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Hi-Tone HT103-DG (Hiwatt Clone) Guitar Amplifier & Cabinets 
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GABmiral
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Hi-Tone HT103-DG Amplifier & Hi-Tone 2x12 & 1x15 Cabinet Review

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I have always been obsessed with Pete Townshend’s “Live at Leeds sound” but, first some ancient history…

Although, not a Hiwatt, my first tube amp was a Sunn Sentura II. The Sentura II had a similar tone and most of the balls that you get with a real, Dave Reeves (inventor of the Hiwatt) amplifier. It was 1977 and I was 17 years old when I bought the Sentura. Then, in 1996, I unwisely bundled it in along with the sale of my analog studio, and the Sunn was gone. I don’t miss my studio but, I sorely miss that amp! What a great, naturally overdriven sound it produced – nearly identical to Pete’s Hiwatt.

It’s now June 2013, I'm in the midst of a midlife crisis and I am seriously jonesing for that old amp.
I decided to allow the crisis to consume me and with complete disregard to the Lady of the House, I begin the hunt for the Sunn.
After viewing a few sorry looking examples of surviving Sentura 1's and 2's, I realized that I didn’t really want the headaches that come along with used, vintage amps; mainly replacing exploded and leaking caps.
A couple of weeks later, it occurred to me… why not get a Hiwatt? After all, Pete Townshend used a Hiwatt at his famous and aforementioned, Live at Leeds performance... sounds like a plan? Right?
Unfortunately, I knew nothing about Hiwatts.
Fortunately, it is no longer 1977 and we now have the internet to fill in the gaps of our incomplete educations. Kids today have no idea how difficult it was to do research back in the not-to-distant analog age!

The first thing I discovered was that Hiwatt (like Sunn) was no longer in business… at least the original company started by Dave Reeves was no longer in business.

I visited all the Vintage Amp boards, Guitar boards and Gearhead boards. I began to notice that there were quite a few Hiwatt clone builders and kits available and they all seemed to have their own unique spin on Dave Reeves’ original design.
Currently, there is Hiwatt UK (Music Ground) with their dodgy reputation; Reeves Amplification of Ohio (no relation to Dave Reeves) with their stellar rep; and Trinity of Canada making their versatile Triwatt. We have Mywatt, of Germany, with their very modern updated version; and there is Ceriatone’s cleverly named “Hey Watt”. Finally, I discovered Hi-Tone, of Indiana, touting an exact recreation of the original design.
Each of these manufacturers has a great reputation for build quality and sound. Each manufacturer claims to use the highest quality parts available. Some of them had flashy websites, with videos of master guitarists demoing the wares. They all offer the obligatory Military Specification (Mil-Spec) wiring practices and advertise the use of premium cabinet materials and hardware.

At this point, my head began spinning because, I was about to drop some hard earned cash on a potentially shady, boutique amp builder and I still wasn't sure which brand would be right for me. The only sensible thing I could do was: join Guitar Amp Board and start a thread to see what all the "Pros" think! Ha! :lol:
While that idea turned out to be absolutely no help what-so-ever, I'm glad I joined because, GAB wound up being a really cool, cyberspace man cave and I'm glad to be here! :clap:


So, after wading through all the hot air, smoke & mirrors and YouTube videos, why did I decide to buy a Hi-Tone?

I ordered my Hi-Tone for four basic reasons:

1) Hi-Tone recreates the exact circuit design as the original Dave Reeves Hiwatt.
2) Dave Reeves’ son, Glynn Reeves is a member of the Hi-Tone company.
3) Mark Huss, electrical engineer, guitarist and well known Hiwatt-o-phyle, is also a company member.
4) Clayton, the Hi-Tone President and all around nice guy, has a long running obsession with vintage Hiwatt amps.

