Hands-On Review:Epiphone Valve Standard
Epiphone Valve Standard
A vintage-style all-tube powerhouse with a modern touch
By Jim Bennington
Epiphone was one of the earlier players in the electric guitar game. They first made a name with acoustic archtops of superior quality. When electric guitars came along, Epiphone then put its expertise into producing some of the best. They were also one of the first to produce guitar amps. The Electar suitcase model hit the street in 1935--one of the earliest guitar amps--and it was followed by the Century, Zephyr, and Kent through the '50s--vintage amps that collectors dream of finding in an attic somewhere. These were the amps that defined what is today called the vintage sound, and they served as inspiration, if not as direct models, for Epiphone's Valve Series.
The Valve Standard--one of three in the series-- is an especially interesting amp. It's a 12" combo with all-tube design and 15W of Class A power--a smoker. It is thoroughly vintage, both in appearance and in circuit design, and it has a DSP effects block onboard for a modern touch. It's an unusual combination of features that really works.
The Valve Standard's look is distinctive. In a world where one guitar amp appears much like another, Epiphone has come up with a look that stands out. It has a black Tolex covering, a wheat weave grille with rounded corners and one angled side, and white piping trim. Not a direct copy of any vintage amp I can think of, yet it has a thoroughly retro look.
The control panel is simple, with gain, master volume, three-band EQ, and a knob for DSP selection; another for reverb level; and a single push-button that defeats the DSP. All the knobs are chickenheads for an added retro touch. I've always liked them simply because they point to where they're set. There's also a standby button so you can turn off any sound during breaks and keep the tubes warm.
Class A response
The amp has a three 12AX7 preamp and two EL84 power tubes producing 15 Watts of pure power. With Class A push-pull design, the Valve Standard can scream and, like all Class A amps, it has great tone at high volume. It has great tone at low volume, too. I love the glassy real tube sound and, with the Gain and Master controls, you can get a comfortable bluesy distortion at lower levels. The real benefit of Class A circuitry is response. When you dig in, the amp immediately responds, which makes your playing more expressive and satisfying.
I played with the DSP and reverb switched off just to hear the basic amp do its stuff. It proved gutsy and responsive at all volumes--a nice straight-ahead rock amp. Next I dialed up the reverb. Some purists would be horrified that Epiphone didn't use a spring reverb just for vintage authenticity, but DSP reverb is very quiet, and undoubtedly helped Epiphone keep the price friendly.
Located next to the reverb control on the front panel is a selector knob for the other DSP effects. 16 selections overall contain eight delays, four chorus settings, and four flangers. All are usable presets with none too extreme to be impractical. Having these effects onboard also does away with the need for several stomp boxes which makes the amp even more economical. The DSP can be switched off/on with the aforementioned front-panel button or the provided footswitch. Though the back panel is as simple as they get, two features are noteworthy. One is that the internal speaker is jacked so you can switch to another speaker easily. There's also an extension speaker jack so you can add an 8 ohm or higher impedance box. The 15 Class A watts provide sufficient power to handle such an addition easily.
Price and guarantee
Perhaps its most attractive feature is a very modest price tag. I don't believe I've ever seen a Class A tube amp go for anywhere near the Valve Standard's low price, especially in a combo with such nice cosmetic features, strong construction, and onboard DSP. On top of that, Epiphone is so confident of its durabity and reliability that they have slapped a five-year warranty on it.
All in all, this is a combo with plenty of power for about any gig you'll play--it can get loud--and it is usable power because its tone doesn't fall apart when you crank it up. It also has the tone to shine in the studio. With no line out you need to mic the cab, but that's the way it was always done in the old days, and that's what this amp is all about.
The Valve Standard and the other Valve Series combos give you boutique styling and all-tube Class A performance for a breakthrough price. Now anyone can afford to look good and sound great. Order your Valve Standard today from Musician's Friend--we guarantee your satisfaction and lowest price.