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Tonebone PZ-PRE: The Test

Tonebone PZ-PRE Acoustic Preamp When Radial engineering, who has a reputation for making quality gear, branches out into acoustic instrument pre-amps, the result is the Tonebone PZ PRE, a pedal with two high-impedance inputs, a boost and an EQ. Let's take a look... read more…

User reviews on Guitar Pre-amp products

Fantastic Cleans and Chewy High-Gains (Victory Amps - V4 The Countess)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 28/02/2019
SOUND:



Incredible tone driving this 4-valve preamp barely scratches the surface. I’m in awe at the Countess V4’s clean channel, with its vibrant, detailed and glassy tones, ranging from ultra clean (gain at about 9-o’clock) to somewhat grainy and glassy (12-noon) and even low-gain drive when cranked. Channel 2 has a wonderfully thick and meaty (chewy) quality that definitely has a unique tone that keeps me from wanting to add other gains or distortions in front of it. Although British made, by Victory Amps and its chief engineer, Martin Kidd, the Countess V4 does not sound British, nor does it sound German, US or anything else. It really does have its own characteristics, which I’m very much enjoying.

The three-band EQ has a very usable range that allows you to push the Bass, Midrange or Treble (or to cut back on any of the three) without it sounding out of place. A lot of bass does not sound muddy, nor does a lot of Midrange. A lot of treble does not sound brittle or harsh. And although adjusting any of those EQs brings forward certain frequencies (obviously), you could keep everything around 12-noon and be content. Like the other preamps in the V4 series (Kraken and Sheriff) the Countess V4 has a global tone control or Bright switch – typically this is left in the middle or neutral position ‘0,’ particularly if used as a stand-alone pedal. However, if used within your amp’s effect loop there may be instances that the treble response is too bright and this can be calmed by flipping the Bright switch to reduce treble by a little (-1) or a lot (-2). Setting the Bright switch will depend on your gear and your ears.

For best sound you still require some form of cabinet for the best sound (since the Countess V4 is only a preamp), which is where an actual cab comes in, but also cab-simulators via reproductions of the actual counterparts. I use my AxeFx II for cab simulation, although there are plenty of VST plug-ins and pedal-type cab sims that do a good job to fully realize the potential of the Countess V4 Preamp. I like using cab sims since each one has a different flavor and this can produce a wide array of Countess V4 tones that otherwise would require a lot of storage space to house all the actual speaker cabinets. And although my experience may be limited when compared to other gear hounds, I have found Channel 1 of the Countess V4 the best pedal platform thus far, bringing to life any modulation, delay, fuzz, overdrive or distortion thrown at it.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
The Countess V4 is part of an award-winning collection of preamps, and one of the best clean tones I’ve heard – very full and clean… to very glassy (with the gain up to 12-noon)… with more of an edgy clean/slightly broken up beyond that point. Channel 2 has one of the more addictive thick, meaty and chewy tones I’ve heard, making it awesome for crunch and lead tones. With four valves pushing the Countess V4 you would be hard-pressed to find such incredible sound in a standard pedal or even many preamp pedals currently on the market, making its $499 USD price-tag a bit rich, but an obvious investment for tone snobs looking for the best. Like other preamps, the nature of the Countess V4 was designed primarily to be integrated into an amp’s effect loop, to give access to additional amp tones at a fraction of the price of a new amp (and so, you can set it atop your amp head or amp/cab combo), or it can be used as a standalone unit with your pedalboard. Because of the quality engineering and four valves, the Countess V4 integrates far better with other amps (in the effects loop) than what often is possible with lesser preamp pedals. This means you can run it into a Marshall, Vox, Fender, Mesa or any other brand and the quality of output will be equal to those brands of preamps and definitely not digital sounding or thin. In doing so, you get to keep your favorite amp and still have access to two more channels of tonal bliss at a faction of the price of another good amp (that you have to haul around). For gigging musicians looking to expand their sound pallets, you couldn’t ask for better. As well, the quality of construction is outstanding with the Countess V4 and how it responds to other pedals (modulation, fuzz, distortion), thus making it a perfect pedal platform and particularly through Channel 1. The Countess V4 does require a heft of power, and so it comes with its own 2-amp 12-volt adapter (together with various plug ends to accommodate any country’s electrical concerns). There’s a reason why Guthrie Govan likes the Countess V30 amp – it sounds incredible, as does the Countess V4 Preamp.

GENERAL USE:
There are two ways in which to use the Countess V4 – it can be a standalone unit (on your pedal board or on the floor) or used with your current amp in the effects loop (typically sitting atop an amp). I use the unit as a standalone, going into an Axe-Fx II for speaker simulation. And because of the incredible clean channel it makes an awesome pedal platform for anything from chorus to high-gain distortion.

