A Guide To Vox Amps: Which One Is Right For Me?
Vox have been going since the 1950s and as such have a very rich history. The brand is synonymous with the 60s British invasion music movement and has since become a global icon. Pretty much everyone has used a Vox amp at some point, from the obvious choices like The Beatles, Oasis, Paul Weller, Hank Marvin, Radiohead etc to some that might surprise you; My Chemical Romance, Brian May (Queen), Matt Bellamy (Muse), All American Rejects, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters and many more. If you go to any decently decked-out recording studio, chances are they’ve got an AC30 or AC15 hiding somewhere. Whilst it’s true that Vox do make amps that are great for players of classic rock/pop, there will be an amp in their line up that will suit literally, any kind of player. The following is a bit of a breakdown of what Vox have to offer and the differences between them; hopefully it will help you figure out which Vox amp is right for you.
The Vox Mini3 is a neat little amp. It’s a modelling amplifier i.e. it emulates the sound of a wide range of different amplifiers meaning you can get everything from classic Vox cleans through nice classic rock crunch all the way to high gain metal tones, with on-board effects – you can even run a microphone or acoustic guitar through it. It’s small enough to keep on a desktop or hidden in the living room. You also have the option to run it off batteries if you want to use it on the go.
This is another amp that use modelling technology to give you a wide range of tones, this time using new ‘Virtual Element Technology’ that blends both analogue and digital amp designs. It’s got 11 virtual amps on board, including the legendary AC30 , as well as built in modulation and delay/reverb effects. There is also space for 22 presets so that you can save your favourite settings for easy recall. The Vox VX amps have other handy features such as aux in so you can plug in your MP3 player, and a headphone output for silent practice.
These amps are great for beginners as they enable players to get to grips with all the different amp types and various effects that are available. The VX-I puts out 15 watts and the VX-II is 30 watts – the latter would be loud enough to play with a drummer, and even some smaller gigs.
The Vox AV amps are new and feature a real 12AX7 tube in the preamp. This, combined with the all analogue circuitry helps the amps give out a warm and harmonically rich sound. Each amp has eight individual circuits voiced to give different sounds from clean to distorted, with everything in between. Other features include a bright and fat switch for you to hone in on the tone you want, as well as a few on board effects. It’s all housed in a really cool, retro-looking cabinet that’s also been designed to increase resonance. All the different Vox AV models cover everything from bedroom use (AV15) up to gigs (AV60) with the AV30 lying somewhere in the middle.
Like the AV range, the Vox VR amps also feature a 12AX7 tube in the power stage. The tube interacts with the power amp and the speaker giving the feel and tonality of a valve amp but in a package that’s really affordable. Both the AC15VR and AC30VR have two channels, with the overdrive channel having an extra style giving two distinctive flavours of gain. This means that with the VR series, you can get classic Vox sounding cleans, as well as British crunch and more contemporary higher gain sounds. With VX12 Celestion speakers, these amps sound fantastic; they have an elegant simplicity that makes them incredibly easy to use. They’ve also got the timeless Vox look that renders them instantly recognisable!
The Vox AC30 is one of the most famous amps ever to be produced, with its 15 watt counterpart offering the same great sound, with a lower output. The AC range is Vox’s flagship range and gives players a sound that is sought after globally. They’re great for all sorts of music; pop, jazz, blues, rock, indie etc. They take pedals nicely too so even if you’re into the heavier side of things, stick a Tube Screamer or something similar in front of the High input, crank it up and you’re ready to go.
What they’re most famous for though, is that 60s British Invasion sound; you can get some incredible chimey, clean tones, plenty of jangle when you need it and, when cranking the volume (turn down the master volume to keep it quiet but still get great tone), incredible natural overdrive that evokes the memories of some of the best classic rock and pop ever made. Whilst the Valve Reactor, VX and AV ranges do sound good, especially for the money, there really is no substitute for a valve amp; three 12AX7s and either four (AC30) or two (AC15) EL84s give these amps their incredible tone and power. Recent years have seen the release of smaller models – the AC10 and even the AC4. There’s even a head version of the AC15 and AC30 to match with a cab. I could go on all day about how good these are, but glancing at a list of bands and artists who have used a Vox AC30 or AC15 should do it for me!
Within the Vox AC range, there are options; the models are:
Vox AC4C1-12 (4 watts, 1 x 12″ Celestion VX10 speaker)
Vox AC10C1 (10 watts, 1 x 10″ Celestion VX10 speaker)
Vox AC15CH Custom Head (15 watts, Reactive Attenuator)
Vox AC15C1 (15 watts, 1 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback speaker)
Vox AC15C2 (15 watts, 2 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback speakers)
Vox AC15C1X (15 watts, 1 x 12″ Celestion Alnico Blue speaker)
Vox AC30CH Custom head (30 watts, Reactive Attenuator, FX loop)
Vox AC30C2 (30 watts, 2 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback speakers, FX loop)
Vox AC30C2X (30 watts, 2 x 12″ Celestion Alnico Blue speaker, FX loop)
Vox V212C Cabinet (2 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback speakers)
The Vox Handwired series sits at the top of the Vox range and offers everything that the regular AC range has to offer, plus more. The Handwired Vox’s incroporate the best of both vintage and modern amp designs – the way they’re made mean that you get the most efficient signal path from your guitar to the sound that comes out of the amp – there’s very little colouration to your tone. These amps also feature a Hot/Cool switch that lets you add in more gain as and when you see fit.
These really do sound amazing, so much so, you’ll see them on the biggest stages around the world. From pop to country, to rock and punk, the Handwired Vox AC amps are versatile and trusty – the AC30HW2 is one of my favourite amps we’ve ever had in.
Difference Between The Vox Speakers: Greenbacks VS Bluebacks
So, what’s the difference between the speakers in an AC30 or AC15? Are Bluebacks better than Greenbacks or vice versa? Both speakers are great; neither one is ‘better’ than the other as such. The Alnico Blue speakers are probably the speakers that are most closely associated with the classic AC sound; they offer a little more chime so if it’s that kind of classic sound you’re after, the ACs with the Alnico Blues might be worth a try. The Greenbacks will still give you a sound that is undeniably ‘Vox’; they still have chime but they perhaps have a little more presence in the mid frequencies than the Alnico Blues. A lot of the classic rock players like the Greenbacks because of how they sound when the amp is overdriven. Both types of speaker suit the amp brilliantly, they just add a slightly different flavour to the sound.
Hopefully this has shed a little more light on the whole Vox series and has pointed you in the right direction of which Vox amp to go for. Whatever you’re into, Vox do something that will be right for you. They’re a company stooped in history with a signature sound that hasn’t been replicated by anyone else. If you’re still wondering why Vox amps are so popular then come in store and try one out for yourself!