Hagerman HALF WATT Amp (Practice/Recording)

If you are a tube snob, then the Hagerman Half-Watt is an ideal practice and studio recording amp. This is a cleanish amp, although it has some growl and burn when cranked or when playing hard, running two tubes: 12AY7 and 12BH7. Its functions are very simple, with Bass, Treble and Volume knobs and an on/off push switch. It will run any cab, from 4-16 Ohm, or you can go direct out via the Headphone Jack to DAW or PA (and obviously for silent practice).

The sound is about as real and traditional as it gets, producing a Fender vibe with the Bass/Treble around 12-noon, or a Marshall clean tone with the Bass/Treble around 1-o-clock (or with more Treble to taste). It cleans up very well, via a guitar’s volume knob, and is a fantastic pedal platform, with its tube warmth and detail, all of which is demoed in the accompanying video. Its size is incredibly practical, at 6-inches square and 4-inches high, to sit upon a desktop, cab, etc.

Gain and volume are determined by the Volume knob. Under 12-noon and the tone is very clear and clean, perfect for high-gain distortion pedals if going that route. Once past 12-noon, there is more breaking up and eventually a fine-grain driven sound when up full, sufficient for tasteful classic rock rhythm and moderate-gain lead. As the volume/gain increases, picking dynamics become more obvious between a light touch and hard riffing, sounding very expressive between the extremes. The gain will not be enough for screaming leads, but it handles and balances very nicely with overdrive pedals. The amp also cleans up well via the guitar’s volume knob.

The EQ section has a good usable range. Dialing back or adding a lot of Bass and/or Treble does not sound out of place. Pulling back on Bass does not make it sound thin, nor boomy if cranked. Likewise, Treble does not sound harsh when up full, nor muddy if dialed back.

As for the Headphone output, I set the volume as low as it would go, it was that loud. Consequently, if you want to jack the Volume for some grit, it will be necessary to go through a headphone amp or another device with volume control (Hagerman’s Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier for serious audiophiles). Jim Hagerman added: “I (was asked) if it had an internal load for when headphones are used - it does not, because the amplifier is stable into any load, from zero to infinite impedance.”

For those wanting an Effects Loop, the Half Watt may fall short for some players and studio hacks. However, I can push all my effects into the front end and it sounds pristine. At $359 US, the Half Watt may seem pricey, but it is a hand-wired studio-grade tube amp whose price-point is in line with similar products. You do require a cab or IR, and on that note, most boutique-type combo amps made for practice or studio work certainly push the cost far higher. I think we have become so accustomed to all-in-one modelers, some of which are only $195 or less, that traditional (tube) gear seems too pricey, which is a fair argument. Eventually, it comes down to what tonal characteristics you want to hear over the ensuing years – an amp that is digital or analog… sterile or organic? That statement may upset many into modeling who claim they can get the same sound, and so, C’est la Vie.
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