Killer Beauty: Panama Guitars Builds Amps that Look as Good as They Sound



Van Halen thought it was a big deal. We should too.

Deep in the heart of a tropical jungle, nestled on the side of Volcán Barú, Panama Guitars design their amps in the most metal way possible, on the side of a freaking volcano. In spite of their brutal origin, these amps are classy, versatile creatures that can scream when you want them to. When got word about Panama Guitars and the amps that they were building, we knew we had to check them out.

Was your amp designed on the side of a freaking volcano?


And you call yourself “Metal.”

Founded in 2012, by two dudes with a passion for all things guitar, Panama Guitars uses sustainably harvested local resources to build amps that combine the elegant looks of tropical hardwoods with the balls-to-the-wall crunch and sustain that can only be had from cutting-edge electronics. With designs as exotic as the woods that they use, Panama Guitars are really looking to set a new bar for amp manufacturers. Let’s make them look as gorgeous as they sound. And, these things do sound gorgeous.

PANAMA_Inferno_100W_Tube_Amp-1The Inferno 100 is a 4-channel, 100-amp head with four 6550 power tubes that can go from pretty to violent with a throw of a switch. Channel one keeps it light with crystal clean tones that can share the same stage with just about any vintage amp. Even the second channel can be used to dial in some slightly overdriven tones that will make your lines sing beautifully.

But, like all beautiful things, this thing has a dark side that can kill you. The third channel really starts to show how those 6550s really push the bottom end (That’s what she said). If you’re looking for chunk, well, here it is. Finally, we come to the ear-shredding monster that is hiding in the fourth channel. Like the 8th circle of hell, it hides a demon that will tear you limb from limb. But, it’s not just happiness and deadly things with this amp, it’s got everything in between. That’s what we at like to call dynamics.

Then, there’s the Shaman 20, a low-wattage, mini-head that changes how guitar players approach their live rigs. Players are quickly moving away from the giant monstrosities of yesteryear and quickly moving to rigs that are easier to move around and more conducive to playing in an environment that doesn’t include over ten thousand people.

Like the Inferno, the Shaman has the versatility to bring you from 50s clean to full-on rage distortion. But, during its search for enlightenment, it has managed to find a way to sound huge while staying very small. Two completely independent foot-switchable channels each with independent Master, Presence, Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain, and two voicing modes covering a range of tones. Topped off with a shared, hard-bypassable effects loop and a selectable 10/20-watt power section.

You know what? I want to get some decent sounds without blaring the shit out of my shit. I don’t care who knows it! Dynamics aren’t always about how loud or soft you are. Sometimes you want to add a bit of grit to your sound without breaking the sound barrier. The Shaman 20 lets players maneuver in that territory without being shot down by the sound guy.

Now, let’s talk about wood.

*waits for snickering to stop*

Both The Inferno 100 and the Shaman 20 are enclosed in a handcrafted Spanish Cedar and Red Zorrowood cabinet. If you have never witnessed the glory that is Spanish Cedar and Red Zorrowood, then behold! Panama-Shaman20-Red

One of the benefits of building amps in a tropical climate is that you are constantly inspired by your environment. You see the wood. You feel the wood. You become the wood.

*waits for snickering to stop*

You are all children.

To make sure that they are carrying the sound from the jack to speaker, Panama Guitars went the extra mile to design and build their own cabinets and speakers. Who the hell does that? People that know tone, that’s who!

Take their Road Series Horizontal 2×12 Stereo Mix Cabinet. Besides for having two of their own house-built speakers, this cab features an individually adjustable speaker attenuator, letting you find that unique sound that you’re looking for.

Besides for being freaking amazing to look at, Panama’s got a ton of resources for amp manufacturers to seek out. Exotic woods. Seclusion. Inspirational landscape. It’s not surprising that they guys behind Panama Guitars decided to lay a foundation and start building some gear there. And, you know what. It’s some top-shelf stuff. We here at aren’t sure if the look inspired the tone or if the tone inspired the look, but either way, Panama Guitars really knows how to build an amp. PG-SHAMAN_20_ROAD_STACK_NAMM


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Filed Under: FeaturedNews

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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