VFX5212 review by Crate

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.5 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.2 (18 votes)
Crate: VFX5212
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Sound — 9
Guitar: Ibanez SAS36FM - upgraded revised electronics, alternate bridge humbucker, mostly using the native neck/middle pickups for blues and a split bridge in series with the neck pup (a-la telecaster mode). Modes vary from Humbucker outputs (Middle/Neck in series, Bridge humbucker) to single coil strat. It was used... First repair was the VFX and inspection. It was maintained by a novice. The effects were digitally noisy. It badly needed new power tubes - not clear in the first 2 minutes but half an hour in it showed. New tubes and some effort to set the bias put that right. With a new pair of EL34's the sound was exquisite - low noise floor, really crisp and clean. I'm not a fan of the distortion channel. The 12" speakers are a bit boomy with an EQ that cuts the base set a bit too high. I've added a bass cut to my tone control options in my guitar to accomodate for that (also cuts the boom in PA mode... The issue is partly the pickups).

Overall Impression — 8
Rock and blues. A good match for rock & fair match for blues. I've got 7 years of noodling but I'm not roadable. I have a Peavey Bandit, Boss GT-6, Fostex FD-8 recording mixer, stratocasters, drawer full of pickups... And a daughter who now wants to get drums. I was looking for affordable tube amps. Listening half an hour at a time in the store couldn't tell me what I can ow hear. Other considerations were a Peavey Classic 50 that also needed retubing. It is hard to say... If a Classic 50 with a 4x10 speaker came by I'd probably choose that next... Or ideally a Fender Blues DeVille. The owner made it clear the VFX wasn't working and the tubes had lots hours on them. No deception and no expectations. Given a deal like that I couldn't turn the opportunity down. Clean channel, visually stunning, I just wish it had a good native tube reverb. Oh, yeah, it is heavy. I wish it had and anti gravity unit... Lost or stolen? I'd probably consider a Blues Deville. Did I compare it to anything else? A Peavey ValveKing - "meh". The Blues Deville "yeah"... But twice the price when used and in need of a retube, Egnater Tourmaster at twice the price of the DeVille - and we are talking som serious coin outside the realm of someone who doesn't play that well.

Reliability & Durability — 9
It was abused. The tubes were old and microphonic and many of the problems were due to poor maintenance (missing preamp tube canister, bolts fastening the power tube cage stripped). The VFX failure was a cold solder joint on the power access from the main board. Very peculiar and took a while for my tech to find and fix. I would say that qualifies as "broken down" and probably frustrating to a previous effort to repair it since changing the module would have had no effect. The rest was due to neglectful irregular servicing. It has seriously been around the block. Given how well it restored to excellent sound I'll give it an 9 (-1 for the cold solder joint on the VFX module).

Features — 8
The effects were nonfunctional when purchased - professionally repaired, the footswitch cable had to be replaced, the tubes needed replacement (It was a "fixer-upper"). Features: Clean / Dirty, plus digital effects. Channel switching: two effects settings programmable into the footswitch for Clean FX1 FX2; Dirty FX3 FX4. Effects can be dialed in for a fixed mix of effect on the channel. Effects loop - yeah. Headphone jack - no. I wish it had a good spring or tube reverb, the digital effects are a bit weak - tremolo, reverb &c. Limited controls that can't be combined. So far it is a "use at home to annoy the neighbors" amp. A nice 50W of EL34 tube power, four preamp tubes.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Go Lucky
    I purchased this amp a few months ago. It is the US made version circa 2005. It blew me away. Beautiful rich tones and highs on the clean channel. Can play very loud and I mean loud and the crystal clear highs ring like a bell. The Drivers were upgraded to x 2 12" Celestion made in England Greenbacks. I was truly amazed that while watching the DVD of Joe Walsh at the Crossroads Guitar festival 2004 there were four of these babies on stage. This says a lot of positives about this USA made amp. However now made in China and I would not touch with as barge poll.
    nonpartisan
    Closing in on two years later, lots of play, different guitars and pedals and more... I found the VFX effects uninspiring and disconnected the effects via the gang socket producing a cleaner signal path. Clean tone is fantastic. The gain channel is fair, a EXH Big Muff Pi is better. I think buffered pedals in front of this amp suck responsiveness. Cost: $250, after repair and retubing $400. Durability? Initially the VFX failed and later I disconnected it so I can't be sure. The rest is a good. No amp is beer tolerant so a backup is advised. (Used Peavey Bandit for $100 good enough.) A great used twin for cleans around $400.