Friedman Runt 20 and Runt 50 - A/B Test and full review

Discussion in 'The Squawk Box' started by jimmer_5, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. jimmer_5

    jimmer_5 Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,252
    Likes Received:
    979
    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2011
    A few weeks back, I started a thread about two new "bedroom" amps that I bought - A Friedman Runt 20 and an Orange Dual Terror. Then, I found a good deal on a used Runt 50 through a shop with a great return policy, so I thought, "Why not? Let's give it a try, and do a proper A-B test between the 20 and the 50. I can always return it." I think this may have been the devil on my shoulder talking, not the angel. :naughty::doh:

    First off, some pictures:


    [​IMG]


    Here's the Runt 50, dialed in for my tastes:

    [​IMG]

    Back panel, just for fun:

    [​IMG]


    There aren't many A-B reviews of these amps, so I hope this can be helpful to anyone else who is on the fence and can't try them locally. It was fun to compare these two amps, and more of a surprise than I expected. In spite of the fact that these are based on the same design, they have some real differences:


    FORM FACTOR:

    Honestly, this one goes to the Runt 20. It's a great size - not little like a Tiny Terror or a Mini Rec, but small enough that it's almost cute, and pleasantly light to lug around. It fits perfectly on a vertical 2x12 cab, and it's just fun to have a pissed off little modded Marshall in such a convenient package. The Runt 50 is by no means a large amp, but it is more of a full sized head. It's comparable to the Orange full sized heads, but not so deep, and not as heavy. Still, the larger chassis and larger iron do make this closer in weight to big heads than to the lunchbox camp. If I had a lot of running around to do, I'd prefer the Runt 20.


    CLEAN CHANNELS:

    The clean channels are both good, but they are different. The 20 is definitely more Voxy, but it is a good pleasant clean tone, and the bright switch makes it very usable with brighter and darker guitars. It stays clean up until around noon, and then it began to get some hair on it, increasing as you turn it up.

    The 50 is more "Blackface", although I'm no expert on Fenders. The tone controls are a nice addition, and mixed with the bright switch, they give you some nice flexibility. This channel has a lot of bass, and I rolled the bass control down under 9 o'clock. It's an excellent clean, but it's not quite a Deluxe Reverb. That being said, I only used it with a V30 loaded 2x12 and a Creamback H loaded 2x12 - it would be interesting to hear it through a cab with Jensens in it. Regardless, I would rate both cleans very well, with the slight edge going to the 50. Also worthy of note, the 50 clean is VERY loud. If you look at my settings, you'll see that the volume is just barely cracked, and that was plenty.


    DIRTY CHANNELS:

    These sound more similar, and i would attribute most of the differences to wattage and power tubes. Part of me felt like the 20 needed more gain, but I think this is partially about perspective. What I mean is that I typically don't run my amps above 3 o'clock on the gain knob - above that it gets mushy without producing a notable increase in saturation. Both of the Runts are genuinely usable throughout the whole sweep of the gain control - I like the low gain settings, and I also like the gain completely dimed. For whatever reason, I preferred the 20 with the gain dimed, and the 50 with the gain around 3 o'clock. I think the 50 has a bit more clarity, but perhaps I just didn't get the 20 dialed in as well. People have described the 50 as sounding "more aggressive", and I think that's a fair statement. Either of these amps should have enough gain for all but modern metal players, just don't be afraid to turn the gain all the way up.

    As low-end thump goes, the 50 is the winner. Neither amp is what I would call "modern" bass heavy, but the 50 had more chunk in the bottom.

    These amps are brighter and more upper mid focused, so I turned the treble and presence down to 10 o'clock. I was actually surprised to see one guy had these controls almost all the way up in his videos - I found it too bright with these controls above noon. Also, I typically like high midrange settings, but the sweet spot for these amps was right around noon.

    Finally, both of these amps have a quality that I prize - they manage to have a tone with great presence, crunch, and clarity, but switch to the neck pickup and you'll get smooth, liquid high gain leads. I know I use that phrase ad nauseum, but it's one of my very favorite sounds. It's awesome to be able to get aggressive, high gain, rhythm chords and smooth leads without changing settings.


    MASTER VOLUME:

    This really applies mostly to the 50 watt amp. The 20 had a wider sweep of "usable" volume, and it was pretty loud by 12 o'clock. The 20 is still loud, but it would probably be the better choice for most home players. I ran this one around 10:30 to noon, and I probably got the tubes working a bit harder than the 50. It gets quiet, but I'll admit, I didn't really focus on the really low volume sounds. I was able to bring this one in the bedroom and close the door, so I could get away with more volume. :D If your want to work the tubes harder, you'll probably want this one.

