Bugera 333-212 Combo
Words: Tim Slater
333-212 Combo
All prices incl VAT
A 120W, three-channel tube combo
with built-in speaker damping,
reverb and an FX loop/boost
mode. It’s aimed at the player
that covets an expensive boutique
tube amp but maybe doesn’t want
to spend boutique amp prices.
The Bugera 333 sounds very
convincing and is packed with
features that belie the modest
price tag. Indeed, the 333 conveys
the impression of an expensive
hand-built tube amplifier. It has
quite an uncompromising tone
with a fierce distortion but the
overall definition and clarity of the
6L6 power tubes is always to the
fore. The versatile EQ and extra
voicing options from the speaker
damping circuit also open up lots
of potential for creating some
truly amazing sounds.
A meaty-looking 3-channel valve combo
that claims to offer boutique-amp
performance at a temptingly low price.
If you’re not familiar with
the concept of ‘boutique’ guitar
amplifiers, the phrase broadly
applies when describing any amp
that is assembled using some
degree of hand-wiring or equally
skill-dependant element in its
manufacturing process. Boutiquestyle guitar amps can either be
jaw-droppingly simple designs or else
they bristle with a plethora of toneenhancing whistles and bells that
make no bones about their ability to
put you at the cutting edge.
Either approach claims to offer
superior performance and tone
compared to your typical massproduced guitar amplifier – and both
can also leave a sizeable dent in your
wallet. Hand-wired tube guitar amps
usually don’t come cheap, and this is
where the Bugera 333 aims to justify
its claim to bring something new to
the party by virtue of a price tag that
falls just short of £500! That seems
a bargain for a 120W three-channel
valve combo, so let’s have a look at
the beastie and see how she goes.
Well worth a Grunt
The Bugera 333 appears to be a solid
and well-built combo and considering
the type of performance it claims to
deliver, it really needs to be.
Driven by a quartet of 6L6 output
tubes and a tube-driven preamp with
four 12AX7 valves, this 212 combo
packs a lot of hardware inside its
chassis and its twin-speaker design
naturally implies that it is both
physically large and at 28.5 kilos (or
a back-straining 60-odd old-school
Lbs), it is also fairly heavy.
Weight issues are an unavoidable
fact of life with big valve combos, as
they need to be rugged to withstand
the typical slings and arrows of
weekly gigs.
Luckily the Bugera features stainless
steel corner protectors and a large
ventilated steel grill at the rear that
helps maintain a constant flow of
cooling air around the output tubes
whilst protecting them from damage.
Around the front, the combo
presents a smart and purposeful
modern design, with a black and
silver control panel complimented
by black speaker cloth trimmed with
silver piping.
The busy control layout offers the
first clue that we are dealing with an
amp that is designed to cover the
whole tonal spectrum from clean to
high-gain rock and metal. (A remote
footswitch is included).
Besides individual volume and EQ
controls on each of the three separate
clean, crunch and lead channels, the
crunch and lead channels also have
separate gain controls that offer
totally independent control over
30 pickup
pmp0908 p30,32.indd 30
20/8/08 14:41:45
the overdrive sounds. This versatile
setup puts you firmly in the driving
seat as far as dialling-in any distorted
lead or rhythm tones you could
possible want. The Bugera 333 easily
covers everything from a bluesy purr
to a full-on Metallica-style roar and
while we’re at it the clean sounds
aren’t to be sniffed at, either.
The amp’s overall volume level is
governed by a single master volume
control, while an adjacent master
reverb control adjusts the overall
amount of the amp’s built-in spring
reverb globally across all three channels.
So far, so good. The Bugera is
user-friendly enough to let you get
some good working sounds up and
running straight from the crate but
there is still more on offer when you
delve a bit further.
The three-way speaker damping
Bugera 333-212 Combo
Besides the extra low-end wallop,
another advantage of the mid and
low-damp modes is that they let
you sound ‘louder’ without actually
having to increase the amps volume
level and risk drowning out everyone
else. Bargain.
If you want even more kick, the
Bugera’s FX loop send and return
level pots double up as an extra
boost that can be selected via the
amp’s footswitch. The boost is global
and cannot be assigned to individual
channels but is nevertheless useful
expensive US-built amplifier for
build-quality. Something about the
Bugera’s control shafts conveys
a sense of fragility and while the
control knobs don’t exactly snap
off at the merest touch, they don’t
look as though they will withstand
too hefty a pounding, so be mindful
of this when you are lugging the
Bugera in and out of the car.
