Traynor TS-20 Combo
Canada Dry YU KON hear it for miles
Canadian amp and PA manufacturers Traynor may not be the biggest selfpromoters in the U.K. but they certainly command a devoted following among a number of musicians over here. Back home, and in the U.S.A. they are big with a capital B, with a tremendous range of gear, selling in the sort of quantities which rival better known names (in the U.K.) like Peavey. Pricewise, looking at the current Traynor catalogue, they certainly seem to be capable of matching or bettering most imported amp lines, in fact their recommended retail prices actually undercut some of the better known British makers. In a quest to see how their products stand-up against more familiar lines, we borrowed one of Traynor's newest guitar combos, the TS-20, to put it through its paces.
Initially one has to admit that the little Traynor looks like it's been built to last. It comes clad in a grey covering, with a sturdy wooden frame equipped with metal corner protectors and rubber feet. If looks tell one anything (and they do, of course) then the TS-20 looks to be very well made for its lowish price.
Facilities on this amp are spartan, probably it's been designed for rehearsal/practice sessions, where high outputs of power (it's rated at 20 watts) aren't needed; although during our tests it led us to query the maker's power ratings as it performed well above the level for the average twenty watt transistor amp in terms of loudness, which was either due to high speaker efficiency (Traynor make their own drivers, by the way) or a deliberate policy of under-rating by the manufacturer. Certainly, in terms of perceived volume, the little TS-20 will out-blast most twenty watt guitar combos in its class.
The open backed combo sports no plug-in extras, merely affording you a glimpse of the 10" speaker with its square magnet assembly. The mains lead is captive, so that stows away in the bottom compartment but, oddly, despite the provision of reverb, this isn't carried down where you'd expect it, but is actually in the main amp compartment, within the amp's metal chassis.
Round at the front, the Traynor has large easily handled pot knobs for volume, bass, treble and reverb. There is also a master volume and two jack socket inputs for 'high' and 'low'. A speaker cut-out headphone socket is provided, along with a small red 'on' light and a white plastic mains switch. Overall the amp looks very substantial for a mere twenty watt rated combo, well up to a tough life in fact.
For our sound tests we used this combo mainly with two guitars, a Fender Strat and a Gibson 335-S. Sensitivity seemed well matched to both instruments so you'd be fairly safe buying one of these for most guitars as these two tend to represent both extremes of output power.
Tonally the Traynor was good, perhaps not quite as versatile as some of the latest combos on the market in that you are limited to just a bass and treble control, rather than one of the newer design types with parametric whatyoumaycallits and suchlike. However, the combo will satisfy most users as it can deliver a good variable sound, especially with the Gibson, we found (or was that our own prejudices showing?).
"THE SOUND PRESSURE LEVEL IT DELIVERS IS FAR MORE THAN MANY 20 WATT RATED TRANNY AMPS..."
The main thing to really hit home however, was the tremendously loud level of output from this amp. It only measures 17"x15"x8", weighs a mere 27lbs and yet the sound pressure level it delivers is far more than many 20 watt rated tranny amps seem to be capable of. For that reason alone it must be seen as very good value, especially for the younger player who needs every decibel of output sound that he can get.
On the infamous 'will it or won't it' question of distortion, well, yes, the Traynor TS-20 will distort, mainly by running the pre-amp level up against the master volume level, rather than over-running the whole unit at full output levels. When it does it produces a fairly good sustain/distortion sound — very reasonable when you compare it with many twenty watt combos and not at all bad for such a low price.
We'd be inclined, however, to really rate this combo more for players who need a clean, loud, guitar sound. Traynor offer a special circuitry in some of their larger models for more 'valvey' distortion (they call it the 'Tri-Comp' network system) and those players who really wanted that smoother valve-like distortion might do better to explore larger Traynors like the TS-25, which offers their specialised Tri-Comp effect. This smaller combo seems better suited for Country, Jazz and just plain clean guitar where it becomes, in comparison, very good value for money for the actual power and sound it delivers.
Based on this, Music U.K.'s first experience with a Traynor guitar amp, we're impressed with it and would look forward very much indeed to trying some of this manufacturer's larger gear. Everything on this amp (including the reverb circuitry) seems to perform very well and the sound is loud, strong and especially satisfactory when it's run clean. For occasional use the distortion sound of the pre/post gains isn't too bad and we would endorse it for any player who needed a good loud amp at a budget price.
Traynor quite obviously know precisely what they are doing and we now understand all the more why they have their followers over here. Well worth trying if this is the sort of price/size relationship which you need. Be prepared for a shock on its loudness, though — in that area particularly it's excellent.
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