    Now the 50: As many have stated, Friedman master volumes are pretty impressive - just not for the reason I expected. The magic of the master is that the amp sounds so damn good at really low volume levels. My wife and kids came home, and I rolled it down to down to "why bother" volume, and kept playing with them in the room. After a few minutes, I suddenly realized that I didn't want to stop playing because it still sounded good. I almost never do this - most tube amps don't sound good to me at conversational volume. The Runt was the rare exception, and I am pleasantly surprised.

    The 50 gets really loud fast, and this is the case on both channels. The clean channel is barely cracked, and it is plenty loud. It's not hard to dial in a good volume with either channel, but even the dirty channel was louder at 9 o'clock than my 50 watt Jubilee was at 11:30. So in summary, the range of usable volume is small, but it's not hard to dial in what you need. I had a Mesa MKIV that was super twitchy - a tiny movement could make it painfully loud. The Friedman is much better.


    FOOTSWITCHES

    The Friedman single button footswitch is a nice little all steel unit, and it comes with a USA made removable standard guitar cable. I checked, and it does work with other guitar cables. I really like this feature - god forbid you wreck the cable at a gig, you can always find a spare guitar cable. A TRS cable? Not so much.

    So why am I telling you about the footswitch? When the Runt 50 came (used, not new), the footswitch was missing, and the other footswitches I tried (Jet city and Orange) didn't work with the Friedman amps. The Oranges are even the same style as the Friedman (they both use a removable guitar cable), but they must be wired differently internally. I didn't have a Marshall footswitch to try, so it would be nice to know if those work with Friedmans. Thankfully Boutique Amp Distribution will sell you a new footswitch, but it kind of stinks to have to pay retail for a new one.

    On the bright side? The Friedman footswitch worked with all my other amps, so whatever they're doing with the wiring, it seems to be the best solution.


    QUALITY / FIT & FINISH

    Both of these amps were beautiful - everyone says this about Friedmans, and the word is true. I'm not sure what it is, but they just feel expensive. The only thing I didn't care for were the mini rocker switches - they function fine and they felt good, they just look small and appliance like in my opinion. But hey, we know what opinions are worth, and nobody buys an amp for the power switch. The offset cab gives them a unique look without being too radical. I was impressed, and there's not much more to say.


    SUMMARY:

    I really wanted to like the Runt 20 best. I don't think I've ever wanted to love an amp so much as this one. It's $400 cheaper, beautifully crafted, it's a more appropriate wattage for a non-gigging home player, the size and weight are just right, etc, etc. That being said, the Runt 50 was the one I preferred. It's actually too loud for my needs, bigger and more powerful that I wanted (remember, I was looking for a literal bedroom amp), and more expensive. But for whatever reason, the tone of that amp worked better for my ears. The 20 is a great amp, and I don't want to discourage anyone from getting it. From the moment I plugged into it, I could tell why people like Friedmans. I just prefer the 50, and as always, your mileage may vary.
     
  2. BlueCajun

    BlueCajun Senior Member

    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    387
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2012
    I was afraid you'd say you liked the 50 better. :) Great review, by the way. Thanks for posting it.
     
  3. Natural1

    Natural1 Premium Member

    Messages:
    134
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2013
    Thanks very much for the review!
     
  4. ErictheRed

    ErictheRed Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,641
    Likes Received:
    3,642
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2009
    Thanks, it'd be nice to have some sound clips or video also, but good review!

    Personally I can't seem to get a very good sound out of a Friedman, though I hear a lot of great sounds when others play them...
     
  5. jimmer_5

    jimmer_5 Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,252
    Likes Received:
    979
    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2011
    I was afraid I would like the 50 better myself - it would be nice to get that extra $400 back. It is worth it though.

    Thanks!

    I am not set up to do either of these things well, and I find low quality demos to be a waste of time at best, misleading at worst. I have been looking into getting a loadbox and speaker sims to use with my real amps. There are more components and software than I realized, but hopefully someday in the next year or so I will be able to play real amps silently at night and record clips.

    I think this is a pretty good representation of the amps - I think he gets a little more bass from the 20 than I did, but perhaps he has it turned up a bit more, or he's using a 4X12 cab. Both amps have the gain dimed, but with good headphones you can hear a difference in the character of the two amps. Skip to the 53 second mark for the Runt 20 and the 1:34 mark for the Runt 50.

