Vox AC15 handwired reissue

Another amp broke down (actually my new Mondo Amps Bassman clone of which I just gave a glowing review, so that bums me out a bit), so while I’m waiting on my tech to fix it, I started searching for another one. Now, I greatly enjoy when my amps break down (kinda) because it gives me the excuse to gear hunt (as if we need an excuse). So I started to look for something that:

a) I could hopefully sell for the same price
b) I could hopefully sell for more than the price I paid so I could use the extra cash to pay for the repair to my other amp
c) I had wanted to try out

So I ended up with this Vox AC15 handwired reissue.

AC15small.jpg Vox AC15 picture by rypdal95

I got it at Buffalo Brothers down in Carlsbad, which, incidentally, is a really cool place. I had kind of forgotten about them because when I first went there I was still playing a bright candy apple red Ovation and a deep black BC Rich Mockingbird. Oh, ya. It was all about the metal and Yngwie Malmsteen. It still deeply saddens me to this day. Which is possibly the reason I am such a gear hound now….. I am trying to distance myself from my past musical inclinations (read: metal is life) as far as I possibly can.

So, the price was totally right on this thing. They’re pretty new (they just came out within the last 6-8 months) so with the price I paid, I can most likely sell it for more than I paid for it.

Now, all I needed was a fairly warm-sounding tube amp to run my loops through. So, as far as how it sounds live, it sounds perfectly fine. Nice and warm, with a fairly low noise threshold. But, the real test was to play my rig through it, and A/B it with the Holland. So….

The findings:

Tonally it’s very good. It honestly surprised me. See, Vox (now owned by Korg) markets these as being handwired, but actual photos of the circuit show that it’s a mix of handwired and printed circuit board. Kind of wierd. Not just an eyelet board, it looks like there is some printed board wiring going on in there. Probably cheaper. But the wiring looks pretty good anyway, even though I’m no tech. At least the tubes aren’t wired onto the board. And they are made in China. But it sounds very good. The EF86 channel probably sounds the best and the most Voxy. 

But the problem with this amp is that it sounds like rather than just building the AC15 classic circuit, they added in some ‘tone circuitry’ that tries too hard to emulate the jangly AC15 and AC30 sound. It’s a little bit fake to my ears. It makes an otherwise really good sounding amp at low volumes really start to thin out as you turn it up. It’s like, at low volumes it’s warm but not very clear, and to get the clarity you have to turn it up higher. But then you also lose some of the warmth.

It has a master cut control, which is actually very sensitive and does work well to dial back in some of the warmth. And overall it’s a very tight sounding amp….very little flab in the tone. But just a bit too thin and jangly for my tastes. 

The cab has 1 12 inch Celestion Alnico Blue, and the speaker does help the amp a good deal. Gives it clarity and highs. For an amp like this, though, maybe a speaker change would help it to be more warm. Although, that does sound kind of funny, seeing as Vox were the ones to pioneer the Alnico Blues originally, and they usually just kill in an AC15 or AC30 type amp.

So, it sounded much better than I expected, and it’s a very good sounding amp. Upsides are the Alnico Blue speaker, EF86 preamp on two of the channels, good cut control knob, tightness of the tone, and the ability to half power switch to 7.5 watts if needed. Oh, ya, and I seriously love the Fawn color on Vox amps and nothing can beat that classic Vox logo and grillcloth. But it fell just slightly short of my standards for keeping, with the thin and jangly sound.

So, that’s the Vox review from the guy who’s far from an expert. Hopefully this helps a bit. 

Splendid.
Karl.

8 thoughts on “Vox AC15 handwired reissue

  1. There’s only one EF86 channel. The other one uses 12AX7.
    The two inputs per channel are high and low impedance inputs for the same channel.

    As for the bright sound you’re getting – the speakers sound very bright and thin when they are new.. This goes away after the speaker has been used for a little while.

    The 12AX7 (the top boost-channel) is a lot brighter than the EF86 channel (pre top boost). It’s the same way with the voxes.

    The top boost voxes released were very bright amps.
    The pre- top boost voxes were more bluesy and dark.

    The heritage series combines the preamp sections of both models. That’s the cool thing.

    Maybe you just don’t like it, but it sounds odd that you’d be experiencing it to be too bright with a warm 335-type guitar.

    Maybe the pickups are bright?

    Best regards /Connely

  2. hello there.i have two of these a head / cab and a combo.the key is to retube it with good old telefunkens or mullards.i put a combo of both in mine and they sound great.spend another 300.00 or so and you won’t regret it. glad to be of help.jim l.

  3. Karl, I just found this post and was wondering if you’ve heard of the “bright cap” mod? By replacing one of the capacitors you take care of basically all of the problems you mentioned. Random, (and a year late),
    Logan

  4. Very cool, everyone! Thanks for the suggestions. This post is actually almost 3 years old, and I completely forgot I even owned this amp! haha

    If I remember correctly, it didn’t sound quite as good to me as my Holland, at the time. And the Holland subsequently lost to the D13, and then the D13 to the Matchless. But maybe if I had kept it and done the bright cap mod and re-tubed it, I might have liked it more. But at this point, it’s been long enough to where I don’t think I’m going to buy it again and try fixing it up. But maybe someday! :)

  5. Did you get a chance to play the Handwired series? In my humble opinion, sounds quite a good deal better than the current Custom Classic series. That being said, hehe, hard to beat a Blues Junior. ;)

    • I actually just got an AC15C1 (with the greenback speaker).

      Keeps up with my blues junior in a lot of ways. The tone cut knob does wonders to dial back some high end.

      I threw a spare set of Sovteks in there, but I am really looking forward to putting JJs on it.

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