Richard Beech puts the new Orange VT1000 Valve Tester through its paces, a product which gives guitarists the opportunity to test the degradation levels of the valves in their amplifier, with a number of useful upshots...
On the surface, the Orange VT1000 Valve Tester is a one trick pony, it tests valves! But that's a big, BIG thing. Previously, you would have to take your amp to the amp doctor for a check up to see if all the components were up to scratch, including the valves.
A consumer-friendly accessory for testing the degradation levels of valves just wasn't on the market, and even if you're thinking 'why would I even want to test my valves?', there are a lot of upshots from this.
First of all, after you've successfully removed the valves from your amp without electrocuting yourself (there is a wealth of knowledge online about this) you can see if all of the paired valves in your amp are matched properly.
If you've got a pair of EL84s in your power stage, you'll probably want them to be matched. Two valves of the same age and installed at the same time can still degrade at different rates.
If one is in 'worse' condition than the other, this would mean that it breaks up quicker than its partner, and would give you more distortion at a lower volume than its partner.
Of course it's not entirely essential for the tubes to be matched in this way, but if one is degrading much faster than the other, it's probably a good idea to replace it anyway.
But here's the smart part, if you've gone through a lot of valves in your life, and if you've kept them in a little collection in your garage... (we all do it), then you can use the valve tester to match old tubes to each other.
If you're playing a gig in a small pub and you know that you'll struggle to get high gain out of your amp at low volumes, you can pick a set of tubes with higher degradation and they'll break up at lower volumes.
The Orange VT1000 runs 20 separate tests on a valve when you turn it on, and then gives you a rating out of 15.
The whole unit feels substantially well-built, and you tell the unit which type of valve its testing by using the up and down buttons and scrolling until you select the right valve from the list printed on the unit.
It's really easy to use, and for something that costs £349, if you have a large amp collection, or if you just want to ensure you are getting the best possible tone out your amp, then it's a decent purchase.
A car is pretty useless without a good set of tyres (as we've seen in F1 so far this season), and your amp just won't be up to full potential with valves that are severely unmatched or severely degraded.
I think the VT1000 will be divisive, in that some people just won't have a need to use it often enough to warrant the price tag, and that group of people might not be fans of the new accessory.
But I think there will also be a large group of people who will think the VT1000 is one of the best things since sliced bread, and alongside the Orange DIVO OV4, Orange now have a small collection of valve accessories which allow you to experiment not only with tubes with different degradation levels, but also completely different types of tube.
With the OV4, you could run your amp on pretty much any combination of power valves. Bored of your 6L6s? Use the VT1000 to test the wear and tear on a set of EL84s you've got knocking around, and if they match up and they're up to scratch, use the DIVO OV4 to fit them.
It's difficult to give a subjective opinion on the VT1000, it's not like an amplifier in that some people will like the sound of it and some people won't. It's an accessory that does one job, and is very useful to have in your arsenal. If you're going to find it useful, it's well worth the price tag, if you won't find it useful, then don't buy it!
Review by Richard BeechMore News: Like This