ZT Lunchbox

Sunday, October 24, 2010| by Will Chen

For many of us, the huge stacks of the days of yore are overkill to the nth degree. We yearn for a compact solution for grab and go jams and the less than arena (ie coffee house and/or restaurant) sized venues we play. Others love the variety of dirtboxes and effects on the market and are searching for high headroom, clean targets for our aural debauchery. ZT amplification hopes to fill these needs with the ZT Lunchbox boasting the tagline: “The Loudest Little Amps in the World”. Let’s put that claim to the test!

The ZT Lunchbox is the size of…well, a lunchbox. I mean that literally, it’s a tiny fellow measuring 7.5" x 9.8" x 4.4" and weighing a diminutive 9.5 lbs. The silver finish and wire mesh grill are cute in an industrially utilitarian way alluding to cartoonish images of construction workers sitting on girders eating lunch out of a tin box. The top mounted control panel is stripped back including ambience, tone, volume, and gain controls while the back of the amp features an additional speaker output, headphone output, aux line in, and a switch to defeat the internal speaker. Marketing of the amp boasts a whopping 200 watts into the unit’s proprietary 6” speaker. That’s a bold claim…

I put the Lunchbox through the paces primarily using a SX SST57 with Rose Pickups and Highland Royal (335 copy) with GFS pickups. With the tone and gain controls set to noon and volume around 8 o’clock, the amp has a full mid range with great presence handling the chime of single coils and girth of humbuckers nicely favoring neither over the other. Impressive, as these two guitar are night and day tonally and I nearly always need to make fairly large adjustments when swapping between them. That’s not to say adjustments aren’t necessary to bring the best out of both guitars, but the tighter low end of the amp absolutely resists mud while a nice upper mid range clarity allows plenty of spank without ear piercing highs. I punched up the volume to see how loud the amp can really get and whether or not it’s actually pushing 200 watts of power is irrelevant as the ZT Lunchbox pushes way more volume than its tiny size appears to be able, more than enough for rehearsals and small gigs. Very impressive!

I must say, the ZT Lunchbox is an extremely impressive amp. Once you get past the awe of how much volume is coming from such a small package, you’ll find its putting out some solid tones as well.

Upping the gain on the Lunchbox results in a slightly raspy tone which I found a bit raw for my tastes while cutting the gain back too far resulted in flatter somewhat bland tone. Fortunately, there’s a rather large sweet spot between around 10 and 1 o’clock where the amp feels very dynamic and surprisingly punchy. The tone control also exhibits a wide range of usable tones from fairly deep and warm to biting sizzle. That being said, and despite a valiant effort performing far beyond expectations, the 6” speaker just can’t deliver the deep, full low end of a larger speaker. That’s not to say the amp sounds thin or weak, it just can’t deliver pants flapping bass. I hooked the external speaker jack up to a VHT closed back 1X12 cabinet to see how things faired with a larger speaker and the bass response was much improved. I also threw down pretty much every pedal I own in front of the ZT Lunchbox and it handled pretty much everything very well.

The last feature I’d like to touch on is the ambience control which ZT describes as an open back cabinet emulation. Well, to be honest I’m not entirely sure it accomplishes that goal. At minimal settings it seems to actually fatten up the sound a bit, but when increased some rather interesting phase cancelation and comb filtering occurs. It certainly is a unique effect and used sparingly does increase the tonal versatility of the amp. But I would of preferred ZT include a traditional reverb.

I must say, the ZT Lunchbox is an extremely impressive amp. Once you get past the awe of how much volume is coming from such a small package, you’ll find its putting out some solid tones as well. With a great balance of clean headroom and small size, I not only see it as a great grab and go option for informal and/or small gigs but a solid contender as a compact head paired with a larger cabinet for larger rooms or when a deeper tone is needed. It’s even small enough to use as a backup or as the clean side of a biamp scenario without significantly increasing the overall amount of gear one might tow to and from gigs. All and all, the ZT Lunchbox really is a marvel of amplifier engineering which I highly recommend checking out.

Price: ~$260
Pros: Big tones in a tiny package
Cons: Low end not ideal for some applications

Intro | Lunchbox | The Club | Head to Head

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Filed Under: ZT Amplifiers, Reviews