We’ve used and tried dozens of amps over the years at KGR, and while it’s always nice getting to play with high end gear, sometimes it’s also a lot of fun to check out the more conservatively priced gear to find out how it stacks up, and that’s precisely what we’re doing today, as in this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, we’ll be reviewing the Bugera V22 Infinium.
It’s available as a 1×12” combo, or a separate head, but in this review we looked at the combo.
Bugera isn’t a huge name, in fact, it’s a subsidiary brand of budget gear giants, Behringer. We’ve been impressed with a lot of the Behringer gear we’ve reviewed to date, but will we be as pleased with this low cost tube amp? Keep reading to find out.
Who Is This For?
The Bugera V22 Infinium is aimed at players of all levels. For beginners and students, it’s a great entry point into the world of all-tube amps. With 22 watts of all tube power, it’s powerful enough to use for band practice and maybe small gigs, but tame enough that you can use it for practice at home, too.
For intermediate to advanced players, it makes a great low cost alternative to something like a Marshall DSL20CR, or a Fender ’64 Custom Deluxe Reverb. For under $500, you get a really dynamic amp that you won’t get too stressed about damaging on the road.
Appearance / Features / Controls
Initial impressions of the Bugera V22 were great. The Front fascia is quite striking with its large cream panel, and nicely designed logo. The overall aesthetic screams vintage, and despite the low price, the design holds up well.
On the back of the amp there were some finish issues. Nothing that affected the sound in any way, but small touches like the transformers being mounted at angles and a little bit of peeling Tolex.
The overall structure of the cabinet is really sturdy. The specs don’t state what it’s made from, but it’s more than likely made from particle board. At 42 lb it’s not light weight, but it’s still portable, and the carry handle was surprisingly comfortable.
It’s equipped with a single 12” speaker from Turbosound. It’s a brand that is more widely known for their loudspeakers and subwoofers, but from what we could see from the back of the cabinet, it looks well made, and it was mounted securely. The sticker on the back is somewhat misleading however – it states it was designed and engineered in England, but closer inspection then lets you know it was manufactured in China.
The control panel has off white dials with EQ controls for the normal and bright channels, as well as master volume control, presence, and reverb dials.
The master volume control allows you to crank up the gain to get the saturated tube distortion and maintain realistic bedroom volume levels. Reverb adds texture to your sound, and the presence control looks after the treble response from the power amp, which in effect lets you add to the top end after you’ve dialed in your tone via the preamp EQ.
We started the review with clean tones at bedroom levels. We were really pleased with the overall responsiveness of the amp at low volume – not every tube amp can manage that, with many needing more gain to saturate the tubes before coming alive. Even at louder volumes we found that it behaved predictably, which leads us to believe it would be a great amp for cleans in a studio.
We found that the V22 had tons of headroom, which did translate into excellent pedal handling. We plugged straight into the front input, and also into the effects loop on the back, and were impressed by the tones in both cases.
Once the 3 12AX7 preamp tubes and the 2 EL84 power tubes were properly warmed up, we started to crank up the gain. Where this amp really shines is with crunchy rock and roll tones. We got a lot of really ear pleasing breakup, without any hint of muddiness. We also found that it even works well for metal. With the gain maxed and the boost function on, the distortion was enough to get the amp chugging without the need for any pedals.
The Turbosound speaker isn’t the most responsive to changes in attack when being pushed hard with high gain, but with an upgrade to a more metal focused speaker (if that’s what you want to use it for), this amp will be a beast.
When playing with others, we found that the presence dial really assisted helping the amp to cut through a mix without having to adjust the EQ we already had dialed in. It’s a common feature on Marshall and Blackstar amps, and it was welcome on the Bugera.
Bugera even included a footswitch with the V22, which was really nice to see, especially considering the price. It’s a simple, sturdy feeling unit that controls reverb and channel switching.
Other Amps to Consider
If the Bugera V22 Infinium isn’t quite what you’re looking for, there are some great alternatives on the market worth your consideration:
Like the Bugera, this Fender is a 1×12” combo amp, although at 20 watts it has slightly less power. The reduced power isn’t too much of an issue, however, as it’s noticeably louder than the V22. Not only is it louder, but the cleans are cleaner, and the high gain sounds are gnarlier, but then again at 6 times the price, that’s to be expected. The Custom Reverb is the go to for studio engineers and working musicians alike, with its tried and tested reliability, amazing tones, and peerless build quality.
If you’re looking for something grittier than both the Bugera and the Fender Custom Reverb, then Marshall is the way to go, specifically the DSL20CR. This is similarly powered to the V22 at 20 watts, and also features a single 12” speaker. It’s only marginally more expensive than the Bugera, but it’s undeniably better equipped, with a Jensen speaker, and Softube cab emulation that allows for direct line out recording. Of course, it offers the signature Marshall crunch, but it also cleans up beautifully, and its ability to retain high gain tones at bedroom volumes is a huge plus.
Is the Bugera V22 Infinium a giant killer? Maybe not, but should that stop you from buying one? We think, no. There are very few sub $500 tube amps in this kind of power range, so to get those genuine, organic valve tones at such a low price of entry is pretty phenomenal, and we think with a simple speaker upgrade, this amp could sound as good as examples that cost twice as much.