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKQe3plcPnU[/ame]


    At 3:36, this one also has some low volume clips that A-B both amps, and also talks about the difference in bass response:

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83LCkZpoO0g[/ame]
     
  6. LPCollector

    LPCollector V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    7,562
    Likes Received:
    9,338
    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2007
    GREAT review, Jim!!!

    Thank you!!
     
  7. jimmer_5

    jimmer_5 Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,252
    Likes Received:
    979
    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2011
    I added a bit about the footswitch yesterday - essentially, the Runt footswitch worked with most of my other amps, but their footswitches (Orange / Jet City) didn't work with the Runts.

    I discovered this because my (used) Runt 50 came without the footswitch. Thankfully, I had a little handwired footswitch tucked away, and it just happened to work with the Runt. I got it from BigJohn several years back - he made it to go with an amp I bought from him. Thanks for the assist, John! :)
     
  8. FIREpunkMedic27

    FIREpunkMedic27 Junior Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    5
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2015
    Great review!!! I am between one of the Runts and a 2x12 or an Orange Rockerverb MKIII 50w 2x12 combo. Playing a fairly aggressive style, good examples being Teenage Bottlerocket, The Lillingtons, etc. Any thoughts? Cheers!
     
    cherrysunburst00 likes this.
  9. jimmer_5

    jimmer_5 Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,252
    Likes Received:
    979
    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2011

    On paper, they appear to be pretty similar amps, but they are kind of different. The Rockerverb MKIII has more gain on tap, and can do heavy stuff and smooth high gain leads without using a boost pedal. The clean is really nice as well - not truly a Fender clean, but very nice, chimey, and usable. I think it's a big improvement on the MKII. If you're into heavier modern stuff, get the Orange. Also, you should know that it is a darker smoother amp overall. You can dial in more high end, just know where you're starting.

    The attenuator is a game changer, and it's a really useful feature. It really helps tame the volume, although, like any amp, if you turn it down too much, you won't move the speakers enough to get a great sound. The Rockerverb is one of my favorite amps ever, but I don't consider it very vintage sounding - definitely more in the modern camp. Also, one more tip: sometimes you can find the 100 watt version used for less than the 50 watt. It can do everything the 50 does, and the wattage can drop just as low as the 50. I think people don't want the 100 watt because they think it will be too loud, but the attenuator and the power scaling mean that it's very manageable.

    Personally, I would skip the combo and get the head and the PPC212C (USA made, closed back) 2x12 cabinet. The PPC212 is a FANTASTIC cab, my personal favorite 2x12 cab. Don't buy new, you can get a clean used one for $450 or less. Coincidentally, this cab also sounds great with the Runt (hint, hint).


    Then there is the Runt 50 (get the 50, it's worth every extra penny). The Runt is an interesting amp. It is a "high gain" amp, but it really doesn't have as much gain as a lot of the modern high gain amps (Rockerverb, 5150, Dual Rectifier, JVM, DSL, etc). It's really more in the realm of something like a Silver Jubilee or a modded JCM800/Plexi. Hot rodded Marshall, but not totally over the top. In my opinion, it really is a better Marshall than a lot of Marshalls out there. It is a bright amp by nature, and I run the presence and treble controls fairly low (around 10 o'clock or so). The clean channel is also very loud and bass heavy, so I set the volume and the bass both around 8 o'clock. Odd settings, but it sounds great.

    The master volume is really impressive - it genuinely sounds great at low volumes. That being said, it gets really loud at fairly low settings (around 8 o'clock on the clean and 9 on the dirty). The dirty channel really opens up at 9 o'clock, and sounds like it has more gain than it does at lower volumes. I genuinely wish this amp had a little more gain on tap, but it's so good at what it does that I just sort of accept it for what it is and enjoy it. I have been told that you can get heavier tones out of this amp with a boost or overdrive pedal. Or you can go buy the flagship BE100 head which has an extra gain stage and the HBE channel..... :)

    The other great feature of this amp is that it cleans up really well on the dirty channel - I actually prefer leaving the gain set at 3 o'clock, boost on, and turning down the guitar volume. From about 1-2 on the guitar volume, I get almost clean, just slightly gritty sounds, and 3-4 are fantastic low gain, just breaking up tones. Really, it sounds glorious. These low gain settings sound particularly good with P90s. Humbuckers work too, but the single coils lend something special to these lower gain tones.

    The clean channel is more Fender-like than the Rockerverb, but neither of these amps truly sounds like a Deluxe Reverb. However, it is a great sounding clean channel, and I am hard to please in this respect.


    I love both of these amps - they do overlap some, but they are different enough to own both. It's a tough choice - good luck.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
    bulletproof likes this.

Share This Page