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Ears in my stomach for the VHT Pittbull 50CL

Updated on January 24, 2012

Growling Pittbulls

VHT Pittbull 50 head
VHT Pittbull 50 head

Hey. Welcome to the home of the AmpMan. A man in pursuit of tone.

I’ve been blasting the padded walls off my London dungeon - well, the cellar of a south London terraced house - doing Jack White and the White Stripes on my latest, utterly fantastic toy. Actually, I think my Marshall sounds better than Jack's spongey Fender amps , but that is a personal TONE thing ‘cos I take my hat off to Mr White, I really do. The man from Detroit has the potential to be the Bob Dylan of his generation, and even better because he rocks heavy.

I’m not sure yet if my Marshall 6101LM really needs the two pedals I’m playing around with, a Little Big Muff and Micro Pog which are both made by Electro Harmonix. These are fantastic in their own right and central to Jack White’s pedal board along with a Digitech Wammy pedal. The Muff is a sound that has been around for a long time, legend has it Hendrix was involved in giving it the correct tone, and it has been recorded loads of times.

That’s good enough for me.

The Micro Pog is an interesting little brother to the full POG. This Polyphonic Octave Generator gives you the option of an octave up or an octave down of what you’re playing and everything in between. It gives you a great base line and it can even make your guitar sound like an organ - not my thing, being an old punk I’m into a different sort of grinding. But the pitching is perfect and there is no delay.

I’m mucking around, blasting the big power chords, tempting disaster by edging the volume up a bit more on the Crunch channel. Truth be told, I’m enjoying it more without any pedals at all. The Marshall doesn’t need it.

That's allowed. I am a middle aged guy having fun.

Before I found this beauty on Ebay and had my head turned inside out, I believed I had already found the TONE I was looking for. I was wrong. Very close, but wrong.

My previous amp was an American head, the VHT Pittbull 50 watt CL that I played through a VHT fat bottom 2x12 closed back cab, absolute best build quality, USA boutique build, hand made in California. The original Eminance speakers were upgraded with two Mesa Celestion 90w speakers as in the Mesa Rectifier fat bottom cab, wired 16 ohms. Sounded awesome. Easily as big as a 4x12 with a huge bottom end.

Hand built in the USA can only be a good thing. I loved the Pittbull and if I could afford it I would have kept it as well as having my Marshall. Since Steve Fryette sold the brand name these VHT’s are destined to be collectors items. I reckon it could be the best 50 amp head out there. It has two channels, with everything from clean to searing lead sounds, and can be ran class A or AB. It also, some say, has the best FX loop in the world.

Versatile, not for Metal though IMO, with 2 channels, each with switchable boost, "edge" & "shift" to basically subdue or enhance gain on mid/high frequencies, gain & volume, mid bass and treble controls. Also Master volume, presence and "depth" controls, a "voicing" button, switchable series/parallel fx loop, class A/AB switchable, switchable 2xEL34 or 6l6’s , (I had Sveltlana EL34s) plus four 12ax7 preamp tubes (Sovteks here). No reverb, didn’t bother me too much, cos the sound is fat…if you have ever played one you know what I mean.

On my Gibson SG Standard, using "Green" channel cleaner/more classic sounding than more modern, aggressive "Red" channel, I'd set Green channel treble past 3 o'clock, gain low with volume/master volume set fairly high. This can result in startlingly clean tones verging on blistering. Not Fenderish clean but more somewhere between Marshall and Vox .

The amp got better as it got hotter! Reminded me of when we were teenagers putting t-shirts over the amps to warm up the valves to max before a gig.

But that little Pittbull was a screamer and I enjoyed gigging with it.

Here's the philosophical bit I have been getting round to. It is such a subjective thing, finding the right sound from an amp. Getting it out of your head and, I like to say, into the real world. I sometimes think the best ears we have are hidden away in the pit of the stomach cos that is where I feel the noise. That’s where the Master volume control is, for sure. In many respects, this search is very much like life itself and I often ponder the variations of sounds and why individuals have the rainbow of preferences as I enjoy a coffee in my local Starbucks (I like it black, by the way).

Thinking of the smell of coffee now reminds me of another thing. I love the smell of hot amps. Who doesn’t? Chanel should bottle it.

The VHT amps are great, there is no doubt. And quite an extensive range is going to please a lot of people. But the growling Pittbull was not - ultimately - brutal enough for me.


Sound Quality: 9

AmpMan Recommends: Play it hard. Exercise regularly. Love it well.


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