First impression of the RA100 Combo, try out at Guitar Center: First off, the RA100 manual will make sense now since it was primarily written for the combo and not the head version. It was still intimidating since I am too familiar with the RA100 head, where as the combo the chassis is inverted and backwards to me. I did have GC put the amp on hold for me and they did just that. Thank you to the personnel who reserved the amp for me. They set me up and I was ready to rumble. If I were a person looking for this type of amp but never had experience with it with a full understanding of its potential I would have walked away empty handed. At first I was baffled why the amp sounded so dull and boomy, it was actually awful and it did not take long to realize why
as the original owner loaded the amp with Mesa 6L6GC tubes. The Mesa branded Ruby tubes do not possess the same frequency response as will a Tung Sol 7581 or SED 6L6GC or even a different type that has commonplace tone to the RCA or Sylvania tubes of yesterday. Despite the poor choice in power tubes for this amp I bought it. This amp was in mint condition. No visible flaws anywhere. However, I was uncertain if the speakers were stock as the room I was in was a bit dark and the label on the speaker appeared different to me for a V30. When I got home with it, I struggled to get the behemoth into the home up a few steps, and then used a load cart to move it into the family room (amp did not have its castors with it).
I removed the back panel for inspection and to replace the power tubes. Yep they are V30's. All the preamp tubes were stock, installed SED EL34's closed it back up and got blown away how incredible the combo amp really is. I think I like it more than the head version (perhaps the ported panel makes a difference). The Hi/Lo gain channel was not as bright as the head version. I can actually boost the treble without being too shrill. This amp is EL34 perfection! I do not care if it sounds like a Mesa or Marshall, to me it sounds like an RA100 but better (if that makes any sense)
Recommendation to any new seekers of this amp without experience, try one out if you find one, if it lacks the mids and sounds a bit boomy (look at the back and see if the EL34 light is on, do not change the switch unless you are certain it has EL34!) the chances are the original owner wanted something different and installed 6L6GC tubes and sold it due to lack of interest.
Where it started and why I now have two RA100 amps:
At the beginning of last week I received a used Stiletto Deuce Stage 1 that I ordered online from Guitar Center. I did not bother to power it up with the supplied tubes with the exception of the power tubes and rectifiers. Upon first inspection of the amp, all of the preamp tubes were in need of replacement. All were Mesa Russian #2's and the one's in the cathode follower circuits had black getters, which is a sign they were running beyond their intended capacity. Also there was a circuit mod that sucked the low end completely and rendered the amp practically unusable as it served ice pick tones regardless of how the tone controls were set up. After researching the net (I was thankful to find images of a Stiletto Deuce Stage 1 of the preamp PCB to realize what was different) so I marked the locations where the mod was added (along with photos) just in case I had to re-install the mod. That really changed the character of the amp to a more reasonable tone. All of CH1 was acceptable, CH2 Fluid drive was amazing and the other two voices of CH3 were sub par but you could dial in a decent tone although they sounded muffled or blanketed. Since I never played though one it was a gamble non-the less if I was going to like it or not. I did not like it. Not that it was bad as the amp had some great character to it , however I am one who likes to take advantage of the different voicings the amp can offer. The down side, in order to appreciate the amp I would have to consider another 412 cab, not that I was against such but lacked to room to accommodate all the amps, drums, bass rig, and too many guitars in the studio. Had to consider if the Stiletto would be a love/hate relationship (as I have with the Mark V at times due to its brightness) or would it be something I could bond with an enjoy for many years to come. I definitely perceived a love/hate relationship as the amp would not get much use since I have a half stack Roadster and RA100. Before I ordered the amp on-line, I did visit the two stores in Raleigh NC (Sam Ash = reason I went since they had a Stiletto listed on their used list and Guitar Center). Sam Ash sold the amp a few days prior to my visit. I was bummed so I went across the street to GC and saw the RA100 combo tucked away waiting for a new owner. I did not consider it at the time, but I did inquire on Thursday this week if it was still available and it was.