Jul 9, 2012
I’m delighted to turn over the reins to our very first guest reviewer, the eminent Mr Ben Sinclair. Ben is a sound engineer and composer, as well as a guitarist with wonderful taste in tasty gear. On a quest for a super cool small amp, Ben recently went on a little expedition to look at the new Vox AC4 models – the AC4C1-BL (that’s a very long name that’s basically made up of ABC in varying combinations… nice one Vox) and AC4TV. Over to you, Ben!
As part of my amp exploration yesterday I went and tried two Vox AC4s. I’d played an AC4TV before but wanted to try the AC4C1-BL (the new blue one) as it has a completely different control set. The AC4C1-BL comes with a 10″ speaker and the AC4TV comes with either a 10″, 8″ or 6.5″ speaker or as a head. I tried the 10″ one for consistency. Both retail for $649.
One of the raddest looking little amps out there I reckon. Controls are Gain, Bass, Treble and Volume. Apparently it’s based on the iconic Vox top boost channel and I can well believe it. It’s a very bright and chimey amp. Dirty as all hell too. It gets into heavily saturated territory with the gain knob fairly low (my fuzzy Sunday morning brain is telling me at about 9 o’clock on the dial) and doesn’t have a huge amount of clean volume. The drive tone is amazing though even at whisper quiet levels – it’s probably because it’s so spongey and compressed – makes it sound thick and rich at any level.
Clean to cleanish it’s quite a bit brighter than I ideally like and it’s not all that easy to tame it (rolling back the treble knob cuts too much of the nicer high mids as well) but it’s still a really nice tone. The tone stack is deceptively powerful too – the crossovers of the bass and treble controls mean there’s effectively an invisible mid knob. What the hell do you mean by that? Simple – if you want to cut the mids, boost the treble and bass. If you want to boost the mids, cut the treble and bass.
To sum up: this is every inch a Vox AC in a small package. Perfect if you want to wail like Brian May but don’t want to break all the windows in your house (or disturb flatmates/children/spouse).
Basic controls: Volume, Tone and Wattage (switchable to either 4watts, 1watt or 1/4 of a watt). Really cool sounding amp. I don’t reckon it has the typical Vox chime – it’s thicker and darker sounding than the AC4C1-BL. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s a slightly nicer sounding clean tone than it’s blue brother. The downside of this is that, while still raw as piece of chicken waiting to give you salmonella, it doesn’t sound as typically Voxy as the other one when cranked.
That being said, you can get an outrageous dirty tone at unfeasible low volumes. With the attenuator on 1/4 watt it’s whisper quiet and even on full it breaks up at a pleasingly tolerable volume. The character changes quite a bit when you switch the wattage- the lower the spongier and ruder but on the full 4 watts it sounds the most Voxy (at least to my untrained palette). Despite being almost identically proportioned and with the same sized speaker, this one sounded quite a bit boxier than the other one.
To sum up: if the other one hurts your teeth or if you want ruder, almost 5E3 levels of soggy distortion, this is a better choice.
Overall conclusion: While not quite what I was looking for (not enough clean and a little bit too bright for what I mainly need at the moment) the AC4C1-BL is a cool sounding little amp and I’ll definitely be buying one when funds allow. I think the AC4C1-BL sounds less like a small amp than the AC4TV. I’d love to hear what it sounds like with a different speaker in it- maybe even a Celestion G10 Gold (although that would push the overall cost of it up towards $1k).
- Ben Sinclair
We eventually followed this up with a review of the Vox AC4HW1 – the handwired version of these combos. You can find the review in all its glory (with clips this time!) right here.