The main focus of this preamp was to afford musicians the ability to use an amp’s channel(s) as usual, and also the Countess V4 for additional sounds and tones (perfect for those who run clean single-channel amps) in the effects return loop. Because the Countess V4 is valve-driven, it has that pure tube quality and will sound incredible with other valve amps. And so, you can have your channel(s) in your amp, then you can switch to the Countess V4 (which bypasses your amp’s preamp) while giving a different flavor among another two channels. Adding dirt or delay pedals, for example, will need to be arranged as usual and to your preference. In standalone mode you place whatever you want before and after the Countess V4 (dirt before, delay/reverb after and modulation where it sounds best). If integrating the Countess V4 within your amp’s effect loop you add pedals direct to your amp’s input or along with the Countess V4 in the loop, whatever works best.

Functional in a similar manner to other amps/preamps, there is a switch to bypass or turn the unit off (the LED lights up when the pedal is on) and a switch to navigate between the two channels. Each channel has its own Master Volumes and Sub-Volumes (which are actually Gains), but both channels share the same EQ. The Bright switch typically remains on ‘0,’ which is neutral, unless you find your effects loop/amp (or even a single-coil guitar) a bit bright or harsh, then you can remove some treble by flipping to -1 or -2 (1 = less treble and 2 = even less treble response). If operating in standalone mode you would want to adjust the EQ and reserve the Bright switch when using the Countess V4 in an amp’s effect loop. There also is a TSR input on the left that allows remote switching, which is practical if you have the Countess V4 mounted atop your amp.

OTHER DETAILS:
Weighing 1.7 Kg (3.75 lbs) and measuring 225 (w) x 140 (D) x 80 (H inc. feet) mm (8.85 x 5.5 x 3.1 inches), the Victory Countess V4 is built like a tank and of superior quality. The chassis is all-steel (held-together with high-torque 8-blade Posidrive screws and machine bolts) to keep the four valves well protected. The pre-amp pedal comes with a 5-year warranty and the valves come with a 2-year warranty (good for approximately 6000 playing hours, which works out to two-hours-per-day over eight years – they can be replaced for approximately $15 USD). The pots have a very smooth feel when turned and all seven pots and foot switches are silent when turned or engaged (no static, crackling or clicking sounds). The Countess V4 also has a protective kick bar with a powder coated slate grey paint – together with the Victory emblem and Martin Kidd’s signature (the engineer behind this pedal and The Countess amplifier series). The LEDs for on/off and channel selection are raised only slightly and well located, and so they are free from careless foot stomping. All connections are made through the back (with the exception of the TSR remote switching input on the left side), which is good for protection of the cables and inserts, but also saves on pedal board space. The rubber feet under the unit are heavy-duty screw-on types.
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Easy to Use with an Improvement in Sound (Night Owl Industries - Edison Preamp)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 31/03/2019
SOUND:
As a stand-alone preamp, the Edison is very clear, yet full-bodied. When hooking it up to an Axe-Fx II (with Marshall cab simulation), the first thing I noticed is how ‘amp-like’ the sound was… headroom and dynamics without that processed sound. Now, to be fair, the Edison Preamp is an actual tube preamp, and so it should not sound artificial or lackluster, but matching it with a cab-sim, as opposed to an actual cab, brought about a quality of sound I was not expecting. Although one of the better sounding (and behaving) cleans I’ve heard, the Edison Preamp still needs to be tamed somewhat. Because it offers a lot of headroom, having the volume up too much can produce some distortion or rumbling (like an amp breaking up, which it likely is doing). Nothing wrong with that, but either the preamp’s volume or the guitar’s volume need to be dialed back slightly if you want to avoid those artifacts. On that note, the Edison Preamp does clean up exceptionally well and sounds great as you dial back a guitar’s volume knob. As for the preamp, it sounds good at lower volumes, but you definitely can hear more note fullness and fatness when turned up half-way or beyond.



When combined with other gear the Edison Preamp offers a lot. It makes for a great pedal format, whether dealing with clean-type effects (delay, modulation) or distortions/drives/fuzzes. Even when combined with other preamps (I added the Edison to a few Victory preamps, the Kraken and the Countess) the Edison mixed with those other preamps incredibly well, for a bolder and fuller sound. What should be noted is that the Edison Preamp has fantastic warmth to it, which can make other gear sound a touch darker, which means upping your treble or upper-mids a bit to balance out the tone. Regardless of this minor quirk, the Edison does not color other gear very much (very little in fact) so that everything simply sounds ‘hot-rodded.’

