NAD: Trace Elliot VA 350 "all" tube head

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Omega Monkey, Jul 15, 2022.

  1. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Well, this happened:

    Trace Elliot VA 350.jpg

    About 2 weeks ago, I went out shopping for a decent acoustic guitar because I've started playing in this acoustic duo with this singer who I'm also in another band with. In the DC area, there's a cluster of appropriate stores to get such a thing, Chuck Levin's, House of Musical Traditions, and Atomic Music.

    So one saturday about 2 weeks ago, I decided to hit all 3. Atomic was first. They are this crazy flea market junk heap of weird and wonderful used stuff. Being a multi-instrumentalist, I had to pass through each section just to see what was around. So this guy caught my eye, but I didn't have time to try it out that day.

    I also could never keep the various Trace "tube" models straight, as they have some that are all tube/hybrid, and some that are just tube preamps with SS power sections.

    Anyway, just for the curious, I did end up getting a very nice Breedlove Eco Pursuit Exotic S Concerto in myrtlewood at Chuck Levin's that day, which I'm liking a lot so far, and will be even better with new strings, saddle, and setup.

    But of course I had to head to the googles and look up this model and see what was what. Of course that lead me to some old threads here which indicated it was indeed a 6x6550 350w tube powered head, with a very unusual preamp setup, and definitely worth at least checking out.

    So my next free day I drove back over there with my LB76. I upgraded the electronics in that last year, with Bartolini hum cancelling jazz style pickups, and a John East 3 band Uni-Pre. I got one of the staff to get me setup with this thing as it was kind of buried under other heads, and not near any decent cabs.

    I tried the lower tube preamp first. That's apparently a "flat" pre with just a gain stage basically to feed the power amp. I wanted to try the SS pre with the EQ, but it didn't seem to be working off the bat so I had to get some more help. Fortunately it was just a slightly funky jack and came to life with a little wiggling and has been fine since.

    The 11 band EQ really gave a lot of shaping options. The typical Trace pre shape is on the aggressive side by itself, but can be tamed with the graphic.

    Anyway, it was probably the best my Carvin has ever sounded, even with fairly old strings (the Aguilar GS 4x10 surely didn't hurt). I didn't really get into any grindier sounds, but it just had a nice big and wide and phat sound that was really musical.

    And I managed to get the guy down on the price a little (which was already pretty reasonable for such an amp). So even if I end up spending $400 on a retube at some point, and/or a couple hundred on a thorough going over by a tech, I'll basically be in Strategy territory.

    Speaking of that, the weight is not TOO bad. Even in the road case, I think it's something like 65 lbs or so. So it's actually moveable by one person, unlike an SVT.

    My plan is to use it mainly with my pair of Genz Benz UberQuads, which this thing should light up nicely, and vice versa. There was definitely a good amount of low end in the store, even without the EQ or the bass being boosted, and the UberQuads are pretty stout, so they should handle whatever the Trace can throw at them.

    Anyway, I had some vintage Trace cabs for a few years (red stripe era) which were great, but I've always wanted a vintage Trace head (was eying an SMX to get that dual compressor), AND I've always wanted to finally get an "all" tube bass amp (I have a number of hybrid heads, but this is the first tube power section on a bass amp for me), AND my business has been doing great lately, so this really fit the bill, so I had to jump on it, as Trace heads with tube power sections don't come up very often. So I'm pretty happy so far, but I can't wait to actually have some time to really dig into (and restring my bass finally).

    I welcome any and all well wishes, virtual high fives, arcane Trace wisdom, etc...
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    TLDR; Kewl pic! Congrats! :D
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  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    AFAIK the VA350 was their first hybrid. It has a Mk V GP11 preamp per the front panel. The VA400 came next with a Mk VI GP12 preamp. I believe the Valve series came next and also used a variant of the Mk VI GP12. The Valve series include the Twin Valve, Quattra Valve, and Hexa Valve. The next evolution was the Mk 1 V-Types which included the V4 and V6. These used a new preamp design with an all tube signal path.

    The VA350, VA400, Hexa, and V6 output sections are essentially the same with very small tweaks.

