The word Archon is a Greek word that translates roughly to “ruler” or “lord”. I think that this may be an indication that PRS was aiming pretty high when they decided to make their first high-gain metal amp head.
I don’t think, however, that the name is an overreach. I honestly think that the Archon is one of the best amp heads for metal on the market today. It’s an amp that sounds like it fits in perfectly with the other metal amps you know and love, but stands out strongly with a unique voice.
The website text for this amp boasts its “extreme flexibility” – I actually dispute this point, and counter that its lack of flexibility is one of its strongest points. A flexible amp is something like the KSR Artemis, the Marshall JVM, or a Mesa/Boogie Mark V. Each of these amps is loaded with controls, EQs, multiple effects loops, programming options, 3+ channels, digital switching and footswitch programming – in short, the works.
The Archon needs none of this. You could spend all day dialing in a tone on one of the aforementioned and still not be happy, thanks to the option paralysis that they can inflict you with. I love tweaking out on amp controls, and spending some time dialing in a sound I like is a very satisfying experience – but that’s only when an amp needs to be tweaked that much.
The Archon is as simple as it gets for metal amps. The EQ section is stark. Bass, mid, treble, volume per channel, universal depth/presence controls, 2 master knobs. I’ve used it for 3 demos now, and I tell you this – it sounds good no matter how much you suck at dialing in tones. This is because the core sound of the amp is great, and the knobs are just there to gently shape the sound – not create it.
This means that the amp is also not particularly variable. I think this gives it a distinct identity of its own, rather than allowing you to imprint yours on it – a bold statement in a world where individualism is king. It stands on its own merit, a master of its domain – a ruler.
I found the best way to get more variation out of the tone was with a flexible OD pedal, if you decide you need more options. I used the EarthQuaker Palisades for the demo, just to get it to scream a little bit more.
The clean channel also smokes most of the classic metal amp cleans by a long shot. I had no problem getting an extremely clean sound even at high volume, which many metal amps just neglect to get right. Being a metal player in 2015 means having a more diverse palette of sounds, and this means having a solid clean tone at your disposal.
The PRS Stealth 4×12 cabinet we used for the demo is solid as hell. We tested the different speakers at the studio with an experienced engineer to get the perfect sound, and we discovered that they were matched extremely well to each other – something a lot of cab builders fail to take into account. If the speakers within an amp are not matched well (even the same make and model of speakers each have variations) then the amp as a whole will suffer.
Spend some time with the amp as I have, and you’ll likely fall in love with it the same way I did. I honestly never would have guessed that in 2015, Paul Reed Smith (the one your Dad knows about thanks to Santana) would be a leader in the pack for metal amps.
I think that metalheads are gonna love this amp for all applications, and you can look for it in more Gear Gods demos to come. If you want to try a metal amp that’s set and forget, with a sound that is all its own, the PRS Archon is a great choice.