Category 5 Samantha

Hook, Line, and Tone
Category 5 Samantha

Price: Street $2,995

Blues-rocker Samantha Fish (VG, December ’21) electrifies audiences with her high-energy shows. A decade ago, she began favoring Category 5’s 50-watt/cathode-biased Andrew amp onstage. In 2021, she and builder Don Ritter started designing a signature model based on the Andrew’s blackface-inspired Channel 2 but with a slight emphasis on midrange, and tighter low-end response. The result is the Samantha, a 40-watt combo that launched in early ’22.

Loaded with a pair of 5881 power tubes and a 100-watt Jensen N12K speaker in a semi-closed cabinet, the Samantha’s controls include Bass, Mid and Treble along with Volume, Reverb, Drive, Boost switch and Power to adjust its overall output.

Using Tele and Les Paul reissues, and with the Power dimed, EQ controls at 12 o’clock and Volume at 9 o’clock, the Samantha produced a smooth, clear clean tone with bounce. Turning up the Treble and backing off the Bass gave it more edge and percussiveness, while dialing in a touch of its tube-driven reverb added warmth and space without sounding washed out.

Moving the Volume to 1 o’clock gave the amp more grit and presence – perfect for blues. Cranked, the Samantha offered glorious, open, punchy tones with teeth and attitude. Flipping the Boost switch and turning up the Drive brought a thicker tone, great for singing leads. Superb responsiveness, pick attack, and sustain make the Samantha fun to play, with a tactile feel at any gain or volume setting.

If 40 watts is too much, the Samantha’s power-scaling function can take the amp down to one watt or anything in-between. As power is reduced, volume becomes more manageable, with less punch and a bit more sag. The neodymium-magnet Jensen gives a bigger sound than you’d expect, regardless of output.

Other touches include a slave out and a jack to footswitch the boost. If hard-driving blues-rock is your thing, Category 5’s Samantha could be your next step up.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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