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Puckman

So I played a Vox Heritage AC15 yesterday..

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I'm sure some of you are familiar with my on-going amp quest/saga.

 

I had my eyes set on the DRRI, as well as the Orange AD30, Tiny Terror and Rocker 30, up until last weekend.

 

I got to try out the Rocker 30 and AD30 last week, at the local mom and pop shop, and although found them to be nice amps, I certainly was not blown away. Not exactly the kind of tone I was looking for.

 

I went back yesterday, hoping to try out a Tiny Terror (they didn't have one last week). They still didn't have any in stock (apparently selling like hot cakes) but I did stumble upon the new handwired Heritage series Vox AC15. So I plugged in and gave it a try. WOW! What an amp! I have to admit I don't really quite understand the channel scheme on those amps (2 channels + the ability to operate in Pentode or Triode mode), but all the combinations sounded excellent to me. And the tones are different enough between the various channels. But most importantly, the chime was simply gorgeous!

 

The one downside to that amp is the lack of a master volume, which would mean pedals or an attenuator for dirt. But the beauty of those chimey cleans is probably enough to make up for that. I'm still trying to decide if I'd rather go with a solid clean amp (DRRI or Vox Heritage) and get my dirt from pedals, or go with the standard 2-channel paradigm (a clean and a dirt channel).

 

Finally, a small request:

 

I know Doc Jeffrey has one of these Vox Heritage amps, so Doc, if you read this, would you care to explain to me the difference between the various channels/modes on this amp and how you would describe the various tones?

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The early AC-15's were the first amps designed (by Dick Denny) specifically for distortion. Fender and Ampeg were working hard to get rid of distortion, Denny realized it was desirable. Denny used a EF86 preamp tube, a pentode which offered a fair amount of preamp gain from a single tube (this is a good decade+ before the first high-gain preamp was designed). These early AC-15's are famous for their organic dirt. Much, much later on Matchless would base their lead channel of the C-30 off of tis preamp.

 

The Heritage Vox AC-15 adds the Pentode/Triode switch on the EF86 to allow you to get some of the Ef86 charm at lower gain (higher headroom). In the early '60's, vox started wiring their EF86 in Triode mode to make it a cleaner amp (go figure). Pentode/Triode always changes the tone and feel of a tube, so it may be best to just consider this another flavor available at the preamp.

 

The famous Vox amp is, of course, the AC-30, specifically a later variant with the Top-Boost preamp which is brighter and hotter than the original darker AC-30's. The Top Boosts popularity is interesting because some of the most famous Vox AC30 players, such as the Beatles and Brian May, did not use Top Boost models (Tom Petty may be the most famous Top Boost user), but the TB is generally considered the more versatile, better sounding amp and has long since become "Vox Tone." It should be noted that Matchless based their clean channel on the TB preamp.

 

I have digressed too far, anyway, the other preamp on the Heritage Vox AC-15 is the 12AX7-based Top Boost preamp. This allows you to get the sparkling, signature "Vox Tone" from the amp along with the dirty, raunchy EF86 heritage of the first AC-15's.

 

It's weird because the real AC-15 has never been reissued (the Marshall-built AC-15TBX and the Chinese built AC-14CC have nothing in common with real ones). This is the first time Vox has ever gone back to that EF86 preamp that put their company on the amp (and they are offering both versions of it), but realizing modern-day players have a stereotype of what Vox should sound like, they added an entire AC-30 Top Boost preamp to round out the opinions. It's still not a RI, but an entirely new amp that looks way back.

 

It's a sweet little amp with a lot of great classic tone available. When you think about it, it's just a Vox as much as it is also a 15-watt Matchless C-30 (HC-15 or SC-15?).

 

As a clean amp, it will sound very full and three-dimensional, as Vox's and Matchless' do, but it's cathode-biased poweramp and midrange-rich preamp will work to keep it's clean headroom well below a well set-up DRRI.

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It is, indeed, a sweet amp, but pricey for a Chinese made product that is not really handwired as advertised. The components are attached to an epoxy/glass board that appears to be handwired on the exposed side, but if you look on the back, it is actually a PCB, soldered by a machine. I'm not sure how vox is getting by with this.

 

Anyway, despite its price, there is nothing on the market with the EF86 and Top Boost circuits that comes close to the $1400 street price of the combo. A Matchless or Top Hat is going to be at least $1000 more.

 

Here"s a quick overview:

 

Channel 1: EF 86 channel. Based on the Vox Brilliant Channel. 3 voicings plus a bass shape switch. Triode/pentode selector for EF86 valve (triode cuts the gain and volume).

