In a world where the lower priced amplifier market is dominated by modeling amps which boast an overabundance of amps and effects, all of which sound as good as the real thing, it is easy to overlook the humble 2 knob combo sitting in the corner.
Those who have succumb to the modeling amp craze often realize that the effects are hard to control and the modeling is only so-so. Ultimately, they settle for a handful of decent settings.
Then, there are those who can see through the clutter. They are the one’s who are sitting at home, loving the killer tone of their VHT.
I have had the pleasure of spending the last month in the company of the VHT Special 6 Ultra. A 6 watt, handwired (handwired in VHT’s own factory), all tube combo (one 6V6 and two 12AX7’s) that sports some of the most simplistic controls on the planet. Yet the Special 6 Ultra, and its little brother the Special 6, do one thing and they do it well, they produce killer tone. I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with amp designer Terry Buddingh, and he told me that part of the reason for the simplistic controls was to make an amp that always sounded good, regardless of the settings.
Both amps feature the same basic circuitry for the clean and boost channel. On the Special 6 this comprises of a tone knob and a push/pull volume/boost knob (the boost channel can also be activated with an included food switch). The Special 6 Ultra adds a wattage attenuator (excellent for high gain at low volumes), depth rotary switch (11 position bass roll-off/mid-boost which provides everything from Fender to Vox to Marshall type tones), texture switch (high-frequency cut, it helps clean up your dirty tones), Ultra channel (70’s Marshall style secondary gain channel), and an FX-loop.
Controls and guts.
After a few minutes of tweaking the unusual controls, you will quickly realize that this amp sounds great with every guitar and pickup configuration imaginable. I credit the versatility to the contour switch. Single coils, soapbars, humbuckers, I tried them all and they all sound fantastic. From 60’s style Fender cleans to 70’s style Marshall gain, the VHT will not only product it, but it will produce it well. What I’m getting at is the VHT Special 6 Ultra has the versatility of a modeling amp, except all settings sound great.
6 watts may not sound like much, but this amp is LOUD. It has significant headroom, especially with single coil pickups, and would easily stand out in a small to medium sized venue. It would also be ideal in the studio.
On top of all of that, it is a dream come true for modders. Since the amp is wired point-to-point, it is easy to get in there and make your own modifications. In fact, there are several mod-kits available on the market for the VHT Special series. VHT also creates tube adapters which makes it very easy to customize your tone to the tubes of your liking.
Behind the scenes.
In my honest opinion, you really can’t go wrong with either option in the VHT Special series. In the sub-$250 price point, the original Special 6 is a no-brainer. The Special 6 Ultra retails for about $399, while at that price point there is much more competition, you would still be doing yourself a huge disservice to not try it out when making a purchase decision.
With that being written, I am off to spend more time with my newest love: the VHT Special 6 Ultra.
-”Guitar Guy” Tim