With extremely striking looks and a real, properly-powered valve grinning through the window, the V8 makes a bold impression on the eyes and the ears. Review by Huw Price
Description:Valve distortion pedal. Made in Japan
Contact: Korg UK – 01908 304601 – www.voxamps.com
The V8 Distortion is part of Vox’s Tone Garage series of stompboxes, which were developed by designers and engineers in the UK, Japan and the USA. It features an onboard valve with an LED backlight under a clear plastic canopy. This can be removed to provide access to the valve should it ever need replacing.
Not all valve pedals are what they pretend to be. Some run the valves at very low voltage, and some have even been shown to pass signal with the valve removed. Those that do run at full HT voltage are often quite bulky and require special power supplies. The V8 features Vox’s Hi-Volt technology, providing the valve with 200V while getting its juice from six AA batteries or a regular 9v supply. For prolonged valve life there’s also a slow-start heater circuit.
The case is only slightly taller and wider than a regular pedal, and there’s an on/standby switch next to the DC socket.
Controls comprise Vol, Bass, Tone and Gain. There’s also a Mid Shift switch that changes the band where the midrange peaks. The Gain control has been configured so that it changes tonal character as well as amplitude.
There’s nothing incongruous about the term ‘mild overdrive’, but many of us may regard distortion as an all-or-nothing thing. The obvious temptation might be to turn Gain right up from the start, but then you’d miss out on the V8’s exceptional range of tones and distortion textures.
If you minimise Gain and crank up Vol, the V8 gives you a fairly clean boost with fantastic touch-dynamics and a straight-through tonal quality that we’d associate only with the very finest pedals. The Tone may need to be turned right down and switching on the Mid Shift fills out the midrange, but the V8 will certainly bring a valve amp to life at low and high volume levels.
As gain is increased, the distortion characteristic has something of an edgy Class AB character rather than a smooth Class A sound. With the Mid Shift off it’s not unlike a hot running Fender blackface amp, with emphasised treble and bass. Switching Mid Shift on brings up the midrange and yields a more British rock tone. The dynamics remain fairly uncompressed and you can easily tell the differences between pickup settings.
At high Gain settings the V8 provides brutal crunch with effortless sustain. The Bass control helps in keeping things tight, and the way this pedal retains definition is very impressive. Disengaging Mid Shift really works for rhythm playing, and solo tones will have a Hendrix/Frusciante vibe.
Engaging Mid Shift brings the upper mids forward, thickening the tone for more aggressive chord work and soloing. With some bridge pickups we occasionally felt like there was an octave overtone creeping in, which added yet another dimension. Higher gain settings don’t really clean up when guitar volume is turned down; instead you get the same sound, at lower volume, with no loss of dynamics.
The only practical drawback to the Vox V8 is that you have to remember to switch it off to preserve the batteries and valve because the input jack is non-switching. The V8 is a highly versatile and dynamically responsive pedal with all the fizz-free valvey goodness you could hope for.