Carlsbro Rebel Combo
The Rebel 12 is one of a new clutch of combos, heads and cabinets debuted by Carlsbro at the recent British Music Fair. Like most of the newcomers this compact, light-enough 90W combo presents a well-constructed cabinet (open-backed in this instance) finished in hi-techy grey vinyl and the familiar chunky black corner protectors. Attractive if not overly butch.
Behind the removable speaker grille sits a single 12in Celestion speaker. Unassuming in appearance this one; not the hint of an aluminium cone to be seen.
A trip along the silver-grey front panel takes in master High and Low Gain inputs, elementary Channel One controls of a single Gain knob with 'pull bright' facility and a dedicated FX Send and Return Loop (the second FX loop common to both channels is located on the rear panel). Next is the Channel Change input (flanked by its LEDs) for use with the electronic footswitch supplied, which has its own LED to indicate when Channel 2 is selected. There is no on-panel switching so without a footswitch you're permanently in Channel 2.
Channel 2 has variable Overdrive with 'pull drive' boosting the dirt by 10dB across the range. Adjacent to this is Gain, this time with a 'pull-smooth' feature. This has an effect akin to throwing a light blanket over the amp, rounding off the sound, dropping some highs and setting you up as a dead-ringer for Clapton in his John Mayall days.
Master EQ is kind of interesting. To the left of the passive and somewhat subtle-in-their-effect bass, middle and treble controls is a pre-set EQ switch. Pushing this in gives a pre-determined setting approximating, to my ears, to bass and middle at three o'clock, treble around lunchtime. Whether it's particularly useful is debatable. If you decided it was, you might then feel it would have been a good idea to throw in an LED to show whether it was IN or OUT, and/or make it footswitchable.
Reverb is courtesy of Accutronics. It works well, keeping the sound fairly forward even on maximum, can be remote-switched and a nice touch is the inclusion of two switches to select Reverb on neither, one or both channel(s). Next and last are a DI output, Master Volume and Power ON indicator.
The rear panel includes Mains ON/OFF and socket for the detachable lead, Line Out to additional power amps, twin outputs for extension speakers, and a headphone socket which, when used, disconnects the speaker. The Owners' Manual includes a useful reminder about the need to stick a stereo jack plug into the Phone socket before using extension speakers. This is because the power amp is already fully loaded by the Celestion.
Amp makers these days turn out some pokey little buggers don't they? In ascending categories of quiet, reasonably loud, loud, very loud and 'pardon?', the Rebel 12 comes pretty close to the last - particularly on Channel 2. DBs aren't everything though and, happily, judicious juggling of Overdrive, Gain (their respective pully bits) and Master Volume will provide almost-clean through to out-and-out filth at pretty much any volume. Overdriven, there is a hint of 'fizz' but even flatout (or as near to those limits as the review environment would permit) the sound retains the identity of power chords without deteriorating to a brainless mush.
The main and probably only real criticism of the amp is the difficulty I found in satisfactorily balancing the master EQ for common operation on both channels. As mentioned, it's fairly subtle and Channel 2 benefits from some treble boosting. Switch over to Channel 1 though, using 'bright', and the treble rips your ears off. Simple you say - switch off 'bright'. Not the answer really - Channel 1 bright-less is rather flat and unexciting. So the compromises appear to be either an over-bright Channel 1 and OK Channel 2, a slightly dull Channel 2 and OK Channel 1 or change pick-ups and tone settings on your guitar when switching. The best solution I found was to whack the master EQ all round to max, use Channel 1 with 'bright' and backoff a bit on the guitar tone-pots as appropriate.
The Rebel 12 is definitely an amp for the blues merchant and heavy-rockist. Its controls are biased to these styles and most nuances of the overdriven genre are there for the finding. The clean channel is adequate but even given the somewhat undue treble boost in 'bright' mode, the sound remains rather hard and not entirely sweet. At just a tad over £300 though, probably under when it comes to lobbing out the cash, and with lots of useful features for your money and power to spare, the Rebel 12 represents good value and should hold its own well enough in the increasingly crowded UK-produced combo amp market.
Review by Jerry Uwins
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