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Review: Bugera 333 XL -Hi-Gain Guitar Amplifier Head

Review: Bugera 333 XL -Hi-Gain Guitar Amplifier Head

Boutique-Style 120-Watt 3-Channel Valve Amplifier Head with Reverb

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Last Edited by: Jack Stovin June 29th, 2012.

Prior to reviewing this guitar amplifier head I was unfamiliar with Bugera as a brand. I usually have my finger on the pulse and was disappointed at myself for not finding out about these guys a little sooner. It seems that the Bugera R&D department have all come from various Amplifier manufacturers as each model seems to be an almost identical copy of another amp. The Bugera 333XL is a copy of Peavey's JSX and the Triple XXX models.


Features & Under the Hood

The Bugera 333XL when taken from it's packaging is a very attractive amplifier; nice grills and touches that really show off the tubes and help to make everyone that sees it fall in love with it. The one single aesthetic missing from this is some colour changing LEDs so that when in the studio or on stage this amplifier looks the most attractive of all other amplifiers around [not having this feature didn't stop me from installing some though and it looks fly!]. So before I have even plugged this in I was falling in love with it. HARD!

The Bugera 333XL outputs 120 Watts of power has three selectable channels- Clean, Crunch and Lead. It also features Reverb and Noise Gate controls which are likely to come in very handy both live and in the studio. Each of the three channels have their own EQ, presence and gain controls and an XL switch is present on the Crunch and Lead channels. There is a Hi and Lo Gain guitar input available although I imagine that the Lo slot will rarely [if ever] get used. Flip the amp around and on the back the FX loop has send and return volume controls, 2 speaker outputs (4, 8 and 16 Ohm) and a line out (un-balanced) with volume control. The Bugera 333XL also comes with a sexy little footswitch that allows you to control channel selection (clean, crunch, lead) and fx loop/boost.





If you don't use the FX loop the latter option can be used as a volume boost which is particularly handy for leads and solos. Sitting within the beautiful Bugera 333XL amplifier are 4 12AX7/ECC83 preamp tubes and 4 EL34 power tubes (convertible to 6L6's). Bias selection switch (EL34/6L6), a bias adjust control and a bias test are on top of the metal chassis for easy biasing. There are two plastic hooks on the back for wrapping your power chord/speaker cable around and an easy one top handle for carrying.

Features:
  • Hand-built 120-Watt amplifier driven by 4 x EL34 valves (convertible to 6L6)
  • Classic 3-channel preamp design (Clean, Crunch, Lead) featuring 4 x 12AX7 valves
  • Integrated high-class reverb with dedicated Reverb control
  • XL switches on the Lead and Crunch channels for absolute killer sounds
  • Independent Equalizer sections for each channel with dedicated Bass, Mid and Treble control
  • Classic Presence control for awesome sound shaping
  • Impedance switch (4, 8 and 16 Ohm) to match virtually any speaker cabinet
  • FX Loop with independent Send and Return level controls also serves as Boost function
  • Heavy-duty footswitch for Channel selection and FX Loop/Boost function included
  • Line output with dedicated Level control

Under the Hammer / In Use

The Bugera 333 XL is designed as a Metal Amplifier. Not necessarily Heavy Metal but any band that relies on that modern, scooped, hi-gain sound should just stop reading and go out and buy this amplifier. The tone that screams out of the Lead channel on this is unlike anything I have ever heard in a physical amplifier because my prior experience had been limited to the norm i.e. Marshall etc. The Noise gate really becomes a useful feature when using the amplifier at such Hi-Gain levels and is a useful tool for both studio and live applications and to be honest a built in Noise gate should become the norm for guitar amplification heads.

The Crunch channel is equally as nice sounding as the Lead channel particularly with the XL switch on. It allows for some nice rhythm based tone that will sit a little bit more in the mix and works perfectly as a lead up or lead down to the Clean channel. The clean tone sounds very West Coast and is a really nice clean tone. I have used this amplifier on a multitude of recording sessions and each of the bands I have persuaded to abandon their amplifiers has ended up wanting or buying a Bugera amplifier of their own.

It should also be noted that as with many amplifiers, the Bugera 333XL sounds best when it is cranked and is not designed to be used at low levels. If you can't whack it up to at least 5 then you probably shouldn't own it. That being the case it makes a perfect purchase for a serious touring musician that can really let loose the power and tone that this outputs otherwise it's like owning a Ferrari and driving it at 30mph, not what it was designed to do, and many other and cheaper alternatives. The built in Reverb on the Bugera 333XL is digital and is probably one of the best sounding digital Reverbs I am yet to hear.

I tested the amplifier with a plethora of guitars and cabs, performed by a multitude of bands of varying genres. Each and every scenario I gave the Bugera 333 XL worked great and I would be comfortable in any band plugging in almost any cab or guitar and being able to make the Bugera 333XL sound great. I use this amplifier in the studio so often that it sits permanently between my studio monitors so that I can quickly plug a guitar in and get recording.


Reliability / Build Quality

I have been using this amplifier for 3 months now and it has been heavily used. I have never experienced a problem although I have read the horror stories some have experienced on the internet. Now let me do my best to set the record straight on this as it is actually [more than likely to be] user error not an amplifier or reliability flaw of these amps.

I would suggest 99% of the previously mentioned issues people had experienced all comes down to Bias and/or Impedance. Improper biasing can cause all sorts of problems at various sides of the scale in tube amplifiers. It can make your power tubes burn out and blow up if it is set too high, or the opposite [low bias] which results in bad or no sound. I would also assume that considering the price, it is likely that the Bugera 333XL is the first tube amplifier that the user will have owned and are unfamiliar with the extra care that needs to be given to a tube amplifier. The other thing that is uber important in tube amplifiers is the "impedance". The impedance in normal [transistor] amps is nowhere near as important as it is with tube amps. In a tube amp if your speaker impedance is higher than that of the amplifier, it can cause the excess load to build up in the amplifiers output stage, which more often than not will blow the power tubes and/or the output transformer.

Before plugging in the guitar and using this amplifier for the first time, check and correctly set the bias. In 6 months, check it again (as tubes are used and worn, their ideal bias voltage can also change). For help and advice on setting the bias for this amplifier please download the PDF listed below:

Bugera Valve Bias Instructions (EN) [PDF 2.8MB]

PDF files can only be viewed with Adobe's Acrobat Reader. You can download the latest version of the Acrobat-Reader here.


Poor Bugera seem to be bearing the brunt of user error and their improper use of the hardware, causing the amplifier to break in the first place. If you know what you are doing and treat the amplifier with the love and respect it deserves you should be fine and dandy and the Bugera 333XL and it will quickly become a staple part of your guitar based diet for many a year to come.


In Conclusion and Where to Buy

If the Bugera 333XL is anything to go by then all the major Amplifier manufacturers should start worrying because Bugeras R&D department are likely in their labs putting together an exact replica of their most prized amp that will go on sale as a Bugera product for a fraction of the cost. Imagine Bugera [if you will] as the Wetherspoon Pub Chain of the amplifier world. All pubs sell alcohol but Wetherspoon sell the same quality product cheaper than their competitors which results in more people buying from them which, [in turn] allows them to sell the same product even cheaper again. If Bugera continue on their current road then you will be seeing and hearing A LOT more about them over the coming months and years.

Well done gentlemen.

Review Rating:
98%

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