In this VOX AC15C1 review we’re looking at another tube amp. The classic AC15, used by bands since the 1950’s including The Beatles. The AC15 has long been associated with classic British Rock bands. There’s a nostalgia that goes along with this amp, but who is it suitable for and does it live up to expectations? Let’s find out.
Overview of The VOX AC15C1
The AC15C1 makes no apologies for being retro in it’s look, feel and sound. 15 watts of power are provided by a 12″ Celestion Greenback speaker. The original 50’s speakers were Alnico Blueback speakers. The Greenback uses a ceramic magnet instead of a composite metal, which makes it easier on the wallet (about $250 easier!)
The AC15C1 isn’t small. In fact it’s a bit of a beast. It weighs 48.5lbs or 22kg. It’s not suitable for a small room either.
The amp utilizes two 12AX7 pre-amp tubes and an EL84 power amp tube. As with any tube amp the tubes need to warm up before using the amp. That’ll take around 5 minutes after you flick the power switch. Fortunately the AC15C1 has a “standby” mode. Flick the switch to standby and it’ll keep the tubes warm so you can play without needing to wait. Of course, leaving the amp on standby all the time will reduce the life of the tubes.
There are two channels, each with their own 1/4″ jack input. The “Normal” channel has just one control, volume. The “Top Boost” channel is the reason most people will buy this amp. The AC series top boost amps are revered by enthusiasts and the tone can often be found as an amp style in most modelling amps.
The Top Boost channel gives you some control over EQ with Bass and Trebel control knobs. It also has it’s own volume control knob. It’s a shame it doesn’t have mid control too, but let’s not forget this is unapologetically vintage in design. Other controls include master volume and tone cut. The higher the tone cut control is dialed the more top end will be cut from the output. If you turn it all the way up you’ll be left with a rather muffled sound.
There’s also built in Tremolo and Reverb. Tremolo controls include depth and speed. You can go pretty crazy here and produce some out of this world effects. The reverb is true spring reverb and has it’s own level control. To effectively control Tremolo and Reverb you need a footswitch, which isn’t included.
VOX recommends their two button VFS2A footswitch, but any 2 button footswitch should do the job in reality. The footswitch is connected via a 1/4″ jack on the back panel of the amp. You can control via the amp, but you’ll need to dial the desired setting each time you want to use it. A bit of a pain really!
The AC15C1’s styling is classic VOX. Vintage style switches and control knobs, finished with the mesh and cloth grill style at the front. VOX has always been great at styling and the AC15C1 doesn’t disappoint.
In terms of tone the AC15C1 is great for crunch, classic rock and indie styles. Using the volume to drive the tubes you can find all manner of overdriven tones used in the 60’s, 70’s and onward. One of the best things about the AC15 is the bright clean tone, which has been preserved in the AC15C1. If you’re into British rock, even things like Oasis, the AC15C1 can deliver.
It’s not suitable for high gain styles, such as metal. It’s also not suitable for those who want portability or those short on space. Unless you’re a tube enthusiast, I’d be inclined to go for something like a modelling amp. The VOX AC15C1 costs nearly $700 for a 15 watt amp. For that price you could land yourself a 100 watt modelling amp with many more features.
I know comparing tube amps and modelling amps is like comparing chalk and cheese, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point out the practicalities 🙂
The VOX AC15C1 is perhaps one of the most iconic tube amps. There’s no doubt that tube amp enthusiasts will love it. Here are some of the best bits:
- Classic VOX Tube Amp Sound
- Top Boost Channel
- Standby Function
A lot of the drawbacks are the same with all tube amps. Here are a few of the issues I found with the AC15C1:
- Big & Heavy
- Footswitch Not Included
If you’re a tube amp enthusiast you’ll already know about the legendary AC15. The C1 retains all of the best bits of this vintage amp, including the size and the weight. The standby mode is really convenient, meaning you don’t have to wait 5 minutes for tubes to warm up every time you want to play.
The Top Boost channel is the channel most will use for the legendary tone. I suppose one advantage of the AC15 is the simplicity. There’s really not that much to it so you can jump right into sculpting your tone.
You’ll definitely need a 2-way footswitch to take advantage of the Temolo and Reverb properly. The footswitch isn’t included, but any 2-way switch with a 1/4 inch jack should be compatible.
There are a range of classic tones you can create with the AC15. From crunchy overdriven to classic 60’s rock sounds. There’s plenty of volume too, as you’d expect from a tube amp. I think, practically, you’d need to be a tube amp enthusiast to buy this. It doesn’t make sense for most people who want try a tube amp as the cost is prohibitive for most beginners. If you’re a tube amp enthusiast though the AC15 should scratch the itch. The AC30 is around $200 more, but unless you’re gigging the AC15 should meet your needs.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page. If you’re not sure what type of amp might suit you, take a look at my post that explains amps here.
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