With its wide range of clean and overdrive and user-friendliness to both tone aficionados and the amp-modding community, the VHT Special 6 Ultra will find a spot in many recording studios as well as within the DIY crowd
VHT amplification, a minor but significant player in the amplification market, has undergone some serious changes in recent years, not the least of which was the selling of the company by the original owner, Steve Fryette. The new owners, AXL Musical Instruments, have focused on providing quality amplifiers at a lower price point by moving much of their production to Asia.
Thus far, the company’s lower-priced offerings have been well-received by the guitar community at large, including the original VHT Special 6 amp, which has proven to be a very “mod-friendly” handwired amplifier given its eyelet board construction. Made in China, the Special 6 Ultra is available at a very competitive price. Still, is it worth the investment? Read and see.
The VHT Special 6 Ultra is a 6W amplifier powered by two 12AX7 preamp tubes and one 6V6 power amp tube (though other power tubes are acceptable). It features controls for Volume (both pre and post and sporting a pull boost), Tone, Depth (which controls the low-end response), and Watts (a variable output control, which allows output from 1/2 watt to 6 watts). A Texture switch controls the amount of high-frequency roll off. There are inputs for both Clean and Ultra mode, the latter having a dedicated Ultra control, which lets you adjust the level of the extra gain in this mode.
The rear panel sports jacks for the footswitchable boost, buffered effects loop send and return, Line Out, and selectable impedance (4, 8, or 16 ohm). Two speaker outputs are provided.
I tested the Special 6 Ultra using a Gibson Les Paul Traditional and a Nash TK-54 Telecaster. Trying the clean input first at full wattage with the Nash, I was impressed by the way the channel translated my picking dynamics and yielded a bit of dirt when I picked harder. I found the depth control particularly useful on the clean input and was able to get a wide variety of tones suitable for styles as wide ranging as jazz and country. The boost mode added some very useful blues and classic rock tones and also made the Texture switch settings more noticeable.
Switching to the Les Paul, I put the Ultra channel through its paces next. Rather than cranking the controls as is tempting with a high gain channel, I kept the controls centered and found the resultant tone very midrange heavy and vintage sounding, not death metalish at all. It was immediately obvious that the Texture control was made more for the Ultra channel, since moving it from left to right and discernible effects on both the midrange and the high end. Engaging the pull-boost and turning the Ultra control yielded some immense gain, though with the Ultra knob cranked the result was some less-than-pleasing distortion to my ears, though some metal riffers might like it. One thing is clear. There’s plenty of gain on tap.
With a street price of less than $300, it’s hard to find anything bad to say about the VHT Special 6 Ultra. With its wide range of clean and overdrive sounds in addition to its user-friendliness to both tone aficionados and the amp-modding community, the amp will find a spot in many recording studios as well as within the DIY crowd.
Name of Gear: VHT Special 6 Ultra
List Price: $439.99
Manufacturer Info: VHT Amplification; vhtamp.com
Pros: Good value; easily modded; versatile; lightweight
Cons: None significant