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Mack Amps Heatseeker HS-18 and Skyraider SR-15 Customer Reviews

"We put my Mack side by side with a $4,000.00 Wizard 50 watt head going into identical 4x12 Wizard cabinets.  I'm not going to comment on the results other than to say I had a grin from ear to ear and found myself repeating over and over, Wow!"
- from Jim commenting on a test he conducted with his Skyraider SR-30!

"Crikey!  It's not often that someone talks sense about tube amps and "tone" in general.   You are an island of enlightenment in an ocean of ignorance and myth.  Keep up the good work!"  Andrew - Australia

Comments from Dave about his Heatseeker HS-18:

"I wanted to mention how the Heetseeker actually inspired me to play more because it was such a reawakening.... I actually get to use my guitars volume and tone controls again.  For so many dreary years I was trying different tricks with capacitors and different pots on my guitars trying to keep the high end chime when I turned my guitar down...... nothing really worked and it always sounded muddy...... your amp put me back in control.

I can now roll off  the volume and things go from overdrive to clean with no noticable loss of clean chime.  All the subtle adjustments from my guitars are noticable.  I don't even use overdrive/distortion pedals anymore.  In the 80's I used 4 in two different loops.... at times driving one with the other.... Yeesh ! ..... which gets me quite excited to put the two amps in unision as you suggested (Dave has ordered a Skyraider SR-15 to go with his Heatseeker!).

My family and my music are the only things that stir my soul so getting this amp is another purposeful step in keeping that old soul stirred."

When asked Dave if we could use the above excerpt from one of his emails he had this to say:

"You're welcome to use my report on the amp.  Just tellin' the truth.  The search is over."

Comments from Jef Culhane about his Heatseeker HS-18:

Jef Culhane comes from the deeply talented musical universe centered in St. Paul/Minneapolis.  Check out his Myspace page and listen to the tunes from his album "Out Of The Hat Into The Fire"... great writing (love these songs!!) and guitar playing!!  http://www.myspace.com/jefthetoneking

"The near life changing event was when I plugged in the Stratocaster (Eric Johnson Model).  It was more "Strat sounding" than any Strat I have ever heard.  It blew away the Matchless DC30 I had.  Literally, I sat with my mouth open for several minutes in disbelief."

"Yesterday I took the rig over for a showdown with a friend's Mesa, and he had to admit the Mack killed his Mesa."

"Well, you have proven again, you are the King of Voicing.  Using inexpensive components in a combination that is frighteningly close to the tones you only get by spending 4 times the money - or more!"

"Seriously, I say all this stuff because I mean it.  I already bought your amp, I am not angling for an endorsement deal or anything of the kind.  I just support the small business man (having been one), and you are filling a real void/niche that has existed far too long."

Email from Tom about his Heatseeker HS-18 and Gem 2G:

"I've had these amps for a while now and am loving both of them.  I've had no opportunity to try the HS-18 in a gig setting but it's fabulous.  I've been using the Gem for every day fooling around and in my studio.  It's as close to perfect for in-house playing as I've ever encountered.  I'll tell everyone who wants to know."

Email from Todd about his Heatseeker HS-18:

"I received the amp today!  I have been playing for the last hour or so.  First off let me say that this might just be the best tone I have ever heard from an amp..AWESOME!

I just wanted to let you know that I am thrilled with the tone I am getting from the Heatseeker. "

Photo from John about his Heatseeker HS-18:


"Your amp is the crowning jewel! "

Email from Dave about his Heatseeker HS-18:

"Nice clear sustained chords with all the notes ringing when arpeggiated..... even dissonant wierd chords at full volume on the hot and burn settings - a real test of an amp's beauty in my books.  Really nice lead tone and fattness on melt but still well defined.

I have no problem putting my voice out there for a product that delivers what was promised and solidly backed by the man that answers for the company.  You've made this a very stress free aquisition and offered an actual satisfaction guarantee.  Thanks again Don."

Email from a prospective customer:

"I just NEED that Skyraider (SR-15) in my life.  Sweet mother of God it sounds sweet."

Another email from Jim about his Skyraider SR-30:

"Just have to add that I'm still loving the tones from this amp, absolutely marvelous.  Everyone that hears it is blown away."

Read Jim's 'New Amp Day' post on http://www.guitarscanada.com about his SR-30: http://www.guitarscanada.com/amps-cabs/36908-new-amp-day-mack-sr-30-a.html

Email from Jim about his Skyraider SR-30:

"Hi Don, as I sit here this morning completely bewildered at what I heard last night, I am absolutely ecstatic and thrilled with this amp.  I actually heard what my guitar is supposed to sound like just as you had predicted.  It was an awakening.  I am finding the words difficult to muster here and really am quite dumbfounded.  All I keep wanting to say is, Wow!

Even though I had taken my FET Dream pedal along, I rarely felt the need to use it.  And, even though I knew the volume was turned up and I had to keep asking everyone if it was too loud, they kept replying that it was indeed loud, but that the sounds were so superb, they didn't want me to turn down.

