Now, here’s something completely different. Ibanez – not known for producing guitar amplifiers of any note – have introduced the TSA15H 15 Watt all-valve head with a Tubescreamer circuit built in as the overdrive channel. The Ibanez Tubescreamer is an iconic effects pedal, so to have it actually on-board an amplifier is a simple but brilliant idea and makes the TSA15H stand out from the rash of low-power ’boutique’ style all-valve amplifiers that are now part of nearly every manufacturers’ catalogue. It’s also boasts an unbelievably low price and will be hugely attractive to studio owners – both pro and hobbyist – who have always wanted a real quality amp to record with, but cannot justify the extra outlay that a boutique job can cost.
The Ibanez TSA15H is an attractive little devil, finished in an off-white vinyl covering with white piping and a distinctive Tubescreamer green panel. All corners are metal-protected and the amp sits on four chunky rubber feet. Control wise, simplicity rules. On the normal amp channel there’s Bass, Treble and Volume with a mini toggle to give a 6db boost. The sounds are mostly clean all the way – especially with a Strat or single-coil guitar - and forgetting the Tubescreamer for a minute, the channel offers some seriously classic tones just on its own. This is a little tone monster, and the 6V6 output tubes offer a more American sounding amplifier than the usual EL84s that are found in these sized units. However there’s no Fender glassiness, everything is full and fat sounding, with no harshness in the top end. It’s all very sweet and musical. Both the 6db boost and the Tubescreamer channel can be switched by the (not included) Ibanez IFS2G footswitch and there’s a matching TSA112C cabinet available which contains a Celestion Seventy 80 speaker.
As you would expect, switching in the Tubescreamer channel really brings the TSA15H to life. Controls – exactly like the pedal – are Overdrive, Tone and Level which offer smooth, almost non-distortion tones, like an amp just being pushed into break-up but not saturation. This is no metal amp – as there’s not really enough gain – and will probably not appeal to the pointy Ibanez guitar owning fraternity and their shred-tastic antics. Instead, it’s perfect for blues and classic rock where you want the guitar to have a more natural voicing. Some settings can be nasaly, but if you look for the sweet spot between the three controls, the results will be rewarding.
On the rear panel is a welcome effects loop and a comprehensive speaker output configuration, offering four, eight and 16 ohm cabinet options as well as the footswitch input and a power switch between 15 Watts (Pentode) and 5 Watts (Triode). The overall volume – even full-up – is a little tame and the amp would struggle without being miked up in a gigging situation but in a studio, the TSA15H offers killer tones without the killer price tag. Recommended.