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This article was originally published in issue #50
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All in all, the Vox MV50 is an amazing little head. It looks a bit gimmicky but trust me that this is a serious bit of kit.
Easy to use
Limited tonal options
Vox MV50 Rock
Vox deserves credit for consistently coming up with very different packaging for its range of amps. Take the new MV50 for example. But is it just a pretty face? Lewis Turner finds out.
Little amps are definitely all the rage - especially little valve amps. Gone are the days where you need 16 100 Watt heads with matching 4x12 cabs and even the guys that claim to use that kind of set-up are usually fibbing, with 15 of them just for show. OK, it may not look as cool to have an amp the size of a toaster on the stage, but it's far cooler than putting out your back lugging heads and cabs up 32 flights of stairs for a 30 minute set. Veteran brand Vox has been up there at the front of this downsizing movement with a number of great little amps to choose from. However, this new MV50 range of heads takes compact to the next level, this thing is tiny!
The MV50 heads (they come in AC, Clean and Rock versions - the names telling you all you need to know about their purpose!) can be connected to any speaker/speakers - and there are two bespoke speakers to go with them, more of which, later. I checked out the 'Rock' one. As always be sure to check out the video to see and hear this head for yourself.
This little Vox is about the ultimate in playing simplicity, sporting just three controls on the front panel, Gain, Tone and Volume along with a power meter. It's hard to believe but this head has the maximum power of 50 Watts depending on your impedance output setting (via switch on the back). 4 Ohm = 50 Watt, 8 Ohm = 25 Watt and 16 Ohm = 12.5 Watt. We ran ours at 8 Ohm into a 4x12 cab. So how does such a tiny unit produce so much output? Well there is some clever new technology in these little heads. The MV50 boasts an all analogue pre-amp circuit, and features the brand new 'NuTube' - a vacuum tube that promises to deliver authentic valve tone at a fraction of the size. This is coupled to a Class D power amp.
The Rock version of this amp is designed to deliver more aggressive tones reminiscent of high gain British amps. I mentioned earlier that it can be plugged into any cab and that wasn't me being deliberately vague as Vox has thought the possibilities through and provided a 'Flat or Deep' setting switch on the back that helps with this. Selecting Deep will suit small cabs by emphasising the low frequencies, while the Flat setting keeps it all level, suiting larger cabs.
This is a classic plug in and play head where you can get a good usable tone straight off the bat. I was really impressed with the depth and response it delivers, not to mention the impressive volume. It delivers a good quality clean tone, and with just a little gain you start to get that classic Vox broken-up tone. Happily, this varies depending on how hard you pick, making this a very dynamic and responsive amp, as all good tube amps should be. There is a ton of gain available, and using the volume control on your guitar you can really clean it up to get meaty chord sounds. Pushing the gain right to the max it's amazing how much volume this little amp can produce, and it's still good useable volume that doesn’t turn to mush. OK, let's be reasonable: it won’t give you a big saturated gain sound that suits Metal but then that's not what this amp is about, but for classic Rock and Blues this is just fine.
What I haven't mentioned yet, not least because we weren't able to get a sample in time for this review, are the new mini cabs which Vox is offering to go with these MC heads. They come in 8" and 12" versions and look very retro. So far the only models we've seen offered by retailers have been the 8" speakered version but Vox's press information suggests a 12" model is on the way. Office opinion was divided as to whether the amps look a bit silly on top of full-sized cabs (they really are very small) and they do look quite cute in pictures showing them with Vox's matching boxes. It would be nice to see how they work together tonally.
All in all, the Vox MV50 is an amazing little head. It looks a bit gimmicky but trust me that this is a serious bit of kit. It's ideal for at home practice and studio recording and it's small enough to fit in your gig bag to take to a rehearsal or gig, maybe to use with a serious FX processor like an Axe-FX to drive a monitor, while still being loud enough to stand its ground if you do wish to use it as your main amp for smaller venues. I'm not sure how it would handle a really loud band situation, but as a highly portable, great sounding head it's hard to beat!