I began to learn all about using the volume control of my guitar to create the necessary clean and distorted tones, something I've never done before or had the opportunity to even try.  I felt like a complete amateur, but it was great feeling nonetheless, as I heard sounds that I've never heard myself play before.  It made me realize just how much experimental and complex potential was now available to me all within the simplicity of this fine amp.

As you had mentioned, I could alter my pick attack and go from crystal clear clean tones to distortion with very little effort, at literally any volume that I chose on the amp and tweaked on the guitar.  Amazing control.

I am still trying to fathom what happened last night, but you have certainly made a true believer out of me, Don, and a very satisfied customer.  And, for that, I thank you.  You've built a phenomenal amp and have opened my eyes to a bigger world.

Best Regards

Email from Don:

" I finally had a chance to try the SR-15 with the band at rehearsal.  It was awesome.

I jacked into a Marshall 4 x 12 loaded with Greenbacks and Private Jacks.  I used a Mesa V-Twin OD pedal in case I needed something for soloing, but I found I had it on bypass most of the time.

I was surprised at how loud it was, how punchy the bottom end was and how it cut through the mix. The boys were all compliments as well.  I am very pleased."

From Mack Endorsing Artist Josh Gordon:

"I played the Harp and Crown in Pickering last night.  My SR-15 combined with my 25th Anniversary Paul Reed Smith SE 24 guitar was the best sounding tone I've had in years!  That amp and guitar combo was simply magic.  Once again your amp rocked the house!"

From Mack Endorsing Artist Steve Gunner (Creedence Clearwater Revisited):

"I don't mind paying real money for a quality product, but the fact that Mack amps are so affordable makes the tone even sweeter!"

Email from Glenn:

"I saw Val Halla open for Ted Nugent last night.  She was using one of your amps (Heatseeker HS-18) and it had great tone, and clarity.  I was about 10 feet from the stage, so I was able to appreciate pure amp, without the house sound system."

From Mack Endorsing Artist Doron Zor:

"August 8 2009.  Here I am playing a high profile gig at Toronto's famous jazz venue The Rex Jazz Bar.

While setting up my gear I pulled the speaker cable from my Skyraider 15 Combo - by accident of course.  Thinking I blew the tubes or busted the amp, 10min before my set starts I call Don Mackrill explaining the situation.  Without skipping a beat Don replies with: "I am on the way with a new amp to your gig".  Good thing I was only 20min away :)

Later that evening I get a call back from Don: "Doron the amp is fine, you just pulled the cable from the speaker when you rushed to get the amp plugged into the wall before your set".  Next day Don shows up at my house with my beloved amp.

This just shows what an amazing guy runs this company.  Really and truly cares about the player, and tries to put himself in the player's shoes.  Thank you Don."

Email from Bill after receiving his Heatseeker HS-18:

"The amp is just fabulous!  I love that power tube distortion!  It's really the pure and unadulterated sound I've been looking for. 

You're right - the amp is very responsive to my playing (it's extremely sensitive to picking dynamics) and that's going to make me a better player, for sure. 

It's also amazing how one tone switch can shape my sound so dramatically.  I'm using a solid-body guitar with a single soap bar pickup - the "hot" setting is fine for rhythm and most leads but I really like that "burn" switch when I need a boost.

Thanks, Don, for building a fine amp... everything you said on your website is true and I'm really excited about creating my own unique sound with this tone machine."

Email from Daniel about his Skyraider SR-15:

"This picture shows me with my Skyraider and my built-from-scratch strat.  The single coil sound with the Skyraider has treated me well. I recorded with it the other day and it came across as bright and smooth. Great studio sound! A friend of mine compared the tone to his Matchless... which is high praise in the boutique world! It's quickly becoming my go-to amp for just about everything.  Thanks, Don!"

Note: A built-from-scratch Strat?!  Well done Daniel!



Email excerpts from Mack Endorsing Artist Rob Roberge:

"The tone is FABULOUS.  Man what a sweet sounding amp."  - Comment regarding Rob's first encounter with his Heatseeker HS-18 

"We (Urinals) played an impromtu gig in Pedro for a friend's art opening.  I was tired, didn't feel like carrying shit, so I brought the Skyraider SR-30 and the cab and a tele with 'buckers and no pedals, save for a tuner.  Sounded f'ing incredible...  First time I'd used the 4-6V6 amp at a gig, and its potential was really shown live.  My tone was monster.  No pedals... just the volume knob on the tele, and I sounded as good as ever live.  Incredible.  I love these amps."  - Comment regarding Rob's first gig with his SR-30.

This is a phone message left by Chris in Florida after he had just received his Heatseeker HS-18:

"Don, how are you? Just got the amp. F****ing awesome, man!  Beautiful!  Love it!  Gonna take it in the studio with me.  Really digging it, man!  Appreciate it!"

Three emails from Bing in Chicago, Illinois:
The first email was sent a few days after receiving his new Heatseeker HS-18:

"Got the amp this Friday and I got to try it on band practice Saturday. My expectations were exceeded man. There's plenty of headroom and the volume, I was literally blown away. This amp is LOUD!!! I was hesitating on getting an 18 watt amp but you made me a believer. I was easily converted. I immediately sold all my effects this weekend. Talk about pure Valve burning tone!

