Mark Baier launched the Victoria Amplifier Company in 1993, intent on reproducing the tones and aesthetic style of the great tweed amps of the late 1950s. He began twisting these classic designs into exciting variations that still pay homage to Leo.
One example of this new direction is the Regal II, a vintage-Valco-meets-Fender-inspired amp with unique features for the tone tweaker.
A variable-output (5 to 35 watts) Class A, cathode-biased, dual single-ended amp, the Regal II’s circuit uses Reverb and Tremolo, both defeatable via an optional footswitch. The stock tube complement includes a 5U4GB, a pair of 5881s, three 12AX7Cs, and a 12AT7 for driving the reverb tank. Speaker options include a Custom Weber VST 15″ Alnico, an Eminence Legend 15″, and Celestion’s Gold 12″.
The amp’s control panel is dressed with cream-colored chickenhead knobs that control Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Speed, and Intensity. There’s also a standby switch labeled Run/Yield, and the prerequisite On/Off switch. The Regal II has a solid pine cab covered in blond Tolex (or optional lacquered tweed), and in characteristic “vintage with a twist” style, Baier offers a “TV-front” cabinet with an early-’60s-style Tolex covering.
Inside, the Regal II’s wiring is a work of art, with clean routing, Allen Bradley resistors, and custom Orange Drop caps. The heart of the Regal II is its adaptive transformer, which allows it to use one, two, or mismatched power tubes to create myriad tones without having to re-bias. The tube-swapping madness is possible because each tube reacts to its own transformer winding and bias resistor. The bi-filar OT design makes it possible to employ any combination of octal-based tubes, including a 6L6/6V6 combination. The tube rectifier can also be swapped for any common five-volt rectifier, such as the 5Y3, 5U4, and 5AR4.
With the stock Tung Sol tubes, lower volume and tone settings produce classic Fender blackface-like highs and lows, while the midrange response is more tweed-style. And the solid pine cab is nicely resonant.
Turning the volume past 3 with a humbucker-equipped PRS Swamp Ash Special (past 4 with a single-coil Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster), the amp moves to a more overdriven tone. And as sweet as it is, the Regal II also exhibited Fender Pro-like overdriven tones with somewhat limited headroom. Rolling the volume up produces narrow-panel tweed Pro sounds.
For most players serious enough to invest in a hand-wired boutique amp with a “tweakable” design, instinct will demand they take advantage. Doing so with the Regal II reveals a pleasant surprise in that the tone of the amp does not significantly change, but headroom does! Swapping the stock 5881s for a pair of new-old-stock JAN Phillips 6L6s produced a noticeably greater clean headroom. A pair of EL34s added a bit of a British flair, but more importantly to us, low-end response was tightened at higher volume settings. With 6V6s, the amp again took another turn with lower headroom, more mids, and a bit more compression.
Trying the various (seemingly mismatched) combinations of 6L6, 5881, EL34, and 6V6s produced unique tones every time, though all shared a “layered” effect. To use a sci-fi analogy, it was like an episode of “Star Trek” where two characters are combined in a transporter incident. Or like playing through two amps at the same time, but instead of being beside each other, they somehow coexisted in the same spot. For example, with the 5881/EL34 paring, the tones became more complex, but to a certain degree they also lost some of their individual ability to bring forth a new tone. But that’s part of the uniqueness of the amp. How many amps can combine an EL34 with a 6V6?
Overall, the Victoria Regal II is impressive because it’s a tube-swapping tone-tweaker’s dream come true, and produces a fantastic mix of pre-CBS Fender tones.
Victoria amplifier co. regal
Contact Victoria Amp Company, 1504 Newman Court, Naperville, IL 60564 ; phone (630) 820-6400; victoriaamp.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s January 2008 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.
Victoria Regal II Amplifier