The new Vox AV Analogue Valve Series is the latest release from the amplifier brand who was right there at the beginning of British Rock'n'Roll, joining the popular AC and VT series. But how do you choose the best one for you?
Vox guitar amps were at the forefront of the Sixties' "British Invasion". Bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Kinks were all users of the brand, who manufactured the now-classic (and still in production) AC15 and AC30 models.
Since then, Vox amps, specially the AC30, became some of the most iconic amps a guitarist could own. Other users over the years include: Velvet Underground, Paul Weller (in The Jam), Brian May, Bernard Butler (Suede), Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines. Today, artists using Vox include some of the hottest bands right now, such as Wolf Alice, The Maccabees, Peace, Warpaint and Foo Fighters. For more info, read our previous Vox Amps Blog.
Vox AC-series: The Classic
If you can afford one, you simply can't go wrong with a Vox AC30 - whether you play blues, folk, classic rock or indie, the AC30 can do it all. It's a classic "workhorse" amp, capable of beautiful cleans even at louder volumes, and great overdriven sounds, too. This is not an amp to play at home, but to gig with.
The modern AC30 is somewhat different than vintage ones, which had tube rectifiers and 6 inputs, instead of 4. Even today, there's still a few different versions of the AC30, but they're all in the same ballpark sound-wise: the more expensive AC30C2X has alnico blues speakers, whereas the AC30C2 has Celestion G12 M Greenback speakers, which offer a bit more mids. Which one is better? Well, the discussion about which one is better has still not been resolved... it's another classic "you gotta try" issue!
And if you're on a budget, the AC30VR is a pretty good choice, too: it looks like the other models but is not a valve amp. The sound, however, is still pure Vox and few in the audience would notice any difference. The Valve Reactor circuitry uses a 12AX7 vacuum tube in the power stage to shape the sound for an authentic tube tone.
Another great option in the AC range is the smaller AC15, which is available in a few different finishes and with different speaker configurations. Perfect if you feel that the AC30 is too big, too loud or too expensive for you.
If you're on a more limited budget, the smaller Vox AC4 and AC10 models are great choices, perfect for authentic Vox valve tone when recording or even gigging in smaller venues (or mic'ed in larger ones).
Vox Valvetronix VT-series: Digital Modeling Amps
The Vox Valvetronix series may be a bit less prestigious than the all-valve AC line, but it certainly has its fans, and is quite popular in its own right. Vox, in fact, has a pretty good tradition of manufacturing great-quality solid-state amps: the solid-state AC30 from the late Seventies is superb and quite collectible now, and even the humble Vox Escort series was pretty good. More recently, their now-discontinued Vox Cambridge amps (solid state with valve preamp) are quite admired.
The Valvetronix amps have digital modeling and effects, with valve preamp. They are perfect for beginners still trying to figure out what they like, so they can experiment with lots of different sounds. These amps are also great for any guitarist who wants different sounds to practice at home or for recording.
The louder models are also good enough to gig with, though not something pros would probably choose. But if you mostly play at home and occasionally play live, or if you're a beginner looking to eventually play gigs, the Valvetronix VT100X can be a good, versatile choice that'll serve you well anywhere. So instead of having one amp to play at home and one to play live, the VT100X will save you the trouble (and money) involved in having two different amps.
Vox AV-series: Innovative Analogue Valve Technology
Yes, despite their affordable price tags, the Vox AV-series amps are true valve amps, in the sense that they have valves in both preamp and power amp stages, providing pure analogue tone, and hailed by Vox as their most innovative amps, ever! They sure look the part, with their vintage looks, and guess what - they sound great too!
"Valve purists" may perhaps not like the fact that these amps only have two 12AX7 valves (just one dual triode, in the AV15 case) so we're not talking "valve amps" in the same league as the classic AC series, here. An AC30 has three 12AX7 in the preamp section alone!
But the Vox genius still manages to shine, because they've pulled out the trick of making an affordable valve amp that sounds really great! Unlike the Valvetronix series, the AV-series has valve preamp AND power amp, and is not meant to be a "modeling" amp. In other words - you'll get an amp that's cheaper than the AC range, but more authentic and "Vox-like" than the VT range. Thismeans the new Vox Av-series sit very nicely in that area of affordable amps suitable for gigging, which even pros on a budget might like.
The AV-series amplifiers only have three digital (but analogue-voiced) effects: chorus, delay and reverb. And instead of modeling different amps, these amps have eight different preamp circuits. In other words, an AV-series amp sounds like an AV-series amp, it's not trying to be anything else - but is very versatile, all the same!
The AV-series amps are superb value, great for gigging musicians and recording artists who just can't stretch their budget, and also a great introduction to valve amps. The AV-series amps could become new classics.
WATCH! The PMT Vox Amps Video Shootout
Our very own Dagan from PMT Newcastle demonstrates how each of these current Vox guitar amps compare. Time to sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy some of the best (and sometimes quite affordable) guitar tones available today!