Vox AC10 Custom Review
Vox resurrects the AC10 as a more modern, but still superbly simple screamer.
Beautiful, bright, and airy Vox tones. Dynamic and varied. Light and compact, but super classy looking.
Digital reverb is thin. Can be unfriendly to fuzz.
Vox AC10 Custom
The new AC10 Custom is a very different amp than the first Vox to bear that name. That AC10 was one of Vox’s very first amps—a more affordable, stripped down little brother to the AC15 that was then revolutionizing the English amplifier landscape.
In many respects, this new two-EL84 AC10 has more in common with the contemporary AC15. In both sonic and visual terms it may be one of the most cost-effective means to get the most familiar ’60s Vox vibe that’s come down the chute in a while.
Have We Met Before?
I get excited when I see a little Vox tube amp as a studio option. I don’t own one, but when I see an AC4 or AC15 around, I start to think about possible contributions in terms of spirit, brightness, and colorful immediacy. The AC10 lends that same outward reassurance. From the black textured vinyl to the piping and diamond grill cloth, it’s classically Vox and very well put together. At less than 21 inches wide and about 16 inches tall, it’s compact, and at just over 12 pounds it’s easy to tote around. The chassis and speaker are obscured from view by a closed-back cab. That’s never fun for inspection of the amp’s inner works, but it almost certainly adds a little extra bass thump to an amp that, as we’ll see, punches outside its weight class with ease.
The control set is streamlined: a bass/treble EQ section, a reverb control, and gain and volume controls at opposite ends of the five-knob array. Unfortunately, the reverb is a digital unit rather than the spring reverb you see on the AC15 or AC30 Customs. It’s not a bad reverb, and is often key to getting the most classically Vox-y and sparkling tones. But it’s hard not to wonder if a more streamlined circuit would have sounded just a touch better and been less expensive.
If it’s crunchy tones you need, it’s best to keep the gain and volume up and use your guitar volume rather than stompoxes to achieve gain stages and color shifts.
A Jangly Little Thug
Like a lot of great small amps, the AC10 evokes the youthful, exuberant rush of plugging straight in and turning up—way up—for the first time. It’s happiest when it’s loud, and the closed-back cabinet adds just the right amount of low-end weight—a soft but sturdy and substantial underpinning for the familiar Vox top-end presence.
The Vox gets bright fast—especially if you have single coils out front. But crank the amp up into natural saturation and you’re glad all that top-end is there. Most players won’t use all of it. But for the right player—the kind that savors lacerating, feral, young Jeff Beck/Yardbirds tones—the extra top end will be a straight shot of electric adrenaline.
Though the AC10 Custom’s virtues as a lead machine are copious, it’s also one of the best rhythm guitar amps I’ve played in ages. The abundant top end and tighter, faster compression that distinguishes Brit amps from their Fender counterparts means that snappy, syncopated Keith Richards and Memphis-style rhythms ring richly with harmonics, exhibit great articulation, and respond deliciously to picking and muting dynamics as you slash across chords. If you were going to make a power pop record in the Flaming Groovies or Big Star vein, or cut a crustier Them-style garage cut, it’s hard to imagine a more effective little partner.
Like many small amps on the more excitable side of the tone and dynamics spectrum, the AC10 isn’t the best partner for gain pedals. While the rich, ringing overtones that oxygenate the amp’s output are perfect for modulation effects (tremolo is an especially good match), fuzzes and even mid-gain overdrive pedals tend to muddy the output. Less complicated fuzzes like germanium Fuzz Faces and Tonebenders that still sound cutting and acidic without heavy gain are the best match. And even a low-volume Big Muff can add impressive thrust to the AC10’s tone spectrum in rhythm settings. But if it’s crunchy tones you need, it’s best to keep the gain and volume up and use your guitar volume rather than stompoxes to achieve gain stages and color shifts.
Onboard digital reverb is the lone effect on the AC10. In small amounts, the reverb animates high and high-mid harmonics and fundamental notes in a way that enlivens arpeggios and single note leads. Choppy chord stops, however, more readily highlight its shortcomings—which are less a problem of digital artifacts and artificiality than a kind of thinness. Resourceful players who use subtle reverb will be able to make it work, even under the microscope of the studio. For those that use more reverb, a more tweakable, stompbox reverb might be a better match for the Vox’s bright, complex tone spectrum.
The AC10 could be the ultimate amplifier for laying down power pop rhythm tracks. And it’s devastating as a lead machine with volume and gain controls up high. The best part of all this is it will only set you back about 450 bucks. If you think about how many pedals you’ve bought that add up to the same money and that will never sound quite as cool as the AC10 blasting away all on its own, this little Vox fast becomes a contender for the bang-for-the-buck amp championship.
Review Demo - Vox AC10C1 Custom
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Sweetwater vs. Reverb
Which one do you prefer?
Rhett and Zach unpack the big news for secondhand guitar sellers and buyers: Sweetwater has launched their new Gear Exchange. How does it compare to Reverb, Craigslist, and Marketplace? To find out, Zach takes the site for a spin and buys a pedal. He calls the process both “very easy” and “normal.” They discuss the pros and cons of the various used-gear outlets and share tips for not getting got when buying gear. Plus, Zach grew a mustache, Mythos Pedals is moving, and he talks about his forthcoming line of Strat pickups inspired by Hendrix’s reverse-stagger setup.
Sweetwater vs. Reverb
Get 10% off from StewMac when you visit stewmac.com/dippedintone
Cort Introduces the KX508 Multi-Scale II
Expanding on the innovations of Cort’s original 8-string multiscale, the KX508 Multi-Scale II features an updated okoume body and a specially designed Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker.
The KX508 Multi-Scale II is the second iteration of the eight-string KX508, Cort’s first multi-scale 8-string guitar introduced in 2020. Like its predecessor, the KX508 Multi-Scale II has a visually stunning poplar burl top in a Mariana Blue Burst finish. Beyond its visual appeal, the poplar burl is an ideal tonal complement to Cort’s newly introduced okoume body. Okoume is known for its light weight and ability to improve tonal clarity. It has a tight low-end and highly articulate high-end, which matches the overall sonic characteristics of the KX508 Multi-Scale II. The multi-scale, measuring 26.5 to 28 inches, offers a punchy low end while maintaining a familiar feel and tension on the treble strings, which allows for speedy runs and string-bending. Players have unhindered access to the high frets thanks to the low-scooped heel.
The 5-piece maple and purple heart neck not only provides strength and stability, aided by a spoke nut hotrod truss rod, but a strong and focused sound. The Macassar ebony fingerboard (15.75-inch radius) offers smooth playability along the 24 frets with teardrop inlays. Macassar is an ideal tonewood for high-gain applications because of its ability to cut through a dense mix. At the top of the neck, the 2 7/32-inch nut width (56.5 mm) is surprisingly comfortable for an 8-string guitar and is even suitable for players with smaller hands. The individual hardtail bridge with string-thru-body design results in greatly improved sustain, superb string separation for enhanced articulation, and precise intonation. Deluxe locking machine heads offer reliable tuning as well as easier and quicker string changes.
The Cort Sessions | KX508 Multi Scale II Electric Guitar
MSRP $1699.99 USD
MAP $1199.99 USD
For more information, please visit cortguitars.com.
D’Angelico Guitars Announces the Excel Tour Collection
The Tour Collection is defined by a minimalistic, vintage-inspired aesthetic, top-of-the-line components, and a simplified electronics configuration featuring new, custom pickups by Supro.
Available in the collection is the 16-inch-wide double-cutaway DC, the 15-inch-wide single-cutaway SS, and a 14-inch-wide Mini DC. Each model comes in three finishes: Slate Blue, Solid Wine, and Solid Black.
Every detail of the Tour Collection was chosen to achieve retro minimalism. Small diamond fingerboard inlays match 1930s-style diamond f-holes, and an undersized Throwback Scroll-style headstock achieves excellent head-to-body balance. The collection also features satin nickel hardware and custom Vintage Deluxe Grover tuners with a 15:1 gear ratio. Each model also features a simplified two-knob electronics configuration with 50s-style wiring to retain top-end clarity upon rolling off the volume knob. The neck shape in the Tour Collection is similar to the slim C-shape found throughout the D’Angelico line, but with more thickness in the shoulder to allow for snug hand fit as well as extra sustain. Medium Jumbo fret wire and a 12-inch fingerboard radius allow for quick navigation of the fingerboard while also prioritizing comfort for both rhythm and lead playing.
In 2020, Supro and D’Angelico became part of the same family of brands under Bond Audio. At that time, EVP of Product Ryan Kershaw and CTO Dave Koltai began designing custom pickups under the Supro name for the Tour Collection project.
“Supro Bolt Bucker pickups were designed to offer the tone of the most sought-after vintage "PAF" pickups from the late 1950's. Scatter wound, just like the originals, Supro Bolt Buckers utilize 42-gauge enamel wire along with a mixture of Alnico II (neck) and Alnico V (bridge) magnets to provide the perfect balance of warmth and clarity with unrivaled articulation and note bloom.” - Dave Koltai, Chief Technology Officer at Bond Audio.
Introducing the Excel Series Tour Collection | D'Angelico Guitars
All models are available for pre-order and will be in stock this holiday season. US MAP $1499. For more information, please visit dangelicoguitars.com.
Ananashead Announces the Cream Amp
The Cream Amp is a handmade low-gain overdrive pedal based on the Electra Distortion circuit.
The Cream Amp was designed to deliver full dynamics amp-like dirt to your clean and crunch amp or to another pedal in the chain without altering your tone too much. To add some grit at low volume or to make your amp sound more full, use the Drive control to set the gain and the Level control to match with your amp.
- Two knobs to control Volume and Drive
- Shielded inputs/outputs to avoid RF
- Filtered and protected 9VDC input
- Daisy-chain friendly
- Current draw: 7.5mA
The Cream Amp pedal is hand-made in Barcelona with carefully selected components and has a price of 100.00€. The pedals are available and can be purchased directly from the Ananasheadonline store.
For more information, please visit ananashead.com.