Review By Dean Bielanowski  Behringer Website - http://www.behringer.com

Behringer X V-Amp Guitar Effects Processor

By Dean Bielanowski

So you just bought a new electric guitar and are looking to try something new in the tone department? Or perhaps you are a seasoned player looking for a little variety or customization in tone without spending a small fortune? Whatever the reason, there is no denying the popularity that modern guitar effects processors have carved out for themselves in the guitar playing world. The multi-effects units are becoming even more popular as a complete system on their own, or as a go-between in an effects loop with other stomp boxes or modelers.

Now, you can spend several thousands on the top quality multi-effects processing units, or you could spend under a hundred dollars if your budget is very limited. The questions is, are these budget multi-effects processors any good? This is what I will try to answer in this review of the Behringer X V-Amp Processor.

First things first
Before I go on, let me mention that this particular unit is not a new release item. In fact, it has been on the market since early 2004 and is derived from the Behringer X V-Amp 2 product, which is a more expensive version. However, this unit is priced at a level that is almost hard to look past if you want to dabble in tone or effects "modding" with your guitar playing.
Let me also add that I am no Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix or the Edge from U2 when it comes to guitar playing. I am an intermediate guitar level player, so this review is written from that stand-point, so other beginning or intermediate guitar players will be able to relate to my experience using the product. Now let's take a closer look at the unit.

Behringer X V-Amp
The X V-Amp is a multi-effects processor, but it is more than just a collection of stomp box (effects pedals) simulations. It also includes many amp model simulations too. In fact, there are 16 amp models built into the unit, and are listed as follows:

Original Model
CLASSIC CLEAN Roland JC120 (8) 2 x 12" TWIN COMBO
V-AMP CRUNCH smooth crunch (12) 4 x 12" VINTAGE 30
BRITISH PLEXI Marshall Plexi (15) 4 x 12" V-AMP CUSTOM
BRIT CLASS A Vox AC30 (15) 4 x 12" V-AMP CUSTOM
BRIT HI GAIN Marshall JCM800 (13) 4 x 12" STANDARD '78
SAVAGE BEAST Engl Savage 120 (13) 4 x 12" STANDARD '78
NUMETAL GAIN Mesa Dual Rectifier (15) 4 x 12" V-AMP CUSTOM
MODERN GAIN Soldano SLO (15) 4 x 12" V-AMP CUSTOM
BLACK TWIN Fender Twin Reverb (8) 2 x 12" TWIN COMBO
ULTIMATE GAIN searing hi gain (15) 4 x 12" V-AMP CUSTOM
TWEED COMBO Fender Tweed Deluxe (1) 1 x 8" VINTAGE TWEED
TWEED BASS Fender Bassman (15) 4 x 12" V-AMP CUSTOM
SCREAMER Ibanez TS 808 --
EL RATON Pro Co Rat --
ACOUSTIC Acoustic guitar sim for electrics --

Sophisticated algorithms are used to digitally transform the sound coming from your guitar to output a new sound based on the characteristics of these classic amplifiers. In particular, the Vox AC30 and Marshall Plexi amps offered tones that caught the attention of many guitarists, old and new. Note that the Amp Bypass and Acoustic sims are counted in the 16 marketed by Behringer, whether you think these are actual amp "sims" or not, I'll leave up to you. What the X V-Amp does allow you to do is to enjoy tones that are close to what these amps would deliver (albeit in a digital form) if you were to actually have your guitar hooked up to one of these real model amps. Essentially, you can enjoy tones from these classic amps without having to go out and spend many thousands on buying the amplifiers themselves. Naturally, the simulated amp models are probably not as good as having the real amplifier there, but for the cost of the X V-Amp, you have to give and take a little, but surprisingly, the Vox AC30 and Fender Twin Reverb are pretty close to the real thing as I have used these amplifiers in particular before. There is a slight difference with the "digitized" signal you get from an amp/effects modeler of course, and this is noticeable, but you do get a fairly convincing tone out of these units, certainly enough to sway you to one particular amp model if it came down to buying a real amplifier later on down the track.

The amp model list provides a pretty good coverage of amp models, from something that will deliver a good clean tone (Roland JC120) through to mod distortion and ultra high gain amp simulation (searing high gain). There is a good mix of amps there to play around with and each has its own defining characteristics.

