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Trace Elliot V-Type V4 MK2

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Trace Elliot V-Type V4.

40256319573_c93edb5229_h.jpgAll 3 fenv46 by VTypeV4, on Flickr

Brief history:

Introduced in around 1996, the original Trace Elliot V-Type range were very much something of a juxtaposition in comparision to the then current model ranges. The all solid-state 7-band ranges of SM/SMC and flagship hybrid 12-band SMX models were very much the pinnacle of tone shaping, control and sophistication at the time. The V-Types took an altogether different approach using a much more traditional setup with simple rotary controls using a Fender style EQ, a far less garish livery and an emphasis on a great core tone without complication. The original V-Type head was an all valve affair sporting the original pre-amp (as can be seen on the V6 in the picture) coupled to a 220w (4x KT88) power stage. This model later became the V4 when it's larger stable-mate the V6 was introduced around '97 / '98. The V6 had a larger power stage claiming 400w from 6x KT88 output valves. Trace Elliot also complimented the range with sealed (as opposed to the usual vented) speaker cabinets comprising a 2x15, 4x12 and an 8x10 with Celestion speakers all carrying the same livery as the amplifier heads. Allied to the all-valve types,  hybrid heads known as the 300H and 600H (300w and 600w respectively) appeared as well as 300w 4x8 and single fifteen combos completing the range.

By 2000 Trace had decided to update the range with an enameled all-black and green livery (more in-line with the then new 7 and and 12 band series) with bold chromed control knobs. They also chose to slim the range down with deletion of the hybrid heads and combos. The new series started with the monstrous V8 model which had a more advanced version of the V-Type pre-amp now complete with a dedicated overdrive / boost facility and a valve controlled compressor coupled to an 8x KT88, 400w output stage. I remember David Jacob demonstrating the V8 at the guitar show in Birmingham when I was 17 - both him and the amplifier were stunning.

The new V4 model was later added and was essentially a V8 with a smaller 4-valve, 200w output stage and a couple of detail differences. This second generation of V4 was available as a head, a 1x15 or 2x10 combo. These models are extremely rare with (according to Paul Stevens - former Trace Elliot designer - now at Blackstar I believe) only 45 in existence  - 15 of each variation. The head variant is the subject of this review..

Spec:

  • All valve
  • 200w 4x KT88 output stage (4 or 8 ohm)
  • 7-valve pre-amp stage
  • Fender style EQ with deep, bright and mid shift controls
  • Overdrive with dedicated gain and level control (foot switchable)
  • Valve controlled compressor (foot switchable)
  • Active and passive inputs
  • Master volume
  • Series FX loop
  • Unbalanced line out (jack)
  • Balanced DI out (XLR)
  • Option to mute power stage for recording (no speaker required)
  • Half power switch
  • User adjustable bias (Trace Elliot called it VOBIC - something like Visual Output Bias Indication Circuit) with blue, green and red LED to indicate idle status

Front panel:

From left to right we have the active and passive inputs (jack only), a gain pot, a bright switch then the overdrive controls which are a second gain then level control. This is activated by either pulling the 'gain 2' pot or via the foot switch. A red LED illuminates on the panel when this is active. Next is the EQ section with a deep switch, then a bass, middle and treble trio with the middle knob being a pull switch for a different character. The second to last control is the compressor which has a switch for in / out and a control which is simply a threshold - a blue LED lights when gain reduction is occurring. Lastly is the master volume knob and furthest right is the stand-by switch. A Fender style green jewel lamp shows the status of the power.

Worthy of a mention here are the visible valves - the valve furthest to the right is an EM84 indicator valve (also known as a magic eye type) which has two luminous strips that fluctuate to indicate output power.

Rear Panel:

There's lots of options on the back too with the first being the main on / off switch complete with IEC (kettle style) electrical input. Next are the VOBIC LEDs, test points and recessed trim pot.  Switches for the output stage for on / mute and full power / half power are to the left of the speaker connectors (jack / XLR) whilst to the right is the impedance switch with options for total loads of 4 and 8 ohms. Towards the right there is a jack socket for foot switching the drive and compressor options. Second to last is the DI output on an XLR socket with switching for pre / post EQ and ground / lift. Lastly there are 3 jack sockets one of which is an unbalanced line out and the last pair a series FX loop.

