Since their debut a couple of years ago, Victory’s award-winning V4 series of preamp pedals has proved very popular, distilling full-sized Victory tone into a pedalboard-sized steel case, with real valve power at proper high voltages.
This issue, we’re looking at the new and much-anticipated V4 pedal version of Victory’s very impressive VC35 The Copper head, a modern boutique-flavoured tribute to the AC30 that’s full of vintage Brit chime, jangle and crunch.
Like the other V4 pedal preamps, the V4 The Copper isn’t just a stompbox. With the capacity to function as a foot-switchable complete preamp replacement, it can significantly expand your rig’s versatility.
The Copper is typical of the other V4 pedals we’ve seen so far, with a rugged steel case that’s perforated on the back and one side to help cool the two NOS EC900 triodes and two CV4014s, which produce The Copper’s vintage tones.
According to Victory, the V4s have an all-valve signal path and are the only valve preamp pedals with four valves. If you live with a valve amplifier, you’ll probably know that modern valve quality isn’t what it used to be, expensive replacements sometimes degrading in a year or less of minimal use.
Victory is justifiably proud that the valves used in its V4s are some of the best ever. The CV4014s were made in the UK in 1981 to NATO specifications at Mullard’s famous Mitcham factory, then shipped to the Royal Navy’s supply depot in Spring Quarry, Wiltshire, part of an underground nuclear bunker complex, where they’ve been stored for the past four decades in perfect conditions.
Meanwhile, the EC900s are equally robust, made by EI on former Philips production lines in what was Yugoslavia, allowing Victory to offer an unprecedented two-year warranty on all the V4’s valves, which they hold ample stocks of.
It’s worth pointing out that while they’re visually similar, neither valve is interchangeable with the commonly used 12AX7 twin triode; the bases have seven pins rather than nine. Internally, there’s very little free space and yet the electronics are beautifully assembled, with neat hand wiring and top-quality components throughout.
There are two footswitches on the pedal for bypass and toggling between Normal and Treble Boost voices. You can also switch both functions remotely using the TRS jack on the side of the case. There’s a single gain control with two separate master volumes, accompanied by LED indicators to let you know which voice is active.
Tone control comes from a regular passive bass, mid and treble EQ network, augmented by a three-position bass cut toggle switch and a global tone knob, which works like the Vox cut control except it’s the right way round, with the most treble fully clockwise.
On the rear panel you’ll find the familiar V4 jack socket array, allowing the V4 to hook up in line between guitar and amp, or in ‘amp through’ mode, making use of your amplifier’s effects loop. Power comes from an external brick. Pedalboard users take note: your power supply needs to provide 12 volts and at least 800mA of current; the one that comes with The Copper is rated at two amps, giving plenty of headroom.
Feel & Sounds
Like all of Victory’s V4 pedals, The Copper is exceptionally quiet in operation, with practically inaudible hiss and hum levels.
While you can use the V4 like a stompbox between your guitar and amp, if your amp has an effects loop you can opt for the preferred four-cable ‘amp through’ mode, where the V4 becomes a foot-switchable alternative preamp section, completely replacing your amp’s front-end at the tap of the Bypass footswitch.
There are plenty of authentic 50s and 60s tone in The Copper’s Normal mode, which stays clean almost to the top of the gain knob’s travel.
With bags of headroom, it’s ideal for emulating the instrumental hits of that era, from The Shadows to The Ventures, sounding particularly impressive when teamed with a hefty dose of reverb and a tape delay. Meanwhile, the Treble Boost voice adds more gain, with complex highs and upper mid harmonics that shift with picking strength.
This mode brings this V4 into the late 60s and early 70s blues and classic rock era, with a lot more gain on tap. It’s ballsy and quite aggressive, working best when you dig in hard. With a Strat you can get into Rory Gallagher territory, while swapping for a Les Paul delivers fat Bryan Adams-style crunch chords.
The bass cut switch works in a similar manner to the one on the VC35 amp: position 1 cuts bass on the treble boost mode only; position 2 cuts bass on both modes; position 3 is full bass in both modes. We found this very handy for tightening up the bass when using a Les Paul with a lot of gain in treble boost mode.
Victory’s V4 The Copper is packed with AC30-inspired tone. Used in the clever ‘amp through’ mode, it’s almost as if you’re playing through an entirely different rig, with a much wider frequency response that gives the impression of jumping from mono to high-definition stereo.
It also sounds great when recorded, helped by the impressively low noise levels. Like all Victory products, the V4 The Copper will handle non-stop professional use, with a solid five-year warranty and two years on the valves.
However, like any floor-dwelling equipment, it’s vulnerable to those liquid accidents that occasionally happen on pub gigs. Bear in mind a pint of beer tipped over hot valves running at high voltages is likely to result in ‘Hamlet moment’ pyrotechnics.
Public service announcements aside, Victory’s V4 The Copper is quite brilliant if you like the AC30 vibe. Its enhanced highs, three-dimensional harmonics, juicy naturally compressed cleans and wicked crunch overdrives all add up to a wealth of inspiration.
Talking of wealth, it isn’t cheap – good things rarely are – but built to Victory’s usual high standards, it’s excellent value for money, going way beyond the one or two sounds you might expect from a solid-state AC30-style overdrive/boost stompbox. Definitely worth checking out.
- PRICE: £369
- ORIGIN: UK
- TYPE: All valve preamp
- VALVES: 2x EC900, 2x CV4014
- DIMENSIONS: 225 (w) x 140 (h) x 79mm (d)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.6/3.5
- CASE: Steel
- CHANNELS: Normal and Treble Boost voices, foot-switchable
- CONTROLS: Bass, mid, treble, gain, normal volume, treble boost volume, 3-way bass cut switch, global tone control
- FOOTSWITCH: 2-button Normal/Treble Boost select, Bypass
- CONNECTIONS: Input, Through, Loop In, Loop out, Effect Out, all on 6.5mm jack
- POWER: 12V DC (adaptor supplied), 800mA minimum, recommended 2000mA
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: The expanding V4 preamp pedal range currently includes the Countess, Sherriff, Jack and Kraken, all at £369. There’s also the Duchess powered preamp pedal at £699
- CONTACT: Victory