By Gordon Kennedy, courtesy of %%Christian Musician%% Magazine

{{Susan Ashton}}'s first record was the one that discovered me as a session player in my most natural state. I didn't have to put on a different hat or act at all. Very comfy. About a year later I bought one of the first Matchless amps to hit Nashville and I found that after owning many amps, this one loved me for myself - I could just be me.

No matter what guitar I plugged into it, the sound was there and you could tell what guitar it was. Great tone and transparent enough to let the guitar be itself. For this kind of performance and immaculate construction, you pay gourmet amp prices. Until now.

Matchless now has a line of amps for the mid-priced market. There are six amps in the Superliner series which offer class A tone at 40% less than their standard series. The reduction in cost is achieved through the use of attaching components to a master circuit board rather than point-to-point hand wiring. In my mind, every new Matchless amp introduced is only competing with its own high standards.

So, would this one stand up? Would it be a Matchless?

The Skyliner Reverb ($1535 list) is a 15 watt, two feet ten inch combo amp with two independent channels. Channel one feature high gain controls, bass, mid, treble (reverb), and a master volume. Channel two features gain, bass, treble and a master volume. There are six 12AX7-A tubes in the preamp section and the reverb, EL-84 tubes on the output section. The amp also includes an effects loop and there is a footswitch for channel switching and reverb on and off. I played three guitars through it: a Tele, a Clapton Strut and a Yamaha hollowbody. Like all Matchless amps, it brought forth the best each guitar had to give without preferring single coils to humbuckers. Both sound great. I like setting the amp to slow-cook and using the guitar's volume control to go from clean to dirty, and this amp is very friendly that way.

The strength of channel one is the "on the edge" or "over the edge" distortion. It is great for anything from dirty rhythm up to an overdriven lead tone. Channel two is meant to be cleaner, while not Fender Twin clean, it still has that Matchless spank and if you want to clean up, you can put a DynaComp in front to soften the output of the guitar. While the tone controls offer many radical options, you still can't dial up a bad sound with this amp. During the audition, I was continually A-B'ing between the Skyliner Reverb and my HC-30. The Skyliner outperformed my HC-30 for some things with respect to master volume settings (that is where you lower the master volume so you can crank the gain on the front end of the preamp). It also made me wish that my amp had reverb. But when I disengaged the master volume of the HC-30 it would go places where the Skyliner had trouble keeping up. When you crank the Skyliner, you have to be careful not to mush out the low end. Other than that, the Skyliner's the limit

There are three ways you can use the effects loop. The send enables you to make your amp a tone generator feeding its preamp signal into the power amp signal of another amp. The return enables you to utilize just the power section of the amp using a preamp signal from another source. Finally, it can be used as an effects loop for inserting an effect in the amp. Where I fell in love with this amp was when I put an old tube EchoPlex in the loop and grabbed the hollowbody. About an hour later I realized that I hadn't touched a knob or tweaked a setting and had been just playing.

Summary: beautiful tones at studio or club volumes, fraction of the price, still deserving of the Matchless logo.

PS - I should probably credit them for the song I was working on in that hour.


{{Gordon Kennedy}} is a songwriter, musician and session player from Nashville, TN. Thanks to Larry and Ray at Corner Music in Nashville, TN (615.297.9559) for loaning us the amp.