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Reprinted from the Tonequest report, June 2008

At a time when the average price of a "boutque amp" often approaches three grand and gasoline is headed for $4 a gallon, we understand if you've become a little more sensitive about the cost of your personal quest for tone. Well, how about a truly custom-built, handwired 25 watt amp that delivers classic, clean Fender tones and every conceivable variation of distortion imaginable in a 1x12 package for the princely sum of $1050.00?

Rob Pierce builds Valvetech amps in Ossian, Indiana, just south of Ft Wayne,and the class A/B "VAC" 25 watt 1x12 sent to us for review is impressive even without the budget price. Key to the versitile nature of the VAC are the interactive EQ features and input channels, which offer a virtually unlimited range of tones and clean or overdriven voices. The controls seem familiar enough, Ground and standby switches, Master Volume, Hi, Lo, and Mid EQ, two channels with seperate Volume controls and low and high sensitivity inouts, and on the back panel, Presence, Impedance switch, Reverb depth, a 12AX7/12AY7 switch, and an optional Line Level FX send and return. However, the controls on the "VAC" are interactive to an extaordinary level that requires patient experimentation to fully explore their potential...

Tweed Tone

A classic "tweed" clean tone is accessed through Channel 1. With the volume control for Channel Two turned fully counterclockwise, a"click" at the end of the sweep engages a bright switch. Volume for Channel One produces a gradual increase that spills over into rich power tube distortion, and a switch on the back panel allows you to choose the more gritty and ardent sound of a 12AX7 preamp tube, or a cleaner 12AY7 often found in tweed circuits. Nice. The "VAC" exhibits plenty of clean headroom with this setting, plus thick natural output tube distortion that can easily be managed from the volume pot on your guitar, and the vibe is right - organic and natural with none of the talltale brittleness of comparably priced modern (PCB) amps.

Top Boosted Jangle

Plugging into Channel Two with the master Volume wide open produces a very jangly British voice that becomes progressively chunkier with intense sustain as the volume on Channel two is increased. In either channel, the second, low sesitivity iput yields cleaner tones with less gain.

Boosted Power Tube Grind

This platform is the quintessential launching pad for those of you who enjoy he sound of a gonzo, cranked up amp at variable volume levels. Working out of Channel Two with the provided footswitch on, the volume control on Channel One sets the drive level, Channel Two volume controls the boost contour, and the Master Volume stes output level and compression. It is also important to note the funtion of the back panel Presence control, which controls the treble level in the power amp section. It can be used to round off and sweeten distortion on high gain settings, or add a chimier character to clean settings.

Pre-Amp Distortion

The "VAC" can also develop a blend of intense Boogie-esque preamp and power amp distortion by plugging into Channel Two with the volume for Channel One and Two dimed, the master at roughly 10 o'clock and the boost switch on. The Master volume drives the power amp section,and varying the volume levels on Channel One and Two produces an extremely wide range of distorted voices odtained by mixing the level of preamp and power amp distortion. These aren't settings that can be nimbly or quickly explored on the fly on stage, but the "VAC's versatility is undeniable for less urgent situations, and the dual 6V6 output tubes with the 5U4 rectifier create the perfect foundation for mining the capabilities of the VAC. Futher, using a patch cord, the four inputs can be mixed, and unplugging the boost footswitch disables the boost circuit, allowing you to operate the VAC in the old-school 4-hole tradition.

We ran the VAC through all the essential pickup combinations, and it performs brilliantly with them all. Weaker stratocaster pickups can be easily boosted into bluesy grind or heavy distortion and sustain without the assistance of a pedal, our Nocaster thrived on the VAC's clean tones and thick output tube distortion, and the magic of marrying a great 6V6 amp with humbucking pickups was in full bloom. The VAC is simply a remarkably toneful, exceptionally versitile and cleverly designed hand-wired amp that ranks among the most unique and toneful designs we have ever encountered.

Of course, at $1050 (add $75 for reverb), those of you accustomed to paying more may be skeptical...Don't be. Yes, Rob Pierce is a small builder which is the only way he can build amps at these prices. He may not have the overhead of a big company,but we failed to detect and viable or audible shortcomings in the VAC whatsoever. Since he also works in the aviation industry from his home shop in rual Indiana, Pierce seems happy simply chasing the tone he heard in his head, and in his words, "building an amp that musicians can afford." Valvetech requires a whopping $150 deposit when an order is placed, and since rob Pierce builds every amp himself, the current lagtime for delivery is 3 to 4 months. In our opinion, the VAC is absolutely worth the wait. See the website for other models and options. TQ

This reveiw was written before we improved the amp with the 09 revisioins. The amp is EVEN BETTER now. Any old VAC can be upgraded. Call or e mail for info.