Oct 15, 2009 8:13 AM
I just got done giving the stock amp a good run through at volume. Here's what my ear is hearing:
This is not simply a MKI with better effects, which are great by the way and a far cry better than the MKI. The amp models have been reworked, and in some cases, drastically. In general, the tone controls seem to have even more effect on most models. Almost every model, at volume, has been rid of the icepick highs that were, to my ears, the overall character of the MKI with the V30. This has been replaced with a slightly added emphasis on the midrange. I wish I had a stock MKI to compare this to side by side, so I am just going from memory. But to me the difference is very noticable. In fact, the V30 can get downright honky at higher settings of the mid control. The low end can still get flubby/farty on the wrong settings, so that could stand some tightening up. I'm still going to go with a G12K-100 which should tighten the low end and smooth out any extreme mid honk. Also, the springs on my tube retainers rattle unmercilessly against the glass when I strike my open D string. They're going to come off.
Specifics about amp models that have changed:
The Metal Blue, which has long been a staple of mine for higher gain Marshall type tones, has changed. Depending on your perspective, for the better or worse. The mid control, which changes the distortion character from a more focused class A type tone at min, to a more modern high gain tone at mid, to a loose fuzz tone at max, is far more sensitive than it was on the MKI and has increased range. Also note, it seems to me that the description of the mid control is reversed in the manual because it says the exact opposite of what I just did. The gain range is also expanded in both directions. Now, pretty much anything before noon results in what sounds to me like a JCM800 at moderate gain. Very punchy and smooth with a restrained top end. The tone starts getting some hair on it as you increase the drive to 12:00. To me, the gain is unusable much past 1:00 with a hot bridge humbucker. I was initially very disappointed with this model in some respects because in essence, my go-to tone wasn't to be found here anymore, but at least there was new territory that sounded very good.
Then I started stepping out of my box. Insane Blue. It's not quite so insane anymore. Again, expanded range on the gain control. On the MKI, anything but minimum gain resulted in screaming distortion. Not so on the MKII. Up to about 10:30 or so it was still very manageable. And guess what? My Metal Blue tone is here now. In the Insane Blue model. But it sounds even better because there's a usable mid control. I'd experimented with Insane Blue on both MKI's to no avail. But on the MKII this is now a usable model for me. Nay, not just usable. Really great sounding. The gain range makes it suitable for everything from a nice rock crunch to metal territory. And SMOOTH. This has singing lead qualities if you want them. There's hair here, but it is GOOD hair. Moderate, usable sizzle. Not fizz. I am really digging Insane Blue.
Metal Amber? Insane Amber? On the MKI, I could tolerate these with the K-100 but not with the V30. Icepicky mess there. But on the MKII these seem to have lost the icepick just as all the other models have and have a usable top end even at higher treble settings. Actually, I could get into these tones also, more so the Metal Amber. That model with single coils has a nice glassy crunch.
Crunch Amber naturally has that Plexi bark...duh. With gain at 12 or below, it is very articulate. Raking a chord, you can hear every note clearly but still have a great crunch going on. I think Eric Johnson or Joe Bonamassa. Good tones to be had here also. Although both this model and the Hi Gain Amber sound maybe just a little too barky/honky with the V30. The K-100 will put this back where I like it.
I'm not going to dwell on the mid gain stuff other than to say that the AC30TB sounds great (Class A Amber), maybe even better than the MKI did. There are some other new offerings there too that sound good, but I will have to explore later.
Cleans are fantastic. I don't know if it's me, but I think the Clean Amber has been reworked because it now sounds a lot more like the clean sounds I was getting from the MKI on Crunch Amber at low gain. I could play that clean sound for days. Very enjoyable.
To wind up here, I still have a lot of work to do but I think the MKII may be a keeper. We'll see for sure what happens after the speaker change but I don't know any other amps in this range that have it going on on so many different fronts at the same time. Effects are really good, amp models sound great, and it's a single package. For under $1000 what else is there? Vypyr? Sorry, not in the same league. Will post again after the speaker change, and I might even include some video footage. Until next time!