Features: This is a dual channel amp, 45w all valve with a large amount of tone changing options. It is powered by 4 EL84s and has 2 12AX7s in the preamp section. It can be run in Class A or Class A/B. It has an effects loop which is foot-switchable and switches from series to parallel at the press of a button, and a single 12" speaker manufactured by VHT. Each channel has a 3 band EQ and the following options (which I will go over in the sound section of this review):
It also has foot-switchable spring reverb, a master volume knob and both high and low sensitivity inputs. // 10
Sound: I use this amp with a PRS Swamp Ash Special and a Vox Big Bad Wah to play a variety of music from blues and funk to metal, but my primary genre is straight out hard rock. This amp has a massive range of features which make it very versatile, so it suits me well, however, its incredibly loud, so I have to use it with a BadCat "Leash" power attenuator.
The clean channel in class A/B mode sounds a lot like a Hiwatt or Marshall clean to me - its a nice warm clean and extremely touch responsive - even without the boost the clean starts to crunch mildly as you hit the strings a little harder. The mid shift makes the clean sound a little more American, but it retains all of its key qualities. If you engage the foot-switchable boost on the clean channel, you get some great bluesy crunches.
In class A mode, this clean channel pretty much becomes a Vox AC30. It dosen't quite get that signature Vox jangle, but it comes very close. Kick in the bright Switch and the tone thickens out a lot. If you hit the boost, we get into some great Brian May (from Queen) style tones.
The overdrive channel in class A seems to overlap this slightly, but as you turn the gain up past 5, it starts to develop a bit of an edge. Max out the gain in class A and you get a classic rock rhythm tone similar to that of maybe AC/DC. Again, engaging the boost thickens it out a lot, and I like to do this when I'm playing leads or solos.
If you Switch this channel to class A/B, it gains much more of an edge. EQ'd correctly, this will easily go from Jimi Hendrix to Metallica (provided the boost is used) but I don't think it would have enough gain for anything heavier than that without a boost.
The Edge button is described as a 'Frequency Based Gain Boost' and this is a great function I've never seen before on an amp - basically, it means that the higher up the neck you're playing, the more gain there'll be. Its a great passive solo boost!
The shift moves the emphasis in the EQ from a Marshall-y upper mid to a more Mesa Boogie style low mid. I wouldn't say the difference is quite as drastic is that, but it makes a big difference to the tone!
EQing this amp is essential and fairly challenging. At first, I'd recommend using something very similar to the suggested settings in the manual, as the amp can sound very muffled and fuzzy if you don't know how to EQ it correctly. Because of the similar voicings of both channels, EQs are usually usable on both channels, but if you like a very hi-gain tone then you may need to tweak an EQ that you set on the clean channel to add a little clarity. // 9
Reliability & Durability: Although this amp is incredibly heavy, solidly built and I'd use it at a gig without a backup any time (and indeed have) but remember - EL84 valves run extremely hot, and its always worth having a full, matched spare set that you can put in if you blow one on stage. Equally, I like to keep preamp valve spares with me as well, but this is less essential.
Of course, this amp needs occasional servicing and looking after, but if you keep it nicely, it'll probably outlive you! // 10
Overall Impression: I play a massive variety of music (see the first post) and have been playing for 6 years. I compared this amp to several other small boutique brands, a few modern Marshalls and a Mesa Boogie Rect-O-Verb combo. I chose it because as well as a high gain tone, it can get beautiful AC30 like cleans and hard rock distortion all under one box. I only wish it was a little easier to EQ, but other than that I really love it.
I think if this amp were lost/stolen I'd probably try and find the 50w EL34 powered version, as to get really good metal tones it really could do with a boost, and the EL34 model apparently has a lot more. I think in the future I will probably change out the speaker, as I found it sounded a little more open when played through a closed back cab with a Celestion Vintage 30 in it, but the stock speaker is absolutely fine.
Overall, this is easily the best amp in the price range I've played. Its a great shame they aren't made any more. If you can find a used one, I'd definitely recommend it, but they are getting rarer.
The VHT name has now been sold to another company, but the company has been rebranded as Fryette. Stephen Fryette (the founder of VHT) personally answered my question via email and if you have any questions about it that I haven't answered here, I'd contact him! // 9