In a world where "vintage-inspired" typically means that something is a copy of a classic instrument, Musicvox’s guitars
and basses are a breath of fresh air. While pretty adventurous
stylistically, the company successfully blends myriad influences
into something totally coherent and functional. More recently,
the company has ventured into amplifiers with the MVX-15 and
MVX-30 combos. These stylish, tube-powered amps are a welcome
addition to the Musicvox line, so I was intrigued to check
out this new guitar/amp set.
What happens when you take a few parts Rickenbacker and Mosrite,
add a good dose of Eko, and then sprinkle a little Les Paul Junior
on top? One outcome might be something like the Musicvox MI-5,
which appears to have elements of all the aforementioned classics.
Let’s take a look: The MI-5’s asymmetrical body is made out
of mahogany, and our review model was finished in a color that’s
not unlike Gibson’s “TV Yellow,” with painted-on black binding,
a couple of racing stripes, and a triangular pickguard adding to the guitar’s unique appearance. The bolt-on
neck features a relatively shallow D-profile,
a rosewood fretboard with rectangular
pearl position markers, and white binding.
Looked at individually, it would be
hard to imagine the two-point headstock
being a match for the MI-5’s body, but lo
and behold, they coexist in harmony. Our
MI-5 came with a pair of P-90-style pickups,
but a humbucker option is also available.
The guitar’s chrome bridge is similar
to a non-tremolo Strat-style design, with
six individually adjustable saddles, and the
strings loading through the body.
Sitting down to play the MI-5, I was
surprised that what had seemed like a
somewhat randomly weird design actually
turned out to be one of the most ergonomic electric guitar shapes I’ve ever encountered.
Between the asymmetrical waist and the fact
that the bridge is mounted deeper into the
lower bout than on most guitars, the guitar’s
neck feels much shorter than on other guitars
with a 25.5" scale. This was especially
noticeable when playing in first position,
which didn’t require stretching my arm out
nearly as much as I’m used to. Strung with
D’Addario .009s (Musicvox is now shipping
the guitar with .010s), the guitar also played
like butter all across its fingerboard.
I began by playing the guitar through the
Musicvox MVX-30 amp (more on that in a
moment), where I was greeted with ballsy P-90
tone that had higher output and was much
fatter than a typical Fender-style single-coil
tone, but also had great definition and vibrant,
sparkly high end. Played in a slightly overdriven
setting, the MI-5 would make a really
solid rock rhythm guitar, and once I added a
DigiTech iStomp loaded with a “Screamer”
model to the signal, the guitar handled crunchier
tones with aplomb. Encouraged by these
results, I also plugged it into a Mesa/Boogie
DC-5, where I found it easily tackled super
high-gain settings, lending excellent sustain
to the resulting single-note tone.
NUT Plastic, 1 11/16" wide
NECK Maple, shallow D profile
FRETBOARD Rosewood, 25.5" scale, 16" radius
FRETS 22 medium
TUNERS Kluson-style, enclosed
BRIDGE Chrome, non-tremolo Strat-style
PICKUPS Two vintage style P-90s (humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume and Tone controls, 3-way
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.04 lbs
KUDOS Awesome looks. Ergonomic playing
feel. Classic sounds.
With its blue covering (black is also available),
chrome faceplate, and white chicken
head knobs, the amp looks positively seductive.
Again, there is a bit of a melting pot of
styles going on, with a liberal blend of vintage
American and British amps dominating
the appearance. The amp’s open-back
cabinet is made out of poplar plywood, and
removing the chassis from it revealed very
clean-looking circuitry, with the tube sockets
mounted to the circuit board, and the
pots solidly mounted to the metal chassis,
with their contacts soldered directly to the
board. A short reverb tank is mounted to the
bottom of the cab.
Besides testing with the Musicvox MI-5, I
also auditioned the amp with a Gibson ES-335
and a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom.
As you’d expect from an amp that’s powered
by a pair of 6L6 power tubes, the MVX-30
delivers quite a punch. And even though
there is a master volume, it really wants to
be opened up a bit to deliver its best sound.
Played at low volumes, I found the amp to
be a bit more austere sounding than a typical
Fender tube amp, but it immediately offered a great, slightly dirty edge. It seemed to be
happiest with both the gain and the master
volume at about 12 o’clock, where all three
guitars yielded a cool blend between classic
British- and American-style rhythm tones.
I found the amp’s tonal range to be somewhat
restrained, however, as I couldn’t get
a really clean sound at anything above living
room volumes. I don’t think it would work
as a clean jazz amp at gig volumes, and yet
the amount of saturation didn’t really go
beyond a healthy crunch when I cranked the
Gain control. You’d probably want to add an
overdrive or distortion pedal if you’re into
a heavier sound.
The reverb sounds nice and rich, though
I felt the control was a bit on the sensitive
side, as the effect becomes saturated beyond
the wildest surf guitar hallucination when the
Reverb knob is only at 4 or 5. On the contrary,
the tone controls are on the subtle side
of the spectrum and don’t change the sound
too drastically no matter how you set them.
Overall, the MVX-30 could be a cool
choice for someone looking for a vintagestyle
combo with a comprehensible feature
set and a classic rock ’n’ roll voice. It’s fairly
priced, and if looks could kill I’d be in serious
PRICE $699 direct
CONTROLS Gain, Treble, Bass, Middle, Volume,
Reverb, Presence. Fat switch.
Standby and Power switches.
POWER 30 watts.
TUBES Two 6L6 power tubes, three 12AX7
EXTRAS Spring reverb. Effects loop
SPEAKERS 12" Eminence with alnico magnet
WEIGHT 40.7 lbs
KUDOS Killer looks and crunchy rock sounds.
CONCERNS Not much clean headroom.