Price paid: $ 300
Purchased from: Guitar Express of Garland, TX
Sound — 6
I realize the Peavey Classic 50, Fender Roc-Pro, and Crate are different animals but that is what I have to compare with. For the clean channel it is tough to beat for an amp in this price range. Those 6L6GC's (stock were Ruby tubes in a fixed bias circuit) sound wonderfully Fender-like which in conjunction with the low cost sold me on this thing. The 12" Crate speaker isn't half bad and will push a lot of air which gives the clean side a good amount of headroom. (I'll admit I haven't taken it all the way to 11 yet though). The gain channel takes a good amount of fooling around with to get it close to some sweet tones. As opposed to the Peavey Classic 50 or dare I compare a Marshall Plexi which gives you a beautiful warm overdrive sound the Crate seems to trade tone for power as it will take you to an edgier environment that I was able to coax some Hard Rock sounds. If you are looking for a Heavy Metal amp then you will need to add effects to get it on down to south of heaven. Again the clean channel is where this amp shines the best and since I mostly play Rockabilly music with an occasional splash of Hard Rock/Hair Metal so the V50 offers me what I was looking for at an affordable price point. A future mod for this I plan to do is to replace the 12AX7's with 12AU7's which may give me a more classic rock type of overdrive sound. The "Boost" switch was a great idea as this will give the gain channel more midrange which shores it up close to Marshall territory. "Presence" brightens up your trebles and is useful on the clean channel when you are gigging and need that extra bite. My biggest complaint of this amp is the reverb effect which I do like to use for my style of music. The stock reverb was absolutely horrendous and uncontrollable past level 2.5. To make things worse when I used the footswitch I could not bypass the reverb completely and hitting the switch only just reduced the level of the effect only which is terribly annoying if I want to play something more along the lines of the Young bros. Fortunately my electrical background helped me realize that the stock reverb by Ruby had the wrong impedance for this amplifier which floored me that the factory would sell them with a mismatched verb. It was an easy enough fix to swap the stock Ruby 2-spring with a 3-spring MOD verb which uses the same spec impedance that dozens of amps typically use. The swap fixed that awful verb sound and control issue but I guess I will have to live with the footswitch issue as that is obviously a flaw in the circuit design. Not the worst issue mind you as I have a Mr. Springgy verb pedal that I bought for my Marshall so if I need more control I can just turn the knob to zero and use Mr. Springgy if I want to which solves the problem. My Fender Strat is a good match for this amp but I am pleased with the clean channel sounds I get with a Gretsch and Gibson Blueshawk. For more '80 Hard Rock I utilize a Peavey Mystic which has some high power ceramic hummers that work very well with the gain channel. Overall you can get most rock and blues sounds from this dude but there isn't any amp modeling or multi-effects circuit to play with if that's your thing. Being a 50-watt model you can gig with this dude with no worries about being heard by anyone unless you plan to play at Wembly.
Overall Impression — 8
For me this amp takes care of my Rockabilly/Classic Rock/Hard Rock needs. While the gain channel is a step up from my previous PV Classic 50 this is not an amp designed for multiple stage/high gain sounds as would be used in Heavy Metal. Crate's website has photos of Billy Gibbons playing mountains of these amps but I'll bet his models are highly customized with chrome V50 hood ornaments and not cheezy plastic ones! For the overall value I am happy now that the reverb tank has been replaced. If it were stolen I'd probably go back to Guitar Express since they have a couple more of these new in the box and replace it along with the same mods. I'm giddy to find out what it will sound like by swapping out the 12AX7's with 12AU7's. My goal was to have a cheap alternative for a Fender Deluxe Reverb and this "crate" filled the bill. It must be at least 10-15 pounds lighter than the Peavey Classic 50 so kudos for kindness to my back. I still liked the Peavey before it died on me but they should have come with casters preinstalled as the Classic 50's are incredibly heavy. No need for adding wheels to the Crate V50-even a skinny dirt head like me can lug this thing to gigs all week long. Other than the reverb issue I would say that Crate should have come out with a custom Rockabilly version with flame decals and real chrome trim. Overall value for the price makes this a decent choice if you are on a budget or want a backup amp that is ok to beat up.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Construction of the cabinet seems good for a tube amp on the cheap. It is made of solid plywood and is significantly lighter than the boat anchor Peavey Classic 50 which I loved but would need to stay active in the gym to be able to carry to a gig. Style wise it has a classic look but does look a bit utilitarian. The big "50" hood ornament was not chrome metal but silver plastic which does look really cheesy and reduces its visual appeal. I'll probably paint it and give this thing a punk rock look. The skin is cheap pleather so re-skinning it may be fun and give you a more personal look. The nice thing about the carriage is that it is designed to be re-skinned easily and you can open it up quickly with a phillips screwdriver. Even the amp PCB frame will Swing out so you can replace tubes with the greatest of ease. Just loosen two side screws and you can service it like a pro. The back has aluminum foil shielding which is ok but expect to pickup noise from inductive sources like transformers or stage lights. I have a large transformer near my home's window which sometimes gives me an undesirable noise. Same thing does happen to my Marshall Class 5 but noticeably less so. As mentioned before the stock reverb was mismatched and I am not the first V50 owner to have swapped out the tank to improve this effect. Overall it looks like an amp that could take some abuse so I would use it on a gig and let it get bumped around rather than my precious Vintage Fenders and Marshalls.
Features — 7
I purchased this amp recently at Guitar Express of Garland, TX as new-old stock as Crate has since discontinued these 6L6 tube powered amps for a similar version that is powered with EL84 tubes for a more British voice which my former amp, a Peavey Classic 50, used. (Guitar Express had more of these available new in the box). I bought this amp to basically be a cheap Fenderesque/American-voiced practice amp that I wouldn't mind gigging with due to its affordable price. It was made in China so I don't consider it a collectible at all. The Crate V50 is a simple 2-channel amp with a gain control, spring reverb, and two button footswitch. I would Imagine that it used a solid-state rectifier as opposed to a Vintage Fender Princeton Reverb for example. An effects loop is available on the back of this amp which I have attempted to use but all I seem to accomplish is cutting the signal completely when I activate my pedals. Other nice features include mid-range and presence boost switches as well as a standby switch. It would have been nice to have the second channel sport a Pre and Post Gain controls like my former Peavey Classic 50 which would have given me more control over tone and volume for the gain channel. Still, this is a genuine tube amp and not a hybrid like a Fender Roc-Pro or Marshall Valvestate that just uses a preamp tube for the gain channel only. The plain silver plastic control knobs didn't really do it for me so I replaced them with bright red chicken head knobs which really give this amp some Vintage style especially due to its origin of manufacture.