Towards the end of August 2013, I emailed Clayton a few questions and I informed him of my intentions to place an order.
Surprisingly, he phoned back instead of emailing – a big plus in my opinion!
He patiently answered all my questions and a few hours later, I PayPal’d my purchase money to get the gears in motion. Five weeks later, my amp, a 1x15 and a 2x12 cabinet arrived safely, via FedEx. The amp and each cabinet was packed in a heavy duty cardboard box, wrapped in heavy plastic and suspended inside by thick, corner foam blocks. The Hi-Tone logo was printed on the outside of each box. The people at Hi-Tone certainly did not skimp on packaging.

Now for my product review…
Price Paid: US$1850.00 plus an extra US$250 for a custom, tube driven fx loop. US $675 per cabinet.

Features: The Custom 100 watt version has 4 input jacks which are linkable by jumper cable to allow simultaneous operation of both preamps. The Dave Gillmore version (that I purchased) has Normal, Bright and a third, Linked Input to operate both preamps simultaneously without the need for a jumper cable. There are separate input volume knobs for the Normal and Bright channels. The Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence knobs are followed by the Master Volume, Power Lamp, Standby Switch and Power Switch. My amp was ordered with NOS Mullards but, I skipped the Mustard Caps. The custom, tube driven fx loop came with an input volume knob. Bonus: the amp and cabinets came with heavy weight, vinyl covers with blue piping and embroidered, Hi-Tone logo patches.

Trial Run: There were more than a few rumors going around stating that, “a Dave Reeves amplifier (or clone) is a lot louder than any normal, production tube amplifier”. Therefore, I decided it would be best to rent some time at the local rehearsal studio... I didn't want any disturbances while I was turning the thumbscrews on my new purchase! I brought along my 1984, P90 equipped, Gibson Les Paul Junior and a few fx pedals: Catalinbread WIIO, Univox Wah, ProCo Rat, Ibanez Tube Screamer, Boss Delay, and a Chorus but, I wound up using only the Wah and the WIIO.
Here are the results of my investigation:

1) Volume - The rumors about Dave Reeves amps being louder than normal tube amps are an understatement. My Hi-Tone was so loud that the gentleman working the studio’s front desk had to stop by to make sure that my room’s door was closed… yes, it was closed! My 100 watt Hi-Tone is freaking LOUD!!! But, what a sound!!! Totally AWESOME!!!

2) Tone - I’m not a professional amp reviewer and I’m not up on all the fancy tonal lingo but, I’ll give it a go… The Hi-Tone is a clean amp (just as the original Hiwatts were) however, when the input volumes and master volumes are dimed out, the amp really flies! WOW! ...and I repeat, “What a sound!” There is nothing like a Dave Reeves amp and the Hi-Tone was not lacking in any area at all. I cranked out Summer Time Blues, Young Man Blues and Shakin’ All Over – my Live at Leeds favorites. Then, I ran through my own riffs and tunes, tweaking the knobs every few measures.
I found my sweet spot fairly quickly but, I kept playing around with the knobs to see where it could go. The Bass, Middle and Treble knobs are very versatile and interact with each other creating a myriad of tones ranging from deeply bassy to crystal, glassy highs. The Presence knob added further clarity to cut through the bass. Unbelievable! Lots of low end with crystal clear highs and tight mids. Turn one tone knob slightly and the other tone knobs create new sounds making for nearly unlimited variations. The tone knobs cut and boost, allowing you to scoop the mids and add a thumping low - you can scoop or boost any where you'd like. There was a surprising amount of low end that easily created that thumping E string that metal heads like... it's there if you want it but, I turned the bass knob down to a normal, classic 70's level.

