Thrash Hits

February 2nd, 2010

Gear: Diezel VH4 guitar amplifier

In the first of a new regular series of supremely heavy equipment, Amit Sharma rocks and rolls his way over the amp that James bloody Hetfield’s guitar noise calls home. It’s not a massive surprise that he enjoyed playing it.

diezel vh4 guitar amplifier review thrash hits

What the fuck – designer jeans?

No, not at all. Diezel are a boutique amplifier manufacturer based in Germany that specialise in hand wired high-gain valve amps, designed for the modern guitarist that wants something with more dirt than Dino Cazares’ porn collection.

Founded in 1994 by Peter Diezel, a German chap with a very cool surname, these amps have slowly become more and more used by the heavy metal elite – counting the likes of James Hetfield, Adam Jones and even Matt Bellamy as endorsees. To be honest, if you happen to front a band called Metallica, every brand out there will golden-shower you with the very best of their products, and the fact that old Jimmy trusts in these speaks volumes (literally).

So what’s this VH4 malarkey?

The VH4 is Diezel’s flagship model, and boasts four channels each with individual equalization, volume and gain controls at 100 trouser flapping Watts. These heads also feature full Midi switching, serial / parallel loops and channel inserts to add pedals specifically for each channel.

At first look it’s a bit of a spaceship, bearing in mind you’re staring at twenty five knobs, eight push-pull LED switches, two toggles as well as the power and standby controls. And that’s just the front of it! But once you get over the innovative diagonal control design, it’s pretty straightforward…

Watch some German (?) dude doing awesome shit with a guitar, some pedals and a Diezel VH4

Let’s hear it then…

For this test we’re using a 2004 Gibson Les Paul Custom with Bare Knuckle Mule pickups going straight into the VH4 head, which is hooked up to the Diezel 4X12 Cabinet rear loaded with Hempcone speakers.

As usual, Channel 1 is the pure clean channel – and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s going to be pretty generic and lifeless on such a heavy metal über-amplifier. Wrong! This channel is very responsive and rich in harmonics, and sounds quite close to the crystal clear cleans Fender amps are renowned for. With the preamp gain on nearly full whack you start getting more punch than Jean-Claude Van Damme’s filmography and some nice compression from the ECC83 tubes.

Channel 2 is pretty much blues city, and once again really nails that juicy Texas crunch one would normally associate with Fender amps: perfect for jamming out ZZ Top, Hendrix or SRV licks. As the gain goes up, it starts sounding like a Blues Deluxe on steroids or the cranked Marshall Plexis used on early Classic Rock recordings.

Pretty darn good so far, but Channel 3 is going to be the real test – is it going to be good enough to warrant spending over two grand on? In a word – yes. This channel is like every rock / metal guitarist’s wet dream, just not so messy…
From the moment you strum that generic opening A chord, the amp just screams with shitloads of low end held tighter than a nuns. With the gain on 4 and EQ relatively flat at 12’o clock, you can easily find yourself in 80’s heaven chugging along to Bark At The Moon or Welcome To The Jungle; and rolling the gain down to 2 provides a crispier crunch for those AC/DC riffs. This came as a bit of a surprise, as these amps are more associated with ultra high gain players such as Munky (from Korn) and Buckethead, but in reality this amp excels in all areas.

Notching the gain up to 6 and cutting the mids down to 2 will take you to über metal filthdom for that scooped sound exemplified by the late, great Dimebag Darrell. The evil riffs of Pantera, Megadeth or Anthrax come to life on this setting: sounding as tight, explosive and in your face as they do on record.

Dare one venture even further on the gain control and things now hit ultra chug Meshuggah-like territory Something truly remarkable about the VH4 is that even at such high gain, the amp is amazingly quiet and noise free… most amps that attempt getting this metal usually squeal like a demented pig in between the notes played. At this stage the low end is literally earth shattering, and if you’re the kind of sick bastard that gets off on that – you’ll be even more glad to know that there is also a Deep dial on the master controls. Your neighbours will think Satan is having a miscarriage in there, and chances are there will be a SWAT team waiting for you outside – but it’s all for a good cause.

Believe it or not, there is another channel that gets even heavier – though most riffage and chords will sound too rumbly and flabby through it. Channel 4 is the lead channel, and ideally there for a boost in gain or volume for those shred guitar solos, complimented by its own EQ controls (as well as effects loop). In all honesty, a real guitar player wouldn’t need this kind of gain to shred – you would never catch the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen or Paul Gilbert using this much distortion – but we’re not all born the same, so this gives those less fortunate a chance to get laid too.

Worth it?

In a nutshell, this amp is more ballsy than having a dangerwank at work the minute before your boss is due to come over and take you to a meeting. It’s the kind of investment that would be likely to lead to regular police visits about noise pollution in your area. But if you are after a truly outstanding hand wired amp that boasts unheard of versatility and pure class tone all round, the Diezel VH4 will definitely be worth counting those pennies for…

Pros: Heavy as fuck. Loud as fuck. Versatile as fuck. Boutique sound.
Cons: Heavy as fuck (28kg). Boutique price tag (hide receipt from loved one to prevent moaning).

Rating: 6/6

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Price: £2325 (head), £1085 (cabinet)
Website: Diezel.co.uk

Power: 100 Watt
Outputs: 1 for 16ohm load, 2 for 2 16ohm or 1 8ohm loads, and 2 for 2 8ohm or 1 4ohm loads
Channels: 4 independent channels
Tone Sculpting: Each channel has treble, middle & bass. Channels 1 & 2 each have a bright switch. Master presence & deep
Loops: Serial, mixable parallel and midi switchable. Insert effects loop per channel
Midi: Midi in & thru (phantom power). Midi pedal not included
Tubes: Preamp ECC83 – Poweramp EL34
Dimensions: 74 x 29 x 28.5cm
Weight: 28kg

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