Price paid: $ 129
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 8
(Attention Metalheads: This Amp Is Not For You! So, please, stop reading, return to the review menu, and choose another amp while you kindly refrain from leaving snidely hateful comments. THANK YOU!) As stated above, this amplifier will not be the choice of those looking to mow down the first thirteen rows at Wembley Stadium. If you need the volume and tone generated by a stack of JCM 800's or Triple Rectifiers, then those are the amps you will HAVE to purchase. I feel that if you are looking for classic sounding amplification that will give good performance in the bedroom, practice hall, recording studio, or small gig, this amp should serve you well. Bugera seems to have intended that this box compete head to head with the Fender Champion 600 or the Vox AC4. If you want clean and bright with a good amount of headroom, turn down the Gain and increase the Volume. Add the Reverb in desired amounts and you can get the electric tone from Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" easily. You want the dirt, turn up the Gain and nudge the Volume control down a bit. Think "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young and you are getting the picture. If you are going to use this for practice or recording, the attenuation switch will prove of great service. This switch varies the output of the power amp. The choices are 5, 1, and 0.1 watts. With the 0.1 watt setting, I have used this amp set at full bore in the living room at night with the kids asleep upstairs without disturbing them. I have also used it to record a couple of guitar parts by adjusting it to the 1 watt setting and putting it in a closet with a microphone pointed at the center of the speaker. The sound produced is very lively and full of tone due to the overdriven tubes but with a controllable volume output. The speaker itself is not a Celestion or other brand name but it seems to have a really decent sound overall. But to the plus side of sound, this is not a beginner's amp. It's small size does not mean that it is a toy for a twelve-year-old to have as his first amp to go with a Lotus "Strat". The V5 produces very nice tones as only a tube amp can.
Overall Impression — 8
I am a former metalhead (we're talking about the middle 80's here, folks) and am now living in Nashville, TN. I have discovered and come to love the sound of Alt-Country, Cowpunk, Americana... Whatever you want to call the mixture of country roots played though classic rock instrumentation. This amp is capable of giving clean, tight sparkling riffs or dirtying up and allowing for some really punchy blues leads. It would work in a small club or nightspot gig (5 watts is a LOT louder than you'd think! ) but really excels in performing as a recording instrument. I wish it had an effects loop but you'd be hard pressed to find an amp at this rating and size that would have one. Also, I don't think that it will work well with distortion pedals. I believe that they would add too much extra color to the tube driven signal and make the sound muddy. I do know that just a plain old, simple boost pedal (I have an older Electro-Harmonix LPB-1) will Drive your sound into a louder zone for soloing. I compared the V5 to the Vox AC4 and the Fender Champion 600 and I think that you get a sound and tone just as good as these other two, with more features for about $70 and $40 cheaper, respectively. If this amp were lost or taken, I would have no reservations about purchasing another one immediately. I just hope that Bugera doesn't jack up the price any time soon. The rating says 8 but I actually give it an 8.5 overall.
Reliability & Durability — 7
The construction of this amp seems to fall somewhere into the 8.5 (out of 10) rating. Bugera advertises this amp as being "hand-made". Without having seen inside the housing itself, I highly doubt that statement equates to "hand-wired". However, I have played this amp every night for the last four weeks for at least a couple of hours at a time and have had none of the "breaking-in bothers" that I have experienced with other amps. The tubes and speaker can always be upgraded later but she has functioned without any trouble thus far. Would I gig without a back-up? Experience has taught me that even your most prized of equipment will fail you when you least expect it to. But as far as Class "A" circuitry goes, you'd probably have to work really hard to tear this thing up. That's why there are so many Fender Princetons and Vox AC4 amps from the 50's and 60's that are still working today. I'm giving it a 7 in this category due to the unforeseen events that will happen to a new piece of equipment.
Features — 8
The features start simply enough: Input, Gain, Tone, Volume, and Reverb controls for signal shaping. One eight-inch speaker in a nicely built cabinet, nostalgically styled. The extra goodies include an attenuation switch, for controlling the output to the speaker (more on that later), a head phone jack, and the ability to use this amp as a head to Drive the speaker cabinet of your choice. The only thing left out, as far as I am concerned, is an effects loop. I feel this limits the sound options somewhat. However, once you start playing with this little tone generator, you don't really miss it too much. Also, the Reverb is a digital effect, not an actual spring tank. To the trained ear, it can sound a little dry. But it really adds a nice spacial effect when turned past 5. It's a personal preference that I kind of quickly got past.