A few months ago, I tried a Victory V40 Deluxe combo at my local guitar emporium. It was so goddamn good, I went back a couple of weeks later and bought it.
During the summer of 2018, the time had come to try and find something to replace my trusty Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III. Its an amplifier I love. It has never let me down at a gig. It blooms and shimmers, and is fab with pedals. But a couple of things have niggled at me over the years. The volume is not user-friendly. As with all Hot Rods, at position 2 the volume is pretty loud. Turn the dial up, start to make use of the 40 watts on tap and it gets very loud with only a small sweep of the volume knob. You have to run it at near ear-busting volume to get breakup on the clean channel. This necessitates switching to one of the two drive channels for crunchy or overdriven tones.
I was after something with a clean tone in the same ball park as the Hot Rod, but with volume you can dial in progressively. I was also after an amp, preferably single channel, that would allow me to get a full, saturated tube sound at low volume. I could have gone for a 15-watt Fender Blues Junior, but I wanted an amp with greater headroom. Maybe I could have fitted an attenuator to the Hot Rod, but that would have entailed a load of fuss and bother.
The search went on for weeks. I won’t bore you with all the ins and outs. Suffice to say I tried a lot of expensive boutique amps, but nothing sounded good enough to justify spending big bucks to replace my Hot Rod. Many of the amps I tried had tone that was a bit too glassy, or brittle sounding; and/or, they had a wonderful clean tone, but couldn’t be driven beyond mild crunch. Then I came across the V40 Deluxe. As soon as I plugged in, I was blown away. It had jangle, shimmer and bloom, like a Fender, but it could also be driven into crunchy, overdriven Vox and Marshall territory at any volume. The V40 Deluxe is no copycat amp – it has its own unique sound. It’s highly dynamic, with cleans that sparkle and overdrive that is harmonically rich. Premier Guitar was so impressed, they gave it a Gear of the Year award in 2017.
The V40 is a single-channel, 42-watt all-tube amp, handbuilt in the UK. It’s an evolution of an earlier Victory amp, the V40 Duchess, with the addition of tube-driven reverb and tremolo. Like a wide range of classic Fender amps, it uses a pair of 6L6 tubes in the power section. It’s part of Victory’s Heritage Series and is available as a wide-body open-back 1×12 combo, or as a head with matching cab. Combo, head and speaker cabinets come in cream vinyl that covers a mainly pine carcass. A brown handle and leather corners are a nice touch. They bolster the amps boutique credentials. Speaker baffles are angled back slightly to project the sound up toward the player. The combo and V112-WC-75 cabinet are each fitted with a Celestian G12H-75 Creamback speaker. For a full description of other cabinets that can be paired with the V40 head, visit the Victory website.
The V40’s controls are easy to understand and use. Cream chickenhead knobs contribute to the retro vibe and control (from left to right) Tremolo Depth, Tremolo Speed, Master Volume, Reverb Volume, Reverb Tone, Bass, Middle, Treble and Volume. Toggle switches sit either side of the mid EQ knob. One is used to switch between voicings, the other to boost the midrange.
To get sparkling cleans, tweedy crunch, snarly overdrive, and everything in between, at pretty much any volume, just dial in the Master Volume for loudness and the Volume for the amount of breakup you want. Simple.
The V40 comes with a footswitch to activate/deactivate the tube-driven tremolo and/or reverb. The tremolo speed is focused on a “usable” range, so the highest tremolo speed setting isn’t as fast as you’ll find on some old Fenders. The tremolo depth controls the amount of tremolo in the mix. The long-tank spring reverb has a vintage vibe, and the tone pot enables you to go from smooth, dark ambient reverb to much brighter, ‘springy’ sounds.
With some amps the EQ range is only usable within a limited part of the pot sweep, but with the V40 Deluxe, Bass, Middle and Treble are adjustable through the entire range of the dials. This makes for some precise and flexible EQ settings. Toggle switches for Voice I, Voice II, and Mid Kick offer even more tonal variation. Voice I gives a mid-’60s-stylie American EQ response, while Voice II is configured to provide subtly stronger mids for more punch and drive. After a little experimentation, I found that I prefer the sound of my single coil guitars through Voice I, and humbuckers through Voice II. The Mid Kick switch is tied to the Middle pot to boost midrange frequencies. Victory designed it so that the more you push the Middle pot, the more it pushes overdriven sounds, especially with humbuckers.
The panel on the back of the amp hosts a number of cool features. A bypass switch enables you to take the effects loop out of the circuit completely, and another switch flips the amp from 42 to 7-watt mode. The 7-watt mode allows you to push the output stage more easily and a get super dirty, compressed sound at a living-room-friendly volume.
If, like me, you’ve ever taken the back off your amp and faffed around with a mutlimeter and circuitboard test points, trying to bias power tubes, you’ll be glad to hear that Victory have made the process of baising easier by adding test points and a bias adjustment screw to the exterior on the rear panel. Happy days.
The rear panel includes five speaker outlets for different impedance levels. Surely enough for any cab junky.
At 27.5Kgs the V40 is pretty hefty. Lugging it to and from gigs could have been made easier by adding handles to each side of the amp, but that’s my only gripe. The V40 is a goddamn gorgeous sounding amp. Its sonic vista is wider than you might expect for a single channel amp, its well built and easy to use. It’s relatively expensive at around £1,600, but you get what you pay for. And, in my opinion, it sounds way better than other boutique amps that cost a lot more.
Video demos courtesy of Victory and Premier Guitar: