Waking the Sleeper
Victory Amplification has been making waves lately with killer sounding hand-built British tone machines. I have seldom seen a boutique amp company grow so quickly. This is due in no small part to lead circuit designer Martin Kidd’s extensive industry experience. Unlike his bigger UK competitors, Martin has a creative open-ended approach to tube amp design and a willingness to respond to end user input—even if it means making permanent changes to an established product line and sending free upgrades to those who want them. Yes, Victory Amps can be thought of as the people’s amp manufacturer.
One strange thing I have noticed with Victory Amps: The lunchbox-range V30 and V40 (while amazing sounding beasts) eclipsed the buzz of the former flagship hand-wired offerings. The V10 is the baby of the range and definitely the least talked about, so I felt the need to put this underdog through the paces and hear for myself what a characterful cathode-biased combo with blendable power tube sections is all about. Lo and behold, this might be the biggest sounding 1x12 combo I have ever had the pleasure of firing up.
Better Off in a Pine Box
I have always struggled with combo amps; I love the portability and immediacy of them, but when I get up to gigging volume, they typically sound brittle, loose and ratty to me, regardless of the make. There are two exceptions—The Swart AST (my favorite American amp designer) and this Victory V10. When I thought about why these vastly different sounding combos might sound better than most, it dawned on me that both are housed in pine enclosures. There is a flattering resonance inherent in a pine combo that completes the tonal equation. The V10 simply sings with victorious vibrations—even at low volume. I will just go ahead and point out that it had no problems keeping up with my heavy handed tribal beast of a drummer sans microphone in a small room.
Light and Shade
Let’s focus on what initially drew me toward The Baron. As far as I know, the ability to blend octal and noval power tube sections is an industry first. This is kind of like having a two-amp rig in one package. I found myself in immediate tonal heaven blending the top end sparkle and midrange compression of the noval EL84 with the octal 6L6’s hefty tight lows and extra wallop. One can coax the best of British and American tube amp heritage out of this handsome black beauty. As luck would have it, I happened to have an old JJ 6v6 handy, so I popped it into the octal tube socket and primed those filaments. The low end opened up and those swirling 6v6 harmonic overtones and silky compression characteristics infused beautifully with the EL84.
What We Like: The V10 has the bloom and slight sag of a vintage Fender, the sparkle and chiming crunch of a Vox and the velvety touch-sensitive kerrang of a ‘70s Marshall, all in one ruggedly elegant combo. Unlike many low-watt amps, the volume isn’t pokey and I found brilliant tones at talking, shouting and gigging levels alike. The gain range doesn’t jump up to filthy as quickly as my V30 Countess and allows me to dial in pristine cleans to vintage metal crunch and every subtle breakup in between. The EQ section is versatile, interactive and avoids all harsh frequencies, while exposing the guitar’s individual pickup personality. The internal wiring is a clever combination of hand wired turret board construction and PCBs where they make sense. Extras include a footswitchable boost, tube-driven spring reverb, top mounted, easy-access effects loop and a slick amp cover to protect that shiny black Tolex. I am also glad the Celestion Creamback is now employed, rather than the nasally Vintage 30 in the original run—good call.
Concerns: At maxed-out preamp gain settings, the built-in boost seems to compress to the point of volume drop, but this isn’t that big a deal because most won’t run it like that when the power section is pumping.