Tech21 Trademark 60

Strictly speaking I’m breaking the rules of the reviews board by doing a review of an amp that I’ve just acquired, but I had another of these amps back in 2012 and regretted selling it (it was a financial necessity at the time) so I figure it’s OK.

The Trademark 60 is a compact 60 watt 1x12 solid state combo.
pro quality solid state amps are starting to become more commonly available again, but for a while this and the JC120 were just about the only game in town.

New they are fairly expensive at getting on for £600, but then they are made in New York. Secondhand they go for quite a bit less and can be a bargain.
The build quality is equivalent to a decent mid range valve amp all the materials are good quality with chunky corner protectors, decent knobs and switches etc.

One thing to note is that there are two versions of this amp the first generation uses a custom sized driver which can’t be replaced and the v2 uses a standard sized Celestial Seventy 80 (they also have different shaped foot switches).

I think one thing that stands in the way of the popularity of these amps are the weird controls. It has controls called “bite”, “punch”, “weep” and “growl” which don’t easily map to controls people are familiar with on normal amps. In addition the shared “low" and “high” controls are active with a big sweep. All this adds up to making it an amp that isn’t easy to dial in without a bit of work. The other issue is that the shared EQ makes it tricky to get both channels sounding good at the same time.

Despite being a small amp it’s got quite a few features with 2 channels, boost, reverb and effects loop all being controllable from the foot switch (which sensibly uses a regular cable not a silly proprietary one).
Also increasingly rare in the mid priced amp world is a proper spring reverb for when you need some “boing” in your life.
Being a Tech21 product you also get a proper Sansamp out on an XLR meaning you don’t really need to worry about micing it up.

Channel 1 is the “Fender” channel. The “Bite” control is essentially a bright switch. With it switched off you get more of a solid state jazz amp type sound, but when engaged it’s into classic blackface. The “punch” control is the thing that matters on this channel and brings in more mids along with drive. (If you push the drive with the “punch” turned down it doesn’t really do anything.) As the punch gets wound up the character turns from blackface to tweed and you get some great dynamic biting drive sounds. I really wish you could just have two channel ones as this could easily be my clean and drive channel all in one.

Channel 2 is supposed to cover the rock sounds and it’s not something I’ve ever really been that excited about. The “growl” control is some kind of mid contour which never sounds like it’s quite dialled in right. The gain is thick and syrupy and doesn’t respond all that well to pick dynamics. The “weep” control just serves to remove yet more dynamics and so it’s only really gone on for the purposes of turning up my nose at before turning it off again.

The real problem of channel 2 is that it’s much bassier and darker than channel 1 so the shared EQ doesn’t let you get two sounds that work at the same time. The closest I got was to turn the “bite” switch off on channel one, but that’s too much of a compromise as it is what unlocks the magic on that channel so you just end up with two balanced but uninspiring sounds. Given that channel 1 takes pedals brilliantly it’s much easier to just stick a distortion into channel 1 and give up on channel 2 which is what I did.
Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8052
    edited July 2016
    In this section I’ll cover the amp “in use"
    The TM60 is quite a compact amp and it’s good looking so it’s an ideal unobtrusive living room amp. Being solid state the volume taper is very progressive and it has a headphone up.
    For live use it has a decent handle and is reasonably light weight so it’s great for smaller grab and go gigs. It does get reasonably loud so you’d probably get away with it at a smallish gig, but it has the expected small amp directionality, and lack of projection and low end. When you are really cramped it also has the bonus that the Sansamp output means that you don’t need to have a mic in front of it. One thing I really appreciate is that all the back panel connections point down into the chassis so you can leave all the cables in the back and put the cover on. Excellent when you need to set up quick.
    When it comes to filling a room I’d rate it ahead of say a Blues Jr, but it won’t keep up with a Blues Deluxe for example.
    A few years ago when I was warming up with one of these the studio before a practice session the owner came in and said “you can’t beat the sound of a small valve amp being pushed hard”. When I told him it was solid state he was really surprised and was duly impressed. You do seem to get quite a few people being critical of these amps on the internets, but I never had anyone have a bad work to say about it when I played it to them.
    For a single channel and pedals guy like me this amp works really nicely. If you set the clean channel just under break up it loves something like a Spark Boost to kick it into blues loveliness and a Riot gives you a massive rock tone which confirms why you don’t bother with channel 2.

    Competition
    There aren’t many amps of the size with the same feature set. The lower end Blues Cubes don’t have effects loops for example. I’d love a Blues Cube Hot, but these can be had for a fraction of the cost secondhand.
    I’ve owned quite a few lower end modellers and this has a serous edge in terms of projection and cut at a gig (something nearly all the low end digital stuff lacks) and ability to take pedals.
    Having owned a BluGuitar Amp1 the Tech21 is also streets ahead.

