Sep 6, 2015
The Morgan AC20 Deluxe is everything you always wanted from the legendary Vox AC30, and more.
First improvement? It doesn’t weigh a tonne. The head that I got for review could squeeze in as a lunchbox amp that had eaten a few too many lunches, and it weighed hardly anything at all. Add a 1×12″ or 2×12″ cab of your choice and you’re mobile. No need to visit the chiropractor after every gig either.
Next big win is power scaling. A cranked AC30 is just tone heaven, as so many pros can attest to, from The Edge to Brian May. However, Brian May is shielded from the aural onslaught by his gigantic mass of curls, and Edge encases his amps within a perspex box so as not to kill the front row at a U2 gig. With the Morgan AC20 this is no longer a problem. For starters, it’s technically 20W, which is marginally softer than 30W (though it’s still PLENTY loud so don’t take it lightly), but the big deal here is the proprietary Morgan circuitry. Here’s how they describe it:
Think of conventional master volumes as a spigot on a garden hose, they choke off the signal to the power section of the amp to a usable level. Most conventional master volumes also affect the way your pedals interact with your amp. The Power Level control behaves like a zoom lens. It limits the size of the output signal that can be produced by the output tubes. It does NOT choke the signal down and therefore behaves identical as if the amp were running at full volume. This means that you can choose the power that you need, anything from ¼ of a watt to 20 watts.
Whatever electronic voodoo they’re doing in there – it works. As you’ll see in the demo, the all-important edge-of-breakup and cranked tones pretty much do not suffer any audible tone-suck when turned all the way down to 1/4 watt, which is damn impressive. There are very few systems that can do this, and even the power scaling on my old 65 Amps London Pro (one of my favourite EF86 platforms EVER!) didn’t work quite this well.
Sounds like an AC30? Great. Which one??
There have been so many versions of the AC30 over the years – Normal, Top Boost, Bright switches, EF86 preamp tube, 12AX7 preamp tube. Buying an AC30 means you have to a) know specifically which version you like best, and b) how to identify the right era and hopefully not buy a lemon. The AC20 Deluxe kinda just eliminates this issue by, well, incorporating ALL of the most desirable AC30 circuit mods from decades past. It boasts the following modes:
- Normal / Brilliant (Top Boost)
- Bright On / Off
- EF86 / 12AX7,
which give you the ability to achieve almost any era of AC30 tones that your heart desires. The rest of the front panel is kept simple, with Power Scaling, Volume and Cut as the only 3 larger chicken-head knobs. The head shell itself is built exquisitely, as befits a high end hand-made tube amplifier, with extremely tasteful textured black tolex and white trim.
I’m not going to lie to you. I’m here for the EF86. Are you here for the EF86? Cos I am. On pretty much every amp with a switchable EF86/12AX7 preamp – Blackstar Artisan, 65 Amps London Pro, AC20 Deluxe – I’ve found that I love the EF86 vibe soooo much more than the 12AX7 that I just don’t even want to bother with the 12AX7 channel.
Does that make me a bad person?
But anyway, I figured that people who are looking at the AC20 Deluxe are the ones who want to get in on the EF86 magic as well, and that’s why for my demo I’ve concentrated on showing what it can do. Sure, the 12AX7 mode is nice… but it doesn’t have that chiming, early breakup of the EF86. Nice to have as another tone, but ultimately the EF86 is the star of the show here, so hopefully this helps illustrate just how good it sounds:
I’ve tried to keep it pretty basic, going through all the Bright/Brilliant switching combinations, from cleany-clean to broken up and beefy, as well as exploring the awesomeness of the power scaling.
I’m running through a Fender Telecaster with Seymour Duncan Vintage Broadcasters, into the AC20 Deluxe, then into my Two Notes Torpedo Live with an Ownhammer impulse of a Bogner 2×12″ fitted with Blues.
Gentlemen, start your wallets!
The only downside of this brilliant (ha, pun) head is the cost. It retails for $1999USD for the head alone, which is how much a modern handwired Vox AC30 combo goes for. So, on top of that you still have to add a good cab, and we all know that Celestion Blues don’t come cheap!
However, the AC20 Deluxe does have a lot of stuff going for it that the current crop of AC30s don’t. Every mod variation that you could want, EF86 preamp magic, and a really really good power scaling system – these things are worth their weight in gold, or remaining years of upper register hearing for all you half-deaf AC30 lovers!
So at the end of the day – the Morgan AC20 Deluxe might just be the best “AC30″ I’ve ever played, but also one of the most expensive! However, life is a balance, so just think of balancing how happy you’ll be with this amp with how angry your wife will be when she finds out how much you spent on it…