3) Cabinets - The Hi-Tone cabinets are extremely well crafted - the Tolex and the piping were masterfully applied. The cabinets and amp housing both have quarter round bevels running along all the front edges, giving them a beautiful, classy look. They are solidly built. I have absolutely no complaints on their degree of craftsmanship – they clearly, will be able to take a beating.
Last August, when I ordered the cabinets, Hi-Tone was not advertising a 1x15 but, they were happy to build one for me. I love 15” speakers for guitar… they are a bit beefier and sound more substantial than 10” or 12” speakers.
Running the Hi-Tone 2x12 and the Hi-Tone 1x15 simultaneously, at a combined 4 ohms is literally a blast... tonally and volume wise! I believe that the Hi-Tone labeled speakers are rebranded Eminence of Kentucky speakers. They are perfectly matched for the recreation of the original Dave Reeves sound. While I never played through original Fanes, I couldn’t be happier with any aspect of my purchase.

Final Impressions: It’s really unfair to compare a Hiwatt or a Hiwatt clone to any other amp, except maybe, to an Orange. I typed out and deleted a comparison of the Hi-Tone to a Marshall - there was really no point leaving it in… their designs are too different to make any comparison useful. It’s like comparing Ferrari to Tesla; both are great machines but, their designs are too far apart on many levels.
For Hiwatt enthusiasts, it’s all about that natural, dimed out sound. That signature sound can only be produced by a quality, Dave Reeves designed amp. That sound is what makes an original Hiwatt worth every penny.
I purchased my Hi-Tone blind, without first trying it and without any knowledge of Hi-Tone’s track record. I did my homework, took an educated chance on my purchase… and I hit the jackpot.

If you want a brand new, Dave Reeves Hiwatt, I strongly recommend Hi-Tone. You will not be disappointed in the least.
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Gut shot - you can see the added fx loop:
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_________________
1969 Sunn Solarus ● 2x 1980's Randall RG-80 ● 2013 Hi-Tone HT103-DG (Winner Best Rig 2014) ● 2015 Mortatone 12/15 Cab w/EV SRO's ● 2017 Jubilee ● Incoming Ceriatone Model Tee
Walt wrote:
But when the hour is nigh, and the lights are low, and I got a little toothpick of a shwag joint in my teeth, and my friends want to hear me play "Into the Void", or "TNT", "or "Cemetery Gates"...I plug my 600 dollar guitar into my 150 dollar amp, and I am a Rawk gawd.


Last edited by ajaxlepinski on Tue Oct 03, 2017 6:23 pm, edited 17 times in total.



Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:18 pm
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Holy hell, that thing is beautiful. Would love to put it through its paces in all its earsplitting glory. :love:

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Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:53 am
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GABmiral
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Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2013 9:35 pm
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Location: Same town as Lindsay Lohan, Amy Fisher, Joey Buttafucco & Debbie Gibson
Thanks Ben... It really is feaking loud and it sounds incredible on eleven!
Both my girlfriend and my 87 year old Mom are waiting on Fryette to release their pending attenuator. :lol:

_________________
1969 Sunn Solarus ● 2x 1980's Randall RG-80 ● 2013 Hi-Tone HT103-DG (Winner Best Rig 2014) ● 2015 Mortatone 12/15 Cab w/EV SRO's ● 2017 Jubilee ● Incoming Ceriatone Model Tee
Walt wrote:
But when the hour is nigh, and the lights are low, and I got a little toothpick of a shwag joint in my teeth, and my friends want to hear me play "Into the Void", or "TNT", "or "Cemetery Gates"...I plug my 600 dollar guitar into my 150 dollar amp, and I am a Rawk gawd.


Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:00 pm
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GABmiral
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Awesome review. :love:


Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:14 pm
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GABmiral
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Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2013 9:35 pm
Posts: 14542
Location: Same town as Lindsay Lohan, Amy Fisher, Joey Buttafucco & Debbie Gibson
Thanks Texas! You should have seen the first draft! Eeeesh! :nail:
Took about a week of tweaking to get it where is but, I think I'm finally done.