With that in mind, we have no
complaints about the Bugera’s tone
and if you prefer overdriven sounds
with a taught, modern sound,
The Bugera gives you great sounds
straight from the crate…
control is a feature sometimes found
on more expensive combos (Peavey’s
Triple XXX combo immediately
springs to mind) and if you are an
out-and-out heavy rock or metal
guitarist, it might be useful to
appreciate how this feature works – it
may well be your secret weapon.
Imagine how the speakers react
inside the cabinet when you hit a
big chord; they flap around a fair
bit don’t they? Well, the damping
switch lets you select between three
separate presets that adjusts the
combos low-end response.
Highly damped, the combo has
a tight bass response that sounds
fairly efficient as an all-round voicing
for clean and overdriven sounds; it’s
usable but maybe nothing special.
However, decrease the damping
factor and suddenly the amp sounds
flippin’ huge! In a nutshell , when
you lower the damping factor you
are basically increasing the cabinet’s
resonance by making the speakers
‘flap’ around inside the cabinet more,
resulting in a dramatic low-end boost
that sounds really big and chunky;
more like a 4x12 cabinet, if you like.
whenever you need even more kick;
reverting back to standard FX loop
mode when the boost is disengaged.
Finally, a line out jack and a line out
level control feeds the combo’s signal
to a PA or a recording console, while
allowing a useful degree of control
over the line-level signal.
If you still feel you need a bit of
extra throw via an external speaker
cabinet, an impedance selector
switches between 4, 8 and 16 ohms
to keep the amp functioning at full
whack, so long as you remember
to select the correct impedance to
match your external speakers.
It all looks and feels very
impressive and, as we said earlier,
straight from the crate you can get
some good solid tones from the
Bugera, but let’s have a closer look.
the Bugera delivers. Compared to
the warm sound of a typical EL34
equipped amp such as a Marshall
JCM2000, the 6L6-equipped Bugera
333 is much harder-edged and more
aggressive. Even the clean channel
has a tough, glassy quality that
delights the ear, and when you are
playing a Strat with the neck pickup
set to ‘stun’ it feels like a marriage
made in heaven.
Complex chords sound bright and
uncluttered and you can more or
less just plug in and find great usable
clean sounds from the word ‘go’.
Flicking between the three channels
quickly shows that the Bugera
is easily capable of producing a
workable range of tones. The crunch
channel sounds smooth and articulate
and we can see it serving perfectly
well as the main lead channel for
many guitarists who will doubtless
make excellent use of the broad
meaty midrange and muscular yet
flexible gain; which is spot-on for
modern blues or classic hard rock.
The lead channel takes
everything up a gear and now
you’re getting into full-on modern
rock and metal territory; it’s as mean
as Mike Tyson with a hangover and
can strip wallpaper at 20 paces once
you really begin to crank up the
gain. This is a truly savage sounding
overdrive that is about as subtle as a
brick through a window but if
unbridled shred is your bag, then the
Bugera 333 can and will take you all
the way.
You can tailor this amp to sound
tight and punchy like a vintage
Fender combo or dial in big ballsy
metal tones that sound as
contemporary as it gets without
having to remortgage your entire
life’s possessions to afford it. To be
honest, the 333’s sounds aren’t an
issue; the thing to bear in mind is
that this amp is built to a price and
build-quality issues might arise faster
than you’d expect from a more
expensive amp if you don’t look
after it properly. However, the low
price notwithstanding the Bugera
333 feels solid, reasonably well
made and sounds damn good.
If only tubes will do but but cash
is an issue, you could take this amp
out on a gig and not feel as though
you are carting around mutton
dressed as lamb. PU
Rock Steady
Loaded as it is with 6L6 output tubes,
the Bugera has the typical hardhitting tone of an American amp.
However, one touch of the
Bugera’s rotary controls reveals
that this Chinese-made combo
doesn’t necessarily match an
It’s as mean as Mike
Tyson with a hangover
and can strip wallpaper
at 20 paces...
32 pickup
pmp0908 p30,32.indd 32
20/8/08 14:42:23
Download PDF