Quilter Labs is known for their use of Class D amplifier technology, also known as “switching amps.” These aren’t your more common transistor or even vacuum tube amps we’re talking about here, but a whole different technology. The reason this is important to know before heading into our review is that in order to fully understand the MicroPro Mach 2, and how such a little amp can pack such big sound, we have to understand that we’re dealing with a different beast than transistor or tube.
While many of us out there probably don’t know much about Class D amp tech, chances are we’re all carrying some of that in our pockets right now; the speakers in our cellphones are driven by Class D amplifiers. The technology is also found in hearing aids, home theaters and even car audio systems. The reason for this is simple: Class D amps are able to deliver more power more efficiently at a lighter weight, perfect for portable equipment and other gear where power efficiency and low heat are paramount. It’s also a far more complex type of amplifier with more stringent regulatory requirements – one of the reasons why amp manufacturers haven’t adopted the system as widely as you might expect. But since we’re talking about amplifiers here, tone is king. So, how does the Mach 2 8” Combo stack up?
The first thing that you’ll notice with the Mach 2 is obviously its small size and light weight – 19 lbs. to be exact – making it a very attractive portable friendly amplifier. But don’t confuse this for a practice amp; the Mach 2 comes boasting all the features you’d expect from a full-sized stage amp including six amp voices, EQ controls, five types of gain boosts, reverb, tremolo, an extension speaker output, effects loop send/return, phase toggle, optional footswitch operation and more.
The Mach 2 also features two channels that can be used either simultaneously or separately, each with their own independent Gain and EQ, opening up a wide range of applications – perfect for those looking for an amp that can cater to their creativity. While channel 1 will be used as your main guitar input and grant you access to the amp’s entire catalog of features and controls, channel 2 boasts a dual ¼” XLR input and can be used for either vocals or another guitar. If you decide to spring for the optional footswitch, you can operate in what Quilter Labs calls "Channel 1/2 Mode," allowing you to use the second channel and it's independent settings as a versatile clean preset while having channel 1 handle all the dirty work.
Even fans of boutique tube amps will be amazed at what this little combo amp can do. Out of the six different amp voicings, each had their own signature appeal and best of all, sounded great! The more time I spent experimenting with different sounds and settings, the more I began to see that the Mach 2 was made for boutique vacuum tube fans through and through, despite not being one.
Want smooth EL-84 type gain? Full Q has you covered. How about that well-known British overdrive? It's in there thanks to the Lead voicing. Surf will give you a bright and clean sound with crisp American-style 6L6 breakup. Brown meanwhile will yield a full range, high gain tone with a nice, crisp breakup while Tweed will deliver a smooth vintage overdrive with a small-cabinet tone balance.
Plenty of classic tones and best of all, it does so without many of the problems inherent with vacuum tubes. While tube amps need some amount of time to warm up, the Mach 2 is ready to go pretty much instantaneously. While tube amps require a certain amount of volume in order to produce their signature warm, smooth overdrive and feel, the Mach 2 can perfectly recreate a similar amount of depth and richness even at significantly lower levels. And best of all, it does so in a much smaller, lighter and durable package.
The Quilter Labs MicroPro Mach 2 8" Combo takes the best sounds of legendary tube amps while taking advantage of today's Class D technology to deliver a beautifully realized piece of gear that masterfully blends the best of the traditional while embracing the progress of modern advancements. While you might get funny looks setting up this admittedly small amp before a gig, once you're done with your set, the only stares you'll be getting is that of amazement of everyone's face. The newest phase of amp technology is here -- and it's worth plugging into.
Hear the MicroPro Mach 2 for yourself in this overview by Quilter Labs: