Premier Guitar

Vox Night Train G2 NT15C1 Review

February 24, 2014


When Vox released the original Night Train amplifier back in 2009, it won praise from pros and weekend warriors alike. The lunchbox amp revolution was in full swing, yet the Night Train’s chimey cleans, killer overdrive, and accessible price set it apart. And man, did it look cool—like the retro sci-fi toolbox Flash Gordon would pack before heading off to battle Ming the Merciless. It was so successful it spawned a line of amps and cabinets that’s still growing.

Vox has revamped the Night Train series with a more subdued, streamlined aesthetic and more versatile channel switching. The new EL84-driven, 15-watt G2 NT15C1 1x12 combo delivers signature Vox clean tones and the original Night Train’s great overdrive, along with a serial effect loop and digital reverb in a compact combo format.

Suitcase Rock
For the most part, the 15-watt Night Train G2 combo is as straightforward as its predecessors. An all-tube, two-channel preamp driven by three 12AX7s feeds a dual-EL84, class A/B power section and a 25-watt 12" Celestion Greenback speaker, which sits cozy in a compact, 19 1/2" x 10 1/4" x 16" semi-open cabinet. Save for two top-mounted vents, there’s not much ventilation for tube heat, so a small chassis-mounted fan keeps the guts cool.

The Night Train’s impressive headroom keeps the output tight and detailed with an overdrive or distortion pedal out front. It also makes for a very dynamic amp.

Channel switching is performed via a selector switch on the amp, or with Vox’s optional VFS2A footswitch. The amp’s clean channel—dubbed “bright” on the channel select switch—sounds very AC15-inspired, and its hard to coax a bad tone out of it, given that it has just one control for channel volume. A switch next to this knob engages a “thick” mode that provides a considerable volume boost. The “girth” channel provides overdrive tones. Here you can shape the output with 3-band EQ and dedicated gain and channel volume controls. Both channels share a master volume and the digital reverb, along with a “deep” switch for additional low-end punch. You can patch additional processors into the amp’s effect loop.

All Aboard!
The Night Train’s clean channel effortlessly delivers Vox’s famous sweet, clean tones and deep harmonic presence. The tones have fuller low end and stronger presence than those of the original Night Train. The Night Train’s impressive headroom keeps the output tight and detailed with an overdrive or distortion pedal out front. It also makes for a very dynamic amp. Treble and midrange tones remain crisp, woody, and defined, even under heavy pick attack.

Ratings

Pros:
Thick, detailed overdrive. Pristine cleans. Lots of headroom. Plenty of volume.

Cons:
Footswitch not included. No adjustment for “Thick” mode boost level. Reverb sounds flat compared to spring units.

Tones:

Playability/Ease of Use:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$699

Vox Night Train G2 NT15C1
voxamps.com

The amp is very responsive to guitar tone and volume changes. Lowering the volume on my Lollar JM-loaded BiLT Revelator gave the amp a more focused, bluesy character. Engaging the thick mode added midrange focus and punchy volume boost without too much extra distortion. The beefier midrange is great for ’60s-style rock rhythms.

But generally, the amp’s overdriven tones have a modern edge compared to what you’d hear from an AC15 or other vintage-style Vox amp. I copped Brian May-style bark by turning up the channel’s mids, dropping the treble, and leaving the “Dark” mode off, but the channel retained a modern color I couldn’t completely shake. That limitation aside (and it’s really only a limitation if you’re a vintage-obsessed Vox fan), the channel gives low-output humbuckers a pleasingly full-bodied low-gain overdrive voice. Factor in the midrangy quality of the Celestion Greenback, and the Night Train and low-output humbuckers become a match made in heaven, especially for classic British blues and hard rock. Meanwhile, there’s enough extra gain on tap to cover Van Halen- and Slash-like lead tones and Alice in Chains-style chunk.

The amp’s hall-like digital reverb is adequate at low levels, but lacks the character and dynamics of a spring unit. That said, if you prefer clean reverbs that lie underneath your tone rather than melding with it, you might enjoy the effect.

The Verdict
The Night Train G2 delivers lush cleans, punchy drive, and enough range for just about any rock style other than saturated metal. While some Vox fans will pine for an AlNiCo Blue speaker, the Greenback is a well-rounded speaker that suits the amplifier’s voices. There’s room for improvement, especially in regards to the flat-sounding digital reverb. But much of the sonic magic and style that made the original Night Train such a potent little amp remains intact—and improved.