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BUGERA V5 INFINIUM
- Hand-built 5-Watt Class-A amplifier driven by 1 x EL84 tube
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|Item Dimensions||8.62 x 13.94 x 14.02 in||10.63 x 22.44 x 17.48 in||6.5 x 8.74 x 6.1 in||9.15 x 17.55 x 7.77 in||12.08 x 23.75 x 18.62 in||10.63 x 23.43 x 20.51 in|
BUGERA V5 INFINIUM 5-Watt Class-A Tube Amplifier Combo with INFINIUM Tube Life Multiplier, Original TURBOSOUND Speaker, Reverb and Power Attenuator
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I bought this to be a simple tube amp for at home usage and maybe to carry to impromptu jam sessions. To me it was a nice balance of loud enough to be workable for a jam session in 5 watt mode, but also able to be usable in an apartment in 1 watt or .1 watt mode while using the full range of gain options. It also has a headphone mode, which is pretty decent ***IF*** you have good headphones. I run it with my Shure SRH840 professional monitoring headphones or my Sennheiser HD800 and it's great, but with non-studio quality headphones the headphone out can sound bad. It's kind of a shame that it really needs headphones of that caliber to shine, as both of those pairs of headphones cost as much or more than this amp itself does.
The other features are a tone knob, digital reverb, independent gain and master volume. Also it has a jack so that you can unhook the built in speaker and hook up an external speaker cabinet (which I will talk more about later). Be very careful with the external speaker jack, as if you unhook the 8" built in speaker, and then turn on the amp without another speaker hooked up, it can damage the amp, because it doesn't use what is called a dummy load. Make absolutely certain that something is ALWAYS plugged in the speaker jack, either the built in speaker or an external cabinet. It also has the infinium tube life management system, which will supposedly keep your tubes lasting longer and alert you when they're starting to die. I haven't had it long enough to know if that will work, but if so, it's an awesome feature at this price level.
Now, on to the out of the box sound.
It's really good. It definitely favors a kind of dark blues-y sound. The 8" open back speaker sounds like a boxy 8" open back speaker. You definitely get the vibe of a vintage fender champ, which was a darker amp for a fender and also had that boxy 8" open back speaker sound. It's a cool sound on its own. However, the sound isn't particularly versatile and doesn't hold up in any sort of live setting (even a small jam session). It's great for practice. It's great for mic'ing for at home studio people. But don't try to play with this speaker with anybody else in any type of live setting. Which is okay, that isn't what this amp is really targeted at.
The dark sound also means that the tone knob is only really useable from 9 to 10. Anything below 9 sounds overly rolled off. And this is with two brighter sounding guitars: a MiM strat and a Gretsch Pro Jet. With any Gibson humbucker flavored guitar the sound is, to my ears, unusably dark. WIth the strat, there's some definition with the tone maxed out. But with a Gibson USA 2017 tribute les paul even the bridge humbucker sounds like it's covered in a blanket. Strat neck pickups don't have the trademark chime.
Now, you can view that as part of its character, and it certainly doesn't hold the amp back from being a great practice tool. And for some uses that dark tone can be great. The other issue though is that the 8" speaker means there isn't any real bass definition. So, no presence and loose bass. Again, it can be a cool sound occasionally, but isn't versatile at all.
At this point, I'd say it's still a good value at $199. The digital reverb sounds great for normal settings between 2 and 6. I find my sweetspot at about 4 and tend to leave it there most of the time. It's not as good as the reverb on, say, a Fender Princeton Reverb reissue, but it's very good for digital reverb. It means I don't need to add a reverb pedal into the mix like I would with most amps in this price range, which either have terrible reverb or no reverb at all. Its overdrive when you push the gain sounds heavenly for solos high up the neck. It can pull off great jazz tones when used clean. But, it lacks the definition to pull off mid-register raunchy riffing like I would like. And hard rhythm playing just kind of mushes together (which can be good if you're a sloppy rhythm player, but if you like tight rhythm, you don't get it with this). The sound is sort of like a marshall type sound, except without enough balls to give you the definition a marshall will give you. You have virtually no control over the tone, because the tone knob basically has to be on 10, and even then it still lacks presence and bass. It's a honky mid-range sounding amp, at best. But it gives you authentic tube tone for $199 at volumes that won't get you kicked out of your condo.