_________________
1969 Sunn Solarus ● 2x 1980's Randall RG-80 ● 2013 Hi-Tone HT103-DG (Winner Best Rig 2014) ● 2015 Mortatone 12/15 Cab w/EV SRO's ● 2017 Jubilee ● Incoming Ceriatone Model Tee
Walt wrote:
But when the hour is nigh, and the lights are low, and I got a little toothpick of a shwag joint in my teeth, and my friends want to hear me play "Into the Void", or "TNT", "or "Cemetery Gates"...I plug my 600 dollar guitar into my 150 dollar amp, and I am a Rawk gawd.


Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:23 pm
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Hello there
First of all, thank you for your careful review.
Now, questions
After all this time, you're probably over the 'honeymoon effect'. So, what's your evaluation of the amp now?
How well can you 'tame' such an amp? I mean, does the master knob allow for quieter playing without altering the tone much?
I'm in the same position you were when researching old Hiwatts. I'm also a huge fan of the Live in leeds sound, and I've always hunkered after a 100 Hiwatt.
I was recently offered a vintage amp, but I'm wary of buying vintage amps, as I do not have the resources of a rock star to keep fixing the things.
Thanks


Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:15 am
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GABmiral
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Location: Same town as Lindsay Lohan, Amy Fisher, Joey Buttafucco & Debbie Gibson
Paul86 wrote:
Hello there
First of all, thank you for your careful review.
Now, questions
After all this time, you're probably over the 'honeymoon effect'. So, what's your evaluation of the amp now?
How well can you 'tame' such an amp? I mean, does the master knob allow for quieter playing without altering the tone much?
I'm in the same position you were when researching old Hiwatts. I'm also a huge fan of the Live in leeds sound, and I've always hunkered after a 100 Hiwatt.
I was recently offered a vintage amp, but I'm wary of buying vintage amps, as I do not have the resources of a rock star to keep fixing the things.
Thanks



Hi Paul86 - welcome back!

I don't blame you for doing your homework and asking questions. I was pretty nervous when I bought the Hi-Tone and was very worried about pissing away my hard earned cash - buyer's remorse can be painful!
I just noticed that you also posted a question about Chinese Hiwatt cabs.
As the other guys had mentioned, they are MDF and suck ass, just like other Music Ground Hiwatt gear.
Hi-Tone cabinets are made from Baltic Birch and built like TANKS!!!. You can't go wrong with a Hi-Tone cabinet.
Hi-Tone sells their cabinets with Hi-Tone rebranded Eminence Fane clones.
I read an article that Music Ground recently sold the Hiwatt trademark to a Canadian company, who promised to "bring back quality" to the Hiwatt brand... but, I haven't heard anything new.
Avoid all Hiwatt amps made after 1982. :cop:

To answer your questions:
Q: After all this time, you're probably over the 'honeymoon effect'. So, what's your evaluation of the amp now?
A: It's still an awesome amp. Tons of headroom and über low noise so, it's a fantastic pedal platform. The large capacitors give it tons of low end so you can use it for bass guitar. I will never sell it. That being said, it doesn't suit all applications unless you use pedals. For example; I use a Randall RG80 for punk gigs and I also have a Marshall Jubilee and a Sunn Solarus for getting different sounds. Could I use the Hi-Tone for punk shows? Of course I can but, not without an OD or Distortion pedal.

2) How well can you 'tame' such an amp? I mean, does the master knob allow for quieter playing without altering the tone much?
The Master Knob works just like the Master Knob of any other amp.
The Hi-Tone's preamp volume knobs only give a bit of breakup so, there isn't much tone change when you lower the Master. HOWEVER, where Hiwatts excel, is when you crank the shit out of them into a set of speaker that are rated at 150 watts or more (Like an Electo-Voice SRO or, EV12L or, Eminance Fane clones that come with Hi-Tone cabinets). In this scenario, the small amount of preamp distortion really helps create some amazing speaker distortion.
If you're going to get a Hiwatt or, a Hiwatt clone, you'll want an attenuator. My Rivera RockCrusher is fantastic - you get an unnoticeable amount of tone suck even at the highest level of attenuation.
When we're talking about how tone changes, in relation to Master Volume changes, the human ear naturally EQ's things very differently at high volumes than it does at low volumes. With the Hi-Tone, there isn't much change in the "amp tone" when altering the Master Knob - any tone change you hear will most likely be caused by less speaker distortion and/or your ear EQing things differently as the Master volume changes.