 

Channel 2: Based on the Top Boost Channel. Volume, Treble, Bass controls. Exceptional clarity in the mids--sounds like an expensive boutique amp.

 

Global controls: High cut (useful for taming spikey highs). Pentode/Triode (15 watts, 7.5 watts respectively). Two inputs for each channel (one = -6db).

 

Two speaker outputs with selectable impedance.

 

It's a peach of a design that can sound totally brit invasion or very modern depending on the settings. You can use an ABY switch for channel switching, or you can use a short cable to jump the two channels together old school for even more sounds.

 

This month's Guitarist mag (UK) gave it their pick award. They commented that they thought that the tolex covering was thinner than usual, but it is exactly the same as my old Marshall DSL and my two 90's era AC's, so I'm not sure why they pointed this out. My only complaint is that the diamond grill cloth has a sheen to it that makes it look kind of cheap and plasticky. My AC15TBX and AC30TBX have more vintage looking grills.

 

lpc.jpg

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I do have the head+cab AC15 Heritage - I was waiting for decades for Vox to reissue the real AC15 (I mean: with the EF86 channel!) because my beloved '63 one is too precious to leave home now.

 

And they did it!

 

3voxog0.jpg

 

Here's beside the '63 and an AC30CCH+cab.

 

When I compare the EF86 channel of the Heritage to the "real thing", the tone is very close indeed - the vintage AC15 is a bit sweeter and mellower but it is 44 years old too! The chime is perfect, and the overdrived tone is to die for (of course, keep in mind I'm a Vox lover ;) ). The top boost channel is perfect, and both channels linked is one more powerfull option (my favorite: the EF86 channel with brillance on 2 mixed with the top boost to add a bit of body - a hell of a tone! :cool:).

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Thanks guys for chiming in! I have a couple of questions:

 

1- What's the difference between the triode/pentode switch in the channel 1 section and the main triode/pentode switch on the far right?

 

2- What exactly are the 3 voicings on the normal channel? I mean, I can read the description as printed in the Vox manual, but I was hoping for a bit more specifics from you guys. Give me examples as to what they sound like, what you would use them for, etc.

 

3- I played the amp at "reasonable" volume and didn't hear much breakup on either channel. Is it one of those amps that's gonna take serious volume (and an attenuator) to get a good crunch? And what does said crunch sound like? It's the one thing I didn't really get to test out. What kind of dirt can I get on the various voicings? (I saw Doc mentioning the word "modern" in there).

 

4- What exactly is the "top boost" channel? Is it supposed to be the gainier channel? I'm too used to the Marshall (and similar) naming convention of "normal" and "lead" channels (where the lead channel is usually a gain/volume type setup). This looks different.

 

5- Tell me more about the channel jumping. I've heard that mentioned before on other amps (such as EVH and his Plexi), but I never understood how it works exactly.

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5- Tell me more about the channel jumping. I've heard that mentioned before on other amps (such as EVH and his Plexi), but I never understood how it works exactly.

 

Each channel has two inputs, one normal and one attenuated (-6db) input (originally for hotter PU's). You would plug your guitar into the normal input of one channel (usually the hotter one, with this amp, it's a toss up) and then run a separate cable from the attenuated input of that same channel into the normal input of the second channel. This way you are driven two channels. The down side is the jumper runs through the attenuating resistor of the first channel, so the second channel won't see as hot a signal.

 

I would consider a ABY box instead, that way you can pick and choose or use both without one having to be attenuated.

 

BTW, this won't work on a DRRI, because the channels are out of phase with each other.

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I'll try my best.

1- What's the difference between the triode/pentode switch in the channel 1 section and the main triode/pentode switch on the far right?

 

Switch on left cuts POWER OUTPUT in half. Switch on right cuts PREAMP GAIN in half on just the ef86 channel.

 

2- What exactly are the 3 voicings on the normal channel?

 

First position is just like the original with full bass and crisp highs. When you push it too hard, it can get a bit muddy, so there's a second setting with less bottom end (a brand new setting). Additionally, there's a third "brilliant" setting which cuts the bass out completely.

 

There is also a bass shift switch which tightens the bass on any of the three settings, cutting it slightly for high volume, high gain crunch without a hint of mud.

 

3- I played the amp at "reasonable" volume and didn't hear much breakup on either channel. Is it one of those amps that's gonna take serious volume (and an attenuator) to get a good crunch? And what does said crunch sound like? It's the one thing I didn't really get to test out. What kind of dirt can I get on the various voicings? (I saw Doc mentioning the word "modern" in there).

