When I found out that my favorite British boutique amp maker was going to create a new head inspired by one of my favorite classic English amplifiers, I was raring to have a go. The Plexi is easily one of my favorite gigging amps of all time. They have snap, bite, “kerrang,” and touch-sensitive crunch conduction all while making fantastic dirty-clean platforms for pedals. However, this all came at a price—the old British institutions had to be properly cooking to achieve this perfect tonal storm. Therein lies the age-old Plexi problem: one could seldom enjoy any whiff of this phenomenon without cranking to a deafening wallop. Forget about bedroom sessions, home recording studio action and smaller gigs without a drive pedal doing almost all the dirty work. However, that was then, and this is now.
The first tone I went for when plugging into Input One was the previously unheard of quiet cooking non-master volume experience. I achieved this by clicking the back panel Bias switch to Cathode mode, switching to Low Power and maxing Volume I. Though this is technically a master volume amp, the softer bottom and overall roundness exuded in Cathode Mode was very similar in sound and feel to the old classic non-master-volumes whacked right up. The perfect bloom, chime and grime emitted from my speakers and I was grinning ear to ear as I picked lighter and heavier while listening to the touch response of clean-to-crunch. The gain range of Volume 1 maxes out at just below vintage metal—think Johnny Ramone or even late ‘70s Judas Priest. These classic rock tones can be achieved at any level, which is a godsend for those of us that need to feel the thunder at lower volumes from time to time. It must be noted also that clean tones are also gorgeously sweet and even Vox-y at times, particularly in Cathode mode with its extra complex harmonic percolations and gentle compression.
Quick Draw on the Gain Range
Whacking the amp into Fixed Bias mode and plugging into my Victory 4x12 closed back cabinet predictably firmed up the low end and made for a woodier, chest-kicking percussive thump that only became more physical as I cranked in High Power mode. Luckily, I have a rehearsal room in the non-residential center of town, so I can indulge in rafter shacking noise therapy when I like . . . and shake the rafters it did. Not since my vintage JMP days have I been this satisfied with a modern amp at volume.
Speaking of modern, Volume II adds a bit more gain and presence, taking us from ‘60s and ‘70s raunchy shake appeal to a more cutting and aggressive gain structure. Volume II still remains touch sensitive and articulate, but feels more like a modified British high gainer—think Soldano or Bogner for reference. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Victory Amp without Martin Kidd’s genius ear for tone stack tweaking. This is where the learning curve kicks in for those used to their old Plexi, JMP and JCM tone stacks. When the Sherriff’s knobs are all at high noon, the first impression is that it might be a touch too dark for a classic British amp. This is because each control is actually usable and more versatile throughout its range than the “on-off” sweeps of yesteryears black-and-gold boxes. Don’t be afraid to tweak; the sparkle is there, the icepicks are not. Ace.
What We Like
Gorgeous cleans, complex crunch conductions, decade-spanning dead-eye dirt dialing and every last utilitarian feature a working musician will ever need, all make the Sheriff 44 the new lawmaker in Plexi town. The Sheriff looks classically handsome in uniform with the golden badge of Victory emblazoned on the wooden casement. Did I mention external bias points? Why don’t all tube amps have this feature? With the included footswitch, one can switch between Volume I and II at will and there is also a hard-bypassable effects loop onboard. With the two different channels, variable power and bias modes, this amp is like having six different classic British amps to choose from in one box.
As I stated before, this amp is not too dark. Tweak with your ears and not your eyes. It’s fine to ride the Treble and Presence controls much higher than one would ever dare with a standard Plexi, JMP or JCM.