Sound:

It sounds incredible - simple as that! I use it in conjunction with a Yamaha NE-1 and a Boss LMB-3 in the FX loop and a pair of SWR Goliath Jr3 (2x10) - that combination gives me the sound I hear in my head and that I've always chased.

The EQ section albeit Fender based is a somewhat different than the sound of my Bassman 135 - unsurprisingly, the Trace Elliot is a bit more Trace Elliot. I always considered that if you didn't know it was a Trace, I doubt that you'd mistake it for a Fender amplifier. It's a little more 'hollow' (but not particularly scooped) and a bit 'bigger' sounding with a natural warmth in the bottom end. As to be expected of an old-style passive EQ, the controls are interactive to a degree but not frustratingly so. The 'bright' switch works particularly well adding a degree of sizzle especially when the amp is used with cabs with HF components - it stays on for most situations with me. In contrast, the 'deep' switch doesn't appear to extend the bottom end so much as pull out some of the lower mids. It's good for a heavy dub type sound but for normal finger style, it loses just too much definition for my tastes so I tend to leave that switched out. Lastly, the mid shift gives a bit of a bump across most of the mid-range - it seems to emphasize everywhere from as low as 250Hz to around 2kHz - great on a noisy stage but I usually leave this switched out.

Regarding the overdrive facility, well, it's a bit 'prickly' to say the least! Given the 'all valve' topology of the amplifier, interestingly the overdrive itself is derived from back-to-back diodes although the gain staging is valve based. Activated by the 'pull' on the second gain knob, it's range can take you anywhere from punk trash and clang to Muse type sounds - with the tone rolled off on the bass, quite a convincing 'Deeper Underground' type sound can be coaxed from it. It can be really difficult describing a particular tone or timbre with words but the closest I can find are along the lines of 'hairy', 'prickly' and outright 'gnarly'..

With the updated version of the V-Type pre-amp, Trace Elliot decided the addition of a valve style compressor would be a welcome and useful addition. I absolutely agree - it's very smooth and unobtrusive but adds a certain fatness and definition to each note. Judging by the blue LED accompanying the compressors' in / out switch and threshold control knob, the fixed envelope appears to have a very slow attack and release time - this probably is at least partially responsible for the 'fatness' of it's character. According to Trace, the input for the compressor is side chained against itself, the control being a high-passed version of the original presumably so excessive bottom end doesn't overwhelm the control too much. I'm unaware of the circuit topology but Trace Elliot suggested it was based on 'vintage studio type compressors' so I'd have though some sort sort of variable Mu type possibly?

It's fair to say, the V4 has it's own sound which is shared with it's other V-Type siblings although by it's very design, has most in common with top-line V8 model. Personally, I haven't found much that is similar to a V-Type, strangely I think the closest thing in terms of a 'straight sound' comparison would be an EBS TD / Faffner rather than anything that would be seemingly closer - Fender Bassman, Marshall JMP or Hiwatt 200 for example. To my ears, the Trace Elliot is cleaner, less clangy and more modern than those vintage amplifiers although I'm sure parts of each could be seen in parts of it's design.

Probably worth mentioning also is that it will play very loudly through most cabinets. Conservatively rated at 200w RMS, this relatively small figure - by today's standards of 1kW amps the size of credit cards - is more than capable of playing every gig situation I could imagine - I've never needed it flat out even through less than perfect speakers. The power stage with 4x KT88s says pretty much everything about the power on tap - I rather liken it to subtle air scoop and exposed drive pulley in the bonnet of a vintage supercharged American muscle car. I have pinned the master volume on more than a few occasions just to see what happens and it's an experience - especially through the Trace 1084 (8x10) I owned for a while! Totally wild and not very me if I'm terribly honest but definitely worth it for a laugh.

I did read elsewhere on the internet that in common with some of the earlier line of Trace Elliot amplifiers with valve output stages such as the VA and Twin, Quattra and Hexa, the V-Types actually clip their driver / inverter stages before the power tubes clip. Whether this is true or not, I can't say - it was on Talkbass written by Psycho Bass Guy who did seem knowledgeable on such things.    

