Trace Elliot and the under-appreciated V-type line

Trace Elliot was formed in the UK in 1979 originally as a PA manufacturer who saw the void in British bass amplification and attempted to fill it. Well, I’d say they did rather well. The name Trace Elliot still rings true today in the name of UK bass amplification, possibly overshadowing it’s fellow UK cousin (technically bastard son), Ashdown Amplification in recent years.

In the early 80’s, slap bass god Mark King of the UKs Level 42 was a major endorsee and Trace Elliot amps became known as an expensive solid-state monster rig that weighed less than an Ampeg rig and sounded clearer and just as loud. By the early 90’s, they were a staple found in tons of studios and on the road with tons of big bands. At this point, the flagship GP11 preamp (11 band graphic EQ circuit) had upgraded to the GP12 (12 band) and featured far more tone shaping options. The cabs were updated with the infamous red stripe and green carpet, and the Twinvalve, Quatravalve and Hexavalve were phased out into one of the greatest series of amplifiers to ever be invented: the V-type series. Of course there were several solid-state V-type heads (the 300H and 600H) which sound great, but the real gems are the all tube heads: the V4, V6, and mythical V8.

Now I’ve seen and heard but never played a V4 and I’ve never even seen a V8 in person but I do own a V6 and I can attest to it’s unimaginable excellence in nearly every way. At first glance, it appears to be a simpler, green Ampeg SVT. But with 6 x KT88 power tubes instead of the Ampeg’s 6 x 6550s the V6 rocks a full all tube 400 watts RMS compared to the SVTs 300. Sure it has a few less preamp tubes than the SVT but at 63 lbs. compared to the SVTs 90lbs. it’s sort of a no brainer. The V6 in design is actually fairly simple. 2 x ECC83 tubes at the input stage, gain knob, a 2 x ECC83 driver stage, deep switch, 3 band passive EQ with push/pull Q shift mid knob, bright switch, a built in DI with pre/post and ground/lift switches, and master knob controlling the sextet of KT88s. Taking off the front wood panel is like staring into the engine of a Ferrari. Sheer power and elegance. Unlike an SVT, it’s preamp tube breakup is pretty subtle up until about 9.5, but it’s extremely slight grit coloration really defines the unique V-type tone and just sounds perfect in any mix. It’s like a soft aggression that can’t really be explained you just have to hear it. And the best and worst part is the it only runs at 4 or 2 ohms, so only big or really loud cabs will work. No problem though; I think to truly appreciate the sound of an all tube monster, you HAVE to play through a huge cab that can handle anything you can throw at it. In my case, that cab would be an Epifani T-215UL. Epifani’s rare and quickly discontinued attempt at a neo 2×15 cab. And DAMN did they get it right. Kind of funny because they were both constructed around the same year in the mid 90’s thousands of miles apart.

Even with the EQ set flat and the deep and bright switches turned off, the tone is unmatched in warmth, punch, fatness, and raw power. It’s pretty scary to even think what the V6 is capable of in 2 ohm mode with, say, an Epifani 6×10 added….either way, playing through an amplifier like the V6 forces the player to realize the weakest links in his/her tone. In other words, one begins to realize the impact that wood type, pickup type and location, plucking style, string type, knob settings and cables all have on your tone way before the signal even hits the preamp. However, the V6 certainly asserts it’s signature voice on any bass you feed it, but it remains extremely versatile from Marcus-like slap tone to insanely fat dub low end that fills the whole room and makes your jaw hurt. My biggest hesitation in gigging with the V6 in NYC is that it’ll be either broken or stolen. I even have nightmares sometimes about it. But as soon as the next on-the-road tour comes up, you can bet that V6 will be snug in a roadcase rocking extra hard every night!

Here’s a quick clip of me tracking bass for Nyle vs the Naysayers upcoming self-titled album playing through my V6/Epifani rig!

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