TOP SHELF: Victory V130 The Super Countess
ALEX WILSON CHECKS OUT THIS HOT-RODDED ROCK MACHINE FROM ONE OF TODAY’S BIGGEST UPSTART AMP COMPANIES.
The amp’s physical build looks elegant and feels dependable. There’s a nice heft to the wood and steel frame, complimented by a classy design and colour scheme. While you certainly couldn’t fit the V130 in the overhead compartment, it still feels relatively compact and lightweight for its product class.
Turning it on, players familiar with the original V30 will immediately hear familiar sounds. While the newer amp is overall brighter than its ancestor, it retains the same core tone and gain structure. The clean tone is punchy and assertive. The increased wattage means there’s far more headroom than could be managed on the original Countess, yet a player can still dig into the circuit and find that pleasing tube compression if they desire.
Engaging the voice switch adds some extra gain. Sounding similar to a Fulltone OCD through a Fender Twin, the crunchy brashness of this setting would be a fine match for classic rock playing.
There’s a certain something to the V130's overdrive channel that just works. It’s got strong Marshall and Mesa notes on the palette, with an aftertaste of Soldano. The generous saturation of the circuit never sacrifices clarity, instead adding layers of harmonic depth to the distortion. You'll need to hear it for yourself, but suffice to say, Victory are on to something with this tone that feels both fresh and familiar.
In terms of voicing, the overdrive channel’s Voice II is modeled on the old V30. It’s the heaviest of the two, emphasising thick bass and extra gain. Voice I offers a smidge less distortion, cuts the bass slightly and brightens up the tops. I like how the Voice switch offers a different take on the same sound, rather than radically altering it.
The same could be said for the voice on the clean channel, and the overall effect here is to give the amp a real sense of sonic unity – which it achieves wholeheartedly. A player will find that there’s real versatility here, but all the footswitchable changes don’t compromise the organic feeling of the amp. It feels like its responding holistically as it gets pushed in different directions. This is complemented by the shared EQ, which I can honestly say is one of the best and most musical guitar amp EQs I’ve encountered. It may not be much to look at, but each control affects the sound in such a gratifying and useful way.
For instance, push the midrange all the way and your guitar will be honking and snarling with the best of them. Pull it back all the way, however, and you’ll be rocking a smiling EQ that actually sounds... Good! These choices translate really well across the different channels, giving the amp real versatility.
Say you’re doing a gig or project that requires a dark guitar tone - just adjust the EQ to get in the right spot, and you still have those same familiar tonal moves available via the channels and voice switching. There’s a lot to recommend this school of amp design, which favours broad strokes over finicky detail.
If that's not your cup of tea, then this may not be the amp for you. But, bear in mind that if you’re sold on the basic tones here, it wouldn’t be hard to add some extra EQ flexibility via a stompbox.
With a diverse lineup of high-quality tube heads already on the shelf, the V130 Super Countess only helps firm Victory’s position at the forefront of modern boutique amp manufacturing. The original V30 Countess, small enough for airline carry-on, was a remarkable product that garnered the brand kudos and association with leading players like Guthrie Govan. However fine as that amp was, its small size led to certain sonic and technical limitations. Much like Fender’s Super Bassman, the upgraded Super Countess expands upon the original design, rather than massively overhauling the fundamentals. Other Victory models have also benefited from larger and louder revisions – take for example the VX100 Super Kraken, the Sheriff 44 and the V40 Deluxe – so there’s some nice symmetry there. The V130's two channels are the requisite clean and overdrive, with a switchable voice on each channel that amounts to four distinct sounds at the player’s feet. The original Countess had 40 watts of power, but the V130 has cranked things up to 100 with high and low output modes. This extra juice flows through four 12AX7s in the pre and and six 6L6s in the power section. Rounding out the frontplate are seperate master volumes for each channel, and a shared EQ section with bass, mid and treble controls. There’s no onboard reverb, but there is an FX loop onboard. An interesting tidbit: the ‘standby’ switch on the V130 has been relabeled ‘preheat’. It does precisely what the standby switch does, the new label originating in EU legislation. Lawmakers are apparently concerned that the uninitiated may leave the amp on perpetually in the same way one may leave a TV set on ‘standby’.
WHY IT’S ON THE TOP SHELF
It’s hard to identify faults with the V130. Sure, there are things it doesn’t have – I personally would've loved some kind of direct out with a phantom load for speakerless recording – but no amp can be all things to all players. Taken as a rock amp that will respond exceptionally to a variety of styles, listened to with ears or a mic on a cab, there’s precious little that the V130’s design could improve upon.