Build Quality and Reliability:

The build quality is superb - the upholstery is spot on with no apparent joins or blemishes, the bright chromed corners, vents and knobs give a great contrast against the black and green panel. The enameling is spotless and still in great condition even 18 years after it was built. The V4 badge centered on the front grill is also finished to a superb standard and is usually the first part the eyes are drawn to on initial inspection. Electrically, big transformers, thick, isolated PCBs, ceramic valve sockets and gold plated jacks all point to these being a truly premium quality product. Trace Elliot seemed to put a great deal of effort into the build quality of these amplifiers even if other products in the range at the time weren't quite up to their mid-eighties hey-day.

Moving on to reliability, it seemed to have a period of eating fuses randomly during it's initial settling down period - I owned it from new as it was purchased as NOS in 2003 from Gavin at GM-Audio who looked after all the warranty and parts after Trace Elliot closed. At the time, it was carted here, there and everywhere and did lots of gigs nationally. After about twelve months, I changed the output valves to the then new 're-issue' Tung Sol 6550 type valves which also worked really well but did little for the occasional fuse consumption. It appears that they're sensitive to different speaker cabinets and the slight impedance differences  (even with the correct matching 8-8 or 4-4) can cause the bias to run too hot and eventually take a fuse. I always carry a little screwdriver to adjust it just in case I wind up using someone else's speaker cabinet - it's different with every cab but inspite the inconvenience, it hasn't done a fuse for years and the EHX KT88s installed 3 / 4 years ago are still doing very well.

Final observations:

It's reasonably heavy (24Kg) and is around the typical size for a large valve amplifier so bulk and weight with only a central strap handle may be an issue for some users but the visual impact and more importantly, the tonal characteristic are completely worth it. Having also previously owned a 4808 combo and currently having a V6 on loan, it's been very interesting to compare the V4 against both. It's been a good few years since I let the 4808 go so I'll compare on the V6. The V4 was a little smoother than the V6 but it terms of their core tones, there was next to nothing in it - tolerance in the components and different valves probably account for any subtleties  in the character. I'd happily gig either (or both!) for any show. There's not a massive amount difference in terms of power between the two - the V6 does play a little louder before breaking up but there really isn't that much in it - 3dB assuming both are making their claimed horsepower seems about right.

It's a little sad to say that less than 12 months after mine was built, Trace Elliot as we knew it no longer existed having been closed down by parent company, Gibson. It seems unlikely that anything like the V-Types will be made again - Peavey who now own the name seem to be using the Trace Elliot brand as an outlet for the latest in small, light and powerful amplifiers so whilst it's great to see that we can now once again buy a new Trace Elliot, my interests and affections will always lie with the older line of products.

37721327634_b5359921e5_h.jpg135 and V4 by VTypeV4, on Flickr

As a final note, if you come across the opportunity to try one, I'd recommend it as I found the sound I was always searching for. :drinks:

33320087038_bf35b1143a_h.jpgUnderwarwickV4 by VTypeV4, on Flickr

 

 

 

Edited by VTypeV4
Additions and tidying
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Fantastic review. 

Possibly the best, in depth review of a Trace V-series amp I have read (and I have searched for a few!)

I have owned a V6 since about 2013. I was intrigued at finding out that the overdrive circuit on the Mk II was diode based. I wouldn't have expected that. I presume that the case is the same for the fabled V8? That is the one feature I wished my V6 had. 

Also glad to hear that somebody else doesn't like the 'deep' switch. I just do not like the effect it gives to the sound. The 'bright' switch on the V6 is okay though. I find the voicing of the 'pull out' mid switch a bit strange. Why is the focal point stuck at 500HZ? I don't like being an after-timer but I think that a three way (mid voice) switch to give some ability to choose the centre point of the 'mids' (300HZ, 500HZ, 800/1k) to be controlled would have been a bit more flexible. The EBS Fafner two way mids control (identify frequency/cut and boost to taste) would have been ideal, but then it wouldn't have been a 'classic' passive EQ. Either way I can live with it. 