So, I was happy enough with the amp at this point. Definitely felt like I didn't get ripped off, but also wasn't blown away.
But I started wondering if I could fix the issues I had with the amp.
First up, was a tube replacement, given that the amp came equipped with no-name chinese tubes. I tried a JJ 12AX7 (preamp), a Tung Sol 12AX7 (preamp) and a JJEL84 (power tube). These were all fairly inexpensive, because since each stage is a single tube, you don't have to pay extra for matched pairs like on many amps. $10 for each tube, so I was out $30 (and had replacement tubes for when the tubes die).
What I found was that replacing the stock 12AX7 made a huge improvement. The JJ 12AX7 was a good bit better. It was still a dark sounding amp at that point. Sounding kind of like a mini-marshall. This really nailed the vintage Fender Champ sound, IMHO. The Tung Sol 12AX7 was golden to my ears though. The Tung Sol is known for being a very presence-y tube, and it REALLY brought this amp to life. Now the tone knob was useable from 4-10, with great tones all the way along. With my strat I could even get away with the tone on 3 and still have a useable sound. My normal tone setting on my main guitar (Gretsch Pro Jet) was 7. I could push it to 10 for more cut, or roll it off to lay back. Just like a tone knob should work, instead of having to be maxed out. And even more important to me is that it had presence now. I could get some sparkle when called upon.
Replacing the power tube with the JJ EL84 made an improvement as well, but not the night and day improvement that the 12AX7 did. I would say replacing the EL84 is recommended, and cheap, but not necessary per se. The 12AX7 is a must replace IMHO. The JJEL84 gave it a tiny bit more balls in the lower register. Not darkening the tone, but rather expanding it. It was a tiny bit more full.
As much as the tone was improved, night and day, with the tube change, the speaker still sounded like an open back 8" speaker. Fine enough for banging around the house, but it lacked the low end definition I like. I demand crisp bass transients for my rhythm riffs, and really no 8" open back speaker can deliver that. Even my old Princeton Reverb with a 10" open back couldn't deliver that, and that was a $1000 legendary amp.
So, I bought the Bugera 112TS extension cab. Now, at this point I've spent almost as much as the amp cost in upgrading the amp, $130 for the cab and $30 for the tubes, plus $15 for the speaker cable to connect the cab). But man, with that cab put on and the new tubes in, this amp sounds as good as ANYTHING in its power range. I mean that 100%. You will not find any boutique sub 15 watt tube amp that beats this, at any price, after those upgrades. You will find some amps that are more versatile, but nothing that is outright better. I also didn't mind spending for the 112TS cab, because I think the Bugera V22 or V55 were going to be my next amp anyway (going back and forth on how much power I will need) and this means I can buy the head only models and just use this cab.
After these upgrades, this has become a roughly $400 amp that sounds every bit as good as an $800 amp. Plus I have the ability to unhook the cab, and have it be a great sounding home practice amp that I can toss in the car if I go on a trip and want something to bang about with on vacation. With the cab this amp is perfect for jam sessions, and is even giggable if mic'd. It woudln't fill a medium sized room on its own if you have a live drummer though.
I had no issues whatsoever with any of the fit and finish either. It seems very well made.
So, to sum it up: straight out of the box, it is definitely worth the money as a practice amp. If you're willing to upgrade the tubes for relatively little money it's amazing. If you are willing to add on a 12" cab, it's mind blowingly good.
Plenty of reviews here. I've spent a fortune on guitars and amps over 40+ years. IMO, this is a much better deal than the handmade Clark Beaufort I custom ordered with every option costing more than $2k. I had so many problems with that amp.
I use a Melancon P90 artist with LRBaggs piezo (stereo), no pedals. That is all I need at this point. It sounds great.
Makes me ponder swapping out the tubes on my Vox, which was twice what this cost, no reverb and it would've been nice if the controls were located on the front of the amp.
I also use a small Ultrasound acoustic amp for the piezo pickups, Boss reverb and Boss / Heeley blues driver.
The only is thing I found odd was the vinyl splice on the bottom of the cabinet. I have no idea if that's how they all are.
This is one hell of a deal for the money!
If I only had one amp, this would be it.
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