Got a chance to check out my new SV MKII 112.
These are some of my initial impressions from playing through my SV for a couple of days.
When I first received that SV I did the firmware update and installed the additional modeling presets, and editing software.
I purchased a used Express MKII pedal from Guitar Center. I only paid $40 plus shipping and tax for the used pedal. It is the 4 button pedal that retails for about $100. Great price for me as I will only be used it for practice and writing.
For jamming with the guys I have an all tube B52 AT-100 half stack that has loads of power, and puts out some excellent sounding tube tones from very clean glassy tones to extra crispy ultra saturated metal tones.
Into the SV I played my 1990 American Strat Plus Deluxe. I haven't yet tried my Schecter C-1 classic.
Went through all the blue and amber models to get a feel and hear what was in the tone box.
The first thing that is a glaring omission on this amp is that it does not have a headphone out. That is a big missing item on this type of amp. I'm sure most players who want a small 1x12 combo modeling amp want it because they want to use it for practice, and likely in a quiet way. Considering that nearly all of the tones and sounds of this amp come from the digital processor, it would have been very easy to put in a headphone out. A headphone out would be ideal on this amp letting us play all night long even when every one is asleep.
Enough on that. Line-6 FIX that, put in a headphone out.
The main thing that strikes me about this amp is that it's a "drive by wire" design, meaning, the tone, gain, volume, are all controlled via the digital processor. Those controls are not directly wire in to the amp in the traditional sense, using tube pre-amp circuits routed to tone circuits, then to channel volume and onward to master volume. For example, when you turn up the bass tone control you're telling the processor to turn up the bass, rather than an actual pot controlling the bass frequencies within a bass tone circuit.
This amp would be better if the tone, gain, and volume circuits were not part of the digital processor, but were like a traditional tube or solid state amp. Having the gain and tone controls in traditional circuits allows a cleaner and purer tone compared to the more processed tones of the SV.
After playing with the preset modeling voices and effects, I found I preferred playing in the "manual" mode as I enjoy the Bogner designed tube amp very much. But, the tone controls seem artificial, not bad mind you, just odd.
The way the SV is designed you can hear the processed tone, especially when plugged in but not playing.
I set my gains, tone, and master to what I want, and set my guitar volume to full. Even when not playing I can hear a swishing hiss that sounds odd, almost like an out of phase hiss, and clearly processed. On most amps there is inherent hiss, especially when playing with higher gain settings. But, with non digital amps the hiss is normal and typical of the kind of hiss we've all heard.
With the SV the hiss is not the same, it's a processed, digitized sounding hiss. This is there even in manual mode, which tells us that even in this mode the tone is still being controlled by the processor and not a straight tone circuit.
The Spider Valve has some great tones, and it's very versatile for the player who likes to use multiple effects but doesn't want to fiddle and connect all those pedals. There are great clean tones all the way to modern fully saturated gain. Metal players will easily be able to find a tone they like and can use without the need for external pedals. There are nice bluesy higher mid tones, and gritty blues tones as well.
All quite nice in total.
If you like having the ability to play various voiced tones that mimic other amps, then you'll love the SV.
For me, this is not the amp I was hoping it was. I was hoping that this was a more traditional tube amp with a modeling and effects processor, where the processed sounds are implemented via an effects loop type manner. IOW, I wanted a straight tube amp that has an effects and modeling processor that can be turned on or off, yet can be played just like any other tube amp when the processing is turned off. The SV is not that amp.
The sounds coming from the amp are mostly created by the processor and that processor can not be turned off. It's an integral and vital part of the amps design and function.
As I stated above, even the gain and tone controls are processed within the digital processor.
It is a tube amp, sort of. It's a Bogner designed tube amp and it uses tubes in pre and power sections and that shows as the SV has some great tube qualities with lots of harmonics, and glassy overtones. But, it doesn't sound like the pre-amp 12AX7's tubes are creating all that gain or adding much to the tone. The nice harmonic and glassy overtones are created by the power amp tubes.
Most of the tones and sounds are processed via the digital engine. It's a great tone engine, but it's not as pure or clean in tonal quality as I want, which is what a non processor tube amp can give.
The modeling and effects are very integrated into this amp, so much so that even in manual mode it's not a straight pure tube amp.
The modeling effects are still in effect in manual mode.
IMO, this would be an even better amp if it were designed first to be a straight tube amp that has a modeling and effects engine that can be turned on or off. This would allow the user to be in a true manual mode where the gain would set the incoming signal from the guitar to the desired level. Then, the user can dial in the bass, mid, and treble tones independent of the processed sounds.
The channel volumes should also be independent, so that the user can decide at what level each channel plays.
As it is now the processor even handles the channel volume, and that's why there is so much volume variance as the user switches between different modeling presets. The presets have been done by the programmer, such that when we change from a blues setting to a crunch setting, not only do the tone settings change but so does the channel volume. You can tweak that by going in to the processors controls and dialing in the channel volume you want, but you have to do that for all of the presets. It can be done, but it's cumbersome.
If the channel volumes were separate and the user sets them, then we simply set the channel volume where we want and then the master volume, and then as we switch through the presets the over all volume should change only slightly due to differences in gain settings.
Instead, we can be in one preset and set the volume where we want, but then we switch to a different preset and the volume goes WAAAAY too high. Not a good thing.
I don't think the master volume is part of the processor, it seems independent and directly controls the power amp.
And the presence control sounds outside of the processor, sort of a separate adjustable tone filter.
I don't want to leave the reader thinking this is not a good and good sounding amp. Far from that.
The SV is a very good sounding amp, and it's built very nicely, though a bit heavy for a 1x12 combo.
This is a great amp for the player who wants versatility and variety to the types of sounds and tones one can get without having to use outboard pedals and processors. There is a wide variety of amp modeling voices along with a variety of digital effects, delays, and reverbs.
Plus, all of those things can be tweaked and then put into a preset that the player can call up later.
For the gigging guitar player this amp can let him build a particular tone for a certain song of songs and then use a foot switch to change between those sounds. Excellent functionality, as long as the user takes the time to understand how to change and set things, as well as learn the software so that the user can alter settings via computer control.
However, for those like me who are seeking a purer, cleaner tube sound, the SV is not THE amp.
One area where the SV isn't as good as the better tube amps is the responsiveness to the players touch, and to the volume and tone changes from the guitar. The SV has decent sensitivity, but it's not very good. The processor is in the way and is likely damping that one sought after detail from less processed tube amps.
I really wanted to get the Bogner Alchemist, which is a straight tube amp with Line-6 delay and reverb effects that can be called in to the signal path. The Alchemist is a straight out all tube amplifier where the effects can be brought in and can be shut OFF without affecting the amps tonal character. I don't know why Line-6 stopped making the Alchemist. When it came out and during it's short life it received excellent reviews and was highly praised. Why did Line-6 stop making such a well received and great sounding amplifier?
I can only speculate, but I don't know exactly. I do know it's a damn shame that it's no longer being produced.
As you know by now, I will not be keeping the SV. It's a very nice and very capable amp, but it's not what I want, close but not there.
So, my search continues.
I'm going to pick out one of the other amps that was on my list.
Bogner Alchemist (used)
Fender Super Sonic - newer versions 22 or 60 watt. (I kind of like the 22 watt better)
Carvin V3 micro 1x12 combo