It is worth noting at this stage that if you hook the X V-Amp (or any other effects processor for that matter) to your own branded guitar amplifier, your own amp will 'color' the tone to some degree. This is noticeable if you then use a standard set of practice headphones hooked directly to the X V-Amp immediately after running it through your amplifier. I have a Fender 30 watt amp here and the tones seem cleaner via headphones than through the amp, which colors the sound. To assess or get the 'cleanest' tone from these types of processing units, you really want a amplifier that will not color the characteristics of the output, something with a good audio range from lows to highs. Many guitarists recommend keyboard amplifiers for hookup to these units, simply because they offer excellent range with little or no coloring of the tone. Behringer make a 4-channel keyboard amp (the KX1200) which many seem to recommend. The new Atomic amps are also now available and are specifically made for hook up to effects processors and are worth a look also.

I digress... back to the review. So, spend some time checking out the various amp models included if you buy this unit. The right side twist knob controls the AMP selection, and the currently selected amp is displayed via a LED light. You may need to use a combination of the twist knob and TAP button to access all available amp models. It is quite quick to switch between them.

When you want to change things like the amplitude, phase or frequency of a sound to achieve a different resultant sound from your notes, you can turn to the modulation effects built in to the X V-Amp. It's 24-bit high-resolution stereo multi-effects processor delivers some good simulations of popular stomp box effects. A total of 32 mod effects are claimed by the manufacturer, however, some are variations of a single effect that make up this number. Your main eight modulation group effects available include Flangers, Chorus mods, Tremolos, Phasers, Rotary, Pitch Bends, Auto Wah and "P-FUNK'N".

Each modulation effect will alter the sound to produce a different sound from the original input.
Most modulation effects are stock standard in terms of description, and each one might represent an individual purchase of a stomp box to build a collection similar to this. The "P-FUNK'N" effect may not be as immediately obvious. It is Behringer's attempt at replacing the MuTron III as used by Bootsy Collins.

The following table shows all the variations in modulation effects available via the X V-Amp. You can see the last column lists the original stomp box effects/systems these modulation settings are based upon.
Par 1
Par 2
Par 3 - MODE
Par 4
1 FLANGERS Depth Resonance Ultra Flanger Rate Boss BF-3
2       Std. Flanger   Boss BF-2
3       Warm Flanger   MXR Flanger
4       Jet Flanger   A/DA Flanger
1 CHORUS Mix Depth Tri Chorus 1 Speed Tri Stereo Chorus
2       Tri Chorus 2   Tri Stereo Chorus
3       Ch-Ensemble   Boss CE-1
4       Dimension   Roland Dimension D
1 TREMOLOS Depth Vol.Sensitivity Opto Rate Fender Deluxe
2       Bias   Vox AC15
3       Gate   TR-2 square
4       Panning    
1 PHASERS Depth Resonance 4 stage Rate MXR Phase 90
2       8 stage    
3       10 stage    
4       12 stage   Boss PH2
1 PITCH BEND Mix -12, -7, -5, -3, +3, +4, +5, +7, +12 Pitch Shift   Boss PS-5
2     -12, -7, -5, -3, +3, +4, +5, +7, +12 T-ARM Speed Boss PS-5
3     -12, -7, -5, -3, +3, +4, +5, +7, +12 Whammy   Digitech
4     -20%...0...+20% Detune   Boss PS-5
1 ROTARY Depth Tone Var. 1 Speed V-AMP
2       Var. 2    
3       Var. 3    
4       Var. 4    
1 AUTO WAH Depth Speed Var. 1 Sensitivity BASS V-AMP
2       Var. 2    
3       Var. 3    
4       Var. 4    
1 P-FUNK'N Depth Speed Var. 1 Sensitivity BASS V-AMP
2       Var. 2    
3       Var. 3    
4       Var. 4

The list of effects is quite large, and there is plenty there to keep you busy exploring new sounds. You will need to read the manual to discover how to access and adjust all the modulation effects and their parameters, but once you have the key combinations sorted out, you will be setting up effects quickly and easily to achieve your desired sound output.

Other Effects
There's more to the V-Amp than just modulation effects and amp simulations. There are primary effects that no effects processor should be without. These include delay, reverb, compressor effects and a noise gate option.

