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Washburn Vga 15 Guitar Amp

Team SOS test a practice amp from Washburn.
Published October 1995

Guitar amps don't figure largely in the pages of SOS, but this little practice amp turns out to be ideal for recording rock and blues guitar. It's a very nice looking amp, with classic tweed covering, a traditional fabric speaker grille, and vintage (Vox) AC30‑style pointer knobs. Metal protectors are fitted to the front corners of the cabinet, and there's no risk of poking anything through the speaker, as the back is completely sealed.

Although little larger than a gift‑wrapped bundle of 12 issues of SOS, this 15 Watt, solid state amp delivers a very mature sound, with plenty of punch at the bottom end, and tonally, it sounds very much like a small valve amp. The controls are simple enough, and include gain, volume, bass, middle, and treble, plus a button which increases the gain setting for more heavily overdriven sounds. Reverb and channel switching are not available, but in the studio, the chances are that you'll add your own effects anyway, and overdub any different sounds at other times.

Some practice amps end up sounding thin and fizzy, but this one sounds like a quieter version of a big amp, having a very natural tone with plenty of touch responsiveness. The background noise level is acceptably low, and because the maximum power is only 15 Watts, the amp can be miked up in a home studio without giving the neighbours too much of a hard time. Having said that, I can't help feeling that this tiny amp goes a lot louder than it has any right to do with a 15 Watt rating.

Tonally, you can move from a clean '60s sound, through to a very convincing mid '70s rock sound, so if you're into recording indie music, you should be able to coax all the classic noises out of this baby. There's also enough overdrive in hand to play saturated lead sounds, but modern metal players may want to patch in a pedal to provide even more gain for single‑handed virtuosity.

Best of all is the price. The VGA 15 costs just £99, which makes it about the same as a decent effects pedal, so now you have no excuse not to explore the more traditional methods of guitar recording.