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This article was originally published in issue #24
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The Vox Night Train series has been around for a while now, proving very popular and successful as a counterpart to Vox’s more traditionally voiced amplifiers and opening the brand up to a wider market place of guitar players looking for a more modern sound from their amplifiers. The 15 Watt NT15C1 is a 12” combo version of the NT15H-G2 head from the latest, second generation, Night Trains and stands out a little from the range thanks to its more vintage aesthetics and highly portable design.
The visual design of the NT15C1 matches the aesthetics of the cabs within the Night Train range but rather than going for the more aggressive appearance adopted by the heads, Vox has kept the top panel clean and subtle, giving this combo a more refined and reserved look that is very appealing to the eye. This look is further enhanced by the suitcase style handle and white piping around the cabinet with its rounded corners, making it resemble a vintage CRT TV design from the '60s.
Housed within the mirror black chassis are three 12AX7 preamp tubes and a pair of EL84 power tubes in a Class AB circuit, delivering 15 Watts through a 12” Celestion G12M Greenback speaker.
In terms of control and tone shaping, the Night Train offers a range of options that go beyond the standard three-band EQ controls on many budget friendly amps. Vox has split the NT15C1 into two channels labelled Bright (clean) and Girth (Dirty) with a shared three-band EQ section matched with a boost switch (Thick switch) and a Dark switch for taming the high end. This effectively gives you three channels to play with as the Thick switch causes the clean channel to break up in a really pleasing way and can be switched in and out with the footswitch, that must, unfortunately, be purchased separately. Once engaged, the Thick switch bypasses the tone control circuit but naturally thickens up the tone adding more gain for another tonal variation.
Vox has also included good quality reverb circuit in the amp, meaning that it really is an all-in-one combo and a great package for smaller gigs or rehearsals where you don’t want to take any pedals along for the ride. The clean channel features a single gain control and the girth has both volume and gain with a master volume residing on the far left of the top panel next to the reverb mix control. The top panel is completed by the obvious mains and standby switches plus three mode LED’s allowing you to see in low light environments how the amp is configures. On the back of the combo you’ll find a very handy FX loop plus foot switch input. Due to the semi-closed back design these are a little hard to locate but this offers the combo a better bass response and is a good trade off to make for a better tone.
Build quality in the entire Night Train line-up is superb and the NT15C1 is no exception with a solid feel to all controls and joints on the amp. It’s a pretty heavy beast considering its diminutive size but it feels very well put together with no hint of corner cutting or cheapness anywhere in its design. All of the physical components feel very tight and the handle feels like it would live up to a life on the road with no issues whatsoever - just watch your back!
Plugging into the clean channel first, you get a very responsive and characterful clean tone. There’s no sterility here, nor any sense that the clean channel was an afterthought since the tones are dynamic and bell like with immediacy and authority that belies the price point of the Night Train range.
Engaging the Thick switch adds a lovely grit to the sound that can become pretty crunchy with humbuckers. Using single coils you’re into Blues and light Rock tones that match very well with a light sprinkle of the reverb control and give you that magical confidence that makes you play that bit better. In this channel there is plenty of clean headroom and the EQ controls function well with a broad range of tones on offer. The Mid control was a little subtle but functions very well in the Girth channel. Switching over to the Girth setting offers up a surprising amount of gain that can be sculpted with precision using the three-band EQ for classic Rock tones all the way up to thrash or Metal tones with the mids pulled back. Rolling back the guitar’s volume cleans things up nicely and doesn’t dull the tone or feel artificial in any way.
This is a very tonally versatile amp that reacts superbly to a range of playing styles with a very dynamic and authentic Vox character. Considering the price for this all-in-one combo, it's a bit of a no-brainer really and thanks to the excellent build quality I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a small valve/tube combo amp that does it all. Superb!