube or Solid State?
The icing on the cake is the amp comes with a nifty gig bag that has a shoulder strap! It's like carrying a purse into the club! I can get my guitar, amp, mic stand and accessories bag into the club in one trip and hold the door open for you.
P.S. It goes to 11!!! LOL!
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