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
The Edison Preamp is aptly named, since it looks like a glowing light bulb within its aluminum housing. Developed by Night Owl Industries, this preamp has exceptional warmth, tons of headroom and pure amp-like tonal qualities. The Edison Preamp’s simple, yet effective design has a built-in voltage tripler to push the all-tube EF86 preamp for a real amp tone. It functions well as a stand-alone unit (in pedal platform), but also works well in pushing the limits of other preamps/amps (solid state or tube). Its third and obvious use is as a clean boost, but not any ordinary boost, since its full-bodied and robust tube sound will fatten up your tone for some great lead soloing. Its green glow (both tube and footswitch ring) not only look ominous, as though it came from a mad scientist’s laboratory, but makes for easy location on a pedal board and on dark stages. At $225 the Edison Preamp is of average cost and very decent value considering how it enhances other gear, besides working well with guitar, bass or a recording rig. Simple to use and effective best sums it up.

GENERAL USE:
Although Night Owl Industries suggest “try it in front of your favorite distortion pedal or another tube effect for endless possibilities,” I found my tone and results as good when adding the Edison Preamp AFTER some effects and other preamps (likely because my cab simulation came later in the chain). The sound was fine when used before in other instances, but placing it after impressed me as much and depending on the gear. The Edison Preamp is about as easy to use as it comes – a footswitch to turn it on and off. How great is that? No tone controls, although you need to adjust the volume accordingly (whether aiming for parity or boosting the signal). Insofar as the volume is concerned, how much you turn it up will depend on what is being connected to it. For example, if using the Edison as a stand-alone preamp (going into a cab or cab simulation) and with some pedals, the volume can be turned up more than if using the Edison to push an amplifier or other preamp. Then again, by keeping the gain/volume down on another amp or preamp, then certainly more volume can be had with the Edison (depending on what balance or ratio sounds best to your ears). Regardless of the setup, you will find there is a sweet spot in coordinating gear, so that you have enough push and sound fullness without adding distortion or artifacts.

OTHER DETAILS:
A slightly odd shape, the Edison Preamp measures larger at the top than bottom, but generally is a standard sized pedal. Measuring 3-inches across the top, 2.25-inches across the bottom, 4.25-inches long and 1.5-inches high, this preamp is lightweight and likely an aluminum housing (since it feels light) with center glass window (to view the cool-looking green light and valve). All connections, including the volume control, are located on the sides, which does take up a bit more pedalboard real-estate, but nothing excessive. The footswitch, which is SILENT (you don’t hear a thing when turning it on and off) has a solid click and is of good quality. The Volume knob also feels of good quality when turned. The glass window sits below the aluminum chassis, and positioned within the design of the pedal in such a manner that damage from a stomping foot is very unlikely (don’t wear high-heels). The Edison Preamp powers up via a standard 9VDC 250mA supply. Tubes can last a matter of months or even years, depending on usage and any potential flaws (inherent with tubes), and so the Edison’s reliability in regard to tube life cannot be determined with any confidence. However, Night Owl Industries does test each Edison Preamp and tube (via Amplitrex testing) prior to shipping, which helps to weed out any immediate operational issues in advance.
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Victory Amp's Answer to the Marshall Plexi (Victory Amps - The Sheiff V4 Preamp)

By MGR/Brian Johnston, 10/06/2019
SOUND:
The Sheriff V4 Preamp (same sound as from The Sheriff amp) has a full-bodied Marshall Plexi sounds; and so, if you want to integrate that sound with an amp you already have (via the FX Loop) or as a stand-alone pedal while recording or direct to PA, The Sheriff V4 Preamp likely is the premier piece of gear for consideration.



