WHEN VOX INTRODUCED THE SECOND-GENERATION OF
AC30 combo amps in the late ’50s, powered by a quartet of EL84
tubes rather than the original EL34s, 30 watts was still considered
to be a substantial amount of power (the 80-watt Fender
Twin available across the Big Pond was likely viewed as a thundering
behemoth). For most gigs, a 30-watt 1x12 or 2x12 combo
was more than adequate, and even after the era of 100-watt stacks
was in full flower, amps with less than half that power remained
popular, particularly among non-rock players and session musicians
working in all genres.
Three of the five amps reviewed here continue to utilize that
now classic complement of four EL84s in their power sections,
while one employs two 6L6s, and the fifth allows you to select
between pairs of 6V6s and 5881s. In fact, one amp included in
this roundup, the Vox AC30C2X, is directly descended from its
mid-’60s ancestors, as Vox revisited old schematics and other
historic documentation in an attempt to impart as much vintage
vibe as possible. Another amp, the Carr Artemus, was largely
inspired by the magically simple circuitry of the old AC30s, but
Carr modified a few things and added a few others to create its
own distinct take on the iconic design. The third EL84-driven
amp, the Fryette Memphis 30, charts new tonal territory via an
inventive feature set that includes a novel approach to lowering
The Randall RT-50C pumps out 50 watts—bringing it in
just under the wire as a “mid-power” amp—and takes a more,
um, aggressive approach to visual design and tone creation than
the others in this roundup. And in the “truly other” category,
the BC Audio Amplifier No. 7 completely transcends historic
designs by being built into an army surplus ammunition can
(it is also available in a fancy wooden cabinet for $100 more).
Despite its diminutive size, novel cabinetry, and non-EL84
tube selection, however, classic AC-30-style tones are among
its sonic repertoire.
The amps in this roundup were tested using a variety of
guitars that included a Fender Telecaster, a Fender Stratocaster,
a Gibson SG Custom, a Gibson Les Paul Custom, and a PRS
Custom 24 Brazilian.
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