TOP SHELF: Vic­tory Amps RK50 Richie Kotzen Sig­na­ture Amp Head

DE­SCRIBED BY THE COM­PANY AS “STRAIGHT UP ROCK WITH RE­VERB AND TREMOLO”, ALEX WIL­SON LOOKS UN­DER THE HOOD TO SEE IF THERE’S MORE GO­ING ON WITH THIS VEN­ER­A­BLE SHRED­DER’S SIG­NA­TURE HEAD.

Australian Guitar - - Contents - BY ALEX WIL­SON.

The defin­ing fea­ture of the RK50 is its abil­ity to tra­verse the great dis­tance be­tween chim­ing clean tones and fe­ro­cious dis­tor­tion with­out ever sac­ri­fic­ing dy­nam­ics, def­i­ni­tion or sonic qual­ity. Vic­tory’s lead de­signer, Martin Kidd, has re­vealed that his amps, like some oth­ers, are built ac­cord­ing to a de­sign that si­mul­ta­ne­ously adjusts both tube stages. In prac­tice, this means tweak­ing to the Gain knob will sat­u­rate (or clar­ify) the sig­nal in both cir­cuits at once, giv­ing a wider sonic range that can be tra­versed with a sin­gle con­trol.

At the clean end of the spec­trum (gain at 9 o’clock-ish and un­der) the amp has a bal­anced sonic char­ac­ter that tends a lit­tle to­wards the darker side of tone. The top-end is there pro­nounced, but is more silk and air than jan­gle. There’s also a pro­nounced midrange that adds depth and body to the sound. And it’s not just har­monic rich­ness, the amp seems to pop and spank most in the low mids when set clean, lend­ing a sat­is­fy­ing heft to dy­namic play­ing.

Push­ing up­wards to around 12 re­veals a crunchy rhythm tone that sounds fat on barre chords and rings ma­jes­ti­cally with open po­si­tion strums. Adding even more gain just thick­ens the sat­u­ra­tion in a way that is suit­able for sol­ing or even bru­tal riffage. But the RK50 re­tains up­per-mid bark and bite at all gain stages, avoid­ing both nasty fizz and woofy lows even as it gets pushed hard.

Round­ing out the Master knob, that helps com­pen­sate for changes in the gain level, is a sin­gle tone con­trol. It seems to es­sen­tially func­tion as a high shelf, al­low­ing the player to dial in the level of bright­ness that they need at any given time. It could be re­ally use­ful as a way to com­pen­sate for the dif­fer­ent fre­quency re­sponse of dif­fer­ent gui­tars, or as a stu­dio tool to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween rhythm and leads both recorded with the RK50.

While very use­ful and clev­erly de­signed, the sin­gu­lar tone knob could be an is­sue for some as it of­fers less sonic con­trol than many sin­gle-chan­nel amps. Granted, you can tweak dis­tor­tion, vol­ume, bright­ness, but nonethe­less some play­ers will need to work hard to put their own stamp on the RK50’s core sound. For­tu­nate then, that the core sound is fan­tas­tic and well-re­al­ized, em­i­nently suit­able for rock and metal of the era when riffs rang loud from arena stages. The RK50 could also be a good amp for gen­res as dis­parate as blues and death metal, but re­ally de­pends on how much the player is sold on the core sound. Our bets are on it con­vert­ing most, it’s a rich tone that’s easy to fall in love with.

WHY YOU’RE PROB­A­BLY GO­ING TO WANT IT

For the amaz­ing range the RK50 can cover be­tween clean and dis­torted tones, pack­aged along­side topline re­verb and tremolo sounds.

WHAT YOU SHOULD CON­SIDER FIRST

Used in a live set­ting, a player who is com­fort­able at us­ing their vol­ume and tone knobs to con­trol the amp re­motely will ben­e­fit the most from the RK50. The amp seems mar­keted at peo­ple who play rock, a genre where switch­ing from clean to dirty and back is nec­es­sary. Even with the added boost footswitch, this isn’t al­ways easy on a sin­gle chan­nel amp so the player will need to com­pen­sate at their end. In the stu­dio it per­forms and records ex­tremely well, al­though it lacks some of the use­ful DI and load con­trol fea­tures that char­ac­ter­ize some mod­ern stu­dio amps.

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