Special 6 Ultra review by VHT

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.5 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.8 (11 votes)
VHT: Special 6 Ultra

Price paid: € 140

Purchased from: www.kytary.cz

Sound — 8
I mostly play 80s hard rock and traditional heavy metal music Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Accept and so on. Occasionally I also try some blues for improvisation practices. The VHT Special 6 can handle those styles very well, if you know, how to set it up and how to use your right hand properly. To be frank, at first I was quite disappointed about the VHT's sound, it sounded very muddy and not articulately at all. Then I experimented a bit with amp's controls and got a sweet tasty tone just put the attenuation slightly up, decrease the "volume", turn "ultra" knob to approx. 80 % and put "texture" switch to very left position. Now you have ultimate tone for Judas Priest's "Tyrant" or "Grinder", Iron Maiden's "Phantom Of The Opera" or Accept's "Midnight Highway". Just don't be afraid to attack the strings really hard. By the way, I use my Japanese Ibanez RG450 fitted with RM Custom pickup in bridge position and original Ibanez p-ups in middle and neck positions. The sound is not strictly "Marshalloid", but in my opinion, is quite similar to those models produced in 80s. However, if you want to play thrash metal or other very heavy genres, you might feel disappointed. In this case, you would have to use additional effects or boosters. From my point of view, it is "barbarian" having solid-state pedals in front of a tube amplifier. Does the clean channel get distorted at higher volumes? Well, it is a tube amp, so you cannot expect to have brilliant clean tones if you use e.g. the DiMarzio Super Distortion. The more powerful pickups you use, the more distorted the clean sound will be. Switch to neck-positioned single coil and you will get what you want. From my experience, the amp does not get noisy, unless you use low quality pickups or have a lot of other electronic stuff plugged nearby. But this applies to all amps without exception.

Overall Impression — 9
I have been playing electric guitar for 3 years so far and owned various solid state amps and one 50W tube combo. In my opinion the VHT Special 6 Ultra is the best all-tube amplifier that you can get for this price. It does not have many great features as a reverb, channel switching, independent equalizer corrections etc., but, honestly, do you really need them? As I mentioned before, I prefer simplicity and efficiency. The only thing that really matters is sound quality and tone both are handled by VHT very well. If somebody had managed to have it stolen from me, I would buy it again and put a spiky cactus into the thief's anus. If my information is correct, this is one of the few real-all-tube-amps available. All other competitors (Blackstar HT-1R, Fender Superchamp XD, Ibanez TS5 and so on) use solid state elements and circuits that in my opinion - have a potential impact on the sound quality. What I like: sound quality and tonal variety, PRICE!, simplicity of settings and use, attenuator and power-switch. What I don't like: missing reverb. Please, take into account that my rating is based on the "price:value" ratio and the Special 6's comparison to similar amplifiers from the same price range. Of course you cannot compare it to high-end models as Marshall JCM 800, Vox AC30 or Mesa Boogie.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I have been using this amp for quite a short period of time approx. A month. I do not play with band anymore, so I have no intent of moving it out of my room. The amp seems well built, though, so with a proper handling, no problems should be expected. Just like other valve amps. I got a 3 years warranty from my Czech music shop, so I do not know, how well VHT customer support works, and also no issues have occurred. The simple construction of the Special 6 Ultra promises relatively durable and reliable functionality.

Features — 9
This handwired A-class all-tube head was probably made last year in China. It does not, however, have any impact on the quality, sound or the overall impression. It is really well built and seems very solid. I use the head just for the home practicing, plugged into 4x12" ESH cabinet with Eminence speakers (not sure what type). It has a bulit-in attenuator and triode/pentode switch that can reduce the output power from 6 to 3 W. What I really appreciate is the overall simplicity - no unnecessary knobs, useless features or complicated settings. You just plug and play. The Special 6 Ultra has 2 separate channels accessible through independent inputs. The first one is a regular Special one, with nice clean sounds and sweet crunch. The second one called Ultra provides more juicy distortion. The channels cannot be switched, on the other hand, you can use included footswitch for a boost of a channel that you currently use. I personally do not see it as a disadvantage - if you know, how to use your tone control, one can almost instantly go from heavily distorted sound to a nice clean crisp. Oh, by the way, this amp has a tube-driven effects loop, although reverb is missing. A lot of people think that 6 watts is not enough absolutely false statement. I play at 25 % attenuated volume for a comfortable practicing. Please, consider the fact, that I have this VHT plugged into 4x12" cabinet that needs more power to be properly "fueled" than a regular 1x12" speaker. Because of its class A architecture, it provides incredibly loud sound and I am quite sure that you could play with it in a band without the risk of being "oberbeaten".

