Behringer V-AMP 2 Review

(Reposted from old site)

Buy it at zZounds for $99.99 (Dec. 4, 2006)

Introduction

The Behringer V-AMP 2 is a budget amp modeler, quite similar to Line 6’s POD 2.0, but aimed to undercut it. I purchased this modeler because while our band usually has only one electric guitar (me), we wanted to try something different on a song or two. Although we had a good experience with Line 6’s POD 2.0, the V-AMP 2 seemed to be reasonably well-regarded, so at half the price I decided to give it a shot.

Features

A quick feature rundown semi-stolen from the Behringer site:

  • Accessories including a bag, AC Adapter, and a footswitch.
  • 25 banks, 5 channels per bank labelled A through E for a total of 125 channels
  • MIDI input/output
  • Effects such as chorus, tremolo compression, noise gate, delay, reverb etc.
  • Integrated tuner, tap
  • Stereo aux input with volume control
  • Stereo line output with speaker simulation
  • 3-band EQ tied to amp-model
  • Master volume
  • Channel volume
  • Headphone out
  • Preamp bypass

As you can see, much of the feature list is quite similar to other modelers out there, but Behringer does make some effort to add a few extra things here and there. One feature that the V-AMP has that the POD 2.0 does not is the auxiliary input. This is useful especially when practicing, making it easier to play along with a recording when using headphones.

The only other major extra feature is the inclusion of the bag and footswitch. The bag is definitely a nice-to-have, but it completely depends on what kinds of settings you intend to use the V-AMP in. If you are planning to use it in your home studio, then really there’s no need for a bag. On the other hand, if you want to use it on stage, then it’s quite convenient for ease of transportation to have one that fits the V-AMP as well as the footswitch and power supply. In addition to fitting all that Behringer thinks you need, the bag has a handle and a strap. It’s padded lightly. Unfortunately, as we’ll see later the footswitch is not very practical for real live use. This means carrying around a better footswitch and another bag.

The knobs are interesting. Somewhat appropriate for a modeler, instead of including real potentiometers, most of the knobs are free-spinning and have an LED ring around it that lights up as a position indicator. This is a bit of a mixed bag, since with the limited number of LED’s, visual indication of what the setting is at is much coarser, however at least it’s visible. With many other modeling devices, when you change channels, you have no idea what each knob is logically set at until you change it. Also, since they’re LED’s, it’s much easier to see where the settings are in the dark (i.e. on stage). I’ve never really needed that live though, since hopefully by then you’re not sitting around tweaking your sounds!

While for the most part, Behringer matches feature sets with competing products, one feature that’s noticeably missing is a power switch. When it’s plugged in it’s on, and if you want to turn it off you’ll have to unplug it. This is a bit annoying, and really I don’t see much reason not to include such a thing, but it’s missing. As is common for a device this size, it uses an inline brick transformer, which is a step above a wall-wart at least, but I always prefer (assuming reliability) built-in power supplies that just take a standard IEC.

Ease of Use

The V-AMP 2 is not the easiest thing to use, but really you can’t expect any amp modeler to just plug and play. The tone you get from an amp simulator relies on the whole chain of sound including the very fingers of the musician, the guitar, the cables, the modeler itself, and the amp or speaker that it’s connected to. That means that presets will often not work particularly well just out of the box without tweaking, as there are too many variables external to the modeler.

Changing those presets however is another story–that’s an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest thing to tweak the deep details of each setting. You will need the manual. While changing basic stuff like amps or using the 3-band EQ is a simple twist of a knob, changing certain attributes, for example presence, requires a contortion of simultaneously pressed buttons and twisted knobs or multiple buttons. This is completely non-intuitive, and something that can not be easily inferred from the device itself without the manual.

