The Kustom Defender 50 watt Tube Amp – Bang for the buck?

Today I’m taking a look at The Kustom Defender 50 watt Tube Amp. Kustom is a company I have never dealt with before, So before reviewing the amp itself, I thought I would take a brief look at Kustom’s background.

As far as I can tell, Kustom was started in the 1960’s by a young Bud Ross, who thought that vinyl covering, as found on car seats would go well on amps, which turned out to be a great success.

The Kustom Defender 50watt Tube Amp

Supro 1675RT Rhythm Master combo amp, Brand New

$1,599.00
End Date: Friday Dec-1-2017 10:23:42 PST
Buy It Now for only: $1,599.00
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Operating from a warehouse in Kansas, Kustom went on to produce amps for both electric and bass guitars, organs and PA systems. However, from my research on the Kustom story, other reviewers mention that Kustom failed to keep up with a progressive marketing campaign (such as Fender, and Marshall) and therefore did not achieve the status other companies now enjoy. As such, they (generalizing) are considered as a cheap option and not regarded as a ‘high quality‘ amplifier.

As an example, when a 50 watt tube amp sells for under $500, it usually puts it into the cheaper price bracket, which is obviously reflected on the brand name. However… In many cases, tone doesn’t always equate to dollars spent!

The Kustom Defender V30 (although a 50 watt amp) is at first glance well constructed. It has a nice blackface style control panel, matching sturdy knobs, and all finished tastefully in a black tolex with classic white piping. So as far as looks are concerned (and being GAS bait… similar to a pretty woman attracting attention with a low cut cleavage…) this is good.

The 50W Kustom Defender combo contains an Eminence designed speaker with a full sized Ruby reverb tank, so in its stock form, it has all the goodies you really need. You have plenty of EQ sculpturing abilities, with a Bright switch (ala Fender) BMT controls (bass, mid and treble) and a Presence knob. All are pretty responsive and quite sensitive so you’ll need to tweak it a bit to hit that sweet spot, therefore it’s quite a versatile amp and can suit any guitar.

The Master Bypass toggle switch is cool as it disengages the Master volume and gives a big jump in volume and clarity (with a bit more ‘rawness’ thrown in I thought). The Boost can help you fatten up single coils, or get that revered tube edge of breakup tone (hey, great band name!!). So there are plenty of options that sound good. Also, this amp allows you to change between 6L6 (Fender tonal ball park/USA) or EL34 (UK tonal range) with a flick of an auto biasing switch, which personally, I think is pretty neat!

So how does it sound. Okay my biases are this, for me if an amp can’t do a great clean tone then I am not interested! I use clean a lot and use it to judge the overall tone of an amp (I know that the hard rockers and metal heads, the high gainers will disagree). This amp I can say has a great clean! No doubt about it, a nice rich well balanced and fairly sparkly clean, depending on what tubes you are using as per above.

I felt it had a very good jazzy tone, which was great for finger picking and general noodling, the kind of clean that I find fun to play. The reverb was excellent but like a lot of Fender amps, it got a bit cavernous quite quickly, so I had it on 3 maximum.

Okay so if you like cleans then you’re sweet. So how about the dark side, gain?

Here is where I was a little perplexed and disappointed! Whether I was driving the amp with an OD pedal (I was using a Pedalworx Tejas OD… lovely!) or cranking the amp up, for some reason it was just too fizzy and very hairy for my tastes!

Now some people love this, that almost fuzz type of distortion, but for me I love a crunchy focused more compressed overdrive with NO FIZZ, think JCM800! I just couldn’t dial in an overdriven sound I liked, and therefore had to pass it on for something else.

On a very low OD setting it was okay and perhaps in a loud gig situation, when the tubes are really cooking then it may sound a lot better, but I just could not get an OD tone that I liked at all…I was very disappointed about that! So watch out for that and test how it sounds with your favorite OD first as other reviewers seemed to really like the amp, who knows, maybe I had one with dodgy tubes, or I was just was having a bad day!

So wrapping this up, the Kustom Defender 50watt Tube Amp is definitely a well built amp with very usable reverb (if you like a nice Fender reverb) that has wonderful cleans that I think sound very close to a Fender clean as a benchmark. Lots of EQ features and versatility to be had in an amp that retails new for about $500, so definitely good value.

However using OD on the one I tested, I found the amp was a bit too fuzzy and fizzy and not nearly focused enough for nice lead lines or SRV stuff. Maybe some power chords and heavy riffs you could get by. If you get one cheap enough then sure check it out but watch for resale value as Kustom just don’t have the name and I suspect you’ll end up using it as Gas bait to trade. Forgive my honesty but personally I won’t buy it again!!

Supro 1675RT Rhythm Master combo amp, Brand New

$1,599.00
End Date: Friday Dec-1-2017 10:23:42 PST
Buy It Now for only: $1,599.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Supro 1699RH Statesman Head Amp, Brand New

$1,499.00
End Date: Friday Dec-1-2017 10:14:55 PST
Buy It Now for only: $1,499.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Supro S6420 Thunderbolt+ (Plus), combo amp, Brand New

$1,299.00
End Date: Friday Dec-1-2017 10:35:13 PST
Buy It Now for only: $1,299.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Supro S6420 Thunderbolt combo amp, Brand New

$1,199.00
End Date: Friday Dec-1-2017 10:37:26 PST
Buy It Now for only: $1,199.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Kustom Solid State Guitar Amplifier K100 and Stack Rig Speakers Tuck

$950.00 (0 Bids)
End Date: Friday Nov-24-2017 10:00:39 PST
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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.

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