Victory’s innovative V4 preamp pedals have proved to be a runaway success. The clever design adds a new foot-switchable front-end to any guitar amp with an effects loop, transforming many a tired rig into a modern tone monster.
Early last year, Victory took the next logical step with its V4 The Duchess guitar amp, cramming the Duchess electronics into a similarly sized pedal, together with a special power stage capable of delivering up to 180 watts into a suitable enclosure.
The Duchess V4 guitar amp was one of the hits of 2020 for us and now Victory has responded to popular demand with the eagerly awaited V4 The Kraken amp, designed in collaboration with Victory artist Rabea Massaad and featuring the company’s dual-channel, high-gain Kraken preamp teamed with the same power stage.
The really exciting new feature on V4 The Kraken, though, is the addition of Two Notes Torpedo speaker emulation, providing a selection of virtual Victory cabinets out of the box, with many more available through the Two Notes portal.
Like its V4 The Duchess, The Kraken V4 amp is a little larger than the V4 pedal preamps due to its built-in power supply, so there are no wall-warts – all you need for power is a regular kettle lead. As we’ve come to expect from Victory, the build quality is top notch, with a robust steel chassis that’s generously perforated to keep things cool, aided by a switched fan on the right-hand side, mostly to keep the surface temperature comfortable rather than protect the electronics.
Inside, the layout is roughly similar to the V4 pedal preamps. There are two main printed circuit boards: one for the power supply and the other holding the rest of the electronics apart from the valves, which lie horizontally. A small daughter board tucked into one corner holds the Two Notes speaker emulation. This evolved design looks very neat and tidy, with minimal wiring and clean, bright solder joints.
V4 The Kraken uses the same valve complement as other V4 units, with an EC900 triode in the V1 position followed by three CV4014s. The CV4014 valves are military versions of the popular EF91 pentode, which was made by Mullard in the early 1980s to NATO specifications and then put into storage in a former Cold War nuclear bunker. These premium valves have a minimum lifespan of 6,000 hours, which makes it possible for Victory to extend the 90-day warranty on them to an unprecedented two years.
The amp has two channels that can be switched from the top panel or a remote footswitch, with an LED glowing green or red depending on which channel is active. Both channels have separate preamp gain and master volume controls, with a shared conventional three-band passive EQ and a level control for the onboard digital reverb. The Two Notes cabinet simulations are accessed by a rotary preset selector switch, with another dedicated level control for the sim output.
A type B USB socket on the Kraken’s left side-panel connects to a desktop running the Torpedo Remote app, which edits the cabinet simulations and acts as a preset manager, as well as updating firmware and accessing an ever-growing range of virtual cabinet permutations.
Other cool features of V4 The Kraken include a series effects loop, a balanced line out and a nine-volt DC outlet with 500mA to power your favourite pedals. For live use, the Kraken’s single speaker outlet can unleash up to 180 watts RMS of effortless class D power into a four-ohm load, or around 90 watts into eight-ohm enclosures. Overall, V4 The Kraken is typical of Victory’s current offerings, blending heavy duty build quality with pleasing visuals to create a product with real shelf appeal.
Feel & Sounds
While Victory’s V4 The Duchess amp specialises in big open, clean sounds, V4 The Kraken is all about the gain, based on the original Kraken amps designed in collaboration with Rabea Massaad, to cater for modern overdrive tones and extended range instruments.
Channel 1 has a more open vintage Brit overdrive vibe, while Channel 2 is where the extreme stuff lives, with a tighter bass, punchy midrange and lots more gain. We tried out V4 The Kraken with both our usual guitars, a Strat loaded with low-ish gain Alnico Pro single coils and a Les Paul fitted with a pair of old PAFs.
On both instruments, there’s no shortage of overdrive – the Strat produces wicked vintage Marshall-inspired rock crunch tones in Channel 1 and singing, endless sustain on Channel 2, with more of the same from the Les Paul. We detuned our Strat, Trower-style, by a whole tone to check out the Kraken’s seriously impressive low-frequency response, which is even and articulate, extending all the way up to the dusty end of the fretboard.
The Massaad collaboration continues with the V4’s built-in Two Notes cabinet simulation. There’s a selection of 10 virtual Victory cabs created by Rabea to pick and choose from, six of which are already pre-loaded out of the box.
The quality of these cabinet presets is superb, creating a convincing illusion of space while sitting comfortably on recorded tracks. Unlike some simulations that overshadow the guitar, the Torpedo virtual cabinets sound warm and natural, letting the instrument breathe.
The Torpedo Remote editing app runs smoothly and is very intuitive, with beautifully rendered images to complement the various presets. Our only minor gripe is that it needs a USB desktop connection, which makes editing in the field a little more difficult. However, in studios or at home that’s unlikely to be an issue.
If your taste in amps lies at the higher gain end of the spectrum, prepare to be blown away by V4 The Kraken’s wide range of exquisitely sculpted overdrives, which are far more versatile than you might think, with enough range for tasty ‘nearly clean’ blues licks at around nine to 10 o’clock on Channel 1’s gain control. Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, Channel 2’s thick, heavy distortions sound truly immense with detuned or extended range instruments, enhanced by the smooth digital reverb.
This is a full-featured 180-watt stage-ready head, weighing less than two bags of sugar, that you can carry in a gigbag to your next concert (hopefully sooner rather than later!). The exciting addition of Two Notes technology catapults V4 The Kraken into a different league, providing industry standard speaker and cabinet simulation effects for recording, live stage and quiet stage environments.
For what’s on offer, this is great value for money and we think the exceptional Torpedo cab sim is well worth paying the extra. Aimed at pro players and serious amateurs across a wide range of musical genres, Victory’s new V4 The Kraken amp is a formidable tool even by the company’s standards – and totally worthy of our 5/5 score and Gold Award.
- PRICE: £799
- ORIGIN: UK
- TYPE: Valve preamp, Class D power amp
- OUTPUT: 180W RMS into 4 ohms, approx. 90W into 8 ohms
- VALVES: 1x EC900 triode, 3x CV4014 (EF91) pentode
- DIMENSIONS: 258 (w) x 174 (d) x 105mm (h)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.7/3.6
- CABINET: Pressed steel CHANNELS: 2, footswitchable from top panel or any standard remote switch
- CONTROLS: Gain 1, Gain 2, Master 1, Master 2, bass, mid, treble, reverb level, 6 position cab sim pre-set select, cab sim output level
- FOOTSWITCH: Single-button footswitch toggles channels, external 2-button switch (not supplied) toggles channels and reverb
- ADDITIONAL FEATURES: Series effects loop, digital reverb, balanced line out, 9V DC power outlet, integrated Two Notes Torpedo cabinet simulation (available for Windows and Mac) with balanced XLR cab sim out OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: 180W V4 The Duchess head is £699; the non-amped V4 pedal preamp range includes The Kraken, The Jack, The Copper and The Sheriff, all at £369
- CONTACT: Victory Amps