The ease of use and low cost of the Epiphone Valve Junior is a testimony to the value of simplicity.
The saying goes that the “best things in life are free.” Well, I don’t know about free, but sometimes the best things in life are pretty darn cheap (and small). Take the Epiphone Valve Junior combo amp. This is a guitar amp that is noted for what it excludes more than what it includes. It’s inexpensive, but is it still worth the relatively few dollars it costs? Is it more than just a simple, portable amp? Let’s take a look at this amp that has been popular not only with those looking for a quality inexpensive tube amp, but with the amp modding community as well.
I’ve never reviewed an amp where the features section is so sparse. Forget about channel switching. Heck, forget about tone controls. There’s only one knob – volume. Reverb? Nope. Effects loop? No way. It doesn’t have any frills that have come to characterize modern guitar amplifiers. It has a single 8″ speaker, one volume knob, and 5 watts. What does it have then?
It’s got tone. That’s what it’s got. Let’s be clear from the outset. This isn’t an amp that can cut through a busy mix on its own merits, and it doesn’t have a great deal of versatility. It’s definitely a one trick pony. But this pony has a pretty cool trick. It just plain sounds good! The class A sound has a purity of tone that’s hard to find these days. And the 5W rating is pretty conservative. Just for kicks, I unplugged the amp from its built in speaker and plugged it into a Marshall 4×12 cabinet and was really blown away by how big the tone was. If you want to just use the combo version “as is,” you could easily throw a mic on it and easily compete with the rest of the band.
For most amps, I want a nice, loud clean sound anyway, since I get my overdrive and distortion sounds from pedals. The Valve Junior is a great “pedal amp” and a perfect compliment to a multi-effects pedal such as the Boss ME-70. If you’re a blues or roots type of player, you might just appreciate the unmodified tone on its own merits.
If you’re the DIY type, there’s no shortage of kits and online instructions on how to mod the life out of these amps. The low cost and ease of replacement have made the Valve Junior popular with guys unafraid to wield a soldering iron. Personally, I think it sounds just fine in its stock form, but if you’re dying to mod the amp, you’ll have no shortage of resources.
The Epiphone Valve Junior is an amp that “is what it is.” I don’t mind using amps with two dozen knobs and switches, but sometimes it’s nice just to plug and play. The ease of use and low cost of this great little amp from Epiphone is an example of just that. With a list price of only $349.99, the price of admission is within the reach of just about anyone.
Name of Gear: Epiphone Valve Junior
List Price: $349.99
Manufacturer Info: The Epiphone Company; epiphone.com
Pros: Simple; great value
Cons: None significant