Powering a modeling amp setup has been a constant challenge from the beginning of its existence. To use a tube power amp (which colors the tone quite a bit and precludes the use of different power amp sims within the modeler) which can sound great and add some organic analog sound to a possibly sterile-sounding modeler, or to use a solid-state amp which typically requires a great deal more wattage to equal the volume and headroom of its tube counterpart? A solid-state solution generally weighs a great deal less than a tube amp, but is it worth the tradeoff?
I’m sure that these were all things that Seymour Duncan’s R&D team were taking under heavy consideration during the development of their pair of PowerStage power amps. The 700 and 170 are both extremely well thought-out, and very hard to fault. It’s hard to capture the amount of air they can push in video form, but standing in the room with either one of them cranked is really something. It’s easily more volume than you could ever need, and even at full tilt, it didn’t seem like there was any distortion or clipping from the amps.
Simple is the name of the PowerStage game, with identical 4 knobs on each – Bass, Middle, Treble, Level – with the main differences being level of power available, mono vs. stereo, and output options. The 170’s output is limited to the single 1/4″ speaker out, while the 700 has 2 combo Speakon/1/4″ jacks, one for each side of the amp (each side puts out an identical 700w @4 ohms) as well as 2 direct outs with switchable built-in cab sims. They also each have power, clipping, and overheat warning lights.
The sound of the amps with the EQ at nominal is pretty flat sounding. It’s hard to compare when you’re going through a physical speaker cabinet vs. the sound of the preamp by itself, but it didn’t seem to me to color the tone at all. This is ideal for the sort of setup I usually run, which is a Fractal Audio AX8, with the power amp sim on. The sound of a tube power amp, simulated or otherwise, is crucial to the sound of the electric guitar, so when using a flat power amp like this one, you definitely want to be running some kind of power amp sound.
The price, direct from Seymour Duncan, is not bad at all for either of these – $399 for the 170 and $699 for the 700. For me, personally, it’s a toss up – the difference in volume output between them was negligible, and depending on your needs for a stereo rig (or running the rigs of 2 guitarists at once!) you could easily use the 170 for just about all the same needs. But either way, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t be totally stoked on using either one to amplify your modeling rig.