Guitarists May Now Have a Viable Ultraportable Amplifier at a Reasonable Price: Matrix Unveiled the Vintage British 800

Since I’ve been playing a lot of bass lately I’ve started doing research into tiny, ultraportable solid-state class D amplifiers like the TC Electronic RH750, Aguilar Tone Hammer 500, and Warwick LWA-1000. I’ve always been a valve guy, and couldn’t imagine not having a set of glowing tubes in my main amp… and yet, sometimes you have to get on a plane. Or you want to go jam with some new musicians and don’t want to load the big amp into a van. And perhaps you want a small, reliable backup amp.

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It’s a tougher proposition on guitar though. This is my personal preference, but even with all the Kempers and Fractals running free in the wild I still have found that for venues the size of clubs you just can’t beat the thickness and presence of a tube power section. For bass, it may be optional or preferred, but on guitar it tends to be crucial. Then there’s the added hit to your wallet: a portable solid-state bass amp like the ones I listed above will run you less than a grand, which is nowhere near the cost of a quality modeller and a power amp to match it.

Well, Matrix are attempting to flip the script on us. You may be familiar with the company: often if an Axe-FX is rackmounted with a 1 or 2-space transistor power amp you’ll find the matrix logo on it. Yet now Matrix is making a dedicated guitar amplifier, preamp and power amp included. They’ve named it the Vintage British 800, and given it a Marshall-esque paint job to match. The preamp has a few tubes in there but the power section remains solid-state: up to 420 watts of class A/B amplification. And the price is a very reasonable $750.

But one potential deal breaker… only one channel? Seriously?

  • Number of Channels:  1
  • Pre-Amp section:  x2 ECC83/12AX7 valves
  • Tone Controls:  Passive (Bass, Mid, High)
  • Power Section:  Class A/B MosFet SMPS powered delivering
    @ 16 ohms: 150W
    @ 8 ohms: 300W
    @ 4 0hms: 420W
  • Dimensions:  11.8” x 7.09” x 3.15” (wxdxh)
  • Tone Controls:           Passive (Bass, Mid, High)
  • Weight:            1.8kg / 4lbs
  • Supply Voltage:            110v/230v +/- 15%
  • Average Supply Current:            5A/2.5A (Full Load 110/240v)
  • Mains Connector:            10A IEC
  • Input Impedance:            1M ohm
  • Effects Send:            3K ohm
  • Effects Return:            10K ohm
  • Effects Send Level:            0v – 1v (0 to +6db)

Rob Chapman of Chapman guitars, along with his posse, took a look at the amp recently. I’m including that clip instead of the two Matrix provided, since we’re all red-blooded metalheads and single coil guitars into low-gain channels aren’t relevant to our interests.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.