I also own an EBS Fafner (mk I) and I'm glad to hear that someone else thought that it is a better comparison to the V4/V6 than another valve amp. The V6 I have is very clean indeed. I have a Mesa Walkabout which behaves more like a 'traditional' valve amp than the V6 in terms adding traditional valve grit.

The main thing that puzzles with the V6 is why it was released as running at 4 or 2 ohms, particularly when the 4x12 and 2x15 V-type cabs were 8 ohms. Were people just expected to buy two? I thought that valve amps were likely to fail if matched with the wrong impedance. There is no manual for the V6 either, and I have heard competing accounts as to whether it is safe or not!

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Thanks for the reply, Thodrik. :drinks:

Yes, the pre-amp stages (and indeed PCB) are identical between both the V4 Mk2 and the V8. I too found it rather peculiar that the 'all valve' amp featured diodes in the overdrive circuit. I can't imagine it was a cost cutting exercise - maybe it was designed like this to give that harsh, angry and distinct type character? It's not something I use regularly but it's great as a party piece, loads of fun. I was trying to think of alternative words to describe it's sound but 'prickly' is about the best I can muster..

The EQ on the V-Types is very much 'variations on a theme' rather than something that has parametric / semi parametric or big graphic equalizer. These can completely change the tonality of an instrument like an EBS or indeed Trace Elliot's own GP7/12 series.

On the EBS front, it was the closest and fairest comparison I could make - it sounds odd that a hybrid / fully SS amp should carry the closest character to an all valve amplifier. I think it may have something to do with how the sound is delivered and not meaning to sound silly but the 'size' and 'weight' of each note has alot to do with the V-Type character, not simply a pre-set EQ curve, bit of distortion or indeed compression. I appreciate that sounds a little 'away with the fairies' but I think you'll catch my drift..?  As suggested above, the V-Type bares little sonic resemblance to my Bassman 135. I appreciate it is only just a 'traditional' Fender but even so, the 135 doesn't deliver the notes in the same way even through the same cab. The closest thing I have to a 'traditional valve amp' is the custom one my step dad built many years ago - modified Marshall 50 watt circuit jacked up to make about 60w using  KT77s with Linear L50 transformers and chassis parts but the Trace seems to have little in common with that either.

39802401683_dd5251228b_h.jpgBeavis nearly by VTypeV4, on Flickr

As for the cabs, I think the V4 was designed to use one or two whereas the V6 could power up to four or two 810! That would be killer! I'm not sure about using it 8 ohms - some amps are rather sensitive to a mis-match - Marshall to give an example whereas most Fenders don't much seem to care - BFM of the speaker world has said they used to use Bassmans at one and two ohms without so much as a popped fuse let alone fried valves and O/T. My V4 can be fuss pot even with different cabs of apparently the same impedance sending the bias off either too hot or too cold although whether the V6 is as much of pain, I couldn't say. I'm sure you'll find many a conflicting report across the web - sorry I can't be much help with that.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on these lovely old amps. 😀 As it used to say in the old Trace Elliot catalogue - 'Land of the jolly green giant' although mine is arguably more black than green but I digress!!

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Great review thanks.

i had a v6 for a long time and loved it's tone and power.

i sold it as I no longer need such power for gigs.

i have been tempted recently to buy a less powerful valve amp.

i had a musicman hd130 but this was a hybrid.

i see a fender bassman in your armoury

whats your opinion of this all valve amp versus the trace all valve amps?

thanks 

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On 14/03/2019 at 13:08, gareth said:

Great review thanks.

i see a fender bassman in your armoury

whats your opinion of this all valve amp versus the trace all valve amps?

thanks

No worries, as you can see I've had a long-term affair with the V-Types - my first being the 4808 combo back as early as 2002 or thereabouts. As such, I considered it was time to share my thoughts with the community here. 😀

The Bassman 135 is altogether different on pretty much every point of comparison which has surprised me since day one. I was rather expecting a 'smaller' V-Type and that I would get a similar overall character from the Fender but it seems somewhat more 'lazy' in it's delivery. I purchased it as I got a great 'oldskool' sound out of it - one that seems to just happily sit in a mix that requires anything that's not a a particularly modern sound - it works perfectly with a Jazz bass as I'm sure you would well expect. It does work with the Warwick too but the jazz seems to just suit it a bit better.

