Quilter are a company gaining renown for their transistor based amplifiers like the MicroBlock and Tone Block, but the InterBlock 45 is even smaller and fits right on a pedal board or in the front pocket of your gig bag for a great backup.
The company states Pat Quilter's mission is 'to combine a deep love of music, a deep understanding of tube behavior, and his expertise in switchmode design' claiming that it's the latter that enables them to bridge the gap that other companies have failed at doing when trying to create the perfect solid state or digital amplifier.
Now, it's not too clear from their site what this 'switchmode design' is apart from the fact it's often called 'Class D'. However, a quick Google reveals that it's a type of amplifier that can run very efficiently and so have a smaller power draw; give off less heat; and use much smaller transformers.
So, we have an amplifier that can be small, light and still be very powerful. What's still not clear is why this should be any better than many other amplifiers out there, whether digital, solid state or tube based, apart from the weight issue with the latter. And when you have competition from other amazing companies such as Kemper, it seems Quilter are throwing down the gauntlet when stating: 'discriminating ears agree that even the most expensive digital processors do not capture the warmth and dynamic feel of an actual tube amp' and inferring that they have managed to achieve this.
So bearing all this in mind, I was certainly interested to try out the InterBlock 45 as it comes from a company that specialises in small, light, yet powerful amplifiers, and this one is so small it'll fit on the palm of your hand.
Why would you want that? Well, firstly it's great to have a backup amp that'll either fit in your pocket or can just sit on your pedalboard in case it's needed. But also it can power a speaker to small gig volumes easily, so whether you're at a rehearsal or a gig where there's a backline available then you can just take one board and a guitar and you're done. That's pretty cool.
It can also power a modeller like the aforementioned Kemper or the Line 6 HX Stomp. And that's pretty interesting too - imagine a tiny pedalboard with a Stomp, InterBlock 45 and a mini expression pedal. There isn't much ground you can't cover with that set up and you can even use a 4x12 cab with it! As I said, that's pretty interesting...
Take a look at the video on the right to see how to set up the Stomp to use with an external amplifier.
Alright, let's take a look at this little beast.
It's a diminutive 5"x 4"x 1.75" but don't let that fool you as it puts out 45 watts at 4 ohm, 33 watts at 8 and 17 at 16.
There are a few different dials and switches, most of which are pretty standard. We've got a Master Volume, Low, Mid, and High EQs and a Gain dial. For switching options we have:
EQ voice - Full Q and Vintage. Full Q is designed to be flat and so is the more obvious choice if powering a modeller like the HX Stomp with cab modelling supplied by the Stomp. Vintage is meant to give a more 'Fender' like sound.
Cab / FR - This is used to basically add a cab sim on the Balanced Line / Headphones Out and is also used when using a real cab. There's been a bit of confusion in regards to this, but if you are using a real cab or want a cab sound added to go to a desk or an interface for recording, you want the switch set to Cab.
Balanced Line / Headphones Out - use the first when connecting to an interface or desk and the latter when using headphones. Pretty obvious really;)
The other really cool thing about this tiny amp is that it even has an effects loop - how cool is that?!
Enough blather! How does it sound?
The short answer is: actually pretty damn good, especially the cleans.
The long answer is not quite so clear cut.
I used the InterBlock 45 with my 2x12 Two Rock cab and started with a clean setting on the Full Q voicing.
The tone is quite pleasing and the EQ section has enough range to accommodate most needs. With my telecaster it sounded pretty warm but retained some twang and I have to agree the Quilter does become a little more Fender-like in the Vintage setting, adding in a little more high end and giving a bit more sparkle. However, I personally didn't find it as warm as my tube amp but certainly still very useable.
Adding in gain, I didn't get much dirt before 2 o'clock and the increase in crunch isn't exactly smooth, with most of it living in the last couple of degrees on the dial. Through my physical speaker, the gain sound was very useable. There isn't a lot on tap, it's certainly not for the heavy rockers out there, but if you're into AC/DC you'd be covered.
Going direct into my DAW via an Apollo Twin interface, again the cleans were perfectly good. However, I couldn't get a crunch sound I was happy with as it remained quite fizzy no matter the setting.
A comment I received on YouTube suggested that as I'd cranked the gain, it wasn't surprising that the sound was pretty fizzy, and that I should treat the pedal as I would a real tube amp, increasing the master to get the crunch.
I'm always open to comments and to investigating gear to get the best out of it and so did as was suggested in case I'd failed to do so in my initial play-through, opening the master all the way and then adjusting the gain. If this had worked and sounded better, I'd have edited my video demo, however the result was exactly the same with the InterBlock remaining pretty clean with the master cranked, and then fizzy through the direct out.
As I was happy enough with the clean sounds, the next logical step was to see how the Quilter took pedals. I used a Zvex Box of Rock and a Friedman BE-OD with a Belle Epoch Deluxe in the loop and the sound was great! The fact it takes pedals well is a huge bonus and makes the InterBlock much more useable and versatile no matter what genre you play. Just plug in your favourite OD / distortion and you're covered - certainly well enough for rehearsals, using a backup and maybe even for a small gig.
If you're after a small backup, or want to power a multi-fx like a HX Stomp, this is a great little amp-in-a-pedal. With my 2x12 cab, rated at 8 ohms, there was plenty of volume for a small gig / rehearsal and combining it with pedals that I regularly use was a great way to get the gain structure and tone I wanted.
The only negatives to look out for are the fizzy gain through the direct out, and the slightly inferior build quality. In the video above entitled "Quilter InterBlock 45 Demo and First Thoughts" you'll see where I point out the rather cheap feeling controls, which is a great shame.
Competition is hot in this market though, and there are definitely other small amps worth checking out, but for around £130 the Quilter InterBlock 45 does a fantastic job.
Take a look at the Quilter Labs site for more of their products: