Texture switch for
with the flexibility to generate British tones
via the EL34/84 option.
To further adjust the output, the main
panel includes a wattage control that
descends to less than one watt for practice
situations, as well as a pentode/standby/tri-ode switch that reduces the output by about
half when in triode mode. Depth and tone
knobs adjust low- and high-end response,
and a texture switch allows further adjustment to the 12/20’s high-frequency roll-off
point. Vibrato and reverb controls offer a
little extra adjustment power as well, with
a slow/fast switch for the vibrato speed and
a deep reverb position, accessed by pulling
up the knob. A single volume knob with
footswitchable pull-boost tops off a full, but
well laid-out array of controls.
All the pedal excitement happens around
back, where you’ll find a 9V DC jack for
powering pedals, and a level-adjustable
effects loop. Footswitch, line out, and
speaker output jacks complete this ample
collection of input and output delights. It’s
a feature surplus, for sure, but I found that
the amp’s ease of use was excellent, and its
fine overall build quality left nothing on
this VHT seeming like an afterthought.
That Special Feeling
With the 12/20 in pentode mode, I plugged
in a Strat and got loose with some scratchy
Jimmy Nolen funk rhythms. I was getting
nice dynamics and touch sensitivity, with
plenty of warmth on the Strat’s middle pick-
up, having turned the depth control fully
clockwise for maximum low-end extension.
At 12 watts, I was getting similar headroom
to a Princeton Reverb, clean to about ¾ of
the way up. With the volume knob maxed
out, the amp’s breakup character was very
close to a vintage Fender flavor as well—
scooped, but with perhaps slightly more
midrange emphasis. With the footswitch, I
kicked on a touch of the 12/20’s cavernous
tube reverb, giving some acoustic energy to
a gritty three-dimensional single-coil sound
with a deep, crisp bottom and sweet, but
cutting high-end harmonics. From barking
Stones-like stabs to chimey country leads, I
could get a variety of convincing American
tones by working the guitar’s volume knob.
Harmonic complexity was nearly as good as
my vintage Champ, but I only noticed the
slight deficit when switching quickly back
and forth between the two.
If you’re looking for a versatile tone
machine voiced mainly for cleans and tasty
vintage Fender-combo breakup, the 12/20
RT needs your attention. Being warm and
sweet, it’s probably a little friendlier to
single-coil guitars, though I found many
great tones with my Les Paul after a bit
of searching. VHT was smart to retain a
pure single-channel design, as it gives you a
solid foundation to expand on, should you
choose to do so. It offers classic amp essences with convenient features that even purists
would have a hard time ignoring, especially
considering the price.
Special 12/20 RT
Street: $649 (head) or $749 (combo)
Ease of Use
Solid vintage combo tone. Excellent pedal
friendliness. Simple output adjustments.
Slightly too warm for darker guitars. Weight.
Clean tones could be more complex.