About 12 months ago, I did some recording with a friend on some soul style music he was making. The 135 fit the bill perfectly giving a soft, gentle delivery with a Jazz bass through the 15" Goodmans loaded WEM cab I took with me. By contrast, had I have taken the V4, I'm sure it would have done a great job but I knew the Fender would deliver probably (I might got shot for saying this!) at least as well as an Ampeg Portaflex.

The NE-1 and LMB-3 help to give a certain sound that I like also  (I never leave home without them) but the core tone of the Fender is generally smooth and very much a 'vintage' one. Also, I usually use it with a JBL loaded 2x15" which is equally vintage - those old 140s have a certain sound to them. To my ears, they're very complimentary and work well together. When playing the V4 through the same cab, the Trace takes much more authority and control over the drivers in a way that I can only describe as 'making them behave' giving a tighter, punchier character to the sound.

It's really hard to describe sounds in words sometimes but the Fender has a far more vintage voice, it has a softer, less controlled delivery - it's mostly a gentle sound that doesn't overly bite with extreme brightness even if used with modern cabs with HF components. I feel the V-Type isn't particularly an old style sound and I'll stand by it's closest sound by direct comparison would be an EBS.

And of course, volume; the 135 doesn't play as loudly or cleanly as the Trace - it's 4x 6L6 power stage just doesn't deliver the same size, weight or stones to that of the big '88s in the V-Type. The Fender does compress very nicely although it doesn't outright drive - partially due to it's Ultralinear output transformer and circuit design - or break up like a 'normal' valve amp but it does get a bit growly when pushed hard.

As a final note, I'd say if you were looking for a smaller valve head, the Fender is definitely up there - vintage without being silly expensive although compared to a modern amp, is rather basic. It's been 100% reliable too.

24335373067_1a7bf8f095_h.jpgMatching 135 grill by VTypeV4, on Flickr

Oldskool cool but not really a comparison to a V-Type..

 

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24 minutes ago, VTypeV4 said:

No worries, as you can see I've had a long-term affair with the V-Types - my first being the 4808 combo back as early as 2002 or thereabouts. As such, I considered it was time to share my thoughts with the community here. 😀

The Bassman 135 is altogether different on pretty much every point of comparison which has surprised me since day one. I was rather expecting a 'smaller' V-Type and that I would get a similar overall character from the Fender but it seems somewhat more 'lazy' in it's delivery. I purchased it as I got a great 'oldskool' sound out of it - one that seems to just happily sit in a mix that requires anything that's not a a particularly modern sound - it works perfectly with a Jazz bass as I'm sure you would well expect. It does work with the Warwick too but the jazz seems to just suit it a bit better.

About 12 months ago, I did some recording with a friend on some soul style music he was making. The 135 fit the bill perfectly giving a soft, gentle delivery with a Jazz bass through the 15" Goodmans loaded WEM cab I took with me. By contrast, had I have taken the V4, I'm sure it would have done a great job but I knew the Fender would deliver probably (I might got shot for saying this!) at least as well as an Ampeg Portaflex.

The NE-1 and LMB-3 help to give a certain sound that I like also  (I never leave home without them) but the core tone of the Fender is generally smooth and very much a 'vintage' one. Also, I usually use it with a JBL loaded 2x15" which is equally vintage - those old 140s have a certain sound to them. To my ears, they're very complimentary and work well together. When playing the V4 through the same cab, the Trace takes much more authority and control over the drivers in a way that I can only describe as 'making them behave' giving a tighter, punchier character to the sound.

It's really hard to describe sounds in words sometimes but the Fender has a far more vintage voice, it has a softer, less controlled delivery - it's mostly a gentle sound that doesn't overly bite with extreme brightness even if used with modern cabs with HF components. I feel the V-Type isn't particularly an old style sound and I'll stand by it's closest sound by direct comparison would be an EBS.

And of course, volume; the 135 doesn't play as loudly or cleanly as the Trace - it's 4x 6L6 power stage just doesn't deliver the same size, weight or stones to that of the big '88s in the V-Type. The Fender does compress very nicely although it doesn't outright drive - partially due to it's Ultralinear output transformer and circuit design - or break up like a 'normal' valve amp but it does get a bit growly when pushed hard.