Delay effects are offered in four flavors; Stereo Delay, Long Echo, Slap Echo and Ping Pong. Stereo delay is fairly self explanatory and you can adjust the effect by implementing different tempo settings. Behringer implemented a proprietary Delay version which combines the long delay time with a minor delay shift between left and right channel, providing an extraordinary broad and lively delay-image. Long echo is also adjustable dependant on the time interval you choose between taps of the TAP key onboard. It further calculates this delay in taps by increasing it by 50% before output. Using Long Echo, you can set up sounds to recreate classic delays made popular by U2's the Edge, and others. Slap Echo is much the reverse of long echo, reducing the time delay by 50% for a fast delay response. Ping Pong simulates sound bouncing from one side to the other in a stereo setup, i.e. one speaker/amp to the other.

Reverb is offered in four modes. Ambience mode simulates a short room without reverb tail. Cathedral simulates a long, rich sound, just like you would get in a cathedral. Spring mode simulates classic spring reverb, and the commonly named plain Reverb mode simulates a concert hall. You can adjust the intensity and decay using the ADJUST controls in this mode.

Compressor mode offers a useful effect by limiting the dynamic range of a signal. You can set it to kick in at a certain level to also control the effect of sustain with your notes or chords played. Again, using the ADJUST knob controls the parameters of the effect. The X V-Amp's compressor effect is based on the MXR Dyna Comp. You can also set up compressor reaction time.

Noise Gate is an option that is very handy for electric guitar players. Most electric guitars suffer from some level of interference. It's that "hum" or "noise" generated by your pickups when no notes are being played, and is increased when using high gain amps or distortion effects. A noise gate will basically eliminate that ambient noise when the strings are static. You can set it to kick in at a certain level to control all ambient noise, but be aware that excessive noise gate control can alter tone. But I couldn't imagine playing without some form of noise gate, particularly when using high gain/high distortion patches or amp sims. A Noise Gate is almost worth the price of the whole unit itself. Very handy to keep the "bees from buzzing around!"

Additionally, there is a Wah Wah effect option, but as the manual states, trying to describe this is difficult. They refer to Jimi Hendrix's use of Wah Wah on the Voodoo Chile track. A good example no doubt.

The X V-Amp comes pre-loaded with 100 different "patches" or combinations of amp model selections, modulation options and many other 'ingredients' that combine to produce a unique sound. In fact, just going through all 100 of the patches is a musical journey in itself. You will have many hours of fun exploring the different sounds that come pre-loaded with the V-Amp. Use the UP and DOWN footswitches to change between presets, with the LED display showing the current preset number in use. Of course, you can also create and save your own presets using up to 11 effects simultaneously, or modify any of the existing ones and save those to one of the preset numbers as well. You can also easily reset presets back to factory defaults. There is plenty of flexibility here. The 100 pre-set options will offer everything from clean acoustic sounds to the highest gain, highest distortion metal madness!

I found a good way to get started in making your own presets or patches is to find a selection of the 100 offered that you like the most, and then begin modifying those to further refine the sound to your liking. Just hold the STORE button down for a few seconds to permanently save your changes. This will overwrite the original preset of course. You can overwrite another unwanted preset with your new creation by using the UP/DOWN footswitches to select a different preset number if desired, allowing you to save your new changes as well as the original patch you made those changes from.

Expression Pedal
An integrated expression pedal is available on the X V-Amp, and it can be used to control parameters such as Wah and volume. It is of hard plastic construction, but it seems to work fine and is smooth in its motion. The PEDAL ASSIGN function also allows you to assign effect intensity control to the pedal.

Tuner Function
There is an in-built tuner to get you in tune and ready to crank away on your axe! The chromatic tuner automatically recognizes the frequencies of all the standard guitar notes. For example, if you plug in your guitar and go into tuning mode (by simultaneously pressing both footswitches) and then play an open string, the X V-Amp's tuner will recognize the sound frequency and display the note on its LED display. It can also recognize semi-tones, and these are displayed by showing a "b" on the display. Below the display are four LED lights which help fine-tune a note that is slightly out of tune. The manual goes into further detail of its use. I found the tuner to be fairly useful. You can use it to get a badly out of tune guitar back into tune. It's certainly better than my el-cheapo battery-powered analog Fender tuner, however, it is not as accurate as some of the software tuners you can use on your computer. A favorite of mine is AP Tuner which does a superb job of very finely tuning each string with continuous feedback frequency data. But, the tuner on the X V-Amp will get you started with a good level of accuracy. It saves you buying a separate tuner anyway if the budget is tight. You can even change the default reference pitch "A" from 440Hz up or down by a maximum of 15Hz to suit your needs.

