Classic Ampeg tone in a 5 watt package

Classic Ampeg tone in a 5 watt package

Ampeg GVT5H 5 watt head

I don’t know if I really needed it, but I finally talked myself into pulling the trigger on an Ampeg GVT series tube amp. I wasn’t looking to replace my Jet City JCA20H, that will never happen. I just wanted a really low wattage tube amp so I could really push it anytime I want day or night. This turned out to be one of my better decisions. I snagged a GVT5H which is the 5 watt head, and this little thing really cooks. The first thing I noticed was the build quality. Typical Ampeg rock solid construction. Definitely styled after the iconic models of the past (think SVT). For what it’s worth, this amp is made in Korea (not China), and I have no doubt Ampeg is riding shotgun on the build process. “So how does it sound” you ask? It sounds like an Ampeg. One thing that makes Ampeg sound the way they do is the Baxandall EQ. The way the tone and bass work is hard to get your brain around, but I had an SVT many years ago so I knew what to expect.  To over simplify it, they work within their respective frequency ranges and don’t overlap. They each work as a boost and cut and you utilize their settings to push the midrange. And the tone is without a doubt classic Ampeg. Gobs of clean head room through almost the entire volume sweep. You’ll get a little breakup starting around 7 but it still remains cleanish even at full throttle. But that’s what sets this amp apart from the long list of low watt tube amps on the market now. It really comes into its own as a pedal platform. It loves pedals. I dropped my MXR M77 Overdrive in front of it and it was instant 70’s Stones grind. Same with my Sparkle Drive. Either pedal is a great match for this amp but the one that really takes it over the top and makes you say “Holy Shit” is my EQD Crimson Drive. Volume wise it gets loud. Really loud. And it will take a lot of speaker setups. You can run the following.

1 x 4 Ω cab
1 x 8Ω cab
1 x 16Ω cab
2 x 8Ω cabs
2 x 16Ω cabs

I was running it through a 2×12 closed back 16Ω cab loaded with a pair of vintage Eminence speakers, but then something magical happened: I came up on a brand new 16Ω WGS 12″ British Lead 80 that I installed in a Jet City 1×12 closed back cab. I fired it up and “holy crap” it sounds freakin’ amazing! So that’s how I’ll run it. I can’t even imagine it sounding better.

I got it used and it came with a Ruby 12AX7 preamp tube and a 6V6GTEH output tube installed but the dude also threw in 2 GE 6V6GT black plates. First thing I did was to replace the Ruby with my favorite preamp tube, a MESA SPAX7-A, then I tried both output tubes and they all sound good with the GE’s being a little smoother than the EH’s. If I was to rate this amp on a 5 scale it would get a solid 5 IMHO. If I could add one thing to it I would go for a second gain stage (or even a master volume) just so I could drive it without using a pedal at all. And if I ever run across a diy modder that knows this model and can give me some direction then it just may get that extra gain stage. But if not I’m still more than happy with it. And if there are any modders willing to take a look I have the schematic.

What I find really sad is that it appears Ampeg has discontinued the GVT series as of Jan 2014 (they still show them on the website but the link for “find a dealer” as well as the “buy now” link produce “0” results). Seems every so often they try another run at the guitar amp market but just can’t get close to the success they’ve had with their bass amps. Could be because they didn’t promote them very aggressively. Bottom line is if you get the chance (and a low wattage ass-kickin amp is on your radar) grab one while you can.


Dean Leslie West Peace Sign Signature Soltero, Dean Leslie West Flame Maple Tobacco Burst Signature Soltero, Gibson Les Paul Studio, Hamer Studio,, Epiphone Les Paul (Korean), Ovation Celebrity, Laney Cub 12R, Blackstar, HT-1R, Jet City JCA20H, Jet City JCA22H, Orange OR15, and a lot of dirt pedals, some store bought some DIY.

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