This year when Martin Kidd and crew of Victory Amplifiers showed up at NAMM, they did so with some gear that was a little smaller than usual. Turns out, it’s massive on sound. Of course, I’m talking about the all-new line of Victory preamp pedals that provide the heart of the iconic Victory Sheriff, infamous Victory Kraken, and illustrious Victory Countess in small formats that tag-team with the guitar amp you already have.
On TPS this week, Dan & Mick returned to the topic of best approaches to amplifier preamps with a host of recent gear and a special focus on the Victory Sheriff. With this line of preamp pedals just hitting the market now, be sure to head over to Riff City instore or online to pre-order yours today. Let me tell you why…
How to Integrate a Victory Preamp Pedal into Your Rig
One of the biggest questions about preamp pedals is: what is a preamp pedal and how do I use one? Here’s the short version. Your tube amp gets the job done by two sections. First, the preamp section gives voice, tone, and character to the sound. Second, the power section provides volume to that incoming sound. A preamp pedal, then, is simply a rendition of that initial aspect of an amp’s circuitry that can then be integrated into another amplifier’s design. So where do you put it?
As Dan & Mick demoed, the traditional location for a preamp pedal is in the effects loop, since this bypasses your amp’s current preamp. As Mick noted, “Victory says the pedal works best when it’s run into the effects look return.” This approach certainly gave the TPS standard Fender Hot Rod Deluxe the feel and vibe of a Marshall Plexi.
Yet nobody says you have to abide by the manual! Dan broke from tradition and fell in love most with the pedal when it was run straight into the front of the amp as you would any other pedal. “I like that [use] and parts of it I definitely preferred [compared to the use in the effects loop]. It’s a bit spongier,” noted Dan. Mick added that this different feel and response was due to the retained and welcome coloring of the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. This is a great approach if you’re looking to go Plexi-esque but still want the familiarity of the gear you already have.
Similar to this use, one of the best assets of the Victory preamps is that they can be set up using a four-cable method, allowing you to easily switch between the full sound of your amp and the preamp pedal direct into your power amp. As Dan summed up, “basically the [Victory Sheriff] is adding two extra channels to a single channel amplifier,” which is a rare and innovative quality in the preamp pedal market.
Finally, the Victory preamp pedals are ideal for studio setups, particularly the home setups where a full-sized stack amplifier might cut into your limited real estate. As Mick noted, in such a setup you’d need either a DAW plugin or hardware solution for speaker simulation. For cab simulators in any range, check out the Mooer Radar Speaker Simulator, GFI System Cabzeus Stereo Speaker Simulator DI, or the Mesa Boogie CabClone Guitar Cab Simulator.
In short, the Victory preamps play well when placed in the back, down in front, or table top.
Crisp Cleans to Aggressive Gain with the Victory Sheriff
Now the big question: how do the Victory preamps sound? Dan & Mick tried a countless number of guitar and pickup configurations in all of the above signal paths, yet made some overarching observations on the clean and gain sounds of the Victory Sheriff.
On the clean side of the coin, both Dan & Mick remarked that with the gain dialed back on the Sheriff the sound was milky with a touch of grit on the fringes. “That low-gain, edgy sound in [channel 1] is just gorgeous,” remarked Dan. As Mick responded, the pedal in that setting was reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix or John Frusciante-style clean.
What we all want to know is about the other side of the coin. Does it Plexi? Sure does, especially when you take into account the endless possibilities of EQ sculpting that are possible with the onboard parameters. As Mick commented, these knobs have a lot more impact and offer far more control than you’d expect on a typical overdrive or distortion pedal. And if anyone knows about gain, it’s Victory. As Dan reflected after a run of riffs on his Telecaster, “The chunkier stuff from the Sheriff is crazy. The way Martin [Kidd] designs gain is very, very cool. He knows that sound really, really well.”
So maybe you don’t have the space in your place or room in your budget for a full stack amp. That makes two of us. But what you do have is a combo amp you already love and understand. The new preamp pedals from Victory make it possible and attainable to get that style of sound in a smaller size and at a reasonable price point. So give it a go or try one vicariously through Dan & Mick with their short edit version of this week’s episode here.
TPS Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Gibson Memphis 1958 ES-335, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster, Gretsch G5422TG Electromatic, Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard, Fender ’60s Reverse Headstock Strat.
Amps: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe VIII.