Price paid: £ 1499
Purchased from: Andertons
Features — 9
The V50 Earl is one of the more expensive amps from Victory and it certainly shows. I had previously been using a Blackstar HT20, which is good for home use, but wouldn't necessarily be sufficient enough (in wattage or sound variation) for gigging. The Earl has multiple channels, a built in boost and great valves (4 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AT7, 2 x EL34) that provide a vintage as well as modern sound. The front panel is nicely setup and easy to use. The amp also comes with a cover (with the logo on the front) as well as a footswitch to switch channels and to turn the boost on/off. You can switch between 15 and 50 watts which is very useful for either practicing or actually gigging. It has an effects loop and several options for cab outputs. Both channels have separate reverb settings, which I find very useful, seeing how I prefer more reverb on the clean than on the drive.
Sound — 10
As mentioned, you have the option of two channels - clean and overdrive, as well as an option of adding crunch to the clean channel but pulling out the gain knob. So I would almost consider this amp as having three channels. I play a vast array of music, from blues, to classic British rock (Cream, Stones, Led Zeppelin) all the way up to modern rock/heavy stuff (QOTSA, Mastodon, Tool). I've always in the past relied heavily on pedals to try and emulate these wide sound variations. This amp has certainly helped me to simplify things. I find myself now using more time-based pedals (delay, flanger etc.) than stacking several drives or distortions on top of each other (with often weakened the sound and made things sometimes to confusing).
This amp provides a wonderful clean sound, perfect for jazz, blues or just some nice rhythm backing tones. If you want to give it a bit of bite, pull the knob and you get some crunching, yet still defined, tones, perfect for '60s/'70s surfer rock or (without the reverb) classic Brit rock. Switch the channel and you can a real driven sound. I have the setting around 12 to 1 o'clock and even that is almost too much, so you can really get some heavy rock/metal noise out of this. This boost is also great for soloing/leads on the driven channel. I normally had to use a pedal for this (like the TC Spark) but again, this simplifies my pedal board. I'm currently using it with a 12" Orange cab.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is, like most tube amps, a somewhat heavy head, but it is sturdy and well built. You can see that is has been hand-crafted and the outer-shell as well as the knobs and switches are solid and durable. The knobs are also nicely designed, not too stiff, but enough, that a little nudge won't turn it from 0 to 10. The supplied footswitch is also very sturdy. It has to stomp switches - one for the channel switching, and one for the boost for the overdrive channel. This is definitely a device you can use for gigging and I wouldn't need a backup. It's reliable and well built!
Overall Impression — 9
Over the years, I had been trying to keep my budget to a minimum (under 500) but realized that to get good quality, you regretfully have to pay a bit more. But all-in-all, I certainly do not regret buying this beauty. I'll be using "The Earl" in my setup for many years to come. It meets all my needs, it's clean, it's dirty, it's what you want to cuddle up with and it's what you want to party hard with. I'm rocking out on it mainly with my Gibson Les Paul (humbuckers with coil taps) and the sound is warm and saturated. The only negative aspect I have found, so far, is that the overdrive channel doesn't really add a lot more drive after a certain point (around 2-3 o'clock). Maybe I just need to turn the volume up more, but I didn't notice a huge difference. I can definitely recommend trying out this amp. I am very glad that I made the commitment.