The smallest member of the new Valvetronix + Series, the VT20+ is a full featured modeling amp that uses a 12AX7-powered Valve Reactor circuit to mimic the response of a push-pull tube output stage. The Valvetronix + Series amps–which include the more powerful VT40+ and VT80+–also feature a Power Level control that allows you to reduce wattage in the output stage to control volume while preserving tone and dynamic response. Up front, the VT20 + puts 99 preset sounds at your fingertips, which are accessed by pressing a Preset button and then sweeping through the amp models (Clean, Cali Clean, US Blues, US 2×12, Vox AC15, Vox AC30, UK Rock, UK Metal, US HiGain, US Metal, and Boutique Metal) with the 11-position Amp selector knob. Further, an Amp button provides three progressively higher gain versions of each–Standard, Special, and Custom–making for a total of 33 distinct amp sounds.
The interface also includes a Preset button with three modes that are indicated by a multicolor LED. In “Basic” mode (green) the amps are heard without effects. “Effects” mode (orange) gives you amps with effects, while a “Song” mode (red) provides pre-configured guitar sounds for 33 popular songs. Pressing and holding the Preset button for a couple of seconds activates Manual mode, where you can create your own amp and effects combinations, tweak them to taste, and save them to any of the eight user memory slots via the bank/channel buttons adjacent to the input jack. The optional Vox VFS5 footswitch ($59 street) provides a convenient way to remotely switch presets, turn the reverb on and off, and tap in delay times and mod rates. Other details include Aux In jack for use with mp3 players, and a speaker simulated headphone jack that doubles as a line out for direct recording. Unfortunately, there’s no USB jack for interfacing directly with a DAW.
The VT20+ gives you 25 effects to choose from. The Pedal selections are Comp, Acoustic, Auto Wah, U-Vibe, Brn Octave, Treble Boost, Tube OD, Gold Drive, Org Dist, Metal Dist, and Fuzz. On the Modulation/Delay knob are CE Chorus, Multi Chorus, Flanger, Org Phase, Twin Trem, G4 Rotary, Pitch Shift, Filtron, Tape Echo, Delay, and Chorus with Delay. The Reverb control sweeps between progressively wetter versions of Room, Spring, and Hall.
Sonically, the VT20 + proved to be an impressive performer when tested with a PRS Modern Eagle II, A Buzz FeitenT-Pro, and aGibson ES-330 reissue. The amp tones definitely benefit from the Valve Reactor tube circuitry, which noticeably enhances their dynamic feel and touch responsiveness. Across the board, the sounds are full-bodied and dimensional, and even extreme models such as US Metal and US HiGain sounded tight and well detailed, if a bit sizzling on the top end. Everything sounded richer and fuller through the VT’s 8″ speakerthan through headphones, which seemed a little odd considering that speaker simulation is provided on the phones out.
The VT20+ has rock and metal tones covered, and it also excels for blues, country, jazz, etc., courtesy of the sweet sounding, lower-gain Clean, US Blues, Vox AC15, and AC30 models. The reverb options (particularly the spring setting) bring great vibe to the brew, as does throwing on, say, Auto Wah, Tube OD, or Fuzz from the Pedal selections, and expanding things further with some tremolo, tape echo, chorus, or flange. Aside from the lackluster Acoustic preset, all of the VT’s effects sounded excellent, and subtle things like hearing the rotary speaker model ramp up and down as you change the speed simply adds to the aural zen of it all.
Color me impressed. The VT20+ is an outstanding amp for a very affordable price.