The sound is fantastic as it’s not merely a pedal, but a four-valve preamp that produces authentic amp tones that not only mimic a high quality plexi, but adds a unique chewy robustness that is unmistakably Victory Amplification. The first channel is not exactly a ‘clean’ channel – although when dialed back to about 9-o’clock it sounds somewhat clean with melody lines and some light chord strumming (it helps to have your guitar volume dialed back a bit as well). Beyond that point you get some quality gain, and anything past 12-noon is excellent for light to medium rock riffing with a good dose of crunch in the mix. The second channel has a similar sound to the first, except it is far more robust, aggressive and with a thick grainy punch. This channel has obvious use for lead playing, as well as heavy power chord work. The first channel has very good headroom, whereas the second channel is a bit tighter with added saturation. Both channels accept dirt pedals well, although anything intense or high-gain oriented works best on channel 1 (due to added noise in the signal when cranking channel 2), although channel 2 accepts such pedals fairly well if its gain is not turned up too high and the gain on the pedal is kept low as well (when combined modestly there is plenty of balls). Although The Sheriff V4 is considered moderate gain (whereas its counterpart The Kraken V4 is high-gain), The Sheriff still sounds plenty hard-hitting to my ears, and particularly when adding some push from an overdrive pedal. The Sheriff V4 does not have as much bottom end as The Kraken or The Countess, which likely is why it’s considered less high-gain than the other two.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
Victory Amp’s answer to the Marshall Plexi is The Sheriff, and it may be argued that it has superior tone quality to many Marshall Plexi models. The four valves running the Sheriff V4 produce thick rich tones that range from sizzling to heavy and biting. At a price $499 USD, The Sheriff V4 Preamp is an investment to be certain, but definitely a piece of gear that ensures both quality and functionality (being able to transform any amp into a Plexi beast). The Sheriff V4 was designed primarily to be integrated into an amp’s effect loop, to give access to additional amp tones at a fraction of the price of a new amp (and so, you can set it atop your amp head or amp/cab combo), which means being able to use your Fender, Vox, Friedman or ENGL amp and still get the Plexi-type tones from Victory’s Sheriff V4 at a third the price and a fraction of the weight (an important factor for gigging musicians). As well, the Sheriff V4 Preamp can be used as a standalone unit in front of your amp or directed into your DAW or PA system when gigging. Part of the Victory preamp collection (including The Countess and The Kraken), The Sheriff has its own characteristics that make having all three fun to own and use interchangeably. Not only is the overall quality of sound exceptional and more ‘alive’ than what can be achieved with amp-simulators, but the quality of construction is outstanding (and other pedals sound superb when mixed with either channel). And because you’re feeding this 4-valve tank a lot of power, it comes with its own 2-amp 12-volt adapter (together with plug ends to accommodate any country’s electrical concerns).

GENERAL USE:
Used as a standalone unit (on your pedal board) or with your current amp in the effects loop, The Sheriff V4 Preamp found its home on my pedalboard and through an Axe-Fx II for speaker simulation. However, its chief design was to afford musicians the ability to use an amp’s channel(s) as usual, and also the Sheriff V4 for additional sounds and tones (perfect for those who run clean single-channel amps). Because the Sheriff V4 is valve-driven, it has that pure analog quality and will sound natural with other valve amps. And so, you can have your channel(s) in your amp, then switch to the Sheriff V4 (which bypasses your amp’s preamp) while producing great sound. Adding dirt or delay pedals, for example, will need to be arranged as usual and to your preference. In standalone mode you place whatever you want before and after the Sheriff V4 (dirt before, delay/reverb after and modulation where they sound best). If integrating the Sheriff V4 within your amp’s effect loop you can add pedals direct to your amp’s input or along with the Sheriff V4 in the loop. The Sheriff V4 operates just like any other amp/preamp. There is a switch to bypass or turn the unit off (the LED is on when the pedal is on) and a switch to navigate between the two channels. Each channel has its own Master Volume and Gain, but both channels share an EQ. The Bright switch likely will remain on ‘0,’ which is neutral, unless you find your effects loop (or even a single-coil guitar) a bit bright or harsh, then you can remove some treble by flipping to -1 or -2. If operating in standalone mode, adjust the EQ and reserve the Bright switch when using the Sheriff V4 in an amp’s effect loop. There also is a TSR input that allows remote switching, ideal if you have the Sheriff V4 mounted atop your amp.

OTHER DETAILS:
The Sheriff V4 Preamp measures in at 225 (w) x 140 (D) x 80 (H inc. feet) mm (8.85 x 5.5 x 3.1 inches) and weighs 1.7 Kg (3.75 lbs). It is built like a tank and meant for road-wear. With an all-steel chassis (held-together with high-torque 8-blade Posidrive screws and machine bolts) the four internal valves are well protected. The Sheriff V4 comes with a 5-year warranty and the valves come with a 2-year warranty (good for approximately 6000 playing hours, which works out to two-hours-per-day over eight years – they can be replaced for approximately $15 USD). The pots have a very smooth feel when turned and all pots and foot switches are silent when turned or engaged (no static, crackling or clicking sounds). The Sheriff V4 boasts a protective kick bar with powder coated gold metallic paint, together with black writing and graphics. The LEDs for on/off and channel selection are raised only slightly and well located, and so they are free from foot stomping trauma. All connections are made through the back (with the exception of the TSR remote switching input), all of which is good for protection of the cables and inserts, but also saves on pedal board space. The rubber feet under the unit are heavy-duty screw-in types.
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Feeling Luke-y?

Published on 10/21/15
ToneConcepts, Ernie Ball and Sterling by Music Man are holding a contest to win Steve Lukather-related gear and goodies.

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