The 100W head and 4×12 cabinet set up has become increasingly impractical for jobbing guitarists, many of whom have become fed up with the sheer effort of lugging such gear around or finding themselves constrained by noise meters imposed by local authorities, even at pub gigs. Of course, there’s still a place for it on concert stages and arena gigs; who wants to see Slash or Angus Young playing through a 112 combo? Furthermore, most of these high powered heads are out of reach price wise for most of us and once you’ve added a Celestion loaded 412 cab it’s a substantial investment with not much possibility of a return.
Guitar amp designers realised early on that the way to keep manufacturing costs down was to dispense with valves and expensive transformers and go with solid state design. Results were mixed; some ‘transistor’ amps-as they became known-sounded OK, some didn’t. What emerged over the years was that solid state was alright for practice amps for reasons of size and cost but for the 50-100W heads, it was valves or nothing for the leading companies like Marshall, Boogie and Orange. However, technology inevitably moved on and the advent of digital has changed the way we think about non-valve equipment. Moreover, we are less prejudiced by history and if it sounds good, then what the heck?
Fairly new to the UK, the Fame brand is slowly establishing itself in the marketplace, offering a vast range of real value for money gear, from guitars and basses, to amps, cabs and combos to PA and keyboards, taking its ‘direct from the factory to keep the price low’ ethic to a new extreme with the solid-state GSH2-200SA amplifier head. However, despite its astonishing price, this meaty looking amp head offers a jaw-dropping 200W total power output in the form of two independent 100W power stages with a minimum 4 Ohm load on each, meaning that you could actually run four 8 Ohm 412 cabinets quite comfortably, enjoying the full effect of the on-board stereo chorus as you go.
Fame has housed the GSH2-200SA in a sturdy cabinet with a treadplate front and a sensibly laid out and logical control panel. All front and rear controls are clearly labelled and there is a full complement of auxiliary features like a headphone output, effects loop and line out. The amp has two channels, Clean and Overdrive, each with its own 3-band EQ, which can be selected with either the push button on the front panel or the optional Fame FS400L four button footswitch which will also switch in the extra Gain features as well as the chorus and reverb. The Stereo Chorus has its own Rate and Depth controls as well as an on/off button and there’s also an overal Master volume. Notable is the aforementioned ‘extra’ Gain with its own control knob and Contour knob. This feature essentially gives the amp three independently controlled sounds from the two channels.
There’s no prize for guessing which famous made-in-California amp head the GSH2-200SA is based, and plugging in and checking out the features and sounds only confirms its origins. It is unashamedly geared toward the metal market and has been voiced accordingly, offering gigantic clean headroom, any level of crunch you desire and enough of the right sort of gain that should keep any Jackson or Ibanez wielding riffmeister happy. However, this is not a ‘plug-in-and-play’ amplifier, and we spent a good deal of time getting the volume balance and tones between the channels right so that would work live, where too much ’scoop’ from the mid contouring could make your sound disappear into the background. As there are no valves to start compressing when pushed, the clean sound stays clean all the way up to startling levels. Add the chorus and you have signature clean tone ideal for arpeggio or the sort of extended or added chords that would just mush out with even slight distortion. To be able to switch from cleans to out and out aggressive overdrive or full-on metal mayhem is a feature that all the big heads like this one offer. The difference is the price of the Fame GSH2-200SA, which we still have to keep checking to see if we’ve read it correctly. Fame also offer the GN412A, a matching 600W 412 cabinet with same rugged appearance and castors which means you could have a full 200W stereo rig for less than £400. Scary stuff.