Oftentimes, the hallmark of a great amplifier is its ability to produce a great clean tone. The amp can have every feature under the sun and be packed to the gills with options, but if its basic clean tone does not shine, most of the time all of the other tonal features will fall short. While learning the ropes of crafting a good guitar sound, I personally remember being constantly reminded of this fact by older, more seasoned veterans of the trade. I foolishly dismissed them for a long time as being unrelated to any tone that was important to me, and thus my ability to detect a great guitar sound suffered for a long time as a result. It was only after spending some time with a sixties-era Fender Super Reverb that I began to realize just what all that advice meant: a strong, pristine clean tone sounds great, and overdriven can sound amazing. If the main purpose of an amplifier is to amplify, it should be able to accurately represent the tone of the instrument feeding it.
Victoria Amplification has a well-respected reputation in the industry of crafting amplifiers that do just that: incredible, sparkling cleans that are powerful, punchy and complex sounding. Mark Baier of Victoria started his profession in 1993, recreating some favorite amps that, in his eyes, defined the roots of the rock n’ roll generation. Most of these designs revolved around the concepts initially put forth by Leo Fender, which had become so hard to find (and afford) that he set out to provide working musicians with another option. Tracking down a vintage 1959 Fender Bassman is a journey in and of itself, never mind being able to afford such a prize once you’ve found it. Victoria aims to provide an alternative to the often-maddening quest to achieve that elusive sound of yesteryear. With the Golden Melody model, it’s obvious that the company is showing no signs of slowing down in their vision.
The best word to describe the Golden Melody is loud—very loud (I know, that’s two words). There is no complex circuitry in this amp, just one channel aimed at giving the cleanest tone possible. The time-tested combination of two 6L6 power tubes, a GZ34/ 5U4 rectifier and three 12AX7s coupled with two 12AT7s in the preamp provide an insane amount of headroom.
The Golden Melody is very difficult to distort, so if overdrive is needed, a pedal is definitely in order. It should also be noted that this amplifier takes overdrive pedals extremely well. Every classic overdrive pedal I put in front of it was able to give pretty good dirt, all the way up to some very luscious gain tones. An Ibanez TS9 Reissue, Fulltone OCD and Boss SD-1 were used in this application.
Victoria also provided foot switchable vibrato and reverb, which borrow the circuitry from the company’s immaculate-sounding Reverberato design. The circuitry is fully tubepowered, with an impressive range to work with. When set low, the reverb acts as a shallow pool underneath the sound, providing a slight lift to the tone. Higher settings can yield everything from great surf rock to cavernous cathedral tones. Not to be outshined by its electronic brother, the vibrato can be tweaked from slight, slow pulses to raging swirls. When the amp is cranked and pushing air, the volume ramping of the tone with the vibrato engaged in a high depth mode can easily be felt. It really is a fun, exceptionally musical feature to play with, and there were not any noticeable pops or hums when engaging or disengaging either mode.
The tone controls are very responsive and provide a large range of sounds, especially the midrange control. The midrange control does not get enough attention in clean tones, but it is still extremely useful when there is no dirt in the sound. Higher settings with the tone knob rolled off gave some of the warmest jazz tones that I have heard using a Gibson 1961 Reissue SG. Dropping the mids and upping the treble caused the amp to exhibit some of the best qualities of a well-maintained sixties-era Fender Twin: a biting but smooth high-end and pleasing, round lows.
On the outside, the Golden Melody is a beautiful combo. Victoria has a reputation of using some of the highest-grade circuitry components available, and they definitely do not skimp on the presentation of their product either. A light, classic lacquered tweed wrap covers the bottom three-quarters of the amp, and the top portion is covered in a very high quality alligator-type material that is a gorgeous, deep reddish-brown. Victoria’s logo is displayed in what looks like a homage to the vintage amplifiers and radio companies of yesteryear, which gives it a very classy appeal. The design of the amplifier is impeccable, minus a few visual flaws on the outside of the amplifier itself. While the combo was transported and played through several times, no loose components or rattling were apparent. The chassis did not seem to line up with the back panel, however—it was off by over 1/4” on one side. This was a small issue that did not affect the tone of the amp in any way, but it should be noted that it was present and ought to be corrected.
If you have been trying to keep your eyes peeled for a simple, loud, impeccable-sounding combo amplifier, the Victoria Golden Melody should not go unnoticed. It really is a great meld of modern, reliable design with a vintage vibe in mind, with an incredible amount of headroom. Truly a work of art.
Our expert has stated their case, now we want to hear yours. Share your comments and ratings below.
a no-frills, crystal clear vintage tone that can fill a hall without distorting is just what the doctor ordered.
you need more versatility, such as a drive channel or effects loop.