The new Quilter Aviator Cub is a 50W lightweight combo amp that might cause you to rethink your relationship with tubes. With 3 separate preamp sections channeling classic combo amp tones, the Aviator Cub is a compelling and very portable gigging amplifier designed for hobbyists and pros alike. Cast aside your assumptions and soar with the Aviator Cub
The Quilter Aviator Cub features:
50 watts class D solid state power
3 Separate channels with dedicated preamp sections: Tweed, Blonde, Blackface
Limiter to control overall headroom
3 band active EQ
Reverb with series effects loop
Custom design Eminence speaker
16.5”H x 16.5”W x 10.8” D
Includes ballistic nylon cover
When it comes to modelling or solid state amps, we're as skeptical as anyone. Yes, they can often do exceptional renditions of high gain and metal -- which is not all that much about tubes -- but often come up short when it comes to critical clean and slightly-clean tones. They get better all the time, but in such a compact format and price range the Aviator Cub was a real surprise.
Quilter is the "Q" in QSC, a pioneer in solid state pro audio and studio amplification, and Quilter Labs has taken that knowledge and put it into a line of high performance guitar and bass amplifiers. The Aviator Cub is one of their smallest models, but in terms of features and sound quality it does not disappoint.
Looking over the controls you see some interesting features including three separate inputs and a limiter. The inputs all have a high 2 Meg input impedance which keeps your signal from being loaded down, improving detail and touch (much like a buffer). The limiter control is effectively a headroom control that limits the dynamic range of the amp. Why? Dialing up the limiter can make the amp feel "tighter" and compressed while also affecting how the amp responds to the gain control. Rolling off the limiter provides greater clean headroom and more expansive dynamics. In addition there is a fairly traditional responding gain and volume control, where low gain settings yield the maximum clean headroom and higher gain brings on increasing levels of grit and grind. Now let's look at those three inputs:
Tweed - The Tweed input is slightly dark, wooly and a little spongy, much like a real Tweed amp. Tweeds can be real growl monsters, and with the right amount of gain and working the guitar volume they are remarkably expressive. Having a "Tweed" and a "Blackface" in the same amplifier is a stark reminder of how different these Leo Fender designs really were. And it's fun to have both.
Blonde - The Blonde amplifiers were transitional amps between the Tweeds and Blackface. Their fixed bias design made them louder, cleaner; more like a Blackface than a Tweed. We can't say we have much first hand experience with the real thing, but the Blonde input is the brightest of the three with sparkly highs, but plenty of body. We might lean towards plugging a Les Paul into this input more so than a Strat, but did we mention the Cub has three band active EQ? You've got a lot of tone shaping power in those knobs.
Blackface - Inspired by the seminal Deluxe Reverb 1x12 -- the amp that pretty much got it all right -- the Blackface channel nicely replicates the bright-bit-silky highs and balanced midrange response, but one-ups the original on the low end. The deeper cabinet, specially designed speaker and higher power rating provides a warmer, richer low end without the flubbiness sometimes associated with the Deluxe and Pro Reverbs. It's darn good, and because we love the real thing too, this is where we'd spend most of our time.
And there are other thoughtful features such as an effects loop in series with the Reverb, a line-out for going into a PA or DAW interface, and a headphone output. But if there is one characteristic that deserves special mention is how big this amp sounds. Not loud, but large, deep and dimensional. It's compact but does not sound that way; and the 11" deep cabinet design is not by accident. No doubt the specially designed Eminence speaker is not your typical guitar speaker either. Coming from years of high performance sound reinforcement, Quilter did not just assemble and amp, they engineered it and it shows.
This is an impressive and highly effective guitar amplifier that really does have much of the nuance, and response of a good tube amp. Granted, there is a certain "something" about a really great tube amp, but there is also tons of mediocre stuff out there that just happens to have tubes. And the Aviator Cub outperforms all of that. All by itself or with your favorite pedals the Aviator Cub is a remarkable value.
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