Releasing The Kraken
Since the release of the V30 Countess a few years back, Victory Amps has set new benchmarks for what one can expect from a skeletonized “lunchbox” head. Speaking of skeletons and lunch, this new Kraken rears its virgin-hungry, stone-grey head and ravages the small-box competition, delivering 50 watts of stage-ready thunder. Here is the story…
When Dorje axeman Rabea Massaad was called in to help Victory’s amp design guru Martin Kidd with the idea of cramming his two favorite gigging heads into the same airline-overhead-storable form-factor as the V30 and V40, the challenge was set. Gain One would be JCM-ish in character and Gain Two would be more American—think Peavey, Mesa or some such 6L6 djent machine. Also, this impossibly small yet huge sounding head would have two independently switchable master volumes, high and low power, effects loop and the ability to be run in single ended mode on either power tube. As if this wasn’t enough, Martin Kidd added a handy Bass Focus switch to remove any flub or unwanted bass frequencies when using extended range or down-tuned instruments. Though the head sports a switch to throw the bias into 6L6 bias territory, I opted for a pre-loaded EL-34 unit for the review. Let’s release the beast.
Versatility, Dynamics and Destruction
The first thing I want to hammer home about this head is it is not simply a djent box. I don’t personally play modern metal and I don’t actually care for American high gain tones. So why would I want to review this Kraken? Truth be told, I am a bit of a completest and a huge fan of Victory amps. Having already reviewed the V30 (which I now own) and the V40, it was simply my curiosities that lead me to this review. Just to recap, here are the demographics for the previous small-footprint Victory heads. The V30 is all about a gorgeous American-style clean channel with infinite headroom and a viscous gain channel for crunch through to buttery lead tones. The V40 is a stellar sounding single-channel job that eats pedals like candy and this Kraken was aimed squarely at the high-gainers. The thing is, it is the first high gain head I have ever played that can go from sparkling clean, to crunch, to molten metal brutality using only touch dynamics and guitar volume knobs. In fact, this is my surprise favorite of the mini-head range and I think it is more touch sensitive, dynamic and versatile than any amp I have played in the last few years.
Many Victory Amp addicts want to know how this compares to the V30 Countess, which can also do high gain. The Kraken is definitely a different animal all together. Gain One of the Kraken is the dog’s bollocks of modded Brit-tone. It’s got chime, crunch and kerrang to spare. There is more presence and swirling high-end harmonic content than the smokier, thicker gobs of gain on tap with the V30. The Kraken’s Gain One is way less pokey than the V30 as well. Things don’t start getting saturated until about 2 o’clock on the Kraken’s Gain One. Riding the dial goes from sparkling British pushed cleans that break up with harder digs, to Malcolm Young rhythm around midnight, to Johnny Ramone buzzsaw around two, and finally Soldano-like saturation when dimed. Switching over to Gain Two reveals more commonality to the V30 Countess’s gain channel. It’s tighter in the midrange, more saturated and more modern, but like The V30, it avoids the pinched, nasally American high gain artifact that I abhor. This is great for switching over for a lead without pedals, although I preferred ramming my Magnetic Effects White Atom into The Kraken’s Gain One for what might be the best lead tone I have achieved since my JMP-Hotcake days. In short, this is my favorite Victory Amp that I have played thus far.
What We Like: This head is small, portable, feature-rich and built like a tank in the UK. It has stage volume to spare, but can be brought down to home levels easily without much tonal sacrifice. The Bass Focus switch is also really handy for when I whip out my D-standard tuned guitars. The loop can be foot-switchable and the two master volumes are handy for all sorts of different scenarios. This is a vintage-modern killer in a small footprint and I want two of them.
Concerns: I want two of them.