Vox AC15H1TV Handwired Combo

I have a theory that you can judge any vintage amplifier’s abiding impact by the number of new designs that emulate it. In the past couple of years the boutique world has given us the 65 Amps London 18, Gabriel Voxer 18, TopHat Supreme 16, and a few others. All carry an EF86-based channel and an EZ81 rectifier tube, just like the original Vox AC15. You can only expect a major manufacturer to take so much of this sincerest form of flattery before getting in on the action.
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Thus Vox has unleashed the AC15H1TV combo ($1,900 retail/$1,399 street; also available as head and cab). Part of the new Heritage line, this timely cutie also arrives in celebration of Vox’s 50th anniversary. The AC15H1TV pays homage to the original AC15 in many ways, but is not a circuit-perfect replica by any means, nor is it intended to be. Its looks capture much of the vibe of the early TV-front AC15s, and it is handwired like all the Vox amps of the late 1950s and ’60s— the first hand-wired Chinese-made guitar amp I have encountered, in fact. But Vox’s designers have mixed-and-matched other popular features from the AC15’s golden years and added a few contemporary modifications to the design, all well judged changes that the modern player is likely to appreciate. Channel I features an EF86 pentode preamp tube with a Volume control and a 3-position Brilliance switch that selects between three vintage brilliance voices (normal, boosted top end, and bass cut). There’s also a 2-way Bass Shift switch that tightens up the low end, and a Pentode/Triode switch, that lets you eke more headroom out of the EF86 at the cost of a bountiful slab of gain. Channel II borrows the 12AX7-based Top Boost preamp circuit from the mid-’60s AC30, with highly interactive Treble and Bass controls, and a Top Cut control is shared by both channels. There’s also a Pentode/Triode switch for the output stage, to reconfigure the two EL84s in triode mode and cut the output from 15 watts to 7.5 watts, smoothing out and warming up the tone in the process. Rammed through the Celestion G12 Alnico Blue speaker, it all adds up to a toothsome smorgasbord of Brit-flavored rockin.’Plugged in and fired up, the AC15H1TV definitely packs a goodly bundle of genuine AC15-style mojo, too. It has a propensity toward a brightness that verges on the brittle if you don’t watch your EQ and Top Cut settings, but should smooth out over time as speaker, caps and tubes burn in and gel toward a synchronous harmony. Great for cranking out anything from genuine Brit beat stylings to jangle-rock to indie and alt-country crunch at club-sized volumes, it also screams with creamy, full-throated lead tones when wound up good and proper.

Kudos Nails the vintage AC15 vibe, while offering some useful modern updates.

Concerns No standby switch.

Contact Korg USA, (631) 390-6500; voxamps.com