    There are a couple of variants of the TM60 which I’d be very interested to try. The amp was briefly available as a larger 2x12 and 4x10 version which is good if you don’t like the small amp sound however I’d be more inclined to stick with the small one and use an extension cab (of which more later). One feature of these amps is that they are the same chassis as the “Power Engine” so this is a really nice amp to use as the basis of a 120w 2x12 stereo rig which should cover most gigs with room to spare.
    The two amps I’ve always been most interested in are the TM120 and TM300 which seem to be absolutely hens teeth the 120 is a 120w stereo 2x12 and the TM300 is a 300w stereo head with the interesting thing being that both have 3 completely independent channels all of which can choose between the SansAmp California, Tweed and British voicing. Not only would these be great gigging workhorse amps they would also be great power amps for modellers via the FX loop.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8052
    edited July 2016
    Integrating with external kit
    One of the things which is often levelled as a criticism of these amps is that they have a fairly cheap Celestion (Seventy 80)  for an amp with a reasonably high RRP. I’ve seen a forum conversation which Tech21 were claiming that they don’t recommend upgrading it given that the SansAmp speaker emulation is always in circuit and much of the way that more expensive speakers differentiate themselves is in the character of the high frequencies.
    With that in mind I thought I’d do some experiments using my current gigging cab which is an oversized, closed back 2x12, with Greenbacks. Plugging in the TM60 the sound quality was instantly taken up a notch. The ability of a big cab to fill a room takes this from a small gigs only amp to something which could conceivably take on a mid sized venue. I really found myself grinning as I was giving the amp a thrashing with my DGT. It’s not just a good sound for a solid state amp it’s a great sound full stop. I did notice that compared to other amps the very high frequency content is missing. It’s mostly noticeable if you try and get a very bright funk clean this must be the Sansamp effect that the Tech21 rep mentioned.
    Given my findings it’s very hard to say if it would be worth upgrading the speaker in the amp. In my case I think I’d be more inclined to use an external cabinet as you then benefit from the low end as well as the upgraded driver (that said if you’ve got a V30 kicking about then by all means try it).
    The other thing I was interested in was how it handled being used as a power amp for a modeller so I tried plugging my Amplifire into the FX return. The first thing to note is that much like the JCA22H I currently use as a power amp the TM60 has no master volume post loop so you are always running wide open. Once you have ensured that you haven’t deafened everyone it works very well with the loop being late in the circuit ensuring that nothing is colouring the core sound of then modeller.
    In this case it was interesting to note that there was a substantial improvement in the quality of the high end detail when moving between the Seventy 80 and my Greenback cab. The Amplifire was running without speaker emulation turned on so there was no equivalent issue about the high end getting shelved before it hit the speaker.
    This does make me think that I probably would change the speaker if I was using a Power Engine rig with a modeller.

    In conclusion provided you understand the slightly eccentric layout of these amps and you can find a secondhand one at a decent price you really can’t go wrong as a home amp, a cheap gigging amp, or as a backup.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3299

    I gig'ed one in the Noughties for about 3 years. I honestly think they are the best sounding SS small amps on the market, or at least they were back then. I used the normal channel as my main drive and the other channel for cleaner, which is round the wrong way but that's how I preferred it. I couldn't get on with the drive channel for normal use

    The emulated output, as you might expect from Tech 21 is superb

    Not an easy amp to fix in as much as there's some fabrication on an actual PCB, so that's not surface mount it's a whole level worse and any failure there needs a new PCB. Pots, tranny and everything is good quality though

    Sold mine to Loverocker on the old forum, still miss it now
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6310
    Did a few gigs where the other guitarist used a Fender Twin or one of these depending on the venue. He used to set up with enormous levels of boost on his pedals and never used either amp as clean without a pedal. I don't think he used the second channel on the Trademark 60 at all. As far as I could see he used his pedals the same way on both amps, not something all SS combos would cope well with.
    Seems odd to me that tech 21 have never updated the Trademark amps to give them a relaunch and iron out some of the quirks.
    I feel the warm, healing, liquid presence of God’s genuine cold-filtered grace. 
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8052
    edited July 2016
    Did a few gigs where the other guitarist used a Fender Twin or one of these depending on the venue. He used to set up with enormous levels of boost on his pedals and never used either amp as clean without a pedal. I don't think he used the second channel on the Trademark 60 at all. As far as I could see he used his pedals the same way on both amps, not something all SS combos would cope well with.
    Seems odd to me that tech 21 have never updated the Trademark amps to give them a relaunch and iron out some of the quirks.
    Indeed 

    They could relaunch them as "character series" amps, or even do a lightweight class D amp and call it a "Fly Rig" amp. 

    They already do a bass amp based on the VT bass pedal.

    Seems overdue.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • BeexterBeexter Frets: 265
    edited July 2016
    I had one of these for a while and pretty well agree with all the comments already posted. Mine was an early version with the Tech 21 branded speaker (made by Eminence I believe).

    The clean channel is really, really lovely but I rarely used the dirty channel - if i wanted dirt, I just ran pedals in front on the clean channel.

    The shared EQ just doesn't work across both channels - get your sound as you want it on channel 1 and it'll just be wrong on channel 2.

    Having said that, the master bass & treble EQ controls are active, so capable of boost and cut with 12 o'clock being neutral and they work great if you just stick on one channel.

    One thing that annoyed me was that if you plugged in an extension speaker (there is a dedicated socket on the rear), it defeats the internal speaker. The Roland Cube 60 & 80XL can add an extension speaker whilst keeping the internal speaker active which helped getting a bigger sound.

    Rarely needed to run an extension speaker though - it was usually loud enough unmiced for gigs and of course, you have the built in Sansamp for running direct to the board if necessary.

    The only known issue with these is that the effects loop sockets can oxidise causing the sound output to become intermittent. Fixed by some switch cleaner or by permanantly running a jumper cable between send output and return.

    Certainly one of the nicest SS amps I've played for cleans and at the prices they go for used, are a real bargain. 

    It was the regular gigging choice of the late, great Les Paul himself so definately capable of some sweet tones.........
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6310
    Tech 21 do a powered extension cab, their choice for making it bigger and louder - perhaps defeating the internal speaker when you plugged into the extension speaker socket was their plan to sell more of those!
    I feel the warm, healing, liquid presence of God’s genuine cold-filtered grace. 
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  • LozboyLozboy Frets: 35
    Thks for the great review,I have always wondered how peeps rated the larger versions.I have the 10watt version of this and it is great.I crank it up and have it on a chair infront me.This gives the same experience of having a larger amp in the room.
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8052
    Cheers dude glad you enjoyed
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • duotoneduotone Frets: 189
    Got the baby brother & I love the spring reverb on it...I assume yours has the same?
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