There once was a time when Crate amps were considered, to loosely quote Billy Corgan, “The amp your mom bought you when she was too cheap to buy you a real amp.” Those days are long, long gone, with a long list of high profile endorsers including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, the late great Bo Diddley, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid, Sammy Hagar, Ministry’s Mike Scaccia and Al Jourgenson, and pedal steel virtuoso Robert Randolph. My first real amp was a Crate GT-200H, a very cool hybrid head with 2 valve and 2 solid state channels. Yngwie Malmsteen used to advertise the combo version as his practice amp, so there ya go.
NUTS AND BOLTS
The V33 is a world away from Crate’s more metal-toned offerings. To a certain degree, the V33 might remind some players of another well-known amp with an association to the letter ‘V’. It’s a 33 watt, all valve Class A amp with four 12AX7 preamp valves. One 12AX7 greets the guitar signal pretty much right there at the input jack; two operate on the clean channel, and another is added when you select the overdrive channel. There are two more 12AX7s following the spring reverb and effects loop. The V33 has two 12” speakers fed by a power section running on four EL84 cathode biased output valves.
The EQ section is shared by both the clean and overdrive channels. There’s a Boost button to engage a 10dB boost at 900Hz for adding more guts to the midrange, and a presence button which provides some extra sparkle.
The effects send can be used as a line out, and the effect return jack can be used as a power amp insert, so you can use an external preamp or modeller instead if you wish.
The manual deserves a lot of praise for containing a very detailed article about valves – what they are, how they work, and how to care for them. It’s a great read, and the writer resists the urge to get too techy, without dumbing things down either.
PUT DOWN THE MANUAL, GEEK BOY
Time to put down the manual and crank this baby up. The clean channel has a great sparkle, giving way to a satisfyingly hot chunk when cranked up. The gain level never quite makes it to distortion territory even when pushed. Instead there’s a chimey, almost acoustic character which is ideal for blues, jazz, indie and country styles – especially with a slapback delay in the effect loop. The overdrive channel has a warm, slightly mushy compression which seems to love single coil pickups for a bit of Hendrix growl. Humbuckers give the amp a more fusion-ish tone. The gain never quite gets out of control, but this is an amp for more refined players who need to hear exotic intervals and careful note articulation, rather than a box of doom for metal monsters.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This amp is a great option for those who dwell on the lighter side of rock, the heavier side of jazz, right smack bang in the middle of the blues, or country players who need some meat for solos but require a rhythm channel that can take a spankin’ from a Telecaster.
33 Watts RMS
Class A, 4 x EL84 output tubes, 4 x 12AX7 preamp tubes
2 x 12″ speakers