Bugera v22 by Silent Sound
Over the past few years, two trends have appeared in the amplifier market that this amp addresses in spades. First is low cost budget equipment with an eye towards more professional applications than it's cost alone would suggest. Second is the low wattage amps with minimal features designed to "cook" the power tubes for a different sounding distortion than what you can get from just over-driving the preamp tubes.
Features: Cosmetically, this amp resembles some boutique amps, namely Matchless. If you weren't familiar with the name on this amp, you might initially mistake it for a boutique amp itself. Some of the fit, finish, and materials involved suggest that it has a the budget market in mind, but these are only noticeable upon close inspection. Inside, this amp has 3x 12AX7's in the preamp section and two EL84's in the power amp and produces around 22 watts output to a 12" Bugera branded speaker. The power tubes can be run in pentode and triode, and there's an adjustable bias trim and an insert to hook up your meter of choice so that the average user with just a bit of experience can change and bias their own tubes. I find this feature to be very thoughtful. Also there is an output impedance adjustment switch with 4, 8, and 16 ohm options that will allow you to use most any external speaker cabinet you wish. There is also and effects loop, and a footswitch that allows you to switch between the two channels and turn the digital reverb on and off. On the front is are normal and bright inputs, treble, mid, bass controls, a mid-boost switch, reverb control, and gain and master volume controls for each channel. The dirty channel also has a second volume control so you can drive the preamp section as hard as you want, and leave the preamp as clean as you want on the clean channel, and still have matching overall volume levels, as there is just one master volume knob.
Sound: This amp has two amazing sounds, and several other usable ones. First, the clean channel is breath-taking. Dime the master volume, engage the mid boost, and roll back on the preamp volume and you have an extremely dynamic and responsive amp with a gorgeous tone all it's own. I've heard people say it has a Deluxe Reverb preamp section and an AC15 power amp section, and while I can't say for sure if that's true, it does give a pretty accurate description of the overall sound of this amp. It loves pedals, especially a boost pedal like a Tubescreamer with the drive down and the volume turned up to really crunch the preamps tubes. It's very warm, articulate, detailed, and full bodied in tone. It definitely captures that vintage amp vibe.
The second sound this amp produces that out-classes it's price considerably is the one you can get from the dirty channel. Turning up the dirty channel past 4 doesn't do much but sap bass and introduce more fuzz, but up to around 4, you can get some great crunchy distorted sounds. It also helps to have the amp in triode mode, for as this amp sounds best in pentode on the clean channel, and it seems to sound best in triode for the dirty channel. The dirty channel also has a unique sound to it. Once again it straddles the line between a Fender and Vox, but this time leaning more towards the Vox cream. I wouldn't recommend it for use in any modern metal style applications, but it would do justice to most music from seventies hard rock up to ninties grunge.
The reverb is digital and really only sounds usable in low to moderate settings. It's really only good for adding ambiance, and not as an overt effect. The foot switch lights up, but the switches themselves are pretty cheap and don't lead me to believe that they will hold up over the long run, but this amp is a few years old now, and I've not experienced any problems yet, so who knows? I've tried several different speakers with this amp, and have yet to find a speaker that better compliments the sound of this amp than the stock Bugera. Managing the highs on this amp is the secret to it's sound, and the stock speaker does an excellent job of this. The bright input doesn't seem to be very useful. It seems to suck some of the bass tone as much as add any brightness to the signal.
Overall: This amp is an amazing bang-for-the-buck proposition. I would easily place in on par with any modern mass produced amp short of the boutique market without hesitation. You can get two astonishingly good sounds out of this amp without any aftermarket modifications. Buy it as a cheap practice amp, or a back up amp to gig with, or just another flavor for the studio, and see if it doesn't work its way into a more prominent role!