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    seems like I found my Chistmas present. I have a 5W Laney that is loud as hell (not that I've been there to comfirm the loudness of the place) And i red that an el34 can be fitted inside with only minor mods for a more marshally sound so, wait and...hear.
    I own the VHT Special 6 Ultra Combo. I play Post Hardcore, Rock & Metal/hardcore styles with ambient delay. I use a LTD 7-string with Dimarzio Blaze in the bridge tuned to B & Danelectro DC3 in C# and have owned a Mesa Dual Rectifier, 5150, Marshall SLX, & Orange Tiny Terror. It’s absolutely the best amp in it’s class for the money new or used. I got mine used after shipping for $280. If you’re on a budget like I am this should be a amp you look at for sound, quality and value. I ended up with this amp by setting my sights on a used Epiphone valve jr & 1x12 but realized I’d need a OD pedal and maybe even mods to get the kind of gain I was looking for. That put me at the same price range as this amp except this amp does way more than the Valve Jr offered me after modifications and a OD pedal. I also focused on a Jet City but wasn’t well rounded. It seemed to be great at some things and poor at others. Best way to describe this amp is “Tuner Amp”. It’s meant to allow modifications. The cost of the amp is kept down by using cheaper tubes, a basic speaker, not adding onboard reverb and keeping the design of the amp simple. All the value is in the components that you can’t easily change out and into the cabinet build and the point to point wiring. If you added a V30 speaker, Ruby Tubes and onboard reverb this amp could be at $600 new and then I’d probably not be interested in it at that price point. But the stock speaker and tubes actually aren’t bad and actually sound good. Obviously nicer tubes and speaker would make it sound even better. The gain saturation on this amp isn’t 5150/Dual Recto amount but if the 5150 gain saturation were a 10 I’d put this at 7. It’s enough gain saturation for legitimate modern metal. For strong gain saturation you have to crank both the gain & volume and the volume needs to be on pull mode. The pull mode works like a Overdrive pedal. It adds even more saturation, highs and tightens the low end. This saved me on having to get a OD pedal. Also, I’ve asked VHT about using a KT88 power tube. Here is some good news, see their response…. “You can use a KT88. You will need to remove the "bear trap" tube retainer, as the KT88's base is too big for the bear trap, and the KT88's base has a metal ring that most tube factories connect to pin 1, so it is important to be sure the metal ring doesn't touch any other metal parts (in normal operation, you will measure about 20 volts on the metal ring since pin 1 on the Ultra is connected to pin 8 and the cathode resistor, that's not a problem, voltage on the metal ring is a good sign that the metal ring isn't touching anything). Tip: Try setting the impedance selector to twice the actual speaker impedance, in other words, set the impedance to 16 ohms when using an 8 ohm speaker. It's not absolutely necessary, you can try setting the impedance selector to same impedance as your speaker, choose the setting that sounds best to you, no worries, these amps are made for experimentation. Also keep in mind that the KT88 draws a lot more heater current than the stock 6V6, so the power transformer will get warmer with extended use, so it's a good idea to turn the amp off when it is convenient, in other words don't leave it on all day and you should be OK. Hope this helps, please feel free to experiment, happy tone hunting, thanks for contacting VHT Customer Support”
    Well, after reading this I'll probably give this head a try... Just one thing - "barbarian " to have solid-state pedals in front of a tube amp??? Just try e.g. Fuzz Factory with the amp set on soft crunch and tell me your opinion then... B