REVIEW > JACKSON AMPWORKS
Punch and Crunch
With the bridge pickup selected, the tone
knob set to 3 o’clock, and the amp’s volume
knob at 2 o’clock, the vintage output of
Seymour Duncan ’ 59 pickups kept things
plenty clean and snappy for country licks.
But it’s easy to squeeze a little more grit out
of the NewCastle by digging in harder—
this is a very touch-sensitive circuit. And
when you want to hear your unadulterated
guitar tone through a set of glowing EL84s,
simply turn the very effective tone control
all the way to the right, which bypasses
the tone section of the circuit entirely.
Simple—and simply nasty with the right
axe and the amp volume cranked.
The Jackson makes it feel effortless to
use your guitar knobs to control the breakup and tone. Rolling the guitar’s volume
knob back yields the predictable reductions
in gain and a very slight treble roll-off. But
rolling back the tone knob and switching
to the neck pickup gave me a slightly dark,
John Scofield-inspired AC30 tone full of
texture with plenty of sustain for more
aggressive solo excursions.
Pros: Hyper-responsive to touch and guitar controls.
Sweet, juiced-up vintage tone. Excellent build quality.
Light and compact.
Jackson Ampworks NewCastle, $1,495 street, 1x12 cabinet $850 street, jacksonampworks.com
Cons: Delicate covering. Pricey.
Ease of Use
Cranking the volume to 4 o’clock put
me in crunch heaven. Jackson touts the amp
as a platform for clean tones and pedals,
but I found myself spending a lot of time
generating very big tones with the Les Paul
plugged straight in. Even as the NewCastle
gets more forward sounding and aggressive,
it rarely gets muddy or loses the capacity to
cut through a mix. And if you’re looking for
a creamier lead sound, simply roll back the
guitar’s tone knob a tad to round off some
edges without losing texture or detail.
The NewCastle’s chimey, three-dimen-
sional voice fills a room with the sort of
acoustic airiness that makes the amp seem
nearly transparent at times. And this is the
real beauty of the Jackson—it’s so easy to
dial in a gorgeous tone that you tend to
tinker with gear less and just let the cre-
ative juices flow. The NewCastle puts little
between you and your sound, and its big,
musical soul gives back what you put in,
whether it’s fat, sustaining chords or sweet,
ambient picking. The amp, as advertised,
is a great blank slate for pedals too, if you
really want to expand your sonic range.
But as you come to know the NewCastle,
you’ll appreciate how well it synergizes
with you as a player. And this amp could
leave you surprised at how much dynamic
range and drive you can generate using
just your fingers.
152 PREMIER GUITAR JUNE 2012