Randall V2

Even though companies such as Line 6 have made their name by emulating all-valve designs, for many guitarists there's nothing like playing through an amp driven with pre- and power amp section full of valves.

Most players are happy to put up with the downsides of valve amps - their weight, perceived unreliability and continuing maintenance - because, at their best, they make you sound like your heroes.

Randall, though, has never shied away from the supposed poisoned chalice that solid-state amps are sometimes assumed to represent, and let's not forget that Dimebag Darrell's filthiest moments came courtesy of a Randall rig with not a valve in sight.

That said, the company's main designers, Doug Reynolds and Bruce Egnater, are certain that there's a tonal Grail out there that combines the best of the valve and tranny worlds and, with this V2, they reckon they've finally cracked it.

The key is a valve-driven Mosfet circuit that has been developed under the moniker Valve-Dynamic. The basic theory is that the valve itself provides the warmth, compression and authentic clipping characteristics, while the Mosfet components provide the power and headroom.

Overview

The head offers three channels that operate independently of each other and, what's more, they're served by different preamp sections. The Clean and Overdrive channels use a solid-state preamp, while switching to the Valve OD option compels the amp itself to change internally to a preamp driven by a trio of 12AX7 valves.

Remember that the signal from all three channels subsequently goes through the Mosfet circuits, themselves driven by a 12AT7 valve.

Amplifier buffs will know that many Fender amps use 12AT7s as both phase inverter and reverb drivers, but a hybrid amp offering a total of four preamp valves is a first. That would be enough for most, but the V2 also offers a number of other tone-tailoring features to hike the versatility stakes still higher.

Although the Clean channel has no dedicated EQ to speak of - the other channels each have their own three-way sections - there's also a six-band graphic, ranging 12db either side of 80Hz to 5 kHz.

The amp includes the rugged RF5V2, one function of which is to switch the graphic in and out at will. So, as a boost for solos or to add a certain something to any of the three channels, you're in the pound seats.

For the Valve OD there is a bright switch plus a selector for Tight and Loose options, while the solid-state overdrive channel has a push/pull treble pot that triggers the amp's Sustain Boost function, which, as we'll discover, lights the blue touch paper.

There's also a master section comprising a volume, presence and density pots. In a nutshell, the latter controls the low end, although there's much more to it than simply doubling as a bass control, as we'll explain.

The footswitch is a MIDI-compatible unit and as well as allowing you to switch between the channels and activate the graphic, you can also kick the FX loop in and out and save certain channel-specific settings too.

We like the green/black livery of this and most other contemporary Randall amps a lot - what's not to like about a backlit logo? - and the V2 also features a semi-open chassis and, best of all, top-mounted handles. There's really not a great deal more we could have asked for as far as the head's features go and we're perfectly happy with its construction.

Sounds

This is where any amp such as this stands or falls and, with the Valve channel's gain set to around four, we're not at all shocked to be able to report that the drive is full, warm and wholly useable.

In fact, we'd probably say that it's versatile regardless of how dirty you set it - it cleans up very efficiently when using your guitar volume.

We did find that the bright switch wasn't especially necessary as it made the rock rhythm tone too harsh for our staid ears, but the attack switch is a godsend as it adds either tightness to metal riffs or swagger to rock styles with absolute ease.

For modern metal styles the wholly solid-state overdrive channel is where it's at. Pull the Sustain Boost pot and you'll be confronted with huge harmonics and a much more focussed and aggressive distortion that's just the ticket for fans of Kirk Hammett, Dimebag et al.

Don't turn the drive up too much, however, as the compression is just too overwhelming, but set the gain to around six, make sure the density control is adding enough low-end without mushing up, and riff away with joy in your black heart of metal.

For a really unsettlingly good experience, set the graphic to a shallow V and kick it in for instant Metallica. It's so easy, and sounds superb.

We weren't especially taken with the clean channel as it was a little too flat for our ears. It doesn't break up at all well with the gain all the way up and although the headroom is huge, we'd wager that this channel is the one we'd use the least out of the three.

That said, with a touch of stompbox chorus to sweeten the tone, there's little more a rock fan will require here and, if your style is based around a non-dirty tone, Randall probably isn't really for you in the first place anyway.

The switchable graphic worked excellently for solo boosts when set in the right way and, if the Sustain Boost function could have also been controllable from the switch in real time rather than going through the channel store procedure, we'd have been in hog's heaven.

Don't be too concerned if the theory behind the inner workings of the Valve-Dynamic, dual-preamp innards don't overly excite you; simply know that the amp sounds wonderful, and that's the most important subject by far.

The clean channel wasn't so inspiring, but the wealth of tones easily discovered within the Valve OD and Overdrive options will make any rock and metal fan more than happy. From restrained AC/DC-style blues tones all the way to neighbour-bothering Deicide-style roars, the V2 has it all and, for a three-figure price tag, that's pretty impressive.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Wealth of great rock tones. Ease of use.

Cons

A remotely switchable boost function would have been marvellous.

Verdict

As a fully pro package that offers a wealth of rock, metal and nu tones without the price to match, the V2 has to be a frighteningly serious option.

Additional Features

MIDI-assignable six-band graphic, push/pull sustain boost feature, attack and right switches on valve OD channel, channel select/store button, series or parallel FX loop, MIDI in and thru ports, XLR direct recording output, Slave out

Audio Output Power

400

Available Controls

Bass Density Gain Level Master Volume Middle Presence Treble

Cabinet Material

Birch Ply

Channels

3

Country of Origin

USA

Depth (mm)

260

Height (mm)

270

Width (mm)

760

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.