Part of Victoria’s Tribute Amp line, the Ivy League 1x10 combo is based on the Fender Harvard amplifier with its 5F10 circuit, which was offered between 1956 and 1961 in a few different configurations. Victoria’s Mark Baier has had a ton of success with inspired designs based on Leo Fender’s brilliant blueprint, but does the Ivy League have valedictorian aspirations, or is it in for an Animal House-style hazing? Well, if the immaculate cabinet and circuit construction is any indication how the Ivy League sounds, it’s going to be straight As all the way down. The beautifully lacquered tweed is applied flawlessly to the lightweight solid pine cabinet, while the butt-simple circuit is equally neat, with American-made components methodically laid out inside the folded-metal chassis. As Baier points out, the 6AT6 tube is unique to this circuit. Essentially one-half of a 12AX7, the 6AT6 has a gain of 70, which makes it akin to a 5751, which is a smoother, tamer version of the 12AX7.
Seeing as how the Fender Harvard is purportedly the amp behind the classic Memphis sound of the ’50s and ’60s (i.e. Steve Cropper) I plugged my Telecaster into the Ivy League’s input 1, turned the Volume and Tone controls halfway up, and let ’er rip.
What I heard was velvety bark, much like an old tweed amp, but with a slicing note definition and a subtle hint of shimmering top end instead of the usual tweed brownness. When I dug in with a pick, squawking lead lines moved to the head of the class with a three-dimensional clarity that managed to stick around even when I plugged in a Gibson SG—no easy feat considering I didn’t nudge the amp’s Tone control one iota. The Ivy League starts to give up the real grindy goods a bit past halfway up, yielding rich sustain with humbuckers and single-coil equipped guitars. As amazingly complex as the treble and midrange frequencies are, Victoria deserves honors for making an amp that can be cranked to give up the goods enough for sustained solos, while maintaining a wonderfully taught, yet very abundant low end. And even with the Tone control cranked, the treble frequencies are ultra-musical. Unreal! It’s exactly this kind of musicality that makes the 14-watt Ivy League a viable choice for small to medium gigs, without being miked up. It simply sounds together, with tons of projection, yet it will still retain clean dynamics when you turn your guitar’s volume control down.
You can find a plethora of tones from the Ivy League by merely adjusting your picking and/or chord voicings—it’s that touch sensitive. Also, inputs 2 and 3 offer progressively less gain and are a little darker sounding as well, making them useful for applications where more clean headroom is needed.
For a handmade American tone machine that is built to last, the Ivy League is a nobrainer. The bucks-to-tone ratio is such that you will never regret the investment. In fact, every time you crank up the Ivy League and kerrang with a funky-ass chord stab, you’ll probably be overjoyed that you bought it.
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