Given its very Fender-like design, it seemed
only natural to test the Rocket 22 with a recent
1963 Stratocaster NOS from the Fender Custom
Shop’s Time Machine series. I plugged straight
into the clean channel (on the full-power setting)
with the tone controls set flat and was immediately impressed by the amp’s sparkle and headroom—particularly given its relatively low power.
The clean channel was wonderfully responsive
and seemed to pick up nuances from the fingertips that evade lesser amps. To say the least, the
clean channel was very musical and dynamic.
At times, the Rocket 22 seemed a bit bright.
At first I attributed this to the Strat’s single-coil pickups, so I pulled out a 2009 Gibson
Custom 1963 ES-335 Historic equipped with
BurstBucker 1 and 2 humbuckers. This Gibson,
which through any amp is a bit darker than
a Stratocaster, still sounded just a hair reedy,
even with the tone knobs rolled back a bit. But
turning the amp’s bass way up and the treble in
the opposite direction tamed the high end and
brought the amp alive, allowing it to accent individual note detail and demonstrate great sensitivity when playing complex arpeggiated chords.
The spring-based reverb sounded smooth and
gorgeous at all volume levels. And even on the
most intense reverb settings, chords and single-note lines alike were clear and well defined. The
presence control was much more subtle—not so
noticeable at low volumes and adding just a hint
of a boost at louder settings.
In the 12-watt, half-power mode I admired
how the amp broke up nicely without being
excessively loud—an especially handy attribute
for apartment dwellers and guitarists who play in
small clubs. With the volume turned up about
two-thirds of the way, the Rocket had the beautiful, but aggressive bark of an old Fender tweed.
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