Nick Jennison reviews Victory Amplification’s The Sheriff 25 head. Delivering the same searing British-style tone as its renowned Sheriff predecessors in a lunchbox-sized package—this amp boasts 25 watts of all-tube tone, with a dual-channel design and sweeping sonic versatility. First up is the Vintage channel, which, as you might expect, provides vintage-style British grit and chime, packed with plenty of gain on tap. However, suppose the Vintage channel isn’t aggressive enough for you. In that case, the secondary Hot Rod channel supercharges The Sheriff 25 into a scorching '80s-inspired high-gain machine perfect for screaming lead tones. Let's find out more.
As much as Victory Amps is probably best known for their much-beloved clean platform, the Duchess, or their high-gain monster, The Kraken, Victory’s story started with a plexi. Martin Kidd’s plexi, to be precise. Subject to countless modifications over the years, this is the amp that sired the circuit designs for a great number of Victory amps (and Cornford amps before them!).
In 2016, the Victory Sheriff was born - a love-letter to British “gold panel” amps of the 1960s, and their steroidal-modded offspring from the 1980s. Available in 22 and 44 watt configurations, these amps sounded the absolute business. They were also pretty idiosyncratic (like the amps they were inspired by) and even a little confusing. The two channels were accessed via two different inputs, one of which doubled as a footswitch input; the effects loop was positioned before the overdriving phase inverter, so it was difficult to get a solo boost; the tone stack affected the amount of gain available.
Fast forward to 2023, and the release of the Sheriff 25 and 100. These amps boast the same era-spanning palate of British rock and blues tones, but with a more modern design philosophy. Gone are the multiple inputs, in favour of a simple front panel channel switch and a dedicated footswitch input around the back. The effects loop has been re-designed to be cleaner and higher headroom, meaning your reverbs and delays will stay pristine, and you can easily use a pedal to boost your solos - not that you’ll need to, since there are also two footswitchable master volumes.
The Sheriff 25 is the simpler of the two new Sheriffs, coming in Victory’s familiar “compact” head format (but also as a 1x12 combo) and sporting two channels. The “Vintage” channel is, as its name would suggest, a ‘60s style tone that can get very clean, but can also get up into Free or Led Zeppelin kind of territory. It has a very well-balanced frequency response that feel somewhere in between the two inputs of a typical Super Lead (which are usually either too bright or too dark) and retains its punchy and bouncy character even at higher gain settings.
The “Hot Rod” channel is a much more aggressive affair. It has shades of “800” and “Jubilee” at more moderate gain settings, but will get all the way up into “Jose” and “Brown Eye” levels of gain. However, the sound never becomes mushy and indistinct, nor is it too smooth and “modern” - there’s a distinctive “sear” in the upper mids crucial to a truly authentic British rock tone which the Sheriff 25 has in spades.
Further tonal enhancement is found around the back, with “bass focus” and “presence shift” switches. The former is an import from the Kraken. It tightens up the low end at the power amp stage for a more percussive and focussed tone (in contrast to the vast and expansive low-end Victory is known for), while the latter takes the smooth and comforting high end and extends it for more sparkle and aggression. With these switches disengaged, the tone is what you wish a plexi sounded like. Engage them, and the tone is what one ACTUALLY sounds like.
The Sheriff 25 is a masterpiece in my (admittedly hugely biased) opinion. It’s a portable, very usable and relatively affordable amp that offers every classic British “gold panel” tone under the sun - including the most outrageous modded high gain filth - and delivers them with authority and authenticity. Whether you’re looking for the tones of Hendrix, Van Halen or Mastodon, the Sheriff 25 has you covered.
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