Benson Monarch

I began a search for a small portable amp that I'll be able to use at home, in studio and at small gigs about year and a half ago.

I looked everywhere, tried quite a few boutique amps, some mass produced as well and stumbled upon couple of clips made by great producer and musician Dan Phelps. I got very interested in amp he was using to create those majestic sounds. 

Research started and soon I found out more about Chris Benson based in Portland, Oregon. He was amp tech for more than 20 years and started his own company with a vision of very simple to use amp with impeccable build quality and even better tone.

After couple of conversations with Dan I decided to take a leap of faith and call Chris to order one. I opted out for 6V6 tubes with Hammond transformer and Jensen P12N speaker. My amp also has a solid state rectifier as per Chris's suggestions due to unwanted rattle 5AR4 rectifier tube often produces in combo version. Contrary to popular belief I am completely persuaded it has no negative effect to overall tone (Chris shares this belief with me).

Couple of months later, as promised, on time my Benson Monarch combo arrived.  Every time I plug in this amp after 5 months of owning it I smile.  Beautiful 3D tones, sustain and richness of overtones is amazing. This amp shines both, at low volumes and pushed to the edge (it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it). 

 Simple and very useful controls.

Simple and very useful controls.

Controls are very simple and useful, Tone, Volume and American / British switch for two distinctive flavors, both used by me all the time. They are two different modes with different EQ settings, American with recognizable scooped mids, beautiful tight low end and sparkling highs and British with pushed mids and dialed back low end for that church tone that we all love so much. If there could be possible improvement to design I would choose to have foot switch to go between those two settings effortlessly. Amp is wired point to point and it has with dovetail pine cabinet construction.  This little 35lbs gem can cover most of your needs with two knobs and one switch, everything from bedroom practice (I suggest Benson attenuator in this case, it's loud 15 watts) to studio work and smaller gigs.  This is most responsive amp that I ever played and it will transmit every possible nuance of pick, finger or string attack. You can go from chimey cleans to roaring crushing tones with just a volume knob on your guitar. It works equally good with both humbuckers and single coils and it takes pedals extremely well although it might take some adjustments from your standard settings due to streamlined circuit that provides more higs and lows that you might be used to.

Verdict, in my humble opinion Chris Benson managed to "crack the code" without breaking your bank.