Ok - review. Kinda quick I suppose. Played with the Matchete for a while and really like it. Clean doesnt really do tweed tones. Its much more Twin, or Black face Delux Reverb - though with a slightly snappier attack. The pull boost is really nice as well - judged perfectly. Takes single coil guitars to blues tones (which you can also do without the pull boost if you wind the gain up). The notch takes the basic tone more towards AC30s (fully left) and scoops out a little too much at full right for my tastes. The damp also works really well - fully loose its much more toppy/fast and fully damped brings a smoother fuller body. Again playing with these two controls can take you from AC30 through to Boogie Mk 1 kinda territory.
Gain channel - and the controls work just as well. You can go from a fully saturated thick tone, to a very tight, fast, cutting rhythm. Low gain levels replicate channel 1 with the boost on - full out and theres lots on tap. Not as much as some high gainers - Duel REcs and Deizels for instance, but more than enough for most people I guess.
Where does the amp sit in general? Probably something like a Mesa Rectoverb. Similar core tonality and gain levels but with more flexibility thanks to the notch and damp options.
So - gain staging with my AFX and its fine. A little noisy on channel 2, but controllable with a slight gate. I can also use the EQ on the AFXs loop to compensate for low volume changes in perceived tone - like I do on the AFX itself. Taking the FX loop in/out while changing the volume from 2/3 to 8/9 and matching (pretty much) the sound with the EQ means I can have the Machete at almost home without sacrificing tone.
How does it stack with the AFX. Difficult to say. This is a single 1x12 with a V30. The Cab the AFX uses is a 2x12 ported with 1 V30 and one G12H. Its very close though. The clean is VERY similar to my Delux REverb patch, the Pull gain is VERY close to my Princeton Reverb driven patch - and the gain whilst not perfect, isnt a million miles away from my Custom Audio patch. Small changes on the AFX gets closer - but so does small changes on the Machetes EQ (which is VERY re-active - slight movements change the tone a lot).
Clean tones seem nicer on the Machete - which seems to fill out more at lower volumes. I have to puch the AFX slightly louder to get the same body. High gain patches though sound fuller/meatier on the AFX, even at lower volumes. Partly due Im sure to the 2x12 v 1x12.
So - all in all happy. Not sure exactly how much Ill use the Machete once the honeymoon is over. The AFX is just as good in many ways, and more flexible - BUT theres something about plugging into the Machete at slightly louder volumes (not gig levels, but about what I can normally get away with in the house). I found myself going from Machete to AFX and preferring the Machetes tones - but then after a while going back to the Machete and preferring the AFX tones. Ultimately though - its a pick up and go amp (its not as heavy as some Mesas) which it will excel at. Its also made me re-think SOME of my AFC patches - particularly the blues/breaking tones - most of which were too mid based on my AFX patches. Adding some cut and removing some mids will be in order. The AFX clean tones are perfectly fine - and offer a range of tones. The higher gain options again are fine on the AFX - again with more options. Classic rock was also covered better on the AFX (the Machete doesnt really do cranked Marshal tones) - but its more than capable, with HB loaded guitars into the clean channel with boost engaged, of being gig fine.
As for the amp - I think its great, especially for the price. Its definitely up there (if not better at some things) to Rectoberbs, or Expreses - in sound and apparent quality. The Machete certainly seems built like a tank, though long term will determine if thats true internally as well. I think Fender have fallen foul of perception though (much as they did with their select guitars). People who want Fender amps wont like the styling of the Machete - and the tones are more modern than most fender cleans. People who want the tones of the Machete will look at Mesa and similar offerings - most likely dismissing the Machete without even plugging in.
If you like those tones - you really should try a Machete if you can.