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Review

VOX AC30HW60 60th Anniversary

Issue #54

Everything about this amp exudes pure class. The three leather handles feel more like expensive garment leather than the rugged stuff normally used in amp cabinetry. The wicker tolex and classic grille cloth are immaculately applied and period correct. The control panel is a beautiful powder blue, with sturdy feeling pots and jacks. This is an exceptionally high-quality amplifier.
Nick Jennison

PROS

Vox’s engineering expertise at its finest

Premium quality from speakers to carry handles.

Glorious vintage tone

CONS

Lack of channel switching will upset some, but the tonal purity more than makes up for it

Guitar Interactive star rating: 5 stars

VOX AC30HW60 60th Anniversary

MSRP (UK) £3749 (US) $TBC

Vox is without question one of the most iconic amp companies of all time. One-third of the “holy trinity” of classic amps (alongside Fender and Marshall), they have a history and heritage that goes all the way back to the dawn of the electric guitar in the 1950s. Nick Jennison explores the brand's 60th Anniversary edition of the AC30.

The iconic VOX AC30 helped players as diverse as Brian May, The Edge and The Beatles find their voices and has been a mainstay in studios and on stages around the world ever since. Created to celebrate Vox’s 60th anniversary, the AC30HW60 is the pinnacle of Vox’s amp-building craft. Made in extremely limited qualities and hand wired by master engineers to exacting standards, this amp is one serious piece of kit, with a price tag to match. It’s not cheap, but consider how much early ‘60s AC30s go for on the used market and suddenly the price doesn’t seem so bad.

Everything about this amp exudes pure class. The three leather handles feel more like expensive garment leather than the rugged stuff normally used in amp cabinetry. The wicker tolex and classic grille cloth are immaculately applied and period correct. The control panel is a beautiful powder blue, with sturdy feeling pots and jacks. This is an exceptionally high-quality amplifier.

The control layout is somewhat reminiscent of the Top Boost AC-30/6 from the 1960s, with six input jacks for accessing the various “channels”; Normal, Brilliant (complete with hard-wired “top boost”) and Vib/Trem, each with high and low gain inputs. It’s a historically correct quirk that’ll upset players who grew up using channel switching amps, but it allows Vox to keep the switching circuitry in the amp - and it’s potentially detrimental effect on the tone - to a minimum.

Power is provided by the usual quota of EL84s and a pair of special-issue Celestion Alnico Silvers (not Blues, as I mistakenly alluded to in the video). If you’re not familiar with alnico speakers, you really need to try them! All the important guitar-specific frequencies leap out in a glorious three-dimensional haze. It’s a sound that’s designed to be heard; you need to on top of your game playing-wise because every quirk and nuance is going to be reproduced with staggering speed and accuracy, slicing through the densest mix with ease despite the “modest” 30w power rating.

Speaking of which, please don’t mistake this amp as a low-wattage bedroom wonder. AC30s are among the loudest amps pound-for-pound on the earth, and the purity of the signal path in this model one serves to exaggerate this. When we wound it up for some solo tones in the video demo, I could feel my fillings loosening. It was a ferocious, stadium-filling noise. The rolled-off low end contributes to this in no small way; as any bass player will tell you, you need big wattage to reproduce deep lows, and the AC30’s signature sub-300hz roll-off means that those crucial mids can be pumped out with punishing efficiency. The sound is a little “boxy” on its own (especially if you’re used to the breathy low end of a Fender or the thump of a Boogie), but in a mix, it’s pure perfection.

The Normal “channel” is sweet and balanced sounding with a slight scoop in the “honky" 500-700hz region and takes dirt pedals with grace and dignity. It’s common guitar wisdom that AC30s don’t like pedals, and perhaps this is true of the Top Boost circuit (similar to the bright switch on a Fender Super Reverb), but the Normal channel is quite the opposite. There’s no tone stack on this channel, only volume and tone cut (a master treble roll-off). Wind the volume up to half way, and things start to break up, and from three quarters it’s full-on “blizzard of nails” saturation. It’s not a Marshall bark, nor a Mesa roar, but a textured and raspy grind that’s unique to the AC30. It’s a very cool and characterful sound that records beautifully, and when pushed with an overdrive it blooms into a raw yet vocal lead tone.

The Brilliant channel is hard-wired with Vox’s lauded Top Boost circuit. There is a little less clean headroom and a lot more sparkle, along with additional tone shaping options thanks to the treble and bass controls in the master tone section. There are a wealth of tones on tap in this mode from Liverpool to Dublin, and with a treble booster that classic Brian May voice is there in abundance.

The Tremolo/Vibrato channel is limited to a single depth and three preset speeds ranging from “quite fast" to “super fast”. The modern guitarist might crave more versatility, but the historic sounds on tap here are certainly evocative - just don’t expect subtlety!

All in all, the AC30HW60 is an absolute vintage tone monster. If you can’t find/afford a vintage 1960s AC30 (or the frequent repair bills that come with owning an amp of that age), this is the next best thing. It’s a hefty beast with a hefty price tag, but once you hear it you’ll forget all about your aching back and an empty wallet. Simply spectacular.

SPECS

30 Watts

5 x ECC83/12AX7,

1 x ECC82/12AU7,

4 x EL84, 1 x GZ34

2 x 12” 8 Ohm Speakers

For more information, please visit:

www.voxamps.com

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Issue #57

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