As a quality tube practice or recording amp, it’s hard to beat the Vox AC4TV, and it could even be a solid gigging amp if you pair it with a larger cabinet.
Let’s face it – large, loud amplifiers are cool. How many of us have lusted over large stacks of Marshall amplifiers when we were young? Now, fast forward a few years. How many of us have roadies to cart around those Marshall stacks? Not too many. Even most working musicians have to cart around our own gear. Eventually, it’s more practical to use a small, good sounding combo that you can use to record, practice, and even take to small gigs. The Vox AC4TV – based on the original Vox AC4 released in the 60s – might just fit the bill if you want a great sounding, portable tube amp that’s also affordable. Its strength may lie in what it doesn’t do as much as what it does do. Let’s take a look at the details.
The Vox AC4TV is an all-tube amplifier that is switchable from 4 watts, 1 watt, and 1/4 watt power. The top panel sports controls for tone, volume, and output level. An external 16-ohm speaker output is also included. The speaker is a 1 x 10″ 16-ohm Celestion VX10 and the tubs include a single 12AX7 preamp tube and a single EL84 power amp tube. The amp weighs just shy of 20 lbs.
I tested the Vox AC4TV with a reissue Fender 1952 Fender Telecaster, a Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster, and a Gibson SG Standard. The first thing I noticed was that the characteristic Vox “chime” was present even on an amplifier this small. The midrange was pronounced and gave the amp a bit of “bite” at higher volumes, and the low end was a bit loose.
As you turn the volume knob up, you’ll notice a smooth compression that gives the amp a nice lead tone. Turning the volume past noon opens the amp up, almost too much. The amp seems to be more comfortable with single coil pickups instead of humbuckers, which sounded a bit muddy at higher volumes. However, if you play around with the tone control (the only EQ available), you’ll likely be able to dial in some usable tones.
I used a handful of overdrive pedals and was pleased with the extra range of tones I could get from both overdrive and distortion pedals, though you’ll have to use your gain knobs judiciously.
I was pleased overall with the range of sounds I could get, with country and jazz tones available at lower volumes and a nice, natural overdrive and grind available at higher volumes. It’s definitely loud for a “bedroom” amp. I’m not sure how the amp would fit in with an ensemble, though if you mic it I think it could probably hold its own, especially if you pair it with a good 2×12 or even 4×12 cabinet.
The amp really shines, I discovered, as a recording amplifier. There are even a number of mod kits available for the AC4TV which promise to turn it into the ultimate recording amp. Carl Verheyen endorses the Mercury Magnetics Studio Pro upgrade kit for example. I have to admit, though, that I think the Vox sounds pretty good in it stock form. Given its low price, though, it’s certainly a candidate for “hot-rodding” if you choose to take that route.
As a quality tube practice or recording amp, it’s hard to beat the Vox AC4TV, and it could even be a solid gigging amp if you pair it with a larger cabinet. Regardless of your intended use, it’s a quality affordable tube amp that’s easy on the wallet and your back.
Name of Gear: Vox AC4TV
List Price: $350.00
Manufacturer Info: VOX Amplification Ltd.; voxamps.com
Pros: Excellent value; solid classic tube amp tones; great recording amplifier
Cons: Can get a bit muddy with humbuckers at higher volumes