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epiphone Valve Junior Tube Amplifier Head



Sound Quality

I play a range of stuff around the whole rock-blues-jazz-alt-metal-funk kinda area. Current setup is very minimal: Fender Tele or Gibson Melody Maker into a Vox Wah, Boss DS-1, Z.Vex SHO and Ibanez tuner into the amp. My amp didn't remain stock for very long, but from what I can remember the sound has a lovely blues combo vibe but a but thin and sterile, and perhaps a little boxy too. I've since performed the Bitmo Trio mod (tone control, boost and input impedance voicing), replaced the output transformer for a Ceriatone SE, stiffened the power supply with a brace of huge 100uf caps, fitted a faux-sag function (essentially a resistor in the power supply designed to limit current flow just like a valve rectifier) and a standby switch. And of course replaced the tubes with a Tesla 12AX7 and JJ EL84. It sounds infinitely better now. My head is a V3 unit so it has a proper 5.2K output transformer but the stocker is still too small. One of your first mods should be to leaver that little lump of metal out of the chassis and fit in a serious chunk of iron... I went the Ceriatone route but a Hammond 125ESE is standard practice. Don't skimp on size; not only sound all that iron give you serious tone but when you decide to do an octal mod (which you will after you run out of other stuff to do to the amp) you'll need to handle the high output. The Bitmo Trio adds the bit of tonal diversity that the stock amp obviously lacks. Being able to tame some of the amp's stock high end is good. The boost function gives a welcome step up in gain though we're talking just-breaking-up overdrive. I find even with the boost on and the SHO cranked it's still a very moderate amount of drive - AC/DCesque. For genuine distortion you will need to put a pedal in front of it (hence the DS1). The best part of the Bitmo mod is the impedance switch. The decals say "Lo - Mo' - Whoa!" but essentially it is "Fender - Marshall - Balls Out!". "Lo" is full sounding, bubbly and bright, with a good bass extension. "Mo'" is more midrangey, tighter and great with a bit of distortion in front - pure classic rock. "Whoa!" is a bit of an animal... the level boost is huge and there is no quiet setting as such... it goes from loud to very loud only! It is a cracking tone though... huge presence, great harmonics. Unmodded sound is about a 6 - modified a 10!

Reliability/Durability

I'm sure it was very reliable until I stuck my soldering iron in it! ;-) Actually even despite my best attempts to undo all of Epiphone's hard work it is still rock solid. The cabinetry work defies the price they sell these guys for... they might have skimped a bit on the tubes and OT, but the head and extension speaker cabs are solid as a rock and the covering is trimmed very nicely indeed. Internally it is tube sockets on a PCB but very little in there gives me need for concern. You wouldn't gig without a backup (or at least, a full set of replacement tubes and fuses) because that's just commonsense, but nothing about the VJ screams "fragile".

General Comments

I've been playing guitar for something like 14 years, though these days I play bass and drums in a professional sense more often. Guitar is something I just do for myself or around the BBQ at parties.

 

As I get older (hmmm.. I'm only 28) I'm starting to appreciate a much simpler and to-the-point style of playing and this reflects in the gear I'm now using... gone are the multieffect floorboards, digital modelling amps and shreader axes, replaced with simple, honest guitars, pedals and amps. The Valve Junior, which is about as simple and honest as amps come, suits this philosophy perfectly. It's small and portable, plenty loud, easy to use and full of great valve tone. And of course, it costs so little. It's perfect.

 

It also has reawakened the electronics geek hacker in me, and it is so rewarding to modify an amp yourself to suit YOUR ideas and YOUR style of playing. I've still got lots more that I want to do with it; I want to add a parallel octal output stage (6V6), an extra gain stage in the pre and spring reverb... maybe even old Fender style tube-tremolo. I really want to see how much you can fit into this little package. I also would like to replace the Eminence speaker in the 1x12 cabinet with something better like a Vintage 30.

 

Basically, the Valve Junior is what you put into it. It is a blank canvas - you have to make it great. The good thing is that the price of entry is cheap, and the cost of modification is even cheaper, and you'll end up with a great sounding amp for a fraction of the cost of a boutique low watter. And the best part is, it will totally be your own.




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