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VHT Special 6 Ultra Review (Long Review)

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by kderma321, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. kderma321

    kderma321 Tele-Meister

    Apr 7, 2009
    Order Info and Specs

    I just received my VHT Special 6 Ultra. This amp is the follow up to the Special 6 which was released a few years ago. It has a lot more adjustability than the previous Special 6. There isn't a ton of info about them online so I though I would post my initial impressions.

    There are currently only 2 places online that I could find that appear to be selling them. One is Banana Music and the other is Instrument Alley. I purchased from Instrument Alley. The amp normally sells for $329.00, but when you add it to the cart on Instrument Alley's website the sale price goes to $294.00. There is also right there on the page a coupon code for an additional $10.00. So I got the amp shipped to my door for $284.99. Instrument Alley has some bad reviews online but my experience was reasonable. They are not MF and you must remain diligent if you want a tracking number or more precise information about when the amp might ship. When I was responded to the information was accurate and it shipped on the day I was told it would. My belief is that the item was drop shipped from the distributor even though it was listed as in stock on their website. All in all I'm happy with the purchase process.

    Here's the specs per VHT's website.
    Additional preamp gain stage
    Variable Watts control
    Depth control
    tube-driven effects loop

    The Special 6 Ultra features the same unique Volume and Tone controls as the original Special 6, the same footswitchable Boost, High/Low Power switch, and a similarly mod-friendly eyelet board. In addition, the Special 6 Ultra features a unique multi-position Depth control that fine-tunes the low-frequency depth; this feature allows you to carefully voice the amp’s low-end to perfectly suit a wide range of guitars, pickups, speakers, and musical styles.

    The Special 6 Ultra ships with a 6V6 output tube. To accommodate tone-seeking experimenters, it can accept a wide range of alternate output tubes as well.

    Depth control
    Overdrive and Normal Gain Inputs
    Overdrive Gain Control
    Variable Watts Control
    Depth Control
    3-position Texture Switch
    Tube-Driven Effects Loop
    Line Out Jack
    6 Watts
    One 6V6 Output Tube
    Two 12AX7 Preamp Tube
    Volume and Tone Controls
    Footswitchable Boost Mode (Footswitch Included)
    High/Low Power Switch
    4, 8, and 16 Ohm Speaker Jacks
    Mod-Friendly Eyelet-type Board
    12" VHT ChromeBack Speaker (16 ohm)


    My initial impression of the build quality is pretty favorable. The tolex is tight, the piping around the baffle is a nice clean white and the speaker baffle mesh is a really nice material with a nice tight weave. It feels solid and the knobs and switches feel sturdy. I think my initial feeling about the knobs was that they were cheap and that was only because the amp is so inexpensive. Upon further inspection it was just my own perception which wasn't reality.

    I played 3 different guitars. I had a MIM strat with CS69's, a Charvel San Dimas with Seymour Duncan Humbuckers, and an SG classic with P90's.
    Overall I would say the tone of the amp is pretty dark compared to the Fender DRRI and Vox AC15C1 I have. The amp can be brightened pretty significantly with the tone knob. Unlike the tone knob on some amps the Ultra's tone knob is very functional and can drastically alter the tone.

    The 3 position "texture" switch didn't do all that much as far as I can tell. The middle position, according to VHT is designed to produce the "most harmonically rich texture" so that's where I left it.

    The depth control knob has 11 settings and can go from a nice boomy fat bottom end (fully clockwise) to a setting (fully counter-clockwise) with more presence and bite. There is definitely a difference to be heard from playing with the depth control. My general feeling right now is that when it's fully engaged it can be a bit muddy with buckers, but fattens up single coils well.

    There are a ton of tones hidden in this amp and it will take a bit to find all the useful ones. It should be noted that even with low gain and the amp running at it's full 6 watts that there will always be a hair of dirt in the tone especially with humbuckers. The amp does force you to focus on your picking dynamics and learning to moderate your volume knob on the guitar.

    It will sound pretty muddy if you want to play heavy metal from current day bands, but it can do 80's-90's metal like Dio and Dokken. The wattage knob doesn't decrease the volume that significantly. It's really best for dialing in distorted tones at reasonable volumes. I can hear a noticeable change to the distortion when sweeping back and forth past 12 o'clock.

    Their is a "Clean" and "Ultra" input. The clean channel is controlled with one volume knob that also doubles as a push/pull boost. The Ultra channel doesn't really feel like a full fledged OD channel, but it does have a bit more grit. In addition, the volume becomes a master volume and you can dial the distortion in with the Ultra knob. The push/pull boost is still functional so it's almost like two gain stages. One from the Ultra knob and then an additional boost from pulling up on the volume knob. The amp does come with a foot-switch that can toggle the boost on and off.

    I'm really liking the amp so far. I think I'm liking it best with a Strat over the humbuckers and P90's. It's not to say that it sounds bad with those pickups, but I probably tend to favor single coils anyway. It's got a nice strong tone. Maybe not the sweetness or shimmer of a Fender clean channel, but it covers a lot of ground. I'm a fan of a little reverb at all times and I don't have a separate reverb pedal so I used a delay set to a light echo and that did help. It helps add a little richness and complexity to the tone.

    Long review but I wanted to be thorough. The tubes in the amp were literally no name generics and the speaker was a VHT designed. It looks like the cab is big enough to support something like a Greenback. It also has 2 inputs for cabinet extensions and can accept 4,8, or 16 ohm cabs.

