The Vox AC30 has graced the studio and stage with legendary notables such as The Beatles and Jeff Beck, as well as modern-day heroes like Jonny Greenwood. Queen’s Brian May is among the most famous AC30 users ever, and he favors the Top Boost AC30TB model. May kept his amps loud and simple, going so far as to have Pete Cornish remove the Bright and Vib/Trem circuitry.
In an attempt to capture the hot, direct sound of May’s AC30, Portland-based Catalinbread developed the Galileo. The effort was spurred, in part, by the Pro Guitar Shop who, together with Catalinbread, decided a combination of Catalinbread’s CB30 overdrive and Naga Viper (a Dallas Rangemaster clone) would add up to a “Vox in a box.”
Brick of Gold
Without an official endorsement, there’s only so much you can get away with when casting a product in a legend’s likeness. Catalinbread is really pushing the envelope here, as the Galileo’s flamboyant appearance screams Queen. Painted with a flashy gold flake, the crowning visual is a modified Queen crest, originally designed by Freddie Mercury for their debut cover. Nearly identical to the original emblem, the Galileo trades a ‘G’ for the ‘Q,’ a trout for a crab, and a goose for the mythical phoenix. A regal, if irreverent, design indeed.
For a dual-pedal setup, the Catalinbread Galileo is exceptionally compact. This true-bypass stompbox has jacks positioned at the top along with a 9V barrel adapter (a battery will also work if you open it up). There are five controls to manage—volume, treble, bass, gain, and top boost. The first four attend to the CB30 circuit, which is engaged by the leftmost footswitch. The treble and bass knobs are interactive, so if you adjust one you’ll more than likely need to adjust the other to create a new sweet spot. For Brian May’s live tone, Catalinbread suggests turning the gain all the way up and kicking it down a notch for higher-output pickups.
Striking a chord released a dazzling array of British Invasion drive with plenty of gain that doesn’t fall into a wall-of-sound distortion.
The top boost effect is engaged with the right side footswitch and, like a real Rangemaster, only has one control. This is primarily used to boost the overdrive into glimmering sustain, although the effect can be engaged by itself. Activating the top boost in this manner produces the best results if your amplifier is already near the point of breakup and needs that final push. Or you can use it to boost another effect on your ’board.
On the Stage
My voyage with the Galileo began with a vintage ’72 Fender Mustang plugged into a vintage Fender Tremolux powering it’s matched 2x12 cab. I started with the Catalinbread’s suggested settings—maximum gain, treble at 1 o’clock, and bass at 11 o’clock. Activating the overdrive drew the curtains open on the dark vocals of the Tremolux, peppering the output frequency with a focused treble—a trademark of Vox amplification. This stock setting was a bit harsh, especially given the twangy nature of the Mustang’s single-coils, so I kicked up the bass response a tad, and rolled off the treble. Striking a chord at this point released a dazzling array of British Invasion drive with plenty of gain that doesn’t fall into a wall-of-sound distortion.
The hotter pickups of an ’80s Gibson Sonex kicked up the output level and pushed the gain into much crunchier territory. This was the perfect situation to use the guitar’s volume pot to control the OD’s strength. Brian May is a master of this technique, and the Galileo supports this style of play very well. Clicking into the top boost gives you critical ingredients for nailing Brian’s laser-guided tone, a spike in upper-end frequencies with a dash of gritty jangle. I found keeping the top boost a little past noon to be the best fit for this setup—below noon will begin to cut your volume, and extreme clockwise positions seemed to choke some of the tone with compression.
I also tried plugging the Galileo into a ’65 Twin Reverb reissue, which ultimately lacked some of the umph that the Tremolux displayed, especially at lower amplifier volumes. The Twin still delivered a convincing take on AC30 rip—a pretty impressive feat. But it’s harder to get that AC30 grit with an amp this clean and loud. A Fender Deluxe clone was a better fit, and responded infinitely better to the top boost.
Amp-in-a-box effects can be difficult to use when your amp has entirely different characteristics. But the Galileo does a great job of delivering AC30 characteristics across a wide variety of amps, including clean Fender-style amps. The spiky/slashing treble tones and clear picking dynamics are especially impressive. If you’re a stickler for authentic AC30 sounds, this probably won’t substitute for the real thing—you’re going to have to buy an AC30. But if an AC30 isn’t in your budget or you want near AC30 tones from a changing backline, the Galileo will get you fairly good seats in the ballpark.