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Diezel VH4 100W Head

10th March 2004

From the outset, let me make two points about the Diezel VH4 - One, that it's hellishly expensive.  Secondly, it is one of the finest guitar amplifiers I have heard.  Whether the two points balance each other out is up to you to decide when you try one for yourself.

The VH4 is a striking looking piece of equipment, with it's black front panel grille and diagonally positioned channel controls.  It looks loud, it looks classy, it looks like it would take no prisoners.  It lives up to it's looks on all counts.  A word I found myself using repeatedly during my session with the VH4 was "wow".  Before I talk about the sound of the unit, let me briefly describe the internals of this beast.  I was lucky enough to have Rob Sanges (Diezel's man in Oz) open up a Diezel head for my inspection, and I got a first-hand look at what makes these amps tick.

At first glance, it is obvious that no expense has been spared, no corners cut in producing a top quality piece of equipment.  Every component is of the highest standard, from the valves and transformers to the wiring, and each unit is hand assembled in Munich to rigorous specs.  This all explains some of the price tag, which I'm getting to.  The construction is flawless - every wire is in place, every solder joint is perfect, and the more sensitive components are buffered against damage by the latest circuitry.  Very cleanly put together, with the manufacturer's pride in his product evident in every connection and joint.

Okay, so what does it sound like?  Well, this is where more use of the word "wow" comes in.  I found that what I was reviewing here was more like four amps, not one. Each of the four channels on the VH4 has it's own dedicated preamp, tubes and all, so there is no compromise with tone or gain settings.  The clean channel gave me a wide variety of sounds, from smooth and mellow to sharp and glassy.  The gain and tone controls were responsive, with an even taper that felt and sounded great. The first two channels have additional bright switches, adding to the already impressive tone controls. These channels, when played around with, yielded a range of clean and gritty sounds from shimmering to chunky.  The second channel could also be driven harder to get a very contemporary sounding rhythm sound.

Channels three and four were where the Diezel started getting scary.  Channel three starts out smooth and mellow, and then gains out to produce a flat out saturated distortion worthy of any metalmeister.  The Presence and Deep controls in the master section of the amp really come into their own here, allowing you to fill out or tighten up the overall bottom end of the sound, or brighten the top end to add a little more cut.  A thing I noticed right away was the sensitivity of the VH4.  Every nuance and inflection was reproduced clearly, allowing great subtlety of expression, as well as showing up any flaws in the player's technique (to my chagrin).

Channel four starts out heavy and gets heavier, but with amazing clarity.  The super saturated overdrive tones used in today's nu-metal is right there, with the definition needed to prevent the sound bottoming out and turning to mush.  The Diezel really needs to be heard to be believed, as words fall a little short of describing what a monster it is.  The amps are in short supply world wide, which says quite a bit, considering the hefty price tag.

Apparently people are more than willing to part with the cash to get the sound afforded by this unit.

With individual buffered FX loops for each channel as well as a master loop, the VH4 can easily become the 'brain' of an involved amp set-up featuring lots of external units.  A thought I had while playing through the amp was that it would be the perfect amp for a recording studio, given its sound and versatility.  The additional features and specs of the Diezel VH4 head can be found on the Diezel website (http://www.diezel.ch/), although at the moment the site only offers German text, with some descriptions in English.  Nonetheless, it's worth a look. Oh, yes - the price tag.... Suffice it to say that the Diezel VH4 retails for over USD$4000. You do the math. Having said that, I must also say that some people will hear the amp and decide that it's worth the investment!

Graham Greene

 

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