Ross Fame 10 Combo
Perfection in Practice?
Is it possible? Can a guitar combo selling for under £65 be any good? IT finds out...
Making its UK debut at the British Music Fair, the Ross range of amps and PA mixers could well and truly set the cat amongst the pigeons. Price for price and spec, for spec., this Korean-made line-up of products looks, on paper at any rate, like offering unprecedented value for money.
The Ross brand name isn't new to us, of course. It's one of several lines emanating from the giant Texas-based International Music Corporation — the same people who are behind the recently launched Charvel Jackson range of guitars (as reviewed in IT issue 11). By and large (at least as far as the UK market is concerned) Ross products are designed and 'voiced' in the States by IMC's own development team and are then produced in Korea to their specifications. The result is, in principle, an American sounding product at a Korean price.
The importers of this latest Ross range (previous Ross items have tended to come via distributors JHS) are Audio Factors, who, being the parent company behind such respected names as Custom Sound and Fane, ought to know a decent product when they see one. Certainly they're convinced of Ross's credentials, having launched six different guitar combos and two bass models, plus umpteen mixers, powered mixers etc. etc. at one fell swoop. We'll be testing some of the Ross PA range in future issues, but for the time being (and ever mindful of the approach of Christmas — perish the thought!) we felt it was a good idea to start with the Ross amp that could make the perfect present for the younger player: the 10 watt Fame.
It's more appropriate to weigh the tiny, open backed Ross combo in ounces than in pounds. It really is a featherweight, standing about 12" square and 6½" deep. It looks good, too; very Fender-like in many respects, and it's well constructed, with a nice grained vinyl covering, glittery speaker grille cloth, very strong carrying strap, rubber feet and even metal corner protectors. Well constructed? We managed to drop ours quite a few feet, straight onto an armour plated reinforced glass window! The glass shattered, the amp worked first time!
Mains powered, the Fame comes with a generous length of flex. The speaker is a single 8", brand unspecified. All the controls are colour-coded on the front panel and comprise a rocker switch for normal/'tube blaster' (distortion) operation, a single 1/4" jack input socket, a gain section featuring Volume and Master, Eq controls (treble, middle and bass) and a headphone output. The (rocker) mains switch is status indicated by a large red light.
We'd briefly heard the Ross's sound during the BMF, but although it sounded impressive, that wasn't the place to reach conclusions. Once we got it back to the office, however, we were on home ground and capable of trying it with a variety of guitars, shooting for a wide range of sounds.
The first point to make is that it's loud — very! Despite its tiny size, the 10 watt rating must be some sort of American-Korean joke, as the little beauty fair hops up and down with glee as you wind it up towards maximum. Tonally, too, the Ross baffled our expectations. Tested with a Strat, the treble frequencies were reproduced like crystal, giving a sound which you could easily use for basic home recording purposes. True, it gets a hit 'boxy' as you go towards full volume, but nothing like as much as you'd expect it to. Moreover, the tone controls really do work. The middle and bass ones, often weak points on mini combos, thickened up the Strat's sound till it reached a very satisfying warmth. But even more impressive is the sound you can get from a cheap guitar when you wind the volume control up against the master. This runs progressively from a raunchy chord sound to a very convincing overdrive. O.K., it's not the sound you'd get from a top stage-size combo and it's not a Marshall valve stack — but it's ridiculously good for so little money and compares equally with far more expensive rivals.
Switch from 'Normal' to 'Tube Blaster' and what was already a distortion/overdrive that will work with the cheapest copy guitars becomes alarmingly good. Just for the of fun it, we tried the amp with one or two very expensive guitars and were mind-boggled to find that it managed to do them justice. But buyers of this great performer are most likely to own cheap guitars, and they're certainly not going to be disappointed by its sound. Even a foul old copy (left lying around the office for the IT Cat to sharpen his claws on) sounded pretty decent, and by the time we got to using even the most modest guitars the distortion provided a real thrill. There's no doubt that younger (and poorer) players looking for an authentic Rock guitar sound are going to love this overdrive, as are players who want something cleaner — the Fame is capable of both.
At a full RRP of £64.95 the Ross 'Fame 10' is the best outright value for money amplifier we've yet tried. It has volume, clarity, tone range and overdrive qualities way beyond what its price suggests is possible. Come Christmas, a reader hoping to find a new practice amp in their stocking really couldn't drop hints to Santa for anything more! For those who can't wait, go for it now. You won't be disappointed!
RRP £64.95 inc. VAT
Details of Ross products from Audio Factors, (Contact Details).
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