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This article was originally published in issue #30
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Vox released the diminutive amPlugs back in 2007 to great applause from the guitar market. The concept was to create a small headphone based practice amp that could plug directly into the guitar’s jack socket with authentic AC30 tone (other models were also available) allowing for very compact personal practice. For 2014 VOX has updated the design with the amPlug 2, adding some very cool features that could propel the device from useful to essential status.
The main design has remained mostly identical to the original with the distinctive Vox logo adorning a miniature AC30 combo with the jack plug sticking out the side. New for the amPlug 2, the jack plug can be rotated through 180 degrees allowing for better access of the controls while the unit is plugged in. The controls have been kept simple and easy to use and comprise a volume, tone and gain dial for manipulating your tone plus an FX button that switches between Chorus, Delay and Reverb effects with three variations of each. Finally, a power switch allows the user to select between the basic amp sound and two levels of Tremolo intensity. Squeezing so many tonal options into this tiny unit is a great achievement and makes the amPlug 2 fantastic value for money. A standard mini headphone socket and an Aux in are also included, allowing you to jam along with your favourite tracks.
The unit itself is constructed from plastic but feels solid enough to survive an accidental drop from waist height. The controls are small but easy to operate and the Gain, Tone and Volume controls are numbered 1-10 for precise tonal settings. Plugged in with a pair of decent headphones, the new analogue circuitry is amazingly authentic considering the size of the amPlug 2. Pick attack and dynamics are represented extremely well, making this AC30 emulation very fun to play at all gain settings. The tube characteristics of a vintage AC30 Top Boost are all present here with great punchy clean tones and classic Rock tones all at your disposal. When combined with the onboard effects, things get really fun, with high quality delays and reverbs adding a lovely ambiance to the already impressive tone. All of the settings for the Chorus, Delay and Reverb effects are musical and useable and the tremolo models are equally useful and impressive sounding.
The amPlug 2 is powered by a pair of AAA batteries (the kind you’ll find in most remote controls) and Vox claims an impressive 17 hour battery life. An auto-power off function will save your batteries if you forget to switch the unit off and since AAAs are cheap, the unit is very inexpensive to run.
Vox has made a great product even better with the amPlug 2 and it is something that could become an essential addition to every guitar player's gear list. For travelling, playing guitar on the bus, practicing before a gig and even basic portable recording, the amPlug 2 offers a great solution that sounds fantastic and is great fun to play through. It will definitely be on my Christmas list.