 

It's really loud, even in 7.5 watt mode. To get good crunch, I use an attenuator at home. The drive sounds vary greatly depending on the guitar and the amp settings. In general, you get sweet, tight, focused break up in the EF86 channel when you push it around the 1/2 way point with humbuckers

 

This is with some rather low output filtertrons, but you get the picture

 

This is with a strat with the EF86 turned up 1/3

 

Another strat clip with Top Boost channel

 

Here's a Rick thru the Top Boos

 

Modern tones can easily be achieved by using a good distortion pedal, but with the new position on the EF86 channel and the bass shift engaged, you can get very good drive tones for just about any genre except metal.

 

4- What exactly is the "top boost" channel? Is it supposed to be the gainier channel?

 

It's based on Vox's original top boost circuit with nice high end cut You've heard the sound if you've listened to the Edge or Mike Campbell. The distortion is a little coarser than the EF86, but it breaks up at around the same point.

5- Tell me more about the channel jumping. I've heard that mentioned before on other amps (such as EVH and his Plexi), but I never understood how it works exactly.

 

On some older amp circuits that have two separate preamp channels, you can take a short lead and run it from the input of one channel to the input of the other channel. Then you plug your guitar into one of the vacant inputs on either of the two channels. This allows you to blend the two channels to get some cool sounds. Original Vox AC30's and the 1990's versions made in England allow you to do that, as well as Marshall plexis and the small 18-20 watt Marshalls. It's very cool!

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Thanks guys (both Wyatt and Doc)!

 

Seriously, I don't know where else I'd learn this stuff without people like you guys answering my (sometimes dumb) questions.

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Thanks guys (both Wyatt and Doc)!


Seriously, I don't know where else I'd learn this stuff without people like you guys answering my (sometimes dumb) questions.

 

Anytime, puck. By the way, I would add that I actually like my Marshall 18 watt combo better for pure drive tones, but it's limited in its clean range. But the quality of the OD is simply amazing. I had to learn how to play it though--it's not as simple as plug in and go. You have to learn how to set the controls on your guitar and how the amp responds to different playing styles. It's the same thing with the Vox. I'm still learning how to work with it.

 

The Marshall took a few months to break in--those cabinets and speakers are really stiff, and there's nothing like a lot of loud playing to soften them up. Same with the Vox.

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It is, indeed, a sweet amp, but pricey for a Chinese made product that is not really handwired as advertised.

 

Just wanted to chime in here on the Vox stuff. Not sure this even applies to the HW AC15. But those Chinese made Voxs are actually a Tony Bruno redesign. Quite the amp, actually. And I could imagine the HW's are just that much better. The only thing that kinda bummed me on the newer Chinese produced amp was the Tung-Sols were missing.

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Interesting stuff, guys.

 

I'm still a bit uncertain as to what direction I want to take, ampwise, so I'm taking my time deciding and doing as much research as I can. Asking all the questions I can think of, and of course, test driving any of these amps that I can get my hands on.

 

The thing that really drew me to this Vox is the complexity and richness of the tones I heard when I tried it. I had just finished trying a couple of Orange amps (AD30 and Rocker 30) and found the Vox to carry more complexity, richness and definition as soon as I struck that first chord. It's a bit hard for me to describe sound, but it's as if the Vox had more separation between the different frequencies (lows, mids and highs) so that I could hear all 3 at the same time, without one overwhelming the others. That's why I used to the word "rich" and "complex". There was simply a lot going on, in that one chord. It sounded very 3-dimensional, and full of harmonics, undertones, and overtones, if that makes sense.

 

In comparison, my Classic 30 (which is my frame of reference, simply because i play it every day, and I am used to it) sounds good, nothing wrong there, but it certainly did not have that kind of complex definition I heard on the Vox. The Orange amps also did not seem to have that, although they sounded pretty good on their own merit.

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I'll try my best.


1- What's the difference between the triode/pentode switch in the channel 1 section and the main triode/pentode switch on the far right?


Switch on left cuts POWER OUTPUT in half. Switch on right cuts PREAMP GAIN in half on just the ef86 channel.



2- What exactly are the 3 voicings on the normal channel?


First position is just like the original with full bass and crisp highs. When you push it too hard, it can get a bit muddy, so there's a second setting with less bottom end (a brand new setting). Additionally, there's a third "brilliant" setting which cuts the bass out completely.


There is also a bass shift switch which tightens the bass on any of the three settings, cutting it slightly for high volume, high gain crunch without a hint of mud.


