Vox AC30 Custom Classic

This latest version of the AC30 has a lot of features designed to make it the most flexible and versatile amplifier Vox has made to date. It’s also the first tube amp that Vox has ever made in China. Players familiar with AC30s will find the Custom Classic ($2,300 retail/$1,599 street) easy to get comfy with, yet full of new avenues to explore. A standout function of this amp is its Link switch, which allows you to blend the Normal and Top Boost channels for more overdrive flexibility. You can also just plug into the Normal channel if you desire an old-school AC30 experience, or into the Top Boost input (without engaging the Link function) for the classic AC30 response. In this mode, the Custom Classic sounded quite close to our reference reissue AC30—slight differences were due mostly to the newness of Custom Classic’s speakers. Another unique function is the Standard/Custom switch, which, in the first position, configures the Bass and Treble controls to be very interactive (the mi

The reverb and tremolo are welcome additions to the Custom Classic, as only the handwired AC30HW that was introduced a few years ago combined those effects. The reverb is amazingly smooth and effusive with a very long decay envelope. I never even found it necessary to use the High Drive setting, which yields so much hall-like diffusion that you could almost swear it was digitally generated. The tremolo is serviceable, but even on maximum settings it doesn’t go very fast, or thob with a great deal of conviction.

The Custom Classic’s Smoothing switch and Output Bias switch are among its tweakier functions. The former lets you change the rating of the power supply filter caps from 22uf (as per the early AC30s) to the 44uf spec of later models, and it’s designed to give you a choice of a looser (22uf position) or a tighter dynamic response. It works. The amp definitely sounds and feels more muscular (and also produces less hum) in the 44uf setting.

The Output Bias function allows you to run the amp at a vintagy 22 watts (82 Warm setting) or 33 watts (50 Hot setting). The most formidable overdrive sounds are generated using the 50 Hot and 44uf settings combined, which makes the amp sound rather Marshall like. Pegging the Top Boost Volume and the Master gives you plenty of overdrive, and while blending in the Normal channel via the Link switch doesn’t dramatically increase the gain, it does thicken the tone. The Custom Classic’s 2x12 speaker arrangement enhances its volume, but it also adds weight. This amp is painful to carry with one hand.

In a nutshell, the AC30 Custom Classic (which is also available as a head or less costly 1x12 and 2x12 combo versions with standard speakers) embodies the spirit of the original AC30, but takes that platform to an entirely new level. You can hardly go wrong with any vintage of this premier guitar amp, but the Custom Classic is the one to get if you want to be able to boldly go where no AC30 has gone before.

Kudos A truly modern AC30 with myriad functions that will delight tone tweakers. Loud and jangly to the max, but also more aggressive than any AC30 to date.

Concerns Footswitch buttons for the reverb and tremolo confusingly labeled “A” and “B”. Accessing tubes involves unsoldering the speaker connections and removing the entire chassis from the cabinet.

Contact Vox, (631) 390-8737; voxamps.co.uk