This is really no worse than the competition from the POD, but that doesn’t make it any easier to use. Still, there’s only so much space on such a small device, and I must concede that I can’t think of a much better solution with a limited budget. I would advise using the software to do as much of the editing as you can, and only doing small tweaks with the device itself when necessary. Unfortunately, this does mean an additional purchase of a MIDI in/out device for your computer (preferably USB or firewire so you can carry with you along with your laptop).

The V-amp is shaped somewhat like the body of a guitar; that means lots of curves. If you use straight connectors on your 1/4″ cables, you should have no problem with this, but if you prefer right angle plugs, you may find that the curves leave your cables in a bit of an awkward position. Cables will still fit, but they may be angled in a direction that is not your preference.

The software is usable and necessary, but really not great either.

Though the included footswitch might hint at live use, it’s not really for use in any real setting. The footswitch has two buttons: up and down. These two buttons change channels, but only within a bank. This puts a severe limitation on your flexibility of switching sounds within a song, and in all practicality this is not something I would want to do on a real gig without another foot controller. You also basically need an expression pedal just to control volume with precision. It might be just barely passable for a little home studio work though if you don’t have it on a desk.

Sound

The sound is for the most part decent, rivalling the POD. While there is a distinct “V-Amp sound” for many of the sounds (especially overdriven), I do prefer the V-Amp. The “V-Amp sound” is a bit scooped, focusing on the highs a bit more than the mids. It’s hard to quite explain since with a 3-band EQ you could easily boost the mid more, but there’s just that bit of a sparkle which accentuates the highs. This has both positives and negatives. While it’s difficult to get really smooth tubey organic tones, there’s an edge to cleans that I like. That edge also lends itself well to heavily driven rhythm parts perhaps grunge/alternative. It’s also good for more artificial sounding tones for you fans of Satriani and the like. I’ve found it difficult to find a great TS-style overdrive solo tone though. It just feels like the tone lacks a bit in the areas of substance and depth.

Still, the V-Amp does provide you with a sizable palette of sounds. The majority of which are quite usable. Just don’t expect them to be exactly like that Marshall you’ve been drooling after. While the tones are modeled after real amps and the results are good, ultimately the sound is rarely exactly the same as of those modeled.

There is a short delay when switching channels. This is unfortunate, but really Behringer’s implementation is better than Line 6’s POD at least. With the POD there is a complete cut of sound when switching patches, with the V-Amp, there is a brief pause inbetween, but effects like delay carry on. This helps maintain some continuity of sound.

Some of the patches/amps are somewhat noisy at high gain. While noise is to be expected in these situations, I’ve found that the V-Amp’s in certain cases is significantly worse than that of the POD’s. Still, this is not with every amp or at every gain level, so it’s possible to avoid this with a little care.

Quality

The construction is ok though the knobs feel a bit cheap; still the casing is reasonably solid. It’s very thick plastic, not metal, so it just doesn’t have that heft of quality that the POD does, but it should hold up OK. The foot controller on the other hand is a tank with metal casing and has sturdy (though plastic) switches. The bag is of passable quality for what it is. It’s padded, with reasonable quality zippers. The carrying strap does not seem amazingly strong and has plastic loops, but is probably sturdy enough to last a while seeing as it really doesn’t carry a lot of weight.

Unfortunately, the software used to modify patches is mediocre. Line 6’s Gearbox is worlds better, primarily around ease of use. Behringer’s is also tied to regular sized fonts, which leads to problems for those using large fonts (quite common if you use a high resolution screen).

Value

Make no mistake, this is a budget modeler, but considering the low price (just under $100), the Behringer V-Amp 2 is not a bad buy by any means. Just keep in mind what your intended use for the device is. If you are interested in live use, I would recommend careful consideration of better options.

Conclusion

Behringer’s V-Amp 2 is a great first amp modeler, especially if you’re in the market for something for use on the desk or just to get your feet wet. It provides you with a variety of decent tones at an uncontestedly low price.

External Links

zZounds has it for $99.99 (Dec. 4, 2006)

Behringer’s Web Site

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~ by audioreviewer on December 3, 2006.

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