When I was starting out on guitar a few too many decades ago, I’d sometimes spot used Sound City amps in guitar shops—and run the other way. It was solid-state crap—just the sort of stuff a shifty salesperson would try to unload on an ignorant kid.
And I was an ignorant kid. I had no idea that Sound City had made cool amps in the 1960s. Those original amps were created for and named after Ivor Arbiter’s London music shop. Playing catch-up with fellow retailer Jim Marshall and his bold new amps, Arbiter hired Dave Reeves to design competitive models. But not long after, Reeves moved on to create the historic Hiwatt brand, while Sound City amps slid into mediocrity.
Last year Steve Fryette and Neal Ostberg of Fryette Amplification acquired the Sound City name. The 30-watt 1x12 SC30 combo is their latest effort. It’s not based on a particular vintage model, but it definitely provides a mid-1960s playing experience, with an emphasis on power tube distortion. The SC30 doesn’t sound quite like an old Marshall JTM45, but anyone who digs “Bluesbreaker”-style amps should feel right at home here.
The ’60s amps that inspire the new Sound City line have separate bright and normal channels. Here, though, there’s a single input, with separate controls for the internally jumpered channels. There are bass, mid, and treble controls, plus a wet/dry knob for the amp’s juicy spring reverb. That’s it—pretty darn simple.