better than any other guitar. I spent some
time just playing chords and listening to the
balance across the spectrum. I turned up loud
again—not as loud as before, but loud enough
so I was hearing more amp than guitar. With
the Mix knob on the guitar turned to iBeam
only, a hint of brittleness crept in, but I was
able to shave the highs back and compensate.
With the Mix rolled all the way to just the
ribbon transducer, it was much warmer and
woodier. With the Mix knob in the middle, the
tone was warm and incredibly detailed. There
is nothing missing from the mix, nothing harsh
or nasal or muddy about it.
So here’s the big newsflash: The SanGreal
gives you exactly what you give it, in much
the same way a Bose L1 does. If your guitar
sounds like crap, it’s not going to do you any
favors. If your guitar sounds great, turn it up!
Then again, if your guitar sounds like crap,
you’re probably not going to be interested in
a high-end boutique amp.
Next up was my Gallagher A- 70 (rosewood
auditorium), which has a passive K&K Western
Mini pickup. I was treated to the aural
equivalent of melted dark chocolate—rich,
dark, smooth and irresistible. I played for a long
time, just listening to what sounded exactly like
my guitar only bigger and louder, every detail
of it. I didn’t have to dial anything in or out, the
EQ stayed flat.
I pulled out a nylon string next, a JD Guitars
Double Forte with a spruce top and rosewood
back and sides. It also has a K&K Western
Mini installed. Again, I left the EQ flat and
found myself swimming in lovely, rich acousticy
goodness. Clear, present, detailed, warm but
lively, yet clean as an operating room.
Most acoustic amps are nearly worthless for
playing electric guitars through, but this one
had me curious, so I plugged in my Telecaster.
The neck pickup was warm and smooth, a
very useful tone for ballads or jazz. The bridge
pickup was a little too harsh for my ears, but
maybe just fine for others. The blend between
the two was a little midrangey for my taste,
too, but it was not a bad sound. But this is an
acoustic amp, so that’s not exactly a minus.
SanGreal’s design team leader, Gene Juall, says
there are some artists now touring with this
amp, an acoustic and a Telecaster. I believe it.
Out of pure curiosity, I grabbed my electric
fiddle, a Yamaha Silent Violin. Yes, I know this
is not Premier Fiddle, but stick with me here,
there’s a real method to my madness. If the
SanGreal can take a very nicely sculpted stick
of wood with a pickup and no body and make
it sound like an old master, we know we’ve got
something wonderful. And it’s not bad, not bad
at all. Considering I never practice, it sounded
pretty darn good. I dialed out a little harshness,
boosted the bass, which added some body and
creaminess, shaved the mids back and found
a really nice woody-bright tone that kept me
fiddlin’ until my bow arm threatened to fall off.
Last but not least, my son plugged his digital
piano in and treated me to some Harold Bud
and Brian Eno-style ambient sounds, which I
have to say was a wonderful and relaxing way
to finish writing this review. It sounded like a
very nice small grand piano, really very live and
woody. He didn’t think the reverb was quite
dramatic enough, so he plugged a Fishman AFX
Reverb into the effects loop, which allowed him
to dial in a beautiful cathedral verb.
The direct out on the unit is real slick. The
speaker is so accurate and colors the sound so
little that you can send exactly what you are
hearing to the board and have the audience
hear you exactly as you want to be heard. This
kind of control and flexibility is remarkable.
There is an extension cab available now, and
Gator makes a bag that fits the SanGreal
like a glove, the GPA-700, with wheels and a
retractable handle, for a reasonable street price.
The Final Mojo
This is a versatile piece of gear, and extremely
user friendly. All of the guitars I own (and two
I don’t) sounded fantastic through it. If you
are a multi-instrumentalist, you could use this
for pretty much every acoustic instrument you
play, including keys and fiddle. Singers will
have no complaints about the vocal channel,
either—let me assure you, the headroom can
take it from a whisper to a scream. With 400
bi-amped watts that seem extremely efficient,
there aren’t a lot of gigs this puppy won’t
handle. Yes, at 42 pounds it’s not a contender
for easiest piece of gear to deal with, but it’s
a hell of a lot more convenient than lugging a
complete PA system around for a single artist,
and it’ll do the job at least as well.
versatility, pure tone and serious
power are important to you.
you need more than two inputs or
never play any gigs where you need
this kind of power.
Click here to hear sound samples of
the amp in action at
Optional tube preamp $495