As a final note, I'd say if you were looking for a smaller valve head, the Fender is definitely up there - vintage without being silly expensive although compared to a modern amp, is rather basic. It's been 100% reliable too.

24335373067_1a7bf8f095_h.jpgMatching 135 grill by VTypeV4, on Flickr

Oldskool cool but not really a comparison to a V-Type..

 

Thanks very much. I'm very old school so it's seems the fender might be just up my street

i miss that v6 though, was a great amp, I got it from Dave bronze, he had two and it had the chrome rather than black plastic knobs

thanks again

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11 hours ago, thodrik said:

Someone is selling a V6 on ebay (chrome knob version)... £999 collection from Liverpool.

 

If it's all working with no problems and recent valves, that's probably not a bad price.

I had an svtii for a time and to my mind the v6 was SO much better

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Great review and a very interesting thread. I'm not too clued up on the V-Type range and I must admit that the V4 and V8 currently on offer have pricked my curiosity again.

Are there any significant differences or improvements between the MkI and MkII V4?

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I had a V8 for a while.  It sounded monstrous compared to my Shuttle 6's and 140w Burman heads.  All enveloping throbbing bass and a top end which could be compressed and overdriven at will.  I once threw a couple of 4x12 bass cabs under it and it shifted air like nothing else I have ever played.

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I used a V4 through the matching Trace 4 x12 for years and loved it,until I retired and lost the work van.I am down to 1 V4 from 3 and even though I am not using it at present I can’t talk myself into letting it go

 

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Thanks for the replies, gents..

I think there's little difference between all the '4 valve' Trace power stages going back to even the Quattra let alone the V-Type ranges although I'm happy to be corrected on that point.. Regarding the V-Types, the original all valve head and MK1 V4 are essentially the same thing bar a few cosmetic differences - I don't believe there's any electrically. My V4 is a different kettle of fish, however as the MK2's are a hybrid of the V8 preamp (which has a valve type compressor and a gnarly diode gain boost facility) and the 4 valve power stage. Arguably they could be seen as the MK1 being the smaller sibling to the V6 and the MK2 the smaller relation to the V8.. :drinks:

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Posted (edited)

@VTypeV4 - I'm late to this thread, but that's an epic review. Just epic.

I'm lucky enough to own a V4 chrome-knob head, but the tale of the amp is a long, and hard one, with a happy ending.

She was bought in Andorra (in Pas de la Casa) by Breeze (from Oxford), who were playing the ski season in Soldeu that year. They had no idea what they were buying was quite so special: they just knew it was one hell of an amp. A V4 Mk2 all-valve 1x15 combo!

They used this amp for many, many years and when I depped bass for them (we played as Janeiro in the Aspen Bar in Soldeu in 2007) I brought a 2x12 TE cab I had at the time (they helpfully lugged it all the way there in the van). An absolute monster of an amp, they'd never so much as had it serviced in all that time: the covering was already off in places, and during the season I had to repair the speaker cone with superglue and duct tape(!). She ate up night after night with huge tone, barely running and filling out the whole bar (no PA feed required).

Fast forward a decade from there, and the guys finally managed to completely break the combo, purchasing a small TE one to replace it as a stage monitor: by this point their PA was much, much better. They then realised how rare the amp was, and the drummer tried dismantling everything, removing the head from the combo, etc (the speaker was long gone), but he didn't get very far, and the pieces were cosigned to a draughty, leaking(!) shed. I did a couple more gigs with them, and they told me about the V4, so I told them I'd love to do the amp up for them. When I costed it out (there were busted tubes, it needed professional help) they got a little less keen, but then stunned me by asking if I just wanted to have the amp, as they said I knew how special it was and I would look after it.

