Price paid: $ 300
Purchased from: Willis Music
Sound — 7
The gear I use with this amp is a heavily modded entry-level Strat (HSS) that has had all of the electronics replaced with high quality replacements, Semour Duncans SH-4, JB-Jr, and lil 59'ers, plus all the needed tune ups to the neck and a blocked trem. I play mostly metalcore, blues, and fingerpick and it handles all styles very well. There is plenty of gain and enough tonal variety (like the DZL-red with it's great harmonics) between modals for any metal tone. Just as with this, the cleans are great and one can even achieve that nice "edge of breakup" tone. Very easy to rumble, too. Even with cleans. The hotter your pickups are the better. I found that low output pickups like my lil-59'er, come out sounding kind of sterile and flat, and very thin when not driven with the distortion (ie: the TWN-green) This being said, there is a lot of feedback. A lot. The 505-red model is almost useless because of this even with the pre-gain all the way down. The noise gate needs a bit of work, and seems to do its job when you least want it, like low volume cleans being unnaturally cut off. The wah (with sanpera) is usable, but most will want better. This model of the vyper also features a power sponge attenuator. I haven't found much use for it other than with headphones, but other than that, it stay 100% at all times. I found that cranking the amp about halfway and then using the volume pedal on the sanpera as a much more effective way of increasing tone than with the power sponge feature. The usb recording also has very poor sound emulation in my opinion, and most will mic out the amp instead.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, for a starting or garage musician (especially those playing forms of metal), it is not bad for the price, and no different than the spider III series in reliability to my understanding. I myself have been playing (acoustic and electric) for almost 4 years now, and using this amp for about 2 months after they first started hitting stores (which they rushed, which is why I think the first was a bad example). I own two guitars myself (one electric, the other acoustic) both of which are project guitars which is also the reason why I have heard how this amp responds to different pickups. Other than this amp, I have a small practice amp (mostly because I can't bring myself to get rid of it), but I have had many different pieces of equipment come through my Jam area. I am just your regular hobbyist though, as to which I would recommend this too. If somebody stole this amp, I actually would probably buy it again, but I would actually probably look into the newer tube versions of this amp. I love this amps tonal variety to be honest. I can experiment into any style I want without having to go out and buy a bunch of pedals. It is all right there. When you actually sit down and tinker with this amp it is very possible to pull out many good tones, even with some of the 'useless' effects. I also love the tight bass response, a much desired timbre when it comes to metal in general. Yes, one can dial in some pretty loose tones, but it really cleans up nicely, and has the power to back up its bark. I hate that a lot of the problems that were supposed to be fixed by it having updatable firmware (like the noise gate and input@poweron) have not been addressed. There has been but one firmware update at the time of writing this. Compared to the spider-III 75W, I found this amp more pleasing in its bass response, and the use of analog distortion (not a fan of the unnatural digital, although if one is looking for a more industrial tone, there you go). I also found there wasn't much difference when you plug in different axes as far as tonality with the spider, which really bothered me. The biggest thing I wish this amp had was a handle on the amount of feedback/touchiness it gives. For a hobbyist, this amp is great. For the live player, not so much because of its stability.
Reliability & Durability — 3
Would I gig it without a backup?... No. The one I have right now is my second. The first one just stopped working out of the blue within two months of purchase. One also has to follow a 'routine' to keep it from locking up too: -Do not power on with the guitar plugged into the input -Let 'warm up' for at least 30sec before plugging the amp in Even using this, though, you will still every now and then get firmware lockups, etc. Most are minor, though, and you can turn-off and on and plug right in fine. I've had on numerous occasions with the first amp, and only once so far with the new one where the amp will suddenly not produce output, and have to restart the amp. It is completely random when it happens. Not much on the stability of this product, must be why the price is so low.
Features — 8
I purchased this amp about a year ago, and as far feature go, its got a lot. A lot of nice (but not great) rack effects/stompbox effects are built in, and it is nice that it also plays well with other stompboxes. Some of the effects (but not all) are analog. There are a lot of 'filler' effects like MOG and Reverse, and there is one very big constant: a lack of fine control on the amount of input. Something that would have been nice is a more logarithmic approach so one could add just a touch of chorus, per say. This solid-state has an open-back cab which makes it plenty loud, almost too much for bedroom use, but with the added volume control with sanpera (accessory foot switch) it is fine. I've used it for bedroom practice, and done a little recording with it. There is USB and Headphone output, but the quality is far worse than dealable. One nice feature it has though is an auxiliary input jack for, say, plugging an mp3 player with backing tracks on it. Overall, for the price, a lot of features, but quality is what you pay for.