Cougar CLX100 combo
Carlsbro started this trend for making simple, robust British amplifiers, functional gear that did the business without fuss, and at a fair price. Now Cougar are following in their footsteps.
The Cougar has two separate channels for either clean or fuzzy twangery; you may swop between them with the foot-pedal supplied with the amp. Clean Channel Two offers just a volume control, while dirty Channel One has both Volume and Overdrive. They each have their own Effects Send/Return loop, and reverb switching. Naturally, the CLX also has a Master Volume to set overall deafness quotient. Unlike some MV's I've come across, it keeps getting louder until the knob stops turning. Sorry? Yes, very loud.
The four tone controls are Bass, Low Mid, High Mid, and Treble. They work on both channels, which means it's not possible to have different settings for each. Ho hum, I thought, speculating that it was unlikely a good clean tone would also suit a nasty loud fuzzy sound. I was wrong. Obviously some compromise is needed, but it's perfectly possible to come up with a setting that's right for both channels. And the controls themselves really do make a difference - full up, they can even make the clean channel sound raucous.
Unfortunately the amp I reviewed had been the victim of some serious re-design work, which had left the speaker grille loose and rattling. Bzzzzz, it sent; grrrrr, I went. However, by thrusting my Doc Marten into the centre of the grille (and leaving it there) I managed to curb the most horrid of the farting noises. Potential buyers, I am assured, will not have to adopt such stringent measures to make their Cougars useable.
The footswitch isn't too brilliant. Firstly, when switching from fuzz (One) to clean (Two), the latter doesn't cut in until you've lifted your foot off the switch, which doesn't make for clean changes. Secondly, and less importantly, the front panel's footswitch Function Selector offers not only the usual 'either/or' and 'both together' options, but also One Only and Two Only positions. Should you accidentally choose either of these and then attempt to switch channels - hey presto, instant nothing. Take care.
I've talked with Cougar's distributors FCN about my complaints. It seems that an instant action footswitch would add £40 to the price, though they are exploring alternatives.
While I was balancing on the speaker grille, I did actually get the chance to listen to the CLX. It's thick-sounding rather than bright with a suitably wild and rackety distortion. The Accutronics reverb is nice and clear, and the whole lot goes out through the 12in speaker in an extremely loud way. And even though it's chunkily built, the Cougar's not gut-bustingly heavy. In fact, it would be a pretty good, simple, robust, and functional piece of equipment. When it worked properly.
Review by Jon Lewin
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