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.
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.