Vox Classic Plus Series AC50CP2

WHEN THE BEATLES ASKED VOX FOR A LOUDER, more powerful amp that could be heard over the screaming crowds at the height of Beatlemania, the company responded with a new head called the AC50 and enlisted the mighty EL34 tube to power it. For various reasons, it has taken more than 40 years for Vox to introduce a new EL34 amp, but the Classic Plus Series AC50CP2 is worth the wait. Designed in England and built in China, the AC50CP2 is styled much like an AC30—meaning it looks fabulous—but veers from the classic combo’s template by featuring front-mounted controls, footswitchable channels, and, of all things, reverb.

The configuration is a good one for guitarists who simply want to toggle between a clean or semi-overdriven tone and a full-on distortion sound, and the AC50CP2 provides all the tools you need to get what you want with minimal fuss. Voiced to cover everything from pristine clean to heavy grind, Channel 1 sports an effective Tone Cut knob that works like the classic Cut control on an AC30 to allow you to elicit the right treble voicing with pretty much any guitar. Using a Fender Strat, a Gibson Historic Les Paul Standard, and a PRS maple top Mira, it was easy to get a cool assortment of sounds from the AC50CP2 that would work well for jazz, country, blues, or rock. The clean tones offer good headroom as you initially turn up the Gain, but nudged past nine o’ clock, the distortion begins to come on and the tones assume a grittiness that’s more reminiscent of an old Marshall. From that point it’s just a matter of adjusting how much grind occurs when you crank up your guitar—which can be considerable at higher gain settings. And while the AC50CP2 doesn’t have the chimey tonal signatures of an EL84-powered AC30, the nice sounding reverb adds air and dimension to the sounds, and delivers a very sproingy, drippy response when turned up. You could get a happening surf sound with this amp, and that’s a pretty amazing thing.

The AC50CP2 has excellent dynamic response, and the muscular EL34 power tubes produce a lot of volume when you need it. The Vox/Warfdale ceramic magnet speakers have a bright, ballsy Celestion-like vibe that’s perfect for this amp, and they hold up well at higher volumes without fading or losing focus.

Switching to Channel 2 (using the frontpanel toggle or the included footswitch) brings on a big increase in overdrive, which is immediately noticeable when you turn the Gain knob up about halfway, crank your guitar, and dig the creamy, touch-sensitive sustain. Whether you’re after fiery blues tones, JCM 800-style classic metal vibes, or more sinister scoopedmid fury, the gain structure and effective tone controls will accommodate. The Presence control also adds some bright boost in the power stage, and is useful for unleashing the maximum amount of sustain while you keep the highs where you want them using the Treble. knob and/or the Bright switch. Channel 2’s Volume knob works very well to preserve the balance and throatiness of the overdrive tones at low levels, and you can get happening sounds at volumes that are quite tolerable for small rooms. The AC50CP2 is also well suited for recording direct with its D.I. outs (balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4"), handy level control, and low-pass filter (LPF) and ground-lift switches. In fact, the AC50CP2 might well be relegated to studio use once you have to lug it to a few gigs—at 78 lbs it truly begs for some wheels on its cabinet or a cart to carry it around.

What a cool amp, though. With its killer tones, great looks, and affordabe price for such a well equipped tube rig, the AC50CP2 brings it on with a wide spectrum of dynamically responsive tones that are certainly among the baddest, ballsiest, and loudest that Vox has ever packed into a 2x12 combo.