It has been a number of years since Paul Smith and Doug Sewell started building amps together, and PRS now has a highly evolved line of heads and combos that sound excellent and hit the same level of boutique refinement that its guitars have always enjoyed. The 2 Channel Custom 50 combo uses the same amplifier as the head version of the same name, but it is stuffed into a closed-back cabinet that houses a single 12″ Celestion Lead 80 ceramic-magnet speaker. I like that PRS has changed from its previous method of securing the chassis via internal bolts (which were difficult to access) to a more conventional mounting system with the bolts going through the top of the cabinet and threading into captured nuts on the aluminum chassis. And since we’re here, note the amp’s handwired circuitry, which is laid out on three primary tag boards, with the pots, jacks, switches, and phenolic tube sockets all mounted to the chassis for strength and ease of servicing. The components, including carbon-comp resistors, large filter caps, and other essentials are high grade, and the extensive wiring is neatly done and has heat-shrink strain relief at critical connection points.
The birch-ply cabinet wears a handsome fascia of flamed maple, which, along with the gold script logo, looks cool against the black Tolex covering. The front-facing controls include a toggle for selecting channels, Bright switches for the Clean and Lead channels (each of which has its own set of Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, and Master knobs), and a pull mid-shift function on the Lead channel’s Middle control. At the far right is a Reverb control (pulls to defeat the ‘verb on the Lead channel) and a Presence knob that also pulls to turn it into a Depth control. The included 3-button footswitch provides control over channel select, boost, and reverb on/off.
The 2 Channel Custom 50 offers up great tones with little effort. The Clean channel does its own take on a classic Fender-style clean sound with yards of headroom. The reverb is sweet sounding and has that ability to sound like it’s an inherent part of the core tone whether you’re using just a touch of it or drenching your tones in drippy ‘verb a la Dick Dale. On this channel you can dime the Volume knob without incurring any significant distortion–making it ideal for preserving the sound of stompboxes–and it’s only when you also open up the Master and start getting the output tubes doing pushups that some grind comes into play. The volume, of course, is ridiculous at that point, and the amp does not have any other power-reducing functions to compensate.
No matter, though, as the Lead channel antes up an incredible range of overdriven tones at any volume you care to experience them at. Things begin at milder levels of distortion (such as you might get from a wicked-up non-master Marshall) as the Volume setting moves toward 9 o’clock, and from there, things quickly get more intense until the amp is pouring out torrents of juicy, harmonically engorged sustain at settings of 2 o’clock and beyond. The dynamic response is excellent, and it is almost always possible to pull back to a cleaner, but still very grinding, rhythm sound by turning your guitar down. This range is actually where some of the nicest overdriven tones lie, as the amp is simmering just below a boil, and those rich, gritty tones can easily be coaxed into feedback with the slightest adjustment of the guitar’s volume knob or by digging into the strings a little harder. But the full-tilt sounds are such a blast, too, with all that sustain to play with, and the footswitchable boost functions on both channels allow you to preset just how much volume increase is needed to lift a rhythm part or solo out of a stage mix.
The 2 Channel Custom 50 is an excellent amp that dishes out exactly what’s needed whether you’re playing ultra-clean jazz, blues, fusion, pop, hard rock, or metal. If you’re sniffing around the boutique market, and need an amp that can handle a tot of different situations, you owe it to yourself to give this highly capable combo a go.