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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Vox AC15 Hand Wired AC15HW1X


Format: 1x12 combo
Watts: 7.5 - 15
Preamp Tubes: Three 12AX7s
Rectifier: EZ81
Normal Channel Controls: High/low inputs with volume knob and bright switch
Top Boost Channel Controls: High/low inputs with volume, treble, and bass knobs and hot/cool switch
Master Section Controls: Tone cut and volume knobs with master volume bypass switch
Additional Features: 15/7.5- watt op mode switch, included footswitch
Speaker: Celestion Alnico Blue
Price: $1,449 street (Also available as a 1x12 combo with a Celestion Greenback for $1,199 street.)

The Vox AC15 is the granddaddy of low-wattage EL84 amps, and as such it’s the genetic blueprint for each of the amps in our roundup. This latest handwired incarnation is a sonically faithful offspring of the original that provides tones ranging from classic sparkle to rough and rowdy.

Locke: The first thing I noticed about the amp is the fawn, early-’60s classic Vox look—I’m pleased they’re bringing that back. Both channels sound a bit different, which is cool—that’s what you want. At lower volumes, it has the classic Vox chime, and as you turn it up you get a grindier Vox sound. The sweep on the volume is very linear, which I like. And there wasn’t an abrupt change from sparkly clean to really overdriven—you can hear all the shades of overdriven textures in between as you turn up. With a hollowbody guitar, it’s easy to get feedback and it’s very responsive. It sounds like a Vox AC15 should—they successfully made a faithful reissue of a classic amp.

Derrico: It’s got that real nice, glassy thing that all Voxes have. And I really love the way it looks—it’s sexy as hell. The top boost has a ton of gain, which could be really cool for rock ’n’ roll stuff.

Trovato: This amp does exactly what the name on the front suggests— it’s got that sound. It’s got a 7.5-watt or 15-watt mode, and it’s a loud 15 watts. The controls are easy to read, even if it’s a guitar geek’s heaven back here—it’s got so many options. The first one, the normal channel, sounds just like it’s supposed to sound. I was tempted to play a lot of open-position chords because it has that jangly sound with that tight low end. It doesn’t sound floppy on the low end at all, which is the sound these amps made famous. The other channel is better for distortion. It doesn’t sound quite as jangly as the normal channel to me. But where I would use a distortion pedal [with the normal channel] I can go into this other channel instead. You lose some of the high end, but it sounds better than using a pedal, which gets too ice-pick-in-theforehead for me.

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