Price paid: $ 260
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 8
My guitars are a stock 1997 Mexican Strat and a 2009 Schecter C-1 EX. The sound of the guitar is excellent. Cleans are just beautiful and warm and take a pedal just fine. With a little tweaking some cleans can be used with a single-coil neck pickup to give a sound almost like playing with a wah pedal. Distortion is more touchy. Blues and classic rock are great. Metal is a harder; the VT30 can do metal but you really have to play with the noise gate and the EQ to keep it from getting muddy, especially as you tune down. But that's where the multiple user preset channels are handyI have one channel of presets EQ'd for my Strat in E and a second EQ'd for my C-1 EX in B tuned to B standard. All the metal amp models have a thrashy sound, so you'll probably need a pedal for buzzsaw death metal. But that's not so badit takes pedals so well that you'll have no trouble using it with a Metal Muff or Landmine. The speaker is great, but sounds best at higher volumes. If you're playing at night you'll be better off with headphones than with the attenuator. It would be even better if the speaker were tilted back. Because it doesn't point up you really need a stand (just use the box) to make it sound good.
Overall Impression — 7
I've been playing on and off for fifteen years, and I'm using this amp to play again after not playing for the last five. People like to bitch about modeling amps, but these things are a huge improvement over the nightmare that practice amps and pedal used to be. This is actually my second Valvetronix amp, my first was a used AD15 that I liked enough to upgrade. I really love the sound and features, I just wish they were user-friendly. Valve has gone too far in dumbing down a very sensitive Tool in a misguided attempt to help beginners and preserve their historical look. If someone steals it I'll definitely get anothernothing else combines tone, features, and sound so well at this price. But if somebody else develops a competing hybrid with good control software I'll sell this amp in a heartbeat.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Only had the amp a few days so that limits what I can say about reliability. I will say that these Valvetronix amps are rock-solidit's hard to believe they come out of Vietnam. The downside is that if you ever have to open one it will take fifteen minutes to get all the bolts out. The big downside to the design is that the switches, knobs, and vents pointing straight up makes them more vulnerable to dust and liquids. I can understand doing this with the controls, but with the vents it's just plain stupid.
Features — 7
This amp was made in Vietnam in 2009. The range of amp model and effect options offered is great. Not being able to control individual effects in a chain is really annoying. The independent reverb is huge improvement. Headphone output is emulated and bypasses the tube. It doesn't sound great, but it isn't bad. It's a shame this doesn't come after the power amp and attenuatorit's really easy to blast your ears silly when changing settings with headphones on. The VT30 has enough amp models and features that it can actually be a little confusing to use, and the manual isn't great. The VT controls are an improvement on the AD series Valvetronix amps, but are still an example of horrible interface design. The effects and the EQ are both sensitive and aggressive and they are not numbered, so you'll be doing lots of tweaking. The noise gate controls are buried in the edit button knob and are changed by using the bypass mode followed by the tap and edit knob. The especially useful attenuator knob is on the back of the amp for some stupid reason. Beginners, people short on time, or anyone who doesn't like to screw with an EQ will be frustrated. If you plan on switching instruments or styles get the footswitch. The next series of Valvetronix amps need a complete redesign by a competent interaction designer. But what they need even more is a USB connection and control software so that users can chain effects and save/swap presets.