The original Vox “A.C. 10” (initially called the G1/10) debuted in 1958. After some tweaking by Vox engineer Dick Denny, it essentially turned into a smaller version of the 15-watt AC15. Both amps featured a twin-EL84 output stage, but the AC10 was intentionally dialed back (via a change of one resistor) to make only 10 watts. The new AC10C1 uses two 12AX7s up front instead of the EF86/ECG82 arrangement of the early models, and it also gets the classic Top Boost preamp circuitry that Vox came up with in 1961 to give its amps more punch. Stylistically reflective of an early ’64 model, the AC10C1 sports a brown grille with diamonds, black covering, and enough gold appointments to make a Beefeater jealous. It’s an easy carry at 27 lbs, and its compact dimensions (16" x 25.5" x 8.25") make it perfect for small stages.
As you can see, the AC10C1 is an amalgam of things borrowed from Vox’s past and present, and to the company’s credit it’s not fitted with gain boosts, fat switches, or anything else beyond a good-sounding digital reverb. This turn-up-and-go amplifier should appeal most to players who appreciate vintage-style tone and simplicity, as the AC10C1 is the kind of amp where you can set the knobs practically anywhere and get hip sounds. Twist up the Gain and crank the master past halfway, and it delivers juicy distortion with that cool, blizzard-of-nails presence that’s a hallmark of Vox tone. Paired with a good distortion pedal it’ll pump out killer sustain while easily dropping back to a dirty clean tone when you roll back your guitar or lighten up on your picking. The Celestion VX10 speaker is well chosen for this amp, and if you’re thinking that 10 watts couldn’t possibly be loud enough to gig with, you’re in for a surprise. The power tubes might not be running to their full potential, but the sound of this amp is quite muscular, and the closed-back cabinet helps keep the low-end nice and firm. It’s a very lively and open-sounding amp too, which is probably due to the lack of negative feedback in the output circuit—another classic element of Vox amps.
I never needed to turn the master Volume all the way up for any of the gigs I used it on (including one in a big hall), but there’s a 16Ω jack for connecting to an external speaker cabinet if you need more volume.
The AC10C1 makes a lot of sense for players who want classic Vox tone in a portable package. If you don’t need the onboard tremolo of the slightly larger AC15—nor the extreme weight of an AC30—you’ll find the AC10C1 to be a super cool amp that costs but a farthing compared to Vox’s larger tube models.
PRICE $449 street
CONTROLS Gain, Bass, Treble, Reverb, and Volume
POWER 10 watts
TUBES Two 12AX7s, two EL84s
EXTRAS Extension speaker out
SPEAKER Celestion VX10 10"
WEIGHT 27 lbs
KUDOS A great-sounding, vintage-style tube amp. Compact and lightweight.
CONCERNS Tubes aren’t easy to access.