Have you ever wondered where, in the infinite annals of the amp universe, you could find one amp to rule them all? Have you ever asked, “Why won’t my amp break up nicely when I turn it up? I don’t want all this dumpy, distorted mud!” If you have asked these things, then wow, you and I think a lot alike, and I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The Cage Corsa is the best amp you’ve probably never heard of. Operating out of Damascus, MD, Pete Cage is the sole owner and employee of Cage Amplifiers. That means he’s running a one man show, and it’s a damn good show. Let’s get into what makes the Corsa so special.
Each Cage amp is built from the ground up, and the Corsa is no exception. The greatness with this particular model lies in the simplicity. Eliminating effects loops and combining the EQ controls into one single tone knob, the Corsa’s sound is captured perfectly in what the Cage website describes as “sonic nirvana”. Wise words, Mr. Cage, wise words.
There are two channels on the amp, and each has their own volume and tone control knob. The Normal channel is, predictably, slightly darker than the Bright channel, but what’s great is the ability to flip the Link switch on the front face of the amp. With this setting engaged, you’re able to use both channels at once, no matter which channel input you’re plugged into at the time. This lets you dial in your tone in ways you only thought possible in dreams… your sick, sick dreams.
The tubes in the Corsa are J/J EL84s, but Mr. Cage also makes recommendations on his website for other tube combinations that work well in this amp’s particular circuit. With a 30 watt and 18 watt “half power” switch on the amp face, you have the versatility to tear up the stage with more headroom on the higher output, as well as dial it back for studio work or practice sessions. The best part of this amp, and why it may be the final destination on your quest for the one true amp, is the effortless mutation between clean and dirty, broken-up tones. I say “mutation” because so many characteristics are maintained during the switch from clean to overdriven, while new harmonic overtones are introduced as you turn up. The process can only be compared to a living, breathing mutant. It’s kind of like a Pokémon evolution (but not that little electric rat; the fire breathing dragon). In many amps I have played, the jump from a clean channel to an overdrive channel can be just that — a jump. A bit less than seamless, to put it nicely. The Corsa slays that transition without breaking a sweat.
The Cage Corsa is a delightful combination of simplicity and purity, offering a variety of tonal excellence (I swear I don’t work for Cage, I just love this amp). The tricky part is getting your hands on one. I have encountered two in my life, both in larger recording studios in Boston. Every amp is built to order by Mr. Cage, and sold directly from him to the customer, in order to eliminate any outside vendor costs. If you want to try one before you buy one, go to the contact page on Cage’s website to have an audition amp sent to you. Just make sure you return it when you’re done… something tells me Mr. Cage would find you.
Turn those pedals off.
These sounds will confuse and delight you.