  2. thimblerigger

    thimblerigger TDPRI Member

    Excellent review... helped a lot... cheers for that... as far as I know it's not yet available in the UK
  3. AndrewG

    AndrewG Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2007
    Exeter, UK
    Tempting isn't it?
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  5. Unadan

    Unadan Tele-Holic

    I just picked up a VHT Special 6 Ultra Head a couple of days ago - I'm plugging it into a 1x12 Avatar cab with a V30 in it. Sounds great! I'm very pleased with the build quality of the head - nice tolex, birch made, handwired inside. Sounds great clean and especially with my LP in Ultra mode. I'm turning the watts down to about 9:00 AM, Ultra at 1 PM, and Volume about 9:30 - volume boost engaged. Sounds almost like an Orange in this mode - very nice high gain, metal crunch.

    I'm impressed. I'd be curious how two of these linked together via the line out jack would sound or what the effect of linking two together would be.
  6. Vivi

    Vivi Tele-Meister

    Dec 10, 2009
    Clemson, SC
    Nice review.

    I bought a plain old Special 6 a couple of months ago and trying to decide whether or not to get the upgraded version as well. I don't see there being much of a chance of selling the first Special 6 anymore though.
  7. Unadan

    Unadan Tele-Holic

    I find I can getting pretty close to the Ultra mode in Clean mode by just overdriving the amp and using the boost feature. Not quite as high gain but close.
  8. Jericho75

    Jericho75 Tele-Meister

    Mar 2, 2011
    Hey guys, first time poster here. Just received my ultra today. Great amp with a crazy amount of gain, too much in fact I put some old stock at7's to tame it down a bit(I may switch to au7's). And I am a metalhead too! Very nice cleans and takes boosts and od's nicely. Anyway, has anyone had any issues with the f/x loop? It seems very sensitive through my Lexicon mpx100. I have to put the input around .5 to avoid clipping. I know it isn't the lexicon, I put i through my other amps and had no issues. I also took some gutshots and I was going to post them for your wiewing pleasure but I couldn't figure out how..(noob)
    Anyway, love the forum! I do alot of reading/research here. It seems to be the more intellegent and mature forum out of the bunch.
  9. DOGMA Dunn

    DOGMA Dunn Friend of Leo's

    Mar 2, 2011
    Great review on a Great amp. Seems like it's built better than a Marshall Class 5, a Blackheart, a modern Fender Champ xd, a epi valve jr, a Vox, and every other mass produced low watt tube amp to hit the market in the past 20 years.
  10. srolfeca

    srolfeca Tele-Meister

    Thank you for the layout picture, Scott.

    Question: can you check the part number on the PT in your Ultra? I'm curious to know how it compares in size, to the one in the regular SP6.
  11. srolfeca

    srolfeca Tele-Meister

    That's a pretty sweeping statement, but as I think about what's come out since 1991, I find it difficult to disagree.

    Tone is subjective, and there are lots of decent-sounding mass-market practice amps out there.

    But in terms of build quality (handwired, eyelet or turret-board construction, oversized transformers, chassis-mount hardware, etc.) in a champ-sized package, the Ultra and the Special 6 are the only game in town, outside of the boutique builders. Unless THD have built more Univalves than I'm aware of, anyway....
  12. moondogz

    moondogz Tele-Holic

    Very impressive review, thanks.
  13. Scott Naylor

    Scott Naylor TDPRI Member

    Oct 7, 2009
    Wheaton, IL
    Great question!

    Model CP-600 Special 6U-120v

    I/P- 120V 50/60hz

    O/P- 275V / 6.3V

    Batch Code: 24120210

    Ningbo Chaobo Electronics Co. Ltd

    The OT has a solitary OB-MD - 4 -8 -16A sticker on.
  14. yonie

    yonie Tele-Meister

    Oct 10, 2009
    in fact they are:

    the only thing keeping me back from buying one is the fact i have the original special 6 model.
  15. srolfeca

    srolfeca Tele-Meister

    Why hold back? An SP6 and an Ultra would make a great pairing for a compact, low cost stereo rig!

    You get the best possible clean tones, plus chorus and ping-pong delays sound luscious...
  16. thimblerigger

    thimblerigger TDPRI Member

    ... aber ich glaube dass Thomann in Deutschland liegt?
    ... available through Thomann in Germany but perhaps may now be available in England though to date I don't think so...
  17. Sikor

    Sikor Tele-Meister

    Jul 27, 2010
    Thomann ships EU-wide, no problem.
  18. Sikor

    Sikor Tele-Meister

    Jul 27, 2010
    I have both heads and it's well worth it!

    Keep my Special 6 at church and Ultra at home :D
  19. thimblerigger

    thimblerigger TDPRI Member

    ... as far as I know they're still not available in the UK from a UK music shop...?
  20. Scott Naylor

    Scott Naylor TDPRI Member

    Oct 7, 2009
    Wheaton, IL
    Just a quick follow-up, 'tried a 16 ohm Cannabis Rex in my Ultra combo and it's a wonderful match. Much more clean headroom and a lot of the fizzy distortion sound is gone -especially in comparison with the VHT Chromeback. (Other speakers also tried were a Eminence Lady Luck, Weber Signature Alnico, and various and sundry Fenders).

    The Eminence C-Rex seems worthy of the finest amps in the world, and to hear it bring out the best of even the Special 6 Ultra is quite an experience. I have a new appreciation for just how good these little VHT's are. Lots of fun to be had with simple things like tube swaps and speaker changes, amigos!
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