I spent a month or so stripping the cabinet, but sadly it was completely shot: the top had come off and no amount of woodwork was going to bring that MDF back in a way which would take those earth-shattering lows. Deciding it might be a good idea to turn it into an amp I could use at gigs without needing a van (the V4 combo was a 2-man lift!!) I decided to turn it into a head, furiously researching how the V4 heads looked. I didn't have a front grille, so I decided to get Zilla Cabs to do something which would approximate that - and they came through strong! I also took the handle arrangements from both the V4 and the V8 heads and now have 3 handles on top - one in the middle, 2 on the edges - which makes for much easier lugging about. Zilla worked totally remotely from schematics I made of the head unit, including valve clearance and position for the heat grille on the top.

Electronically - to my astonishment - the amp had actually survived all the abuse, the beer (2 power valve seats actually had dried beer caked around them.... I AM NOT KIDDING), and even the capacitors were still good. This thing is just immortal. And now she's gigging again.

The result is a beautiful, amazing amp, with more volume than the Warwick Pro Bass IX 900w head I have (it's ridiculous though a 1x15 and 4x10 at 4 ohms). The studio mode is very welcome, and the compressor, as you point out, is really nice, very musical. I've got an aftermarket footedal which works a treat on the channel switching and compressor on/off.

Here's some pics of what Zilla did, and the amp ready for a function gig a couple of years ago. I think the approximation of the front grille is pretty cool, like some kind of boutique amp. Either way, she sounds amazing.

Thanks again for an amazing review. I had no idea these were so rare.

image.png.c12460f7761c99eef061c9cd6c82fbf1.png

image.thumb.png.741eee6afceaadfa285ec4d873be2f4a.pngD69DBCD2-1661-4D58-BC05-29FD6531429B.thumb.jpeg.10d5231591ce7d195074c1f9a100c8fd.jpeg

991EBD09-D6A2-4732-A18B-5D1418B6E246.jpeg

Edited by basexperience
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4 hours ago, basexperience said:

@VTypeV4 - I'm late to this thread, but that's an epic review. Just epic.

I'm lucky enough to own a V4 chrome-knob head, but the tale of the amp is a long, and hard one, with a happy ending.

She was bought in Andorra (in Pas de la Casa) by Breeze (from Oxford), who were playing the ski season in Soldeu that year. They had no idea what they were buying was quite so special: they just knew it was one hell of an amp. A V4 Mk2 all-valve 1x15 combo!

They used this amp for many, many years and when I depped bass for them (we played as Janeiro in the Aspen Bar in Soldeu in 2007) I brought a 2x12 TE cab I had at the time (they helpfully lugged it all the way there in the van). An absolute monster of an amp, they'd never so much as had it serviced in all that time: the covering was already off in places, and during the season I had to repair the speaker cone with superglue and duct tape(!). She ate up night after night with huge tone, barely running and filling out the whole bar (no PA feed required).

Fast forward a decade from there, and the guys finally managed to completely break the combo, purchasing a small TE one to replace it as a stage monitor: by this point their PA was much, much better. They then realised how rare the amp was, and the drummer tried dismantling everything, removing the head from the combo, etc (the speaker was long gone), but he didn't get very far, and the pieces were cosigned to a draughty, leaking(!) shed. I did a couple more gigs with them, and they told me about the V4, so I told them I'd love to do the amp up for them. When I costed it out (there were busted tubes, it needed professional help) they got a little less keen, but then stunned me by asking if I just wanted to have the amp, as they said I knew how special it was and I would look after it.

I spent a month or so stripping the cabinet, but sadly it was completely shot: the top had come off and no amount of woodwork was going to bring that MDF back in a way which would take those earth-shattering lows. Deciding it might be a good idea to turn it into an amp I could use at gigs without needing a van (the V4 combo was a 2-man lift!!) I decided to turn it into a head, furiously researching how the V4 heads looked. I didn't have a front grille, so I decided to get Zilla Cabs to do something which would approximate that - and they came through strong! I also took the handle arrangements from both the V4 and the V8 heads and now have 3 handles on top - one in the middle, 2 on the edges - which makes for much easier lugging about. Zilla worked totally remotely from schematics I made of the head unit, including valve clearance and position for the heat grille on the top.

Electronically - to my astonishment - the amp had actually survived all the abuse, the beer (2 power valve seats actually had dried beer caked around them.... I AM NOT KIDDING), and even the capacitors were still good. This thing is just immortal. And now she's gigging again.