Q: I'm in the same position you were when researching old Hiwatts. I'm also a huge fan of the Live in leeds sound, and I've always hunkered after a 100 Hiwatt.
A: From what I understand, Reeves Amplification makes excellent amps but, they do not make exact replicas of Dave Reeves Hiwatts - their amps are all modded in some way to make them more versatile (not necessarily a bad thing but, not for purists). The only companies, that I know of, who are making exact Dave Reeves Hiwatt replicas are Hi-Tone of Indiana and Ceriatone from Indonesia.
To get the Live at Leeds sound, you need a P-90 equipped guitar and a Univox Super Fuzz clone. MJM of Canada makes and exact replica called the China Fuzz. I also have a Smallsound/Bigsound Buzz that has some added bells and whistles. Townsend used a custom Hiwatt that was a modded DR103. It actually had one of the tone knobs and the presence knob removed and replaced with two more volume knobs. This allowed for each of the 4 input jacks to have it's own volume knob. Pete only used one of the volume knobs during the Leeds performance, so it was kind of a waste because, it his custom amp doesn't have flexible tone like a regular 103. I think Dave Reeves modded the tone stack on Pete's amp but, a 103 will still sound like Pete's amp.

Other ways to get the Leeds sound:
- I have a Catalinbread WIIO pedal that does a pretty good job of simulating the Live at Leeds sound into a clean amp. But, it doesn't get that groaning sound like the Super Fuzz. It gets all the low and mid gain Leeds tones.
- Old Sunn amps, like the Sentura II and especially the Solarus, have more breakup and sound really close to Live at Leeds. I once owned a Sentura II and I now own a Solarus that I love, The Solarus and Sentura get unusually close to the L@L tone, without boost pedals and without the blistering volume of a 103 (however, you still need a Super Fuzz pedal).
- One of the guys at GAB has a Sans Amp Tech 21 Leeds sim pedal that he used for years... I believe it was Newholland?
- Different tone but, Catalinbread's RAH (Royal Albert Hall) pedal is a Jimmy Page Hiwatt sim pedal.

Q: I was recently offered a vintage amp, but I'm wary of buying vintage amps, as I do not have the resources of a rock star to keep fixing the things.
A: I hear you bro! That's why I bought a Hi-Tone instead of a vintage Hiwatt. My Sunn Solarus is 40 years old and I've been studying amp repair because, I'd rather spend my money on more gear than, on a tech. Most amp repairs involve replacing leaking capacitors or a burned screen resistor and only require basic soldering skills. But, I agree; if your not into amp repair, new is better.

If I were going to buy a Hi-Tone for the first time, I'd get the Lead 30... it has more breakup than the 103, making it a bit more versitile.
But, if you really want a 100watt, that sounds exactly like a Dave Reeves DR103, get a Hi-Tone HT103.
Hope this helps - be sure to let us know what you decide!!! :rawk:


The Tower of Power just needs a modern, high gain amp and it will be complete!
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_________________
1969 Sunn Solarus ● 2x 1980's Randall RG-80 ● 2013 Hi-Tone HT103-DG (Winner Best Rig 2014) ● 2015 Mortatone 12/15 Cab w/EV SRO's ● 2017 Jubilee ● Incoming Ceriatone Model Tee
Walt wrote:
But when the hour is nigh, and the lights are low, and I got a little toothpick of a shwag joint in my teeth, and my friends want to hear me play "Into the Void", or "TNT", "or "Cemetery Gates"...I plug my 600 dollar guitar into my 150 dollar amp, and I am a Rawk gawd.


Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:51 am
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