Ampeg VH140c combo and Roland Cube 20XL review
Well what's up guys it's been a long time since I posted. Sucks about what happened to the site. I have been busy with other life stuff, got sidetracked from my chops for a while. Recently got into playing guitar again, and have got a VH140c combo with casters and footswitch in excellent condition that I'd like to review.
First I want to mention the Roland Cube 20XL. I got one to replace an old practice amp that was past its expiration date.
On a Roland Cube 20XL, the Extreme setting is very good for guess what - extreme metal, as the name should warrant at. Leave all the tone controls at 12 noon flat, and suit to taste. A very grindy gritty and pissed off tone. Volume is really loud on a Cube 20XL after 11 o'clock without power squeezer on. Palm mutes sound excellent. This Roland amp is very easy to EQ, and contains some cool pro-effects like chorus and delay, though not widely adjustable. (Always use "power squeezer" to get the optimized amount of gain for best tone.) It's a good surprise, a decent sounding amp, much better than the DOD Grind IT I had when I was starting out. You kids are lucky nowadays, to get a 20 watt amp you can play Suffocation on, when you bring your axe to school. And with delays digital and spring reverbs, chorus, flanger, solo mode for extra boost, you should prepare to beat the haters away with a stick (or your pointy headstock.) It also has a direct out which is nice for making quick demos of your riffs and parts.
Is it better than the Line 6 Spider? Good question. The Cube's "JC Clean" channel takes pedals better than the Line 6 because it is totally flat and neutral like the JC-120. You can't go wrong either way, and I feel the Roland's "Extreme" amp model is very inspired by the excellent "Insane" amp model Line 6 created which is also ideal for extreme metal. For a practice amp, both are winners for sure.
Now for the Ampeg VH140c - a combo this time around, because I didn't need all the power of a head.
For our purposes of grinding brutal metal and thrashing madness, I like the VH140c combo at the following settings: Distortion Channel Gain @ 6, Low at 5. Ultra Mid @ 3, Highs at 7. That ultra mid is really great. I have it sometimes up at 6, sounds more traditional, which is as far as I like for the "dark sound" I want. Mean, biting, grinding with enough dash of mid to fill it out nice in the guitar's range, with a minimum of fizz.
It is a 2-channel amp, so clean has its own settings, plus 2 line/preamp outs, nice for use with effect or rack processor. Also a direct out for recording. I'll bet it sounds nice through a tube in direct box for DI recording.
The VH140c's Clean channel sounds GREAT on a wide variety of settings. As expected, it has headroom for days. Very loud by the time you get it to distort. It gets nice and crunchy on high gain, enough to play anything from Rush's first three albums, Steve Howe/Yes or ACDC. I like it with the bright switch off, and rely on the amp EQ for the overall sound, the bright switch makes it louder (I also have it off because it overloads the signal going into my G-Major.) The gain knob on the Clean Channel is like a separate volume channel. All the way up gives you classic hard rock gritty distortion sound, real nice for blues soloing. It has two effects loops, one in the front, and on the back we have preamp outs/ins. Onboard spring reverb is there, the onboard 'verb and chorus is also separated per channel. Custom voiced Ampeg speakers 140 watts rms.
The chorus is probably the most gorgeous I've heard close to a original CE-1. It is very similar to a CE-1 or CE-2. You can nail Rush on lower gain settings. 80s cleans are here and 80s trippy leads, progressive death metal leads. Rate up high gives the "raygun Korn sound." On the lead channel of the VH140c, gothic/doom metal or progressive death metal lead tones with chorus can be obtained to taste with the ultra mid. Add some pitch shift and/or delay and you got Cynic or Death solos. The one drawback I can hear, is that turning on the chorus reduces your volume slightly. This is due to the stereo nature of the chorus, but also why it sounds so alive. Try these chorus settings, everything at 6, and Depth A at 7, with distortion channel and high gain settings. It sounds like Type O Negative. As for the clean channel, with heavy compression, raise the gain to get a raw hot steamy blues tone for your bluesy Hendrix/Pink Floyd inspired moments.
Even with these stock Ampeg speakers, when you palm mute or chug, play fast and shred on a VH140c I feel that every note is tight, articulate, clear, defined, precise. This amp sounds awesome with a Maxon OD808 or other Tubescreamer type pedal boosting the lead channel.
I had to get a VH140c again because I was outright tired of buying amps...
Crate GX130c, no way! I do not feel it comes even close to the VH140c. The GX130c combo I had for a short time sounded like a polite version of this amp - nowhere near as good. There are demos of the head on YouTube that sound great though (one comparing it to an ART preamp, where both sound particularly good.) One probably needs the head and a good cab when it comes to the GX130c.
When I was playing full time in a band, I played a Crate GLX212 Combo Amp in Guitar Center when it was 2004 and I liked the distortion ALOT! Good amount of gain. (That Crate combo was a blast, it was a crazy random encounter with an amp. Had to be told to turn the volume down at the store.) I can see the argument where that amp shares the VH140c DNA, but the GX130c was a letdown for me. Your mileage may vary.
Randall T2 combo is nice but I should have gotten the G2/G3 or a solid-state Marshall instead (DSL, Valvestate.) T2 is a NICE amp but it was not my thing. Neither was an RG80 reissue which I had. The thing about Randalls is that, while the cleans are "JC-120 like", the distortion channel is very fat and loose, not a tight, razor sharp style distortion. The higher the gain the more flubby the sound. When you play a Randall you will see what I mean. You definitely do not want to have the onboard gain high. However this makes Randalls great for boosting distortion pedals when plugged right into the amp, with the dirty channel gain on zero. Of course this is just my opinion!
On a guitar with EMG active pickups the Ampeg is even more overdriven and sounds wonderful for any extreme metal style... you may have to turn down the gain on more powerful pickups like my beloved X2Ns so they are not muddy.
If you still can't get a good picture of the amp's gain structure by now (!) here's more about pickups and the VH140c. There's an Ibanez RG1570 Prestige I put a Tone Zone for the bridge and Air Norton for neck in. I feel the Ampeg VH140c provides plenty gain for these pickups for shredding and death metal. It's because on gain of 5, I can even go back and forth from heavy riffing to fast soloing no problem with my stock BC Rich ASM1 pickups (this is a cool low-end BC Rich guitar I use for Eb tuning.)
Ampeg VH140c is the only amp I went out of my way to buy twice (I drove 150 miles round trip to get this combo the second time.) However... the VH140c combo is VERY LOUD, which makes it suck for apartment use unless you find a way to "attenuate" the signal with an EQ or volume device. I used the G-Major's flexible in and out gain level parameters to be able to turn up the VH's master volumes to 6 (!) and have maximum tone at bedroom level volumes. If I didn't do this, the Ampeg's volume at 6 would be showing my housemates what hell sounds like, on earth. Like the JC-120, it is louder than bombs.
Fantastic amp. It's basically a Roland JC-120 with a lead channel worthy enough for death metal/thrash/punk/grind. "Not enough gain" is never an issue unless your Ampeg is broken. Before I moved to an apartment, it was my "dream" amp and I enjoyed the crap out of it every time I played. The first time I tried boosting it was unforgettable. A must try if you love tight, razor sharp, biting solid state distortion.