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The Night Train’s high-gain tones are, in the best possible terms, a completely different animal. While the Bright mode is capable of creating smooth, clear overdrive, the Thick mode turns the jangly Night Train into a roaring fiend. Designed in conjunction with famed amp designer Tony Bruno, the Bright/Thick switch isn’t really a dedicated tonal change, but seems more like a channel switch. Using the Les Paul Custom and flipping the switch to Thick, the amp shook off and shed the classic ‘60s vibe that I’d been enjoying. It snarled with an incredible Slash-esque bark. There is a very conspicuous volume increase with the switch set in this position, but in a good way. The Night Train breathes a bit better, and pushes more air. It was really strange standing in front of this little mini-stack and feeling like it was kicking me in the shins like a child in a temper tantrum.
I moved the head to a Bogner 4x12” with Celestion Vintage 30s, which allowed it to really showcase how multidimensional the overdrive tones are, unlike some small-wattage heads with rather flat and dull distortion sounds. Despite being a 15-watt amplifier, the Night Train is very loud and powerful, but can get noisy when pushed hard. Feedback was a big issue at high volumes with both the Les Paul and a Paul Reed Smith Starla, both of which were equipped with humbuckers. Some of the sweetest lead tones the Night Train can produce come from pushing the power section, so liberal use of the guitar’s volume knob is recommended to avoid any sort of auditory chaos that might ensue. Lowering the gain knob helped, of course, and some very cool non-master volume types of tones are possible using the Gain knob as the master while the Master Volume is at 3 o’clock or higher.
The most exciting moments with the Night Train for me were using the extremely satisfying clean channel. It’s not often that you find a small-wattage head with cleans that can compete tonally with some of its larger wattage brethren, and also be as capable and convenient for gigging (provided that the drummer isn’t playing too loud). It’s certainly the best sounding small-wattage clean tone that I’ve heard so far.
The Final Mojo
Coupled with a fantastic overdrive that seems like an entirely different amp itself, the Night Train is really hard to beat if you’re in the market for a low-wattage amplifier. Other than a little unruliness in higher volume situations, my only qualm in the design is the omission of an effects loop, or some other avenue for adding reverb and delay. Obviously a good-sounding reverb tank would be nearly impossible to fit in the tiny chassis, and a loop would handle this immediately. Hopefully future incarnations of the Night Train will include this feature, and (I’m crossing my fingers) make the Bright/Thick feature footswitchable. VOX has really hit it out of the ballpark with this one.
you want very smooth, controllable and usable cleans and great drive tones for recording small, intimate venues.
you need more than 15 watts, or an effects loop.
MSRP $700 - VOX Amplification - voxamps.com