3- I played the amp at "reasonable" volume and didn't hear much breakup on either channel. Is it one of those amps that's gonna take serious volume (and an attenuator) to get a good crunch? And what does said crunch sound like? It's the one thing I didn't really get to test out. What kind of dirt can I get on the various voicings? (I saw Doc mentioning the word "modern" in there).


It's really loud, even in 7.5 watt mode. To get good crunch, I use an attenuator at home. The drive sounds vary greatly depending on the guitar and the amp settings. In general, you get sweet, tight, focused break up in the EF86 channel when you push it around the 1/2 way point with humbuckers


This is with some rather low output filtertrons, but you get the picture


This is with a strat with the EF86 turned up 1/3


Another strat clip with Top Boost channel


Here's a Rick thru the Top Boos


Modern tones can easily be achieved by using a good distortion pedal, but with the new position on the EF86 channel and the bass shift engaged, you can get very good drive tones for just about any genre except metal.



4- What exactly is the "top boost" channel? Is it supposed to be the gainier channel?


It's based on Vox's original top boost circuit with nice high end cut You've heard the sound if you've listened to the Edge or Mike Campbell. The distortion is a little coarser than the EF86, but it breaks up at around the same point.


5- Tell me more about the channel jumping. I've heard that mentioned before on other amps (such as EVH and his Plexi), but I never understood how it works exactly.


On some older amp circuits that have two separate preamp channels, you can take a short lead and run it from the input of one channel to the input of the other channel. Then you plug your guitar into one of the vacant inputs on either of the two channels. This allows you to blend the two channels to get some cool sounds. Original Vox AC30's and the 1990's versions made in England allow you to do that, as well as Marshall plexis and the small 18-20 watt Marshalls. It's very cool!

 

 

Hi Doc, after reading all this I broke down and bought one myself. It's too loud to play in the bedroom, so I'm in the market for a attenuator. I was wondering what kind I should buy.

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The Marshall took a few months to break in--those cabinets and speakers are really stiff, and there's nothing like a lot of loud playing to soften them up. Same with the Vox.

 

Doc, that 18 or 20 watt Marshall you got, is that purely a gig amp or can it do useable home noises?

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I went back yesterday, hoping to try out a Tiny Terror (they didn't have one last week). They still didn't have any in stock (apparently selling like hot cakes)

 

Puck, I'm confused? You went to try a TT, but you have one in your sig space for sale?

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Puck, I'm confused? You went to try a TT, but you have one in your sig space for sale?

 

Yeah I believe he bought the TT, but then realized it wasn't what he was after, so his quest continues. I think he ordered an 18w Ceriatone amp as well...poor guy seems tormented with this amp decision!

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poor guy seems tormented with this amp decision!

 

I've also heard rumors that the sun always rises in the east.

 

:lol:

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Yeah I believe he bought the TT, but then realized it wasn't what he was after, so his quest continues. I think he ordered an 18w Ceriatone amp as well...poor guy seems tormented with this amp decision!

 

Aaaaah I didn't look at the dates IRG;)

 

Don't you guys have Laneys over there, it's quite obvious that's what he needs

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I had mentioned the (somewhat) expensive 5w Lionheart amp which was intriguing to him (and me). I think they go for $1,050. He's got something new coming, I'll let him tell what it is when he sees these posts. He'll be an expert on amps soon :)

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The lack of a master volume is a good thing IMO. Classic style amps like Fenders, Voxes, old Marshalls sound better with a good OD than they do with master volume induced OD.

 

The thing about Voxes, though, they can be picky about what OD you use. You don't want anything too bright sounding, or its icepick in the ear time. A couple of my favorites are the Keeley modded Tube Screamer and the Xotic BB Preamp.

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I was thinking LC30 and LC15 actually

 

I think those are reasonably priced over here, not sure of the price but about half or less even than the Lionheart.

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I have the VC15 and it is truly a sweet amp, surprisingly loud given its 10" speaker, can sound clean and jingle (not a dead ringer for Vox tho') and the drive channel is very sweet. Excellent bang for the buck. However, it really starts to live once the vol is beyond 4 and that already exceeds (my) bedroom level ...

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Puck, I'm confused? You went to try a TT, but you have one in your sig space for sale?

 

Dude! This original thread was from a month and a half ago!

 

I tried the Vox. Then I tried out the TT. Then I bought the TT. Then I decided to sell it and order a Ceriatone 18W Marshall Clone which is currently being build somewhere in Malaysia.

 

Time warp!

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