March 9, 2014

Gear Review: Vox AC4C1 - Review & Demo


Picture The Vox AC4TV was an all around hit for budget musicians, bedroom players,  and those who want to record cranked tubes at lower volumes. Following in the trails of success comes the AC4C1, offered in two cool colors and a couple new updates, all for $50 extra.

Features & Build
The AC4C1 has a very limited control panel - Gain, Treble, Bass, and Volume. This is exciting, considering the AC4TV only has Tone, Volume, and OP Level. There is one input, and also a 16 ohm jack for connecting an external cabinet. However, these additional tone sculpting options come at a cost - unlike it's cheaper sibling, there is no attenuator built in. All of this tone is being pushed through a custom 10" Celestion speaker. Mine came in limited edition cream. The tolex looks very pretty, and the amp looks slick with the gold logo and silver grill cloth. It is very lightweight, making it super easy to transport.

Plugging in my Fender Stratocaster (Vintage Noiseless pickups), the amp has that compression and chime that Vox is famous for. Keeping the gain below noon, you can keep a single coil equipped guitar clean at pretty much any volume. Turning up the gain to about 1 o' clock gives you just enough grit to summon up "The Joshua Tree" tones. That is why I purchased this amp, and for that purpose, it greatly succeeds. For a humbucker equipped guitar like my ESP LTD EC-1000 (Seymour Duncan JB/'59), it is much more difficult to get a clean sound.  A light crunch sounds very good, but as you turn up the gain knob (past 1 o' clock), the sound gets very fuzzy despite where the volume is. This is a characteristic that many small tube amps have, so I'm not too surprised about that. Regardless, that fuzziness inspired me to embrace the tone and learn some classic 60's rock n' roll. It was a blast.

I have to admit, the built in speaker isn't that great. Unfortunately, the combo sounds small and boxy. You can't get the complete package for $300, but I believe the external speaker jack helps make up for this. Plugging into my Marshall 4x12 with Celestion G12C's, the amp really came to life. The tones sounded much fuller, less fizzy, and overall bigger. The AC4C1 also takes effects surprisingly well. Throwing a delay up front, the sound never gets muddied up or busy. I was able to plug in a myriad of effects without a problem, and they all sounded fine to my ears.

The Verdict
The AC4C1 is a lot of amp in a cheap package. Although it'll struggle to keep up with a drummer, it can still sound huge in a recording situation. And believe me, these 4 all-tube watts are still very loud.  The external speaker option is my favorite inclusion, just because it turns the amp from small and boxy, to full and rich. This is Vox "Top Boost" tone in a 4 watt amp. If you're looking for a tiny Vox to jam on, this should be on the top of your list.

tonechaser score - 8/10


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