AXL Akita AT30

Sunday, August 31, 2008| by Will Chen

Guitarists have long been infatuated with the soft glow of tubes, we seem drawn to it like bugs to a porch light on a hot summer evening. Today, we’ll take a look at the Akita AT30 from AXL, and affordable tube amp with style.

The stained birch cabinet and vintage cloth grill of the Akita AT30 30 watt tube amp is super sexy. The top mounted gold control plate and retro radio styled knobs multiply the vintage cool factor of the amp exponentially. At 40 pounds, the amp is heavy enough to feel solid yet light enough for easy portability without casters or a dolly. As such, modern steal amp corner protectors would have been a nice addition, as I would hate to see such a lovely looking amp get nicked while clumsily loading into a gig. However, the amp does feature a sturdy metal grate protecting the innards of the open back cabinet.

Both of the amp’s channels share a single EQ consisting of the traditional high, mid, and low controls. Toggling between the channels can be accomplished via a switch on the control plate or by an additionally available footswitch. The back panel reveals a couple nice extras; an effects loop and speaker out. The amp’s glow is provided by a pair of 6L6 power tubes and a pair of 12AX7 preamp tubes. What? Only a pair of preamp tubes, that doesn’t sound right…Per the manual, it appears the first gain stage is solid state feeding a pair of preamp tubes which function as a second gain stage and phase inverter. Per Ashley at AXL, the solid state gain stage only exists in the AT20 and AT30 models and the AT40 and AT50 are all tube designs. I’m not an electrician, I’m a guitarist and what’s most important to me is how it sounds so let’s plug her up.

The articulate clean channel is extremely elegant providing a perfect balance of shimmer versus warmth. Working the tone knob of a First Act SFA Edition Sheena CE240, I was able to obtain a wide range of tones from biting country to Wes Montgomery style smoothness. Very, very nice. When the level is cranked, the amp grits its teeth revealing a nice crunchy tone perfect for classic rock bridge pickup work. Be forewarned, as the amp is extremely loud at this level. Loud enough to hang in a moderate sized club setting without a PA with volume to spare.

Channel two picks up where the first leaves off serving up a smoother overdrive at low gain settings transitioning into a sizzling modern tone which was totally unexpected based on the amp’s cosmetics. I found the best sounds with the gain around 40% to 60% and the level cranked eliciting a bit of power amp breakup. With a PRS SE Singlecut, the amp provided a classic chunky tone which eased into feedback beautifully. The high end can be a touch strident on this channel, when micing it up I found moving the mic off axis or micing from a distance resulted in the best tones.

The Accutronics Spring Reverb is “boingier” than I like and sounded best on very subtle settings which provided a reasonable shimmer without detracting from the amp’s tones.

This is one stylish amp with a exquisite clean tone and will certainly appeal to those whose style demands clarity over crunch or who love to defile pristine clean tones with a slew of stomp boxes.

Price: ~$450 USD
Pros: Excellent Clean Tones, Cool Vibe, Lightweight
Cons: Channel two high end can be a touch strident

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Filed Under: AXL Amplification, Reviews