What is it?
Victory Amplifiers' V4 series of preamp pedals sees the British boutique guitar amplifier company take the tone magic of their most-loved heads and combos and house them in compact, cigar-box sized formats.
Here we have the pedalboard-friendly version of the superlative VC35 The Copper, and it shares the same aesthetic and tone profile as the standalone amplifier. The bronze, folded-steel chassis reprises the VC35's stylings.
Under the hood, the design principles are similar, with high-quality components beautifully hand-wired in an all-valve signal path. The valves are a big selling point, with a military-grade EC900 joining three CV4014 valves running at plate voltage.
The Copper is all about the late 50s chime and evocative grind of the AC30 with that harmonically rich midrange and a sound that shows a little teeth when you engage the treble boost section to push the unit into overdrive.
The Copper V4 has a pair of footswitches. One bypasses or engages the unit while the activates a treble boost that will heat things up when it comes to overdrive. With the treble boost, you could almost think of this as a two-channel arrangement with a global EQ section.
At this size, the Copper V4 is pedalboard-friendly, but it is similarly easy on the brain. The controls are clearly laid out and arranged, with global tone and gain controls, independent volume controls for the clean channel and the treble-boosted channel, and a three-band EQ. There is also a three-position bass switch, offering a choice of low-end tone profiles that can facilitate chime-forward Beatles tones to a hot classic rock crunch.
These are supplemented by a 3-band EQ, and a 3-position Bass mode from which you can choose Full Bass with Bass Cut on the treble-boost feature, a Global Bass cut, or Global Full Bass – these features combine to make for what will surely be a most tweakable pedal, taking you from bright Fab Four jangle through to chewier classic rock crunch.
On the rear of the unit, there is a typically full complement of input/outputs, allowing you to place The Copper V4 in your amp's effects loop, which makes it a footswitchable preamp that can wholly replace your amplifier's front end.
Used in this 'amp through' mode dramatically extends the options available to you in any one rig. Say you are using a two-channel combo – with The Copper in the loop it can add an extra two sounds via its normal and treble-boosted modes.
Playability and verdict
The Copper V4's build is spot on. It is roadworthy but classy. The LEDs and large cream chickenhead knobs do a good job of letting you know how the pedal is set, while the steel kick-bar offers a measure of protection from a stray foot. Like the others in the series, there's nary any noise out of it when it is on.
In the Normal mode, with the treble booster on standby, there is a wealth of vintage clarity, heaps of headroom, and a '50s and '60s character to the tones that works gangbusters with spring reverb, tape echo and a tremolo. The Copper V4 eats it all up.
Engage the Treble Booster and that glassiness is shattered with a punchy gain, rich in upper mids, and harmonically generous. At lower gain settings, it works the boundary between break-up and out-and-out overdrive well, perfect for blues, and as you dial it up a bit more, it gets really quite pugnacious.
Tone-wise, it is very much bringing in the vein of the VC35. The Bass switch operates in the exact same way and makes for easy global adjustments to your tone – especially helpful when you change guitars.
Swapping over to a guitar with humbuckers, position 3, with its full bass in both Normal and Treble Boost mode can really tighten up the bottom end if you've got a lot of gain in the signal. Position 2 cuts bass in both modes while position one cuts the bass on the Treble Boost mode for a little more stiletto sharpness in the tone.
• Victory V4 The Duchess
Low-gain, high-quality boutique clean tones, the Duchess will really class up your tone, with reverb and tremolo on-hand to add some extra sweetness.
• Strymon Iridium
Awesome cab sims allied to great tones from three amp classics make the Iridium a hugely versatile and compact all-in-one rig for the stage or the studio.
As with the VC35, The Copper V4 has the ability to fill that AC30-sized hole in your life, using the best available components, assembled with skill and care. And it makes for a similarly versatile playing experience.
The blues players will love the bright, musical cleans, and the heat as the gain is brought forward. Rock players will love the overdrive. And then you have the chime that plays so well for indie and anyone looking for that Fab Four vibe.
You get a five-year warranty and, perhaps because they are built so tough, a two-year warranty on the valves. The build would suggest that you won't have too many problems, just so long as you position it where it's unlikely to have anything spilt on it. There are cheaper preamp pedals on the market, but in terms of tone, and a surprisingly versatile range of sounds, The Copper V4 is excellent value.
MusicRadar verdict: From beautifully compressed cleans through hot molten crunch, the Copper V4 excels in AC30-inspired valve tones, and its 'amp through' operation is an excellent way of expanding your rig.
The web says
"Victory’s V4 The Copper is quite brilliant if you like the AC30 vibe. Its enhanced highs, three-dimensional harmonics, juicy naturally compressed cleans and wicked crunch overdrives all add up to a wealth of inspiration.
"Used in the clever ‘amp through’ mode, it’s almost as if you’re playing through an entirely different rig, with a much wider frequency response that gives the impression of jumping from mono to high-definition stereo."
- ORIGIN: UK
- TYPE: All valve preamp
- VALVES: 2x EC900, 2x CV4014
- DIMENSIONS: 225 (w) x 140 (h) x 79mm (d)
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 1.6/3.5
- CASE: Steel
- CHANNELS: Normal and Treble Boost voices, foot-switchable
- CONTROLS: Bass, mid, treble, gain, normal volume, treble boost volume, 3-way bass cut switch, global tone control
- FOOTSWITCH: 2-button Normal/Treble Boost select, Bypass
- CONNECTIONS: Input, Through, Loop In, Loop out, Effect Out, all on 6.5mm jack
- POWER: 12V DC (adaptor supplied), 800mA minimum, recommended 2000mA
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: The expanding V4 preamp pedal range currently includes the Countess, Sherriff, Jack and Kraken, all at £369. There’s also the Duchess powered preamp pedal at £699
- CONTACT: Victory Amps