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This article was originally published in issue #22
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When British manufacturer Vox amplifiers first released the AC15 onto the unsuspecting public back in 1958, it was destined to become an amplifier of legendary status. Later, designer Dick Denny's masterpiece was, effectively, doubled-up to make the even more legendary AC30, but before that came about it was the amp used by the Shadows and many (most?) other British bands in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Overshadowed (ouch!) by the AC30 and then driven off stage by the advent of valve 'stacks' during the 1960s, there were always those who revered the sheer tone of these early amps. Fast-forward to 2013 and Vox have decided to reissue the AC15 in various different guises, including the Vox AC15C1X custom combo amplifier.
As its name implies, the AC15 is a 15 Watt amplifier and the model we were loaned for review is the AC15C1X version, which features a single 12" Celestion Alnico Blue Speaker. Originally regarding as the perfect speaker for Vox's iconic AC30 amplifier, it has now made its way into the custom AC15, where it should, in theory, do some very special things to the sound!
The first thing to strike you is how portable it is. The AC15 weighs 22 kg or 48.50 lbs and with dimensions of: (W x D x H): 602 x 265 x 456 mm or 23.70 x 10.43 x 17.95 inches it's certainly a very gigable combo.
Inside, the AC15 sports the traditional complement of three 12AX7 valves in the pre-amp section and a pair of EL84s for power amp duties. It's essentially a two channel amplifier consisting of a 'normal' channel and a 'top boost' channel. Each is equipped with its own volume control and the top boost channel comes with independent treble and bass tone controls to allow you to shape the tone to your needs. Both channels rely on the Tone Cut and Volume controls in the Master section. The Tone Cut control operates in the power stage rather than the preamp stage, allowing an additional degree of tone-shaping. The Master Volume control on the AC15 control works directly in conjunction with the individual volumes of each channel and by balancing the respective channels volume control with the Master Volume, the amp can be as clean as you want it while at the same time making it possible to get decent amounts of gain.
For those of you that like to add a touch of Rock and Roll authenticity to your sound, there is an onboard tremolo effect with both depth and rate controls. Vox has also included an onboard spring reverb, allowing you to add a touch of traditional sounding spaciousness to your tone should you so wish.
At the rear of the Vox you'll find a switchable 8/16 Ohm output jack for powering an external speaker cabinet and using this jack will mute the internal speaker. Additionally, an extension speaker jack allows you to run an extra 16 Ohm cabinet along with the internal speakers.
And how does it sound? Well, of course, check out the video so you can hear for yourself. In my opinion, you'd be hard pushed to find a more 'organic' sounding amp. The cleans have that unmistakable quality to the tone that just feels 'alive' when you play. The dynamic response is superb too with every single nuance in the playing coming through the Alnico Blue speaker.
Using the volume controls on both the normal and top boost channels in conjunction with the useful Tone Cut control really allows you to shape the tone the way you want it to sound.
Dial in the gain and the AC15 never loses its classic sound. Having said that, even though the amount of gain available is somewhat surprising, there really won't be enough here for anything beyond a basic Rock sound, as always, these valve amps are monstrously loud! Don't be put off by the fact that it has a 15 Watt rating. It is more than suitable for a club or pub gig, and more than likely with lots of volume to spare.
The AC15 is every bit a classic amplifier. From clean tones right through to overdriven Rock sounds the AC15 is a force to be reckoned with. Its truly organic feel and great options for input configurations and tone shaping as well as world beating tone make it, for me, one of the finest combos on the market today. Superb stuff!