Solid-state amplifiers have gotten a bad rap over the years because they don’t sound or respond like tube amps. I’ve never understood the logic behind this apples-to-oranges comparison, let alone the criticism that solid-state amps aren’t as musical sounding as valve amps. Crate’s brand-new VTX212 combo only deepens my appreciation for what solid-state circuits can accomplish. The VTX212 doesn’t use a single tube to create its stellar tones. Factor in the inclusion of an award-winning integrated digital effect processor and the cost savings of the combo’s pure solid-state design, and you get a great-sounding powerhouse of an amp at a truly affordable price.
With its nubby black Tolex, silver piping, sparkling grille cloth and supple leather handle, the Crate VTX212 looks like an expensive retrostyled amp. It weighs a hefty 50 pounds, but removable casters make it mobile. Its efficient 120-watt solid-state powerplant can easily force the two specially designed 12-inch speakers to push a lot of air, which helps to provide tremendous headroom and spacious tones through the open-back cabinet.
The VTX’s preamp is divided into three channels: Clean, Rhythm and Solo. The Clean channel has its own volume, low, mid and high controls, while the Rhythm and Solo channels feature independent gain and level controls but share an EQ section. To further differentiate the rhythm and lead tones, the Solo channel also features a powerful shape
control. This knob can quickly alter the midrange response for in-your-face aggression, scooped metal crunch and everything in between. RCA/CD inputs are provided on the top panel, while the rear of the amp has jacks for a single extension cabinet, an external signal processor (via a Y-cord) and the footswitch.’
A simple three-knob system governs the digital effects: the Multi knob lets you choose from multiple chorus, flanger, phaser, vibrato, octave and wah settings; a delay control provides 15 echo, tape and basic delay types; and the reverb control presides over the unit’s stellar digital reverb. The associated tap tempo/save button lets you set the speed of appropriate effects and save a personal effect setting for each channel. The amp ships with a three-button footswitch that can switch channels and toggle between the default and saved DSP settings for each channel. The VTX212 even has an onboard tuner that blends neatly into the amp’s top.
Testing the VTX was a real joy. All I had to do was hit the power switch, tune up with
the onboard tuner and start enjoying its diverse tones. As an incurable shredder, I had to try the Solo channel first with my EMG-equipped Charvel. There was plenty of gain on tap to deliver longsustaining notes. The shape knob helped me dial in the exact midrange curve I desired, and the harmonic content was very good. But it was the VTX’s Rhythm and Clean channels that made the biggest statement. Combined with my Washburn Pilsen, the Clean tones were sparkling, defined and exceptionally punchy, while switching to the Rhythm channel let me create dynamic and scintillating British-style crunch tones. The pitch and delay effects were very clean and strong in all channels, but I was most surprised by the warm tone of the digital reverb, which I often chose as my only effect.
THE BOTTOM LINE
You can spend a lot more on an amplifier, but I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy the tones more than those provided by the Crate VTX212. Its musical projection, British-style rock tones and digital effects are hard to beat at three times the price.
PAUL MEISENZAHL, DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT FOR LOUD TECHNOLOGIES, TALKS ABOUT THE CRATE VTX212B.
What was the design goal with this amp?
To introduce a vintage-styled and -voiced versatile guitar amp that provides three channels and advanced DSP, with separate controls for delay, reverb and modulation. We also wanted to ensure that it would have enough power for any venue.
Were there any particular challenges in the design process?
The biggest challenge was to efficiently configure and operate the DSP section and three discrete channels (with an optimum number of presets) from a simple three-function footswitch.
What are some of the things that you think the amp does best?
It provides an all-in-one solution for gigging guitarists: built-in effects, plenty of power and three great-sounding channels, from sparkling clean to high
gain. And, let’s not forget: wheels!