The result is a beautiful, amazing amp, with more volume than the Warwick Pro Bass IX 900w head I have (it's ridiculous though a 1x15 and 4x10 at 4 ohms). The studio mode is very welcome, and the compressor, as you point out, is really nice, very musical. I've got an aftermarket footedal which works a treat on the channel switching and compressor on/off.

Here's some pics of what Zilla did, and the amp ready for a function gig a couple of years ago. I think the approximation of the front grille is pretty cool, like some kind of boutique amp. Either way, she sounds amazing.

Thanks again for an amazing review. I had no idea these were so rare.

 

D69DBCD2-1661-4D58-BC05-29FD6531429B.thumb.jpeg.10d5231591ce7d195074c1f9a100c8fd.jpeg

 

Great work 👍

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It's lovely to see another - especially when it's been saved from oblivion.. 😎  Thanks for the kind words too.

I was never able to confirm how many of these things actually exist although last I heard, there were 45 in total. 15 heads, 15 two-ten combos and and 15 one-fifteen combos. Does anyone have anymore info on that front?

 

 

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1 hour ago, VTypeV4 said:

It's lovely to see another - especially when it's been saved from oblivion.. 😎  Thanks for the kind words too.

I was never able to confirm how many of these things actually exist although last I heard, there were 45 in total. 15 heads, 15 two-ten combos and and 15 one-fifteen combos. Does anyone have anymore info on that front?

 

 

Can we get in touch with the fella from TE, the designer? I noticed the circuit boards actually have names on!! And a Union Jack. 

incidentally, while researching yesterday I discovered that there’s a place in the USA which sells parts, including the blank PCBs for the preamp board and the power board for the V8, so theoretically you could actually build a new V8(!!) - I’ve got all the schematics of the amp, which was useful as I was able to supply them to the valve amp specialist I took mine to for checking over. He was astonished it had survived all that abuse: they’re wonderfully engineered. Even the chassis on mine needed attention - the bottom edge had rusted from all the sweat, beer, vodka and red bull (drummer was an animal) etc. I had to carefully take back to bare metal and used black smooth hammerite in place of the enamel. Looks good: she wears her scars with pride. 

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I met Paul Stevens at one of the guitar shows at Birmingham many years back and he seemed a nice enough chap. Sadly, I didn't get chance to quiz him on the finer points of the lovely, shiny black v-types.. I think Clive Button would have likely been involved with the design of the original v-type series as he worked at TE for many years..

As for numbers, the serial suggests it's number seven..

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On 15/04/2021 at 12:20, VTypeV4 said:

I met Paul Stevens at one of the guitar shows at Birmingham many years back and he seemed a nice enough chap. Sadly, I didn't get chance to quiz him on the finer points of the lovely, shiny black v-types.. I think Clive Button would have likely been involved with the design of the original v-type series as he worked at TE for many years..

As for numbers, the serial suggests it's number seven..

Wow, you can decode the serial numbers? My head has (I think - the writing is tricky) T0145-5-301 - pic is attached.

IMG_5138.HEIC

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Posted (edited)

I think it must be

TO145 for V4-II Combo (?)

5 stands for number 5 (the serial-number...)

And 301 is 3rd quarter of 2001

If that's true, is my V4-MKII  #1:

image.jpg

On 14/04/2021 at 11:08, VTypeV4 said:

It's lovely to see another - especially when it's been saved from oblivion.. 😎  Thanks for the kind words too.

I was never able to confirm how many of these things actually exist although last I heard, there were 45 in total. 15 heads, 15 two-ten combos and and 15 one-fifteen combos. Does anyone have anymore info on that front?

 

 

I heard, there were only 25 in total. But I don't know which type og V4-II are meant by that.

Less V4s than V8s were made.

Edited by disssa
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I found and connected to Paul Stephens himself on Facebook - he loves the shell Zilla cabs made, and told me the grille on the front of the V series was inspired by Jaguar(!) - all cool trivia.

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On 22/04/2021 at 11:42, basexperience said:

I found and connected to Paul Stephens himself on Facebook - he loves the shell Zilla cabs made, and told me the grille on the front of the V series was inspired by Jaguar(!) - all cool trivia.

Great news - very cool. 😎

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