I can't compare it to the other amps I have owned because it has it's unique tonal character on its own. The amp cuts through anything in my band, even if our drummer is a heavy hitter. I use to sacrifice tone to be able to be heard through the mix, but with the HS-18 no tone is lost.

Plenty of volume for a medium size gig with around 250 heads. I don't know about the big gigs, but what the heck there is always the PA to mic the amp or maybe I'll get your 30 watter when you bring them out.

Thank you Don! Stay true to your vision."

Another email from Bing in Chicago, Illinois sent a week later:

"How much is the Heatseeker HS-36? This with the HS18 would be the ultimate match for large gigs. I just gigged with the HS-18 and a Vox AC30 head A/B.  I cranked the HS-18 all the way up at the Burn position for my crunch and added a Bad Bob booster for my high gain sound.  Man, what a sound!  

I used the AC30 for my cleans.  I like the clean sound of the HS-18 better.  Regarding the clean sound, the HS-18 is kinda in the middle of a Fender and a Vox, punch with a hint of jangle.

If I can afford to buy the HS-36, the AC30 is going to be auctioned on eBay.  For ten years I have been using Fender, Vox and Marshall reissues.  None of them comes close to the tone of the Mack, yet they are at the same price range."

And Bing writes again:

“The show we did last night was a huge success. We played with 6 other bands. The other guitar players were raving about the Heatseeker. They can't believe I wasn't using any dirt pedals. I had the smallest pedal board and the smallest amp (most brought their overkill 100 watters) but I had the biggest tone. They can't believe how loud the Heatseeker sounds. I had the volume set at 10 o'clock and in the middle of our set I saw the sound guy on the stage turning down the volume of the amp!”

“Picture it if you will... we're playing in a restaurant bar in beautiful downtown Ajax. The keyboard player stands on it and everything disappears in full-spectrum wash of electronic hash. Arghhh... it's the '80s again. My PRS via my new Mack Music Systems Heatseeker HS-18, though, cuts through it all with a warm, articulate, mid-rangey tone that belies its 18 watts. These are, after all, tube watts. The Heatseeker is in no way a forgiving amp. It is very sensitive to your touch and if you're struggling with technique, it will happily rat you out. It rewards, though, with great string articulation and note definition. This is a great little amp that goes toe to toe with high-buck boutique jobs. Get 'em while they're hot. And they are hot!”

- Rudi Engel, Head End

“I was leery about using an 18 watt amp at this annual fund-raiser gig. We don't mike the amps, so I usually use a 100 watt Music Man combo at this venue. But the Heatseeker sounded great and seemed to have plenty of headroom during our rehearsals. So I figured what the hell...

Well, the Heatseeker HS-18 completely blew me away. It had the clarity and lots of nice EL84 chime to handle chords without becoming muddy or distorted and I love the way the bottom end holds together at high volume. I could nail that sexy blues tone where you've got both some clean and dirt happening at the same time. Open up the guitar's volume and the ZZ Top stuff sounded perfect. With a little boost from my Blues Driver, I had single notes blooming into controlled feedback. Awesome!

I'm not a fan of amps with a bunch of tone-sucking extra features, but I'm finding the Heatseeker’s three position "Character" switch to be handy. The tone shaping it adds is subtle but I find it useful when switching from guitars with single coils to humbuckers.

The Heatseeker is an amazing amp. Especially for the price.”

- Rob Dobson, Centrifugal Chiller

I’m pictured here at home with my Heatseeker HS-18 and a few of my guitars. From my far right there’s my National Delphi Deluxe, my Gibson Les Paul Supreme, my Strat and, my Gibson doubleneck. I’m holding my Gibson L4 CES.


I’ve been playing for many years (30ish) and enjoy playing many styles of music (hence all the different axes). I’ve also owned many amps (Sunn, Marshall, Fender, Line6) over the years. During that time, I have settled on certain tones that I really like and the Heatseeker delivers those tones with no muss, no fuss.

I really like the Heatseeker for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s easy to use, not overloaded with so many features that I can’t possibly use them all. It’s a straight forward amp with GREAT tone. Any features I want to add I just hang effects pedals off the amp.
  2. The price is very reasonable for what you’re getting. Great value.
  3. Did I mention tone? You bet it has great tone! I can go from loud “punch and crunch” using my Les Paul (and it can get LOUD!) to smooth jazz tones to a really nice blues tone using my National (outfitted with a Highlander pick-up)
  4. Mack Music Systems was really easy to work with

The Heatseeker holds it’s own against the other amps I’ve owned. My biggest endorsement for the amp is this: I’d buy another one if the one I’ve got ever went missing…it’s an important part of my tone and I’d hate to be without it. If you get a chance to play one, you won’t be disappointed.

- Mike, Edmonton Alberta

You'll be happy to know thatMEAs/Val_Halla_sitting_heatseeker_520.jpg when we played our CD release show in Vancouver on Thursday all five bands elected to use the Heatseeker HS-18 for their set! And no matter what style the bands were, everyone seemed to get a wicked tone out of it! Yah!!

- Valerie Mcleod - leader, singer, guitarist – Val Halla