Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 10
I play thrash/speed/death metal and also for change ups, jump into some classic rock and blues. This amp handles it like a champ. No delay what so ever on changing channels, not noisy at all. Any tube amp will have a clean channel that distorts at high volumes, or you have no gain what so ever on your pickups. Distortion on this thing with the stock pickups are nice and mean.
Overall Impression — 10
I originally was looking to by out a B52 tube amp, but they were out of my price range, so I tried this one out. I couldn't turn it up too loud at Guitar Center, plus I was playing through a different cab (don't remember which one) and a stock guitar they had on the wall (don't remember wich one). It sounded ok, but I knew I had to crank the volume of this through my 5150 cab at my band room with my guitars to get taste of what this amp sounded like with the stock tubes. So, I made sure that I could return the amp if I didn't like it and took it to practice with me. Stock tubes, this amp was very impressive. My other guitarist Who plays through a JCM2000 TSL head liked the sound of this guy better than his own (not sure of the tubes in his head, but he only has a stock Ibanez). I have since put the DiMarzio X2N 7 string pickup in my bridge (replacing the blaze bridge) and have re-tubed the amp with JJ 6L6 power tubes and Tung-Sol 12AX7 preamp tubes. This thing sounds very very mean now. On the rhythm/crunch channel, I have all the gain I need, and the lead gives me the solo boost I need. Over the years, I have learned a lot (and am still learning) about amps, tubes, guitars, electronics, pickups, as well as technique. For the price, this amp should get a 12. I play semi-professionally, and have let other bands I share the stage with play through my rig with no complaints at all. In fact no one believes that it's a VK plugged into a 5150 cab. I ripped off all my logos to deceive the gear snobs out there. With any tube amp, the tubes are one of the biggest keys in the sound. For a budget upgrade, try changing out the V1 and V2 preamp tubes with different ones. Try better cables and less stomp boxes in the mix. The more stomp boxes you have, the less and less it matters what kind of amp you are plugging it into because the amps true tone will Shine less and less. If this amp were stolen, I am not sure if I would replace it. I know I would definitely consider it. Over the years, I've owned 5150 heads, JSX as well as a Carvin Master Tube series. I've also upgraded my guitar electonics and my technique has improved. I am pretty happy with this setup, but if you are ever truly happy as a musician, it's all over. I am a working musician, and don't have much money to spare, but if money was not an issue, I would try every single amp I could find and muck around with the tubes and what not. Since money is an issue, this will due just fine for now. This thing is killer for $520.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It cut out on me once and I had to have it shopped, but I think that was my fault. I have a hard shell amp case for it, and I was putting it in the back of a truck (lifting the whole thing over my head) when I twisted my ankle and the amp came tumbling down on me. A few months later, a soldered connection came lose, so I think that was what caused it. Other than that, no complaints.
Features — 8
I bought this amp in Sept 2007. I assume it is made in 2007. Came with Ruby 6L6 power tubes, 2 Electro-Harmonix 12AX7 preamp tubes, and a JJ 12AX7 preamp tube. I was looking for a 3 channel amp for thrash/speed/death metal and I found it, plus at a killer price. I give this category an 8. I wish it had a separate EQ for the lead channel, but that is one of the reasons why it only costs $520 (because it is a basic tube head). Also, no amp is every perfect.