The PRS Sonzera is an affordable and versatile amp that could be used in many situations due to its versatility.
Although PRS is rightly known for its line of high quality guitars (both high end and budget models), they’ve proven in recent years that they know a thing or two about designing quality amplifiers. Although they offer some made-in-the-USA amps at a premium price, the company also has some affordable Asian-made amplifiers that offer incredible value. I recently took delivery of the Sonzera 50 combo and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.
The PRS Sonzera 50 Combo is a 50 watt amplifier with 2 footswitchable channels (“gain” and “clean”). The controls for the two channels are similar with drive, level, treble, middle, bass, reverb, and bright switch for the gain channel and volume, master, treble, middle, bass, reverb, and bright switch for the clean channel. There is a shared presence control for both channels. The back panel features an IEC power jack (why everyone doesn’t move to this standard is beyond me), effects loop, various speaker jacks, amp bias jacks, footswitch jack, and on/off and standby controls. The amphas a pair of EL34BHT power tubes and a single JJ ECC83S and three 12AX7AC5 HG tubes in the preamp section.
Since PRS is well known for its quality overseas manufacturing for its lower-cost SE models, I was wondering if that quality extended to the Asian-made Sonzera 50 watt combo that I recently borrowed for this review. The amp was just taken from the shipping box, and I have to say – the quality on this amp is really first rate. The tolex is tight and professional looking and the knobs and switches all have a really professional feel to them. I know that may not sound like much, but with “budget” amps, sometimes the corners get cut. With the PRS Sonzera 50, it feels like the amp was made-to-order with great care taken throughout. Now on to the sounds.
As someone who gets most of his overdrive/distortion sounds from pedals, I wanted to check out the clean sound first. If it can’t function as a “pedal amp,” them I’m not going to be interested. The Sonzera did not disappoint! For guys who want to use this amp asa platform for their overdrive pedals, the Sonzera really excels. Although the amp has a shared presence control, the other EQ controls as well as the reverb are independent, so it’s nice to be able to dial in a unique sound for each tone. This Doug Sewell-designed amplifier has a clean channel that is reminiscent of the best of American clean tones of years past – lots of clear, big headroom. Lots of chime, spank, and pedal-friendly goodness here. And it worked well with a wide range of guitars, both single coil and humbuckers. It was a little noisy at lower volumes, but not anything that would be a deal breaker
The gain channel certainly does not disappoint either. There’s plenty of gain on tap, and I found the various levels of gain useful. You can get good classic rock and blues sounds here by judicious use of the drive and level knobs, though it’s safe to say this isn’t an amp for modern metal players (check out the PRS Archon for that kind of vibe). It’s nice to have independent reverb levels since I liked having a bit more reverb with the clean sound than the gain channel.
The PRS Sonzera is an affordable and versatile amp that could be used in many situations due to its versatility. For players wanting an affordable tube “pedal platform” or rock/blues amp, the Sonzera 50 is an excellent choice.
Name of Gear: PRS Sonzera 50 Combo
List Price: $899.00
Manufacturer Info: PRS Guitars; prsguitars.com
Pros: Versatile and affordable; excellent “pedal platform”
Cons: A bit heavy; non-independent presence controls; no built-in power attenuation; clean channel can be a bit noisy