Gabriel Voxer 18

Though loosely based on the popular Marshall 1974X 18-watt template, the Voxer 18 ($1,990 retail/street price N/A; cabinet, $910 retail/street price N/A) nails a “best of two Brits” approach by grafting together a Marshall-style Channel 1 based around a 12AX7 preamp tube, and a Vox AC15-type Channel 2 employing an EF86 pentode. There’s no channel switching, but an included footswitch with two Gain knobs provides boot-ready rhythm and lead sounds from the second channel, which is further enhanced by a Gain Contour switch on the back panel that offers six degrees of fatness.
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A glance inside the folded-aluminum chassis reveals a sturdy phenolic turret board loaded with SoZo and Mallory signal caps, Ceriatone electrolytics, and carbon-comp resistors. Most connections are made with waxed-cotton braided, solid-core wire (although shielded wire is used for interference-sensitive stages), and the wiring has a somewhat vintage ruggedness, rather than a super-neat, straight-line hookup.

Throughout my testing, the Voxer proved to be responsive, touch sensitive, and inspiring. This amp provides a large portion of the cranked-Brit experience in a far more ear-friendly package, which runs from crispy clean at lower volumes to toothsome crunch at mid levels to creamy, tactile, and gently compressed overdrive tones when turned up. The Voxer indeed offers a blend of Vox and Marshall voices, but, overall, it leans a little more toward a sweeter version of the latter, with a touch more shimmer and harmonic depth than even great Marshalls can deliver. The 12AX7-based channel is full and gutsy, but the bulk of the real magic happens in the EF86-based second channel. It’s fatter, richer, and capable of some aggressive yet controllable grind when you really go for it. It also responds extremely well to effects pedals. The Gain Contour is a real bonus, and it takes you from crystalline sparkle to sumptuous, chocolaty chunk.

The Cut control works beautifully to dial down potentially harsh highs. My Strat remained a touch brittle and glassy without further attention to EQ and gain settings, but the Voxer 18 brought out the best in my ’57 Telecaster with little effort at all, and anything with P90s or vintage-voiced humbuckers proved a real treat. Players who rarely venture below the 40-watt line will be surprised to discover how much volume is available from this rig. There’s enough low end and adequate punch from the mids to make you feel as if you’re playing a much bigger amp, and the angled 2x12 will need to be aimed away from the audience in smaller clubs. Also, with the cab’s center back panel off, the upper mids and highs really bloom, and the overall voice leans perhaps further toward the Vox camp. The versatile Voxer 18 promises to satisfy many players’ cravings for big-amp tones in a user-friendly, small-amp package.