Victoria VIC105 Guitar Amp
Victoria Amp Company, victoriaamps.com
Originally published in Guitar World, June 2010
If you’re ready to wage battle onstage, the Victoria VIC105 is for you.
Somtimes playing gigs can be like fighting a war, and as the saying goes, “war is hell.” However, these days most boutique amp designers are building amps with fancy leather covering or exotic wood cases that are more appropriate for a dentist’s basement cocktail bar than Daddy’s Beer Bunker. And anyone who’s ever played a dive bar knows that performing with a candy-ass amp can be about as risky as showing up at an American Legion convention in full Johnny Weir figure-skating regalia.
If you’re ready to wage battle onstage and need an amp that can withstand endless salvos of flying longnecks, is easy to carry with one hand during unanticipated retreats, and can render the enemy unconscious with a single swing of the forearm, the Victoria VIC105 is for you. Housed in a genuine U.S. Army .50-caliber ammo can, the VIC105 gives new meaning to “military spec.” Although the VIC105 is rated at only 10 watts, it’s as powerful and lethal as a .50-caliber Browning machine gun.
With its .50-caliber ammo can housing (complete with removable cover), the VIC105 is as rugged as an Army Special Forces soldier. Inside, the VIC105 features heavy-duty custom U.S.-made power and output transformers, high-quality components (including Sprague Atom and Orange Drop capacitors), “old-school” carbon-comp resistors and cinch-style tube sockets. The circuit is handwired to a fiber eyelet board, and the wiring is cleanly arranged at right angles and with attention to detail that would make General Patton proud.
A pair of 6BQ5/EL84 tubes provides a conservatively rated 10 watts of output power, and a half-power switch lets you switch between single-tube, single-ended five-watt or dual-tube, push-pull 10-watt operation.
The VIC105’s controls are simple: a volume control, a tone control and a boost switch that engages a boost level control. The rear panel offers only four- and eight-ohm speaker outputs. A clear Lexan faceplate lets you view the tubes in all their glorious red glare, while vivid green backlighting confirms “all systems go.” To keep components from melting down during the heat of battle, the amp has a powerful, but quiet, fan as well as vents on the top, front and back of the case.
It's hard to believe that the VIC105 is a 10-watt amp, especially when it’s plugged into a 4x12 cabinet. The VIC105 is brutally loud pretty much from the lowest audible setting on the volume control, and it just keeps getting louder as you turn it up. Although the VIC105 is as compact as many recent mini amps and even has a similar tube configuration, it sounds more like a 50-watt head than a bantam brute. The half-power switch tames the output by what seems to be just a few dBs, and it’s really only noticeable when the boost function is turned on. This is not an amp for bedroom shredders or apartment dwellers. Rather, it’s a completely gig-worthy amp that can keep up with many half stacks.
Producing pure, unadulterated tone, the VIC105 is like a mainline from your guitar’s strings to the speaker cabinet. Since the amp has no master volume and a somewhat limited tone control that either emphasizes bass frequencies or enhances upper mid presence, you simply need to turn it up if you want more overdrive. The amp has very impressive clean headroom, so you may want to use an overdrive pedal or tube preamp in the front to get sweet, singing lead tones at homeland-friendly volume levels. Unlike tweed amps, the VIC105 never goes into full-on distortion or sags, even when the boost switch is engaged and the boost level fully cranked, and it seems to have plenty of room to spare. Tone remains tight and defined throughout the entire volume range, and you can really hear and feel every nuance of your fingers on the strings.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The VIC105 is small and light enough to carry with one hand, but it’s absolutely devastating. The amp is loud and sounds incredible, and it’s so rugged that you’ll be able to use it to kill cockroaches after Armageddon.
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