Fig. 1. The Bugera V22 features all-tube power in a 1x12 enclousure and pushes out 22 watts.
Nothing beats a vintage tube amp when it comes to creating classic guitar tones. But vintage amps are expensive and can come with all sorts of problems with regard to reliability, parts compatibility, and even electrical safety. The solution is to get a newly manufactured tube amp, but they’re often very expensive. Also, many modern tube amps tend to look, well, modern. Enter Bugera, which has addressed all of these issues in their V22—an inexpensive, well built, great-sounding amp that looks like it just stepped out of a time capsule from the 1960s.
The V22 is a lightweight two-channel 22-watt all-tube amp, driven by three 12AX7s in the preamp and two EL84s in the output stage (see Fig. 1). Included is a two-pedal footswitch, which activates the reverb and switches channels, allowing for hands-free operation. Standout features include an effects loop, a well-crafted digital Reverb, and a switch that enables you to operate in either Triode or Pentode mode.
What you notice instantly, right as it comes out of the box, is that the V22 is beautifully designed, with an understated dignity that you’ll especially appreciate if you have an affinity for vintage gear. (The “V” in the name is, of course, for “Vintage.”) The cream-colored padded covering evokes the tube-driven times of the mid-20th Century, and the basic black-and-white scheme is subtle and classy. The chicken head knobs, scripted Bugera logo, gold-flecked grille cloth, and braided gold piping all add to the aesthetic.
The V22’s front panel controls are laid out from left to right, beginning with a choice of input jacks labeled Normal and Bright, for single-coil and humbucker guitars, respectively (see Fig. 2). The preamp gain controls for the two channels follow. The clean channel has one control for gain, labeled (logically enough) Clean. For the lead channel, two controls are provided, Gain and Volume, which work in tandem to create varying degrees of distortion, and which you use to balance with the Clean channel’s output. It’s important to note that an overall Master volume is present too (on the other side of the EQ section on the right side of the panel), which is tied to the output stage and adjusts the overall speaker level. But the channel balance and distortion-shaping stages are right here in the first three knobs of the V22. The Channel selector switch is in between the Clean and Gain controls, but you can also switch channels via the footswitch, which is certainly the preferred mode in performance.
Immediately to the right of the gain stages is the EQ section, with Bass, Mid, Treble, and a Boost switch. The Boost function bolsters the midrange and is active in both channels. I particularly liked this function when I was playing at lower levels, such as in rehearsal or just jamming by myself. You get a full sound with increased intensity without having to rely on the overdrive sounds as much.
Fig. 2. The V22's front panel is laid out from left to right.
Rounding out the front panel are the aforementioned Master volume, a Presence control which brings clarity and focus to the guitar sound. It’s especially effective in a lead setting and after you’ve shaped the overall tone with the Bass, Mid, and Treble. At the right end of the panel are the Standby and Power switches, plus a faceted blue jewel power status lamp.
Heading around back, you see three speaker jacks with varying impedances (the 70-watt internal speaker is patched to the 8-ohm jack), a Triode/Pentode mode switch, and an effects loop section, with 1/4" send and return jacks (see Fig. 3). One of the coolest features of the V22 is that it operates in either Triode or Pentode modes. All things being equal, Triode mode produces a slightly darker, mellower sound with a little less power. When overdriven, Triode mode breaks up earlier than Pentode mode and has a different harmonic spectra as well. The V22’s Triode mode was perfect for my blues-based playing, while Pentode mode, with its slightly higher-gain, produced a full-throated crunch that suited my garage rock and hard rock wailings. The V22 yielded equally musically useful results in both modes, and all it takes is a quick flick of the rocker switch on the back panel to go from Slowhand to Angus.
Fig. 3. The V22 has versatile back-panel connections, including a switch to select between triode and pentode modes.
I played several humbucker and single-coil guitars through the V22 for a couple of weeks in a variety of live gigs and rehearsals. One of the revelations for me was the pitch-perfect rating of 22 watts. This was just the right amount of power to deliver clear, shimmering clean tones in the Clean channel that cut through a four-piece band playing mid-sized venues. With the gain controls never above the halfway mark, the V22 meted out punchy lows, warm mids, and sparking highs with enough thrust to get the bandstand rocking. The Clean channel stays really clean and gets really loud without the tone coming completely apart.
Switching to the Lead channel gave me all I needed for distorted tones—from a little extra hair on my single-note melodies to crunchy chord riffs to searing improvised leads rich in odd harmonics. Whether playing my three-pickup Strat or Les Paul Custom, I was always able to get useful tones, but special mention must be made of the bridge pickup on the Paul going through the Lead channel: the V22 positively sings here.
The V22 is a great-sounding all-tube amp that really lets you explore tube-driven tonalities, because its 22-watt output and amazing clean sound takes you into overdrive territory organically, without blasting out the walls. When pushed into overdrive, the V22 goes there smoothly, letting through just a hint of rasp in the beginning before proceeding linearly to stun mode. The Triode/Pentode option is an inspired feature, and the whole design and feel of the amp just exudes Class A/B class. Everything just looks right, sounds right, and feels right when you plug in and play. And last but not least, the price is right too.
Bugera V22 Features: