There’s still a place in this world for mighty, elephant-slaying rock heads, and Matamp’s full-power GT2 is a proper old-school big-bore device. Review by Huw Price
Description: Twin-channel 100W valve head with 4/8/16 Ohm output. Made in the UK
Price: £1799 inc. delivery
Contact: Matamp – 01484 854883 – 0845 6444606 – www.matamp.co.uk
The term ‘overbuilt’ is often used when it comes to describing amps, but it’s not always justified. In this case it probably is, because the Matamp GT2 head on its own weighs almost as much as some 100W combos. The enclosure walls are thick, and the specially-wound transformers are huge. This amp really does take sturdy to an epic scale.
Constructed with hybrid PCB/turret boards and powered by a quartet of EL34 valves, the GT2 is rated at 100W in pentode mode. A switch on the rear panel puts the EL34s into triode mode to halve the power, and it’s worth noting that the GT2 has fixed bias with no negative feedback.
The two channels are fully independent, with separate gain, master volume and EQ controls. High and low inputs are provided, and you can select channels via a front panel switch or a seemingly bombproof footswitch. The footswitch also activates Channel 2’s boost feature and you can set the level using the Boost control on the front. The passive FX loop connections are also at the front, but the control panel is clear and uncluttered.
Our example is finished in smooth black tolex with white piping and a chromed metal grille over the valves. It looks impressive, and Matamp will also build an amp to your preferred specs. This applies to the circuit as well as the cosmetics, so you can visit the factory with your own guitar and Matamp will fine-tune the circuit to your taste while you’re actually playing through the amp. They’ll also do custom engraving, so you can have your own name or the name of your band on the front panel.
This amp has the potential to become punishingly loud, and caution is required if you wish to preserve your hearing. Channel 1 is not unlike a classic Hiwatt in the way it seems to have boundless quantities of clean headroom and never gets completely saturated. The master volume bypass switch is a neat feature and it’s the way to go if loud clean tones are a priority.
The GT2 can deliver subtle, delicate and refined clean tones. Even so, this is a full-frequency monster whose reserves of power and sheer grunt are apparent even when it’s barely idling. There’s a point around one o’clock on Channel 1’s Gain control where the GT2 hits an obvious sweet spot; the midrange fills out and the overall tone feels a bit more joined up. We had expected the sound to be identical with the Master Volume control bypassed and fully up, but bypass mode was both louder and clearer.
Channel 1 is very clear, expressive and dynamic, and it responds well to overdrive and clean boost pedals. The Voice control should be regarded as a necessity rather than a luxury because the low end is simply enormous. If you play through a bassy-sounding cabinet or speakers, or if space constraints force you to place a cabinet against a wall or in a corner, bass roll-off may be required to keep the boominess at bay. Matamp suggest that the feature is intended primarily for humbuckers, but we ended up using it with Stratocaster’s single-coils too.
The clear tones have a degree of hi-fi clarity that allows the subtleties of pickup tones and playing touch to come through. There is plenty of tone shaping power with the tone controls, but the sound never takes on any of the ‘processed’ quality that occasionally characterises amps with extensive eq controls. The high frequencies remain sweet and the midrange has a woody texture that takes on a smooth growl with higher output pickups or higher-gain settings. Even flat out, the most you’ll get is a smooth breakup rather than out-and-out overdrive, and your speakers may actually be distorting more than the amp itself.
With the master and tone controls set identically and the volume levels balanced as closely as possible, it’s hard to detect any difference in tone between the two channels. If pushed, we’d say that Channel 1 is ever so slightly clearer and the mids are thicker on Channel 2… but there’s hardly anything in it. The difference is that this ‘equivalency’ is achieved with Channel 1’s gain control at one o’clock and Channel 2’s barely turned on, so the gain range of Channel 2 is far wider. Fine adjustments are possible because clipping comes on very gradually. A thick and chewy overdrive is well to the fore by the time the gain control passes the halfway point, and Channel 2 reaches full-on distortion with Gain maxed out. That said, it’s more of a classic big British amp tone than modern crunch or high gain, and you can still clean up the sound from your guitar volume.
As you might expect, dialing in the boost raises volume but, if Gain is already set high, the extra overdrive and upper harmonics are even more apparent. As with the Gain controls an obvious sweet spot is reached around the one o’clock mark and the GT2 eases into a seriously heavy and harmonically rich distortion with a hint of fizziness only creeping in as gain approaches maximum. Power chords sound huge, and lead lines have effortless sustain with ample pick attack and clarity.
Matamp has been hand-building valve amps since rock music was in its infancy. The GT2 is beautifully made, and it’s obvious that it hasn’t simply rolled off a regular factory production line. The triode switching adds to the versatility, but the sheer power of the GT2 almost demands a 2×12″ cabinet, at the very least, so on balance, it’s better suited to larger stages rather than pub and small club gigs.
The designers have clearly paid equal attention to the clean and dirty tones, making it a versatile amp. Even at its dirtiest the GT2 stops short of ultra-scooped mids iced with a layer of white noise that characterise many modern high-gain US amps, and this is no bad thing, as it’s clarity and touch dynamics which really distinguish the GT2 from the crunch crowd.