VICTORY V4 "THE SHERIFF" PREAMP
We’re Victory. We heard you like amps, so we built an amp you can play inside your amp while you play your amp. Alex Wilson checks out a portable plexi from a boutique British amp company, and promises* not to make any more bad meme references.
Full review and independent analysis of the Victory V4 "The Sheriff" Preamp by Australian Guitar Magazine.
PRICE: $689 AUD
The Sheriff is a compact preamp modelled off Victory’s amp head of the same name. Sonically, it courts the ballpark sound of Marshall amps from the '60s and '70s. Functionally, it’s designed to integrate with the circuit of an amp that you already own. It’s primarily designed to run in the effects loop of a head and provide extra preamp channels ahead of the final power stage.
If you don’t have an FX loop but really want this particular setup, it’s also got separate outputs for a more conventional placement ahead of the amp. Ultimately, the main intention of a pedal preamp like this is to take a valve amp you already own and buttress its versatility with some extra tube channels. It’s easy to see how this could be useful in a variety of live and studio settings.
Victory’s amp sounds take clear inspiration from the classics, but they also appear unafraid to make changes and innovations. They are gaining a reputation for quality, expanding their lineup of designs. The diversity of their artist endorsees – running from Guthrie Govan to Blur guitarist Graham Coxon – is a testament to care and attention of the company.
The Sheriff pedal features one EC900 and three CV4014 valves running at high plate voltage. These are the first pedal-format guitar preamps to feature four valves and an all-valve signal path. While the overall sound is familiar, the Sheriff feels a bit tamer in the top-end than a true Plexi.
Designer Martin believes his amps should reflect the recorded sounds we fell in love with, rather than strictly imitate earlier designs. The Sheriff’s treble roll-off is accompanied by a gainy push to the high mids that sits really well in a mix. It’s a tone with bite, but won’t tread on the toes of cymbals or vocals. As a design philosophy, it means an amp can be louder, as we’re naturally in favour of turning a good tone up!
The amp’s first channel is decently clean at low volumes, but begins to break up quickly. You can get an "Under The Bridge" style push pretty easily here, and then by turning the drive up, soar into the rafters of a rocking arena.
Channel Two is where the amp’s most raucous gain is available. It’s clearly modelled on the modded plexis that preceded the JCMs. This is where you can truly hear that midrange aggression. In terms of style, I feel that the Sheriff will be able to cover the jammy, crunchy sounds of '60s blues and the British Invasion all the way through to the vengeful drive of stadium metal and early thrash.
Like a real amp, the core sounds are fundamentally good as well as pleasingly pliable for a player who wants to chase a personal tone.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
I trialled the Sheriff pedal in the jam room with a couple of different amps and in the studio as true valves in my DI signal chain. In the FX Loop of a Dual Rectifier, it was a thrilling combo. A two-channel Mesa and two-channel Marshall at my feet, and due to the intuitive gain controls and EQ stage of the Sheriff, it was remarkably easy to quickly land on a tonal palette that played well together.
A Fender Twin Reverb doesn’t have an FX Loop, so I plugged the Sheriff into the front input. Due to the combo’s high headroom, Victory’s tube gain sang through clearly while getting a pleasing extra dose of compression from Fender’s preamp.
The low-end dynamics and harmonic richness of the tones available in this setup certainly eclipsed what is available from a PCB-based drive pedal. As the Sheriff derives its tone from valves, the tone may suffer somewhat when pushed through a second preamp stage with low headroom. On the other hand, it might create your new favourite tone!
The Sheriff also shines in a studio setting. Obviously you can run it through normal amp/cab/mic setup, but its versatility is really highlighted by the fact that it proves real valve tone in DI form without needing to worry about impedance and loadboxes. It was a real pleasure to be able to run these excellent tones through my favourite digital impulses.
In addition to having a great core sound and design, the Sheriff is loaded with many sensible features that really help to justify the high asking price (in Australia, you'll be looking at a number close to $700).
A TRS jack gives the player the option of switching the pedal remotely. Both on/off and channels One and Two are controllable either via a two-button latching footswitch, or programmable switching unit. It’s a simple extra, but it gives you full control over the unit regardless of where you decide to place it.
While this feature means it’s possible to secure the Sheriff out of harm’s way, it’s also worth mentioning that these delicate valves are housed very sturdily. The solid steel chassis feels bulletproof, and you can feel that same sense of reliability and toughness when hitting a footswitch or turning a pot.
The EQ stage of amp controls the requisite bass, mid and treble bands. The EQ functions in the style of a valve amp, affecting the distortion character and saturation of your tone along with the frequency.
There’s a three-way Bright switch, a global tone control that optimises the V4 Pedal Preamp for what you’re plugging into. As it’s designed to be used in a variety of applications (amp effects loops, inputs, recording devices and so on), this handy switch allows you to best attune the pedal to its current input. One setting should sound ‘best’ per situation – use your ears to figure out what that will be!
WHY IT’S ON THE TOP SHELF
This is a preamp that leaves no stone unturned in its quest for versatility and great sound. This kind of premium design and premium tone will attract a premium price.
At just under $700, this is one of the more expensive boutique pedals you can buy. However, it also packs more mojo and more features than the average stomp box. It's a worthy investment for any shredder looking to beef up their arsenal of tones.
WHY YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO WANT IT
This product would best suit someone with a commitment to classic tube amps, but also wants to circumvent some of the practical limitations associated with owning an old Marshall. If you’re a serious player with both gigging and recording commitments that demand the rich sound of classic rock, a pedal preamp like this means your top‑end tone is highly portable. You could do a flying gig and plug this bad boy into a backline amp rig, and then arrive home and be rocking those same valves in your home studio.
WHAT YOU SHOULD CONSIDER FIRST
If the idea of owning a valve preamp really floats your boat, consider whether the Sheriff is exactly the right tone for you. Victory also offer other pedals with the same functionality but different distortion flavours. The Kraken is more brutal, and the Countess is cleaner and more refined.
Gladesville Guitar Factory
Ph: (02) 9817 2173