    I own a Mk 1 V-Type and V6 and they use the same exact circuit cards. The V6 output card is just stuffed with a few extra components. Also the smaller amps use different power and output transformers. They appear physically identical, but they are wound specifically for each model.

    The final evolution was the MK 2 V-Types which included the V4 and V8 and new preamp/power amp designs. These also have all-tube signal paths. AFAIK, the V4 and V8 share a preamp. The output cards are different, but the V4 card is electrically identical to half a V8. I also own a V8. V8 transformers look exactly like those in earlier amps. The V4 transformers I have seen appear different visibly from all others.
  4. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    Dude - that is glorious.

    Beautiful amp (jealous now!), i know it must sound amazing.

    Wasnex likes this.
  5. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Thanks for the detailed info, Wasnex. A lot of the history of the Trace stuff seems more or less lost to time so you have to turn over a lot of rocks and logs to find those occasional nuggets.

    So the V8 has EVEN MORE POWER? I'm presuming it's another pair of output tubes. That's almost verging on ludicrous, as I feel like the 350 is probably already enough to do just about anything, especially if I was running a big 2 ohm load.

    Ron, it should be pretty fun. I have my first bass gig in a while in September, playing classic rock stuff, so that will be the first public debut of this beast. I'm definitely looking forward to getting to know it over the next few weeks and beyond.

    But I've seen some pics in the past of your Trace stuff, and it's nothing to sneeze at. I would love a pair of 1528s and 1048s to run with this thing, for maximum overkill vibe. Or 1818s and 1048s.
    rtav likes this.
  6. Marko 1

    Marko 1 Supporting Member

    Omega Monkey likes this.
  7. High five! Did not know this existed. Big fan of Trace, big fan of tube bass heads. What could be better than combining them? Excellent score!
    Omega Monkey likes this.
  8. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Rad! Virtual high 5 from here.
    Turn it up.
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  9. burgerdj


    Dec 4, 2006
    Wow! I was a Trace devotee in the mid 90s - never knew the VA series existed! That’s rad - and now I’m nostalgic. Enjoy!
    Omega Monkey likes this.
  10. Bald-N-Bassy


    Sep 2, 2010
    Atomic music is awesome. Been going there since they were in their first location. Bought a lot of cool gear from Eric, Lou, Sonny, and Matt.

    When I lived in DC. I also went to Venemans music in Springfield(closed), hot licks in Waldorf, and mars music(closed) in Springfield.
    Omega Monkey likes this.
  11. Eric Huber

    Eric Huber

    Aug 20, 2019
    We here in the DC Baltimore area are so lucky to have Atomic Music around. I have only been a few times but it's a great place. If that Trace head in the photo came from Atomic then I very nearly bought it a couple of weeks ago. I really try hard to stay of there. Unlike GC these guys know what they are doing. Nice work on the amp. Love Elliott's stuff, enjoy. They did me a deal on my Ampeg Little Stud. I never thought I would see another. The first bass I ever played back in high school. This one is in amazing condition for 30 years old.
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  12. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Yeah, Atomic is fun. Besides Chuck's, most music stores these days are so generic, just filled with a zillion Fender and Gibson and Ibanez variations basically, not usually anything interesting or good amp wise, etc... But Atomic always has this crazy selection of stuff that's not necessarily "rare" (sometimes it is), but just not seen every day.

    As far as those other stores mentioned, I definitely used to spend a lot of time in Mars back in the day (that was before there were any guitar centers yet). I think I only went into Venemans once, which is weird since it was across the parking lot from Mars. The Rockville Venemans got turned into the Guitar Center there. I went to the openings of 7 Corners and Rockville. Back then, Guitar Center was pretty cool and had a wide selection of stuff. Now it's just depressing most of the time.
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  13. Bald-N-Bassy


    Sep 2, 2010
    @Omega Monkey mars in Springfield was the first big guitar store I went to.
    Bought some of my first instruments at venemans.

    That area was fun growing up. I need to plan a trip up there and visit atomic.
    Omega Monkey likes this.