Let me provide a bit of a disclaimer prior to starting this review. My Tech 21 Trademark 60 is one of the oldest pieces of gear I own. I first saw the Trademark 60 around 10 years ago when shopping for a smaller option to replace a Roland JC 120 which I had been gigging. My primary goals were channel switching, a nice big bottom end, and enough volume to gig without sound reinforcement. I had been auditioning a bunch of different amps such as a first generation Line 6 Flextone (a very short lived purchase), reissue Fender Bassman (nice but a bit too big and loud), and various solid state amps when I could find them. I had used a Sansamp GT2 with my JC120 with satisfactory results and when I saw the little Trademark I was very eager to try it out. Upon plugging in for the first time, I was immediately blown away by the big sounds coming from the small amp and decided to take it home and give it a run through and have had her ever since.
The Tech 21 Trademark 60 is a USA made, solid state, dual channel amp with shared controls for high/low EQ and Accutronics® 6-spring reverb with individuals controls on each channel for gain and volume. Channel 1 is the “clean” channel which additionally includes a bright switch and a punch control which is a secondary gain stage focused on mids. I placed the word clean in parenthesis as this channel is capable of a ton of gain, more on that later. Channel 2 is the dirty channel offering up British styled grind including a weep switch (supposedly emulating cranked amp sag) and growl knob which when turned past noon boosts both the treble and bass and when dialed back seems to cut them (or perhaps boost the mids, hard to tell exactly what’s going on in the circuit). The feature set is rounded out with a headphone jack, speaker emulated XLR jack with ground loop switch, foot switchable effects loop, and up to 9db of foot switchable clean boost for solos. You can also link the reverb to the boost switching if desired. As the name implies, the amp delivers 60 watts via a custom labeled 8 ohm 12 inch speaker (newer runs are fitted with a Celestion Seventy80) by a speaker jack which can be disconnected to feed a larger cab if desired in an open cabinet design. Cosmetically, the Trademark 60 is gorgeous with a wheat grill with white piping providing a great contrast to the black tolex. At approximately 35 pounds in a nice and compact enclosure, this is an extremely portable amp perfect for fitting into an empty seat in a small car.
As mentioned previously, Channel 1 is the cleaner channel and has two very distinct voicings (with a huge range of textures in-between) controlled by the bright switch. Disengaged, with the gain set to less than 1 o’clock, the Punch control at minimal settings, and the master EQ both set to noon you have an incredibly warm and smokey jazz tone reminiscent of Wes Montgomery and early George Benson. Engaging the Bright switch extends the high end significantly and tightens up the bass considerably and, based on different combinations of the gain, punch, and master EQ, is capable of some very convincing Blackface Fender tones. With these settings, the amp has a bit of a reputation for being able to deliver a convincing SRV type tone. Jumping over to the Channel 2 and the tones are thick and creamy with a tonality somewhere between the compressed cranked Vox tone of Brian May and 70’s era Marshall amps. With both the gain set to noon and the growl to around 1 O’Clock, the tone is versatile enough to cover pretty much anything from blues to hard rock based on the guitar used and master EQ settings. Cranking both the gain and growl up close to the maximum settings and you can even get some classic metal sounds ala early Metallica or Iron Maiden. The weep button is the only feature on the amp which I just don’t get. It appears they were intending to try and emulate cranked tube amp sag, but engaged the amp’s response is overly compressed and muddy and in all the years I’ve had the amp I’ve never found a situation where I’ve found it useful.
I’ve played this amp with more guitars than I can remember in a huge variety of settings from using headphones while my kid is sleeping in the next room to playing 500 seater clubs and everything in-between and I must say she’s never let me down.
While the amp has some incredible tones on tap, it’s not without its faults. Due to the radically different voicing of the channels when using the bright switch on channel one and shared EQ, tonal compromises sometimes have to be made in order for both channels to be useable with either Channel 1 sounding a bit thin and strident or channel 2 sounding muddy. Of course, if you don’t use the bright switch this isn’t an issue but then you miss out on some very cool tones. This is where a bright switch rather than the fairly useless Weep switch on channel 2 would be extremely useful. The amp is also freakishly resistant to feedback. I can only recall a handful of occasions when I was able to get any feedback out of the amp and that was at very high volumes. I think this is due to part of the Tech 21 sound which is to filter out some of the high end of the amp which is kinda a blessing and a curse. A curse in that if you like a really active high end with a bunch of harmonics you’ll never find the tones in this amp. On the other hand, if you like smoother top end things may be perfect for you and as the speaker emulation circuit is always on the direct output sounds uncannily similar to the sounds coming off the speaker.
She’s provided me years and years of solid service but is finally in need of some minor repairs as the effects loop has become a bit wonky causing the signal level waver a bit. This is a common issue among long time users and is said to be easily fixed by cleaning the contacts. 10+ years of solid service and some dirty jacks is the only issue I’ve encountered…I’d say this is an extremely durable amp capable of taking a licking and keeping on ticking.
I’m a fickle player at times and every few years I look for a replacement for this amp. And while I’ve played some fine sounding rigs I always come back to the Trademark 60. Something about her tone just feels like home…
Price: $609 USD
Pros: Wide range of excellent tones, Lightweight yet durable
Cons: Shared EQ is a bit limiting