Hiwatt T20 Head Review – Is this a better priced lil’ brother!

Hiwatt, a name that has a long standing reputation and may I say, like Fender, Marshall etc… are among amplifier royalty. With such users as David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Ian Moss and many others they are obviously a worthy company.

Hiwatt T20 Head Review

Hiwatt T20 Head Review


End Date: Saturday Jun-6-2020 12:01:16 PDT
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So let’s get stuck into my Hiwatt T20 Head Review. Starting out in the 1960s, they quickly became the amplifiers of choice for Jimmy Page, David Gilmour and the Who. In summary, Hiwatts are amps that are well known for a clean ‘Pure’ sound that provides a foundation tone that you then build on with pedals.

There is a fair bit of argument (like anything to do with amps…) that the speakers you play through make a big difference. For example, Floyd/Gilmour purists claim the old Fane Crescendos are a big part of that sound.

Hiwatt T20 Head Controll Panel Review

Hiwatt T20 Head Controll Panel Review

1981 Hiwatt DR504 Custom 50 Vintage Tube Amp Head Hylight Era UK

End Date: Monday Jun-22-2020 13:52:46 PDT
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Straight off the bat, let’s look at some technical points then get into how it actually plays. I don’t usually bullet point specs, but it might be easier to get the main points this way!

  • ¼” input jack
  • 3 band EQ: bass, middle, treble push/pull frequency shift on the Middle control
  • 2 band master volume
  • Heavy duty toggle switches for on/off and standby
  • Preamp : 2 x 12AX7 and 1 x 12AU7 Output stage:
  • 2 x EL84xternal speaker jack on the T20HD head
  • Effects loop (I run my delay into this, and it is totally noiseless)
  • Clean and Dirty channels
  • Made in China (not always a great selling point but I thought I would make it clear)

The T20 is Hiwatt’s entry level tube amp, and is designed as a general all-rounder with a signature Hiwatt tone. It can be used for both old-school Rock and most mod­ern musi­c styles. Internally as the specs mentioned it has two EL84 power valves and three 12AX7  valves in the pre­amp, putting out 18 watts of tube power.

I run mine into a Hiwatt birch ply cab with Greenbacks in them and I must say that overdrive/fuzz sings through the clean tone into Greenbacks, really warm but yet clear.

Hiwatt points out that the T20 is sim­i­lar to the hand-wired 20-watt Cus­tom but is not as grown-up or refined as its big brother. Hiwatt openly says that the amp is an entry point amplifier wanting to wet their feet with a Hiwatt tube sound. I will point that out because it is made in China (by Fernandez for Hiwatt) it is about a quarter of the price of it’s bigger brothers, but yet sounds pretty good!

Okay now let’s talk tone and feel, which are very subjective I know.

I did my sampling here at home with my G & L Legacy Strat, so very much in single coil territory, although I suspect this amp would take an SG (re the ‘Who’) or humbuckers very well and fill it out a little better.

As I hinted earlier, it is a clean amp, and the T20 is definitely a Hiwatt in this regard. Closer in feel sometimes to a Laney clean, it is a pure tone, not thin, but definitely not a coloured or very ‘middy’ tone.

Hiwatt DR-201 Amp Head Cover - Black, Water Resistant, 1/2" Padding (hiwa003p)

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It has a bit of that Fender glass but still it is a British clean with the EL84 chiming in rather than the glassy 6L6 of an American styled clean. It shows up everything you play, but on the other hand doesn’t colour your sound unnecessarily either.

For example, turning the bass knob all the way up doesn’t do a lot (depends on your speakers of course) but increasing the high mids and treble does more so.

It takes pedals very well indeed and my pedals sound more ‘Real’ and organic through this amp so they didn’t sound too artificial.  I haven’t mentioned that the on-board reverb is good enough and it is a real spring reverb too.

Perhaps not as lush as say a Fender’s perhaps, but saves you buying a reverb pedal and definitely good enough for adding some depth of sound. Personally I am happy with the overall tone and features at this $450ish price point (compared to say Egnater Rebel 20 which is more than double the price).

Switching to the over­drive chan­nel shows that the amp is capa­ble of quite a lot of gain, but it sounds best at around 12 o’clock, where it is creamy and smooth. The Higher gain settings produce a fuzz like sound, which can be fun, but a lit­tle different to those wanting a standard blues gain or crunchy tone.

I however really like it, as it is like an older ‘Rat’ pedal juiced up. On this channel you can dial in some great lead sounds by crank­ing the high mids while drop­ping back the tre­ble.

Some great Rock crunch tones can be dialed in and you really want to hear this amp as you feel like hitting some hard and aggres­sive open chords as they clearly ring out (did I mention that at least 4 times??). One thing though about the dirty channel that it is loud, and jumping with the footswitch will mean a jump in volume, which may be a small drawback for some although good for solo lead breaks.

So overall, considering the head unit goes for about $450 or so, it is a great amp, good tones, great pedal foundation and very solid. It looks killer, and honestly delivers the goods as promised. Be prepared to get used to the honest tone and build it up with some quality pedals. If you can look past that psychological stumbling block of Chinese made, then you have a great amp that looks sexy to boot!


End Date: Saturday Jun-6-2020 12:01:16 PDT
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Hylight Custom 50 Head and matching 2x12 speaker cabinet. New completely UK-made

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Used Hiwatt DR103 + SE4123F Guitar Amplifier Set Rare

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1996 Wizard Modern Classic 2x12 Boutique Tube Amp EL34 50 Watt Near Mint

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Buy It Now for only: $3,799.99
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End Date: Friday May-29-2020 9:27:26 PDT
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About strataminor

Born in Brisbane I am a bedroom guitar player, although having played in front of churches (tough crowd!!) for quite a few years so some understanding of band dynamics, timing, gear (private use compared to public use) and melodic structure, instrumental breaks (okay leather pants solos....) and of course amps! Besides from my love of guitar and the G.A.S that goes with it (hey email me I am always offloading gear!! lol) I love languages, and can converse in basic Japanese, and study biblical Greek. I live in Logan with my young family (so not heaps of time at the moment) and will be contributing gear reviews based on a lot of gear I have or still currently have.

4 thoughts on “Hiwatt T20 Head Review – Is this a better priced lil’ brother!

    • Hi there
      WOw, all the way from the good ole’ USA! I am very touched that you enjoyed the review of the Hiwatt T20, as I did think, for its price it is a warm, dynamic and probably more forgiving ‘little brother’ to the big vintage Hiwatts which were clear and bright! Hmm where to get one??? I would say Ebay or online may be the best if they are still available…
      All the best from Queensland, Australia!!

  1. Hi there! Nice review. I’m really stoked about the ideia of getting one, but it’s not that easy here in Brazil.. I mean, where to buy from? Found one once digging up ebay, but the owner won’t ship it down here. That’s bad =(. But it was great to have your opinion on it. Thanks!

    • Hi Victor
      Sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier, just got a little busy! The Hiwatts are pretty good bang for the buck, and honestly, who doesn’t secretly admire the Hiwatt white and black logo against sexy black tolex! I have compared it to a much more expensive Hiwatt and it was very good. However I will say that the Hiwatt today is not the same Hiwatt of yesterday (and the models that Townsend or Gimour used) but really if you play like them you will sound like them!
      Good luck in your amp search, it is always so much fun!!

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