Surprisingly good amp... VERY good, in fact!
I've had my v55 for a week now, so time for first impressions to you who may be considering getting one. First of all, I'm traditionally a Fender man, picky about clean tone that isn't brittle. My main amp has been a modded Hot Rod Deluxe for years, and I'm very pleased with it. However, I was looking for a gigable, low-cost tube amp that I could just leave at my weekly Saturday night venue-- a place that is not used except on weekends, so it gets cold and hot inside during the seasons. Not what I wanted to expose my HRD to. After reading a LOT of reviews, watching YouTube demos, etc., I went ahead and took the plunge on this Bugera, rationalizing that if I didn't like it, I could return it within the Sweetwater 30-day return policy. Plus, the amp has a Bugera 3-year warranty, and Sweetwater has a no-problem 2-year warranty in-house on top of that which did much to ease my trepidations about buying a "cheap" amp.
I gotta tell you, this amp is WAY beyond my expectations! Solid build quality, and most important, good tone. I'm not particularly in love with the stock speaker...it's OK and to someone else's ear it might ring their bell, but I sswapped it out for an Emmy Texas Heat and the amp stood up on its feet and barked at me! I kept the Bugera stock preamp tubes, but replaced the power tubes with Ruby MSTR's which I have always liked the sound of. I even had fun trying out EL34's in the amp, and then MIXING one EL34 and one 6L6 which you can do fearlessly due to the Infinium technology on board! It was a good sound, but I ended up preferring the dual 6L6's for live performance. I particularly enjoy the Pentode/Triode switch that cuts the power in half...lets you run the amp hotter in small venues without getting ridiculously loud...which this thing can get!
Initial impression: Good. Very good. Nice build, pots have nice feel, not too stiff or too mushy, nice finish and solid construction. Tone is VERY flexible and the overdrive is totally tube, and sounds lovely...not a metalhead's amp, but great for classic rock and blues. The only reason I deducted a half-star is because whoever designed the metal tube "cage" protector must have been hung over. In order to change or replace tubes, you have to take out the speaker, undo 5 TINY screws, and then remove the cage from the chassis. Ridiculous. Who's gonna do that on stage if a tube blows? I took mine off and left it off...the power tubes are positioned well behind a transformer for protection, and the preamp tubes are recessed into the chassis so there's really no need for the cage unless you are transporting it over a long distance where it will get banged around a lot (like on a ship from China to the USA!). Chinese made, yes. But well made nonetheless. I remember when "Made in Japan" was a "stay away" warning on a product. Later, Made in Japan was a sign of quality. Same seems to be happening with Chinese made electronics. Peavey's are now made in China, Marshall 40DSL's are made in Vietnam, and Fender non-custom amps are made in Mexico. So most of us are playing offshore amps out here as a result. And they ALL have their issues, but the majority of them hold up well and perform acceptably.
All this to say that if you're comparing this v55 to any other amp in the same price bracket, I would encourage you to get this one. It has a LOT going for it, not the least of which is the Infinium tube technology. And, of course, you can enjoy the exceptional service and care that Sweetwater has provided me for years in dealing with them, which is value added to your purchase.