Premier Guitar

Budda Amplification Superdrive Series II V-40 Amp Review

September 21, 2010

When Budda Amplification debuted their 18-watt Twinmaster Ten in 1996, the handwired amp met immediate success and established the company as a leader in the emerging boutique market. Since then, the company’s evolving lines of amps have garnered a loyal following among players and collectors.

Both before and after Peavey Electronics’ purchase of Budda Amplification in 2008, Superdrive amps have formed the backbone of their product line. The latest addition to it is the V-Series—a collection of 2-channel, 6V6-powered amps that includes a 20-watt head, a 20-watt 1x12 combo, a 40-watt head, a 40-watt 1x12 combo, and the 40-watt V-40 2x12 combo model reviewed here.

The Overview
With its black-and-crème vinyl covering, black-and-silver woven grille cloth, black piping, and Budda’s purple oval logo, the V-40 has a sleek, no-nonsense appeal. Featuring a quartet of 6V6 power tubes, the handwired amplifier drives a pair of custom-designed Budda Phat 12" speakers and offers plenty of power for club gigs and theater stages.

The V-40 has a refreshingly Spartan front panel. In addition to On/Off and Go/ Rest (standby) rocker switches, the V-40 has six wedge-shaped knobs—a push-pull Master that does double duty as a channel selector, Bass, a Mid knob that you can pull out for a thicker tone, Treble, Drive, and a Rhythm knob that pulls out for brighter response—an instrument input, and a jack for the included channel-switching footswitch. Around back, it sports Send and Return jacks for the passive effects loop, a Slave output jack with a Level knob, two speaker output jacks with a three-position switch for setting 16-, 8-, and 4-ohm impedance, and a standard AC connector. The Slave output and Level control lets you send a signal from the V-40’s preamp to an external power amp. You can also use the effects loop’s Return jack to receive a slave signal from another amp and run it through the V-40’s power section and speakers.

Though it wasn’t terribly difficult for me to carry the amp short distances with one hand, I certainly wouldn’t describe the 2x12 combo as “lightweight.” The speakers boast beefy magnets and the custom-wound transformer further contributes to the V-40’s heft. Though the V-40 has several weight-relieving features, such as an aluminum chassis and a custom pine cabinet, this is a solid tank of an amplifier.



Exploring Sounds
Plugging my Gibson SG into the V-40, I began to familiarize myself with its controls. The push-pull Master knob lets you toggle between the amp’s overdrive and clean channels if you haven’t hooked up the purple channel-switching pedal. Pulling out the Mid control activates the V-40’s Thick circuit, which adds a very noticeable and well-placed boost in the lower frequencies. Voiced somewhere between a mid boost and a bass boost, the Thick control gives the amp a throaty, guttural character— perfect for emphasizing riffs, hooks, and melodic lines. I found the V-40’s EQ controls gave me a timbral palette wide enough to cover jazz, blues, and hard rock.

The remaining two knobs, Drive and Rhythm, set gain levels for the overdrive and clean channels, respectively. Pulling out the push-pull Rhythm pot activates the amp’s Brite circuit, a top-end boost that will be familiar to Fender fans and welcome to anyone who likes bold, clean tones.

In Play
Almost immediately after turning on the V-40, I hit pay dirt. Running my SG’s neck pickup through the clean channel with low gain settings, noon EQ settings, and the Brite switch activated, I was rewarded with one of the most amazing clean sounds I’ve ever heard. The V-40 dished out sparkling, well-defined highs, an expressive, musical midrange, and a robust-yet-open bottom end. In other words, the V-40 offers absolutely brilliant clean tone. Switching pickups, adjusting the guitar’s volume and tone knobs, and alternating between flatpicking and fingerpicking elicited an array of excellent sounds.

Bringing up the clean channel’s gain produced a gorgeous blues tone with a punchy attack, gritty sustain, and beautifully resonant decay. When I pulled out the Mid knob to engage the Thick boost, the amp became even more punchy and resonant, with a noticeable growl emerging in the lower mids. With these settings, the V-40 reminded me of a vintage Fender Deluxe Reverb— one of my favorite amps for studio work.

This comparison held even after I switched to the overdrive channel. With the Drive at 1 o’clock, EQ at noon, and Thick mode activated, the V-40 delivered a full-bodied overdrive with a huge dynamic range. It combined the low-end thump of a Fender with a smooth-yet-crunchy upper midrange. By making subtle changes to the amp’s tone and gain settings, I could ride the line between creamy softness and punchy bite. The V-40’s overdrive reminded me of my Tube Works Real Tube rack and pedal distortion units. That’s high praise—I own four of these devices.

The Verdict
On the basis of craftsmanship alone, this amp is second to none. The vinyl covering meets the piping at seamless, gapless edges. The quality grille cloth is attractive and snug. The handle is made of leather and metal rather than rubber and plastic. In short, the V-40 feels like it will stand up to punishment and last forever. It would be nice to see all of the push-pull functions included in a full-function footswitch, but given the amp’s stellar sound, that’s a small quibble.

Having never played a Budda before, I was surprised by both the V-40’s clean and overdrive channels. I’d recommend this topnotch, handwired amplifier to anyone except metalheads. The clean channel will blow you away and the overdrive channel may do the same. This is an amp that every guitarist should play through at least once.

Buy if...
you’re in the market for a boutique tank with mounds of tone.
Skip if...
you’re in the mood for an aggressively voiced amp.
Rating...


Street $1996 - Budda Amplification - budda.com