One thing I forgot to mention is the configuration options available on the unit. By pressing the Noise Gate and Compressor buttons simultaneously you can access the configuration mode. The configs can be useful depending on the operating mode you are using (i.e. PHONES - with all speaker and amp simulations, AMP + FX - without speaker simulations, and ONLY FX - without speaker and amp simulations). So, with the ONLY FX configuration selected your X V-Amp acts as a collection of effects stomp boxes, disregarding any of the speaker or amp simulations that also come with the unit. Each config mode also has its own three settings including FLAT - Neutral EQ, LOUDNESS - Increasing bass and highs, and PRESENCE - Accentuation of upper mids and lowering of bass tones. Naturally, selecting different configurations will affect the end sound output from the unit. Which mode you have currently selected is highlighted next to the LED display with an appropriate LED light.

The Behringer X V-Amp in Use
Let me just give you a few pros and cons of this unit to conclude the review. Firstly, this may not be the best unit to use for live gigs. While it does have a great assortment of amp sims and effects, I'm not sure the overall build "toughness" would see it survive for extended periods of time in the live gig circuit. The plastic pedals can probably take a beating, but I've seen units twice as tough get damaged during gigs previously. Heck, I could be wrong here, and the only way to actually test it would be to drag it around for 6 - 12 months and see how she goes. But going by other reviews I have read, it is not the ideal live gig unit. But again, when you consider the price point, you can't expect stainless steel construction and cast iron bodies!

Selecting presets with the footswitches can be a little jumpy at first until you get used to it. By this I mean that if you hold down the switch for more than a second, the preset number will jump many spots while held down, instead of just one spot. With a little use you learn to master it to quickly switch only one preset up or down at a time by applying a quicker push on the footswitch. The upside of holding the pedal down is that you can jump to another preset far away very quickly, say jumping from preset number 20 to number 80.

There is no complicated setup required. The unit has basic input and output jacks, and it's really hard for you to plug things in the wrong way. For new effects system users the Behringer X V-Amp will offer probably zero problems at all. It's pretty much "plug and play", if I may borrow that term from the computer world.

Accessing some components or functions of the system will take a combination of keystrokes, and these will take time to learn, but again, they are not overly complex, and even after just a few hours of use they will be memorized readily for future sessions.

I also own a Pod XT unit by Line6. It does offer more functionality, plus the ability to download tones from the net and hook the system up to the computer to modify tones via a software facility. The X V-Amp does not have these features, but it's up to 300% cheaper as well.

So, the question begs... does it offer good value for money? Well, I think if you are only after a "basic" multi-effects processor that does indeed have all the basics, plus a little more, then yes, it offers good value for money. I was surprised how clean the tones are, and the effects are quite useful. I was expecting worse to be honest, but the sounds coming from this unit are every bit as good as those I get out of my Pod XT using the same setups, it's just that the Pod XT has more built in, but again, at 300% more in cost, so you would hope it had more! I have also used a basic Digitech RP80 effects unit, and in my opinion, the X V-Amp has the edge over that similarly priced unit. The RP80 is perhaps slightly easier to adjust the effect settings, but it has less preset banks, and some of the amp sims were a little crackly with a bit too much noise.

If you are on a budget and are looking for a good starter unit, then the X V-Amp will fit the bill. Priced at US$89.99 (RRP) in the states or AUD$149.99 in Australia (usually with a cheaper 'street' price), I feel it offers pretty good value for money.

To find out more, or to track down a dealer of Behringer products near you, visit the Behringer website at www.behringer.com


X V-Amp Photos
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Time to unpack...

The Behringer X V-Amp.

The AMPS and FX selection control knob.

The included power supply.

Gain/Volume adjustment knob.

LED/Numerical display helps decipher current processor configurations.

Various push buttons control effects and modulation settings. Some perform multiple tasks in combination with other onboard controls..

The UP and DOWN footswitches

Expression pedal anyone?

Rear of the unit 1/4" ports for LINE OUT/PHONES, MONO AMP OUT and INSTRUMENT INPUT.