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".