IN 2007, WHEN VOX ANNOUNCED they were once again introducing guitars to go with their classic amplifiers, visions of the teardrop-shaped instrument wielded by Rolling Stone Brian Jones danced in my head. The company wisely chose to go with a more populist array of classicshaped instruments instead—recalling early Hofner and Framus guitars.
For this new “Virage” line, Vox did veer from the traditional with a pickup that offered humbucker, P-90, and single- coil sounds (called Lead, Crunch, and Clean) all in one housing, and with no hum. Also, the novel one-piece MaxConnect aluminum bridge has extended saddle travel to allow accurate intonation regardless of string gauge. Having aroused the interest of the public with the upscale semi-hollow Virage (over three grand), Vox has introduced more affordable versions of their creations. The new lower-priced 55, 33, and 77 lines retain many of the same features that make these guitars stand out from the pack. On review here is the budget-pleasing single-cutaway SSC-33 solidbody.
Devoid of the neck binding that decorates the more expensive models, the SSC-33 is nonetheless striking, with a gorgeous black finish on a carved-top body, set off by aged-looking cream binding. The woods that top the mahogany body of this model vary depending upon the finish: Black and GoldTop versions are maple, while the TeaBurst and Vintage Cream versions are ash.
The black finished mahogany neck sported a beautiful, dark rosewood fretboard and flawlessly finished frets. Its Vox Super Smooth tuners live up to their name. Though ergonomically sound when raising pitch, the S-curved heads offer no extra grip when lowering the pitch—but they are unique looking. Strapping on the 33, I reveled in the comfort of the thin, lightweight body and its contoured back. Some might prefer that Vox had reversed the positions of the pickup and pickup type selector switches, but I eventually found that if I just let my arm drop, the Volume, Tone, and pickup selector switch were right at hand level.
The 33’s pickup system features only the Clean and Crunch options and, unlike on the pricier versions, they cannot be applied separately to individual pickups; the elimination of the switch that enabled this no doubt helps keep the cost down. Still, when I plugged into an Orange Tiny Terror, and an Egnater Rebel 30, I discovered that I still had plenty of sonic options.
Calling the coil-tapping options Clean and Lead—rather than single-coil and P-90—was an astute move on Vox’s part as these pickups don’t produce your typical Strat single-coil or Les Paul Junior P-90 sounds. In Clean mode, the bridge pickup sound hovers between a true single-coil and a split humbucker, while the neck has none of the tubular tone of a typical Strat or Tele. In Lead mode, the mid hump seems to be in a different place than on your average P-90, and there is more available high end. None of this is a critique unless you are looking for the 33 to replicate other instruments; the guitar has a sound of its own and it is a musical one. Also, as someone with little ability to tolerate hum, I appreciated the dead quiet nature of these pickups in all positions.
The SSC-33 gives nothing away to its more expensive brethren in looks, playability, or basic tone. Whether comping chords, crunching riffs, or laying down leads, the guitar offered up articulation, sustain, and harmonic complexity. If you’re looking to forge some new sounds rather than copy the classics, the SSC-33 might be your ticket.
CONTACT Vox, (631) 390-6500; voxamps.com
MODEL Vox SSC-33
PRICE $1,000 retail/$699 street (includes gig bag)
FRETS 22 medium
BODY Mahogany (top varies with finish)
BRIDGE MaxConnect Aluminum Bridge
PICKUP Vox CoAxe
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, pickup selector, Clean/Lead selector
FACTORYSTRINGS D’Addario XL, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.5 lbs
KUDOS Varied articulate tones with no hum. Excellent construction.
CONCERNS Some players might prefer reversed positions of the pickup and pickuptype selector switches.