David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
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location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: Vibro-King, '64 Vibroverb Custom, Fender, review, comparison, @musings info

'64 Vibroverb Custom review

Yesterday I visited the shop where I bought my Vibro-King. They've had a '64 Vibroverb custom in for about a month now, and I finally took the time to play it. I played a Les Paul DC because I have one at home and know what to expect from it. The shop also has a new Vibro-King sitting right next to the Vibroverb, so I got a chance to compare them. I had a little less than an hour to play, and the VV was set up with the Diaz mod and the tube rectifier for my entire visit.

I've always thought of the VK as a relatively bright-sounding amp. It certainly is bright when compared to most of my Mesas, a Dr. Z Carman Ghia and a Marshall 18-watt clone. So I was surprised when the shop's VK sounded very dark, almost dull, when compared side-by-side with the VV. I do wonder whether the shop's VK might be defective - so far every one I've tried has sounded different, and this one has an unusually loud hiss. Probably just a tube, but still...

The VV has a classic Blackface Fender sound compared to the VK. The high-end is very crisp and the mids are scooped. Both the bass and treble controls have a good useful range. With the humbuckers, I could crank the bass to about 5 with the volume on 4 - past that, the bass started to get farty. There's no doubt in my mind that the VV has a lot more clean headroom than the VK.

Aside from the tonal differences, the VV feels very different from the VK. It was easy to find the sweet spot to get a good touch-sensitive response, but the VV feels like a "fast" amp... The onset of distortion is fairly sudden - I found it hard to get those in-between shades that come so naturally to me when playing the VK. It seemed to me that the VV is really meant for a player with an aggressive approach to the guitar. Lately I've been approaching the guitar with fingertips rather than a pick, which just didn't work for me with the VV.

The verdict... It's a good-sounding amp, but not well suited to either my ear or my playing style. On the other hand, I'm not surprised. The amp guy at the shop swears that the VV nails the SRV sound, and... well, I don't play anything at all like SRV. Still, I was curious to see what the VV could do for me.

August 26 2003 05:23:53 GMT