Roost SR100 Head & Cab
Roost 100 Valve Head & 300W 4X12 Cab
ROOST SR100 Valve Top plus 4 x 12 cab: Bird's nest scoop! 28
It might be argued, in this day and age, that the classic 100 watt valve head is really a bit of a dinosaur of an amp. After all, the majority of sales in the world's markets are undoubtedly of combos and most players seem perfectly happy with these amps, whether they be the ultra-luxury type like the Mesa Boogie, or something more modest from one of the many makers of 'bog standard' transistor jobs.
And yet there is still a mystique about the all-valve head/cab form. Countless bands stick religiously to them for their everyday work (especially amongst the professional heavy band brigade) and there must be something about the 100 watt valve head and its accompanying speaker cabs which makes it have a special appeal to the professional musician — so many still use them.
Part of that appeal lies in the sheer output power of a good valve amp and a matching 4x12 or two 4x12's. However good a combo may be it can never match the sheer audible volume and sound dispersion of a good 4x12 and, regardless of what sort of on-stage monitoring equipment you may be using, the ability to lean back towards your stack and feel the power of its output penetrating your very bones must have an effect on your performance.
A couple of years ago many amplification manufacturers were getting distinctly snotty about the head/cab brigade and it looked as if just Marshall and Hi-Watt would be left in any sort of serious production of this type of amp. Now, however (and possibly, mainly thanks to the heavy bands and their revival) several other manufacturers have come back into the picture, including Leeds-based Roost, who loaned us their very first sample of the new SR100 and matching 4x12 cab. Whilst Roost may appear like one of the smaller makers, the company's products can be assessed more accurately if one realises that they are part of the large Yorkshire-based public company Audio-Fidelity, who own, amongst others, Custom Sound and Fane. To buy a Roost is hardly, therefore, to be buying from some small maker who might go out of business any day!
The new Roost head offers a bear twin input (low and high gain) plus the tonal and volume controls which enable you to use it at various levels. Running along the front panel you find the twin inputs, volume, bass, treble, master volume and presence. The tones are graduated in cut and boost varieties; the presence, however, is rated on a scale of 1—10.
Round at the back of the extremely sturdily constructed plywood cased head, the Roost offers a plug-in variable output impedance selector, (definitely the safest way of switching, this) with an option of 4, 8 or 16ohms speaker outlets in twin jack socket form. Mains runs into the Roost by the standard modern I.E.C. mains connector and two fuses cover the safety aspects.
Overall the Roost head looks to be a really solid and professionally constructed unit. The corners are protected by the latest type of plastic end caps and there are recessed carrying handles, plus a top mounted strap for carrying the amp. Safety, in the form of metal grille protection, looks to be excellent and the overall impression is of a 100% professionally constructed amp with bags of inherent strength for a tough life on the road. To test the Roost out we also borrowed a matching 4x12 8 ohm cab from the makers. This matches the head in its very sturdy construction, the strength and reliability carried on even as far as the fitment of metal fronted Fane speaker grilles to protect the on-board four 12" speakers (from the same maker). Moving the Roost set-up around is relatively easy. Four good quality castors are provided for the cab, two of which lock with toe-operated brakes for stability on stage. The head and the combo both feature very nice moulded plastic end-grips which makes the job of carting these units around comparatively simple.
"...WE WERE VERY PLEASED INDEED TO SEE THAT ROOST HAVE DECIDED TO OPT FOR KT77 OUTPUT VALVES..."
On an electronic level, we were very pleased indeed to see that Roost have decided to opt for the excellent quality KT77 output valve for this head. EL34s are still a major choice for many amps but these valves are no longer being produced by their makers, Mullard, and the use of these expensive, very sturdy GEC KT77 valves is to be applauded. Many makers are still using up stocks of EL34's or, worse still, are using inferior imported Eastern European EL34 types which are, almost always, totally unsuitable for use on the road. At the asking price for this amp, the use of the rugged but expensive KT77 is a major plus point in its favour.
Tests on our Roost sample were carried out using a variety of guitars, mainly the Gibson 335-De Luxe solid which has more or less become our standard reference over the months. To make the test fairer, however, we also tried the Roost with several Japanese guitars to get a cross-section of its sound and responsiveness.
The first thing to note about the Roost, we found was its tremendous loudness. This is one of those examples of impressive speaker efficiency which has led us on MUSIC U.K. into some very odd waters of late (see the correspondence from Fane in issue 14 and this month's letters page).
No doubt that loudness is a combination of the traditional ability of valve amplifiers to sound louder (rated output for rated output) than solid state types plus the use of the Fane 12" speakers fitted into that robust cab. In our experience these new Fanes are certainly one of the more efficient speakers on the market are responsible for the impressive sounds produced by a number of the best amps on the market today. Their choice by sister company Roost might have been commercially obvious but Roost could hardly have chosen a more suitable speaker from any other source.
"...THE SOUND IS QUITE UNNERVING, YOU GET THE FEELING IT'S AFTER YOUR BLOOD!"
The Roost's sound is rather different from the traditional British 100 watt valve top of the Marshall school. It's a trap which far too many players have fallen into, to assume that any amp of this type will automatically sound the same as any other — it just isn't true. Side by side a Fender valve top, a Hi-Watt, a Vox and a Marshall will all sound quite different and that goes for this brand new introduction too. The main thing we noticed was a chord sound which must put this Roost up alongside the very top amps for the AC/DC attacking rhythm sound. The master volume circuitry enables you to get a really fat dynamic chord with immense balls in it at very low volumes and, as you wind-up the overall volume level, that sound smooths out till an ear-splitting titanic wall of power-chords begins to rush out of the speakers with an almost malevolent intensity — in a small-ish room the sound is quite unnerving, you get the feeling it's after your blood!
However, in gaining one thing you nearly always lose another and the pre/post gain control system doesn't seem overkeen on letting you get that smooth solo sound traditional to 1960's guitarists. This could well be a positive thing to players today who, after all, belong to a different generation and are after different sounds. This amp seems more designed towards aggression and power than gentle sweetness and that's fine because there would have been little point in Roost having built a clone valve head. Like all good units, this one has to be tried on its own merits, which are considerable.
This, then, is the justification for this new amp — that it has its own voice and that its 100% valve sound is geared towards the modern player who wants to sound like himself, not like a mere copyist.
Don't let anyone tell you that the day of the stack is over. Combos are cheaper and have their place for both professional and semi-pro guitarists, but there is a music for this type of amp and a player who needs it. If power, dynamics and an excellent build quality are what you need, if you know you need sheer muscle behind you on stage, and that this muscle can only be got from the natural advantages of valves over transistors, that you need a valve sound but a different valve sound, then this new Roost with its excellent speaker cab must be one to try. It deserves to succeed and we'll follow its career with fascination — it's a very significant introduction from this manufacturer, offers very good value for money and a tremendous sound!
Roost 100 Valve Head (RRP £299-95 inc.VAT)
300W 4X12 Cab (RRP £219-95 inc.VAT)
Review by Gary Cooper
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