Nothing says big-bottomed bass more than an SVT looming at the back of the stage and nothing says hug me like Ampeg Micro-VR Head new miniature version. Review by Gareth Morgan
We can only speculate why Ampeg, in its 40th year, has decided to produce a miniaturised version of the beloved 1970s SVT. The result of this undertaking is so adorable, though, that we’re happier than pigs in the proverbial. And we’re honoured to be the very first to get a proper close look.
At 190mm high, 305mm wide and 254mm deep the Micro-VR head is, as Ampeg says, much smaller than Stonehenge. But not as old, being only just released, and at 4.5kg/10lbs we’d guess considerably lighter. It does, however, offer 150W of Mosfet fury, or 200W into 4 ohms. And a birch plywood box with 1970s SVT styling, classic logo and all.
As well as Gain (with -15db pad) and Volume controls and a handy in-built switchable Limiter. The front panel sports a nifty three-band EQ featuring Bass (+14/-12dB @ 40Hz), Midrange (+5/-13dB @ 500Hz) and Treble (+19/-25dB @ 8kHz). Nice and simple, then, and other handy features number an audio in for CDs and the like, a headphones mini jack, an FX loop, twin speaker out jack sockets and an XLR DI out on the back.
This wicked little amplifier is paired with the SVT 210AV cabinet. An equally downsized and cuddly offering with similar vinyl covering. And rubber feet that encloses two Eminence 10″ drivers in a sealed 640 x 330 x 280mm birch ply box with a grey cloth grille to reinforce the SVT’s 70s roots. It’ll handle 200W of power, and an 11.9kg/26lbs payload means that this cab is genuinely portable.
This Chinese-made rig is never going to deliver deafening boom, but that not what it’s designed for. The noise it does make is meaty enough, with lots of warm definition. It reproduces growling detail and natural-sounding highs without any problem. And there’s no horn to make the top-end fast and tinny. Add to this a midrange that’s punchy without high or low bias. Although some may describe it as dark (for this read ‘appropriate for bass’) and you’ve got a really good tonal package.
There’s a decent roster of EQ’d variation. Risk-free after engaging the limiter, which includes smooth width that surprises in its extent. But also fails to induce any distortion even when fed with a modern active B-string equipped bass. Cutting Midrange rapidly accesses the glassy scooped mids sound. Whereas boosting the same control entices brooding low mids and has the VR rig punching way beyond its diminutive stature in no time.
Boosting Treble produces a pleasingly musical result with an audible increase in note harmonics increasing the quota of cut and bite in a pleasingly natural manner. And adding plenty more life in the sound. If you want a ‘dead strings’ effect, cut back treble, half-cut Midrange and boost Bass a little: simply Motown-tastic!
Without recourse to an extension cab, Ampeg Micro-VR Head is probably a little limited. But within those limitations you actually get excellent value for money both in build quality and tonal variation. It’s really easy to dial in a good range of practical, real-world sounds. And the whole package is super-portable. Frankly, we’d urge you not to even think about checking one of these little Ampeg rigs out. It’s so charming, you simply won’t be able to leave it in the shop.