The last few weeks we have been up close & personal (again!) with incredible Vox AC15... it is one of the most timeless amp designs ever and is still going strong, essentially exactly as it was, some 60 years later … and they have NEVER gone out of fashion!
For starters, here’s Ben and Ben with a little bit of what it can do, with a lovely bit of playing by the inimitable Ben Witt... nice!
We also thought we’d grab the opportunity to talk with Mark Lizotte, AKA Diesel and Waz from Tone Revival Engineering who know these amps inside out (literally!). You really couldn’t get a higher recommendation! I was especially taken by how much emphasis Mark put on his history with VOX:
DIESEL: “Well, I'll start with my first impression of VOX, was when my brother left a VOX AC50 in my bedroom, my older brother, and he was using it for bass, it was an AC50 head with a separate 212 cabinet. And I really didn't know what it was. I had no reference. It was at a time where, I wouldn't say VOX was cold but it was a very retro kinda thing at that time and then I started getting out, and this is like the age of 14, 15, and I saw bands that were coming through town, and I think the first band I saw that had VOX's on stage was The Church, the Australian band The Church ...Yeah, 'cause that was a really pivotal, like a really important part of my development But yeah, so that VOX … it was kind of like a learning curve for me”.
For those that like to go a bit deeper than “How does it sound?” you’ll enjoy the fact that Diesel and Waz got quite techy during our chat and spoke about tubes, and temperature and cabinets and even speakers.... it was extremely enlightening & the depth of their combined knowledge is quite mind boggling!
DIESEL again: “I didn't know what I had but as I got to know things around and started noticing other people, and then someone gave me a ticket see U2 and it was on one of their first tours, it was at the Ent Center, and it was a really simple concert as in, it was that tour where Bono was grabbing the par can and getting all theatrical with it and it was just the three of them, well four of 'em but the three piece essentially. And that sound, the sound of the AC30s, and with a delay in that room was just incredible, the way it was bouncing around. And just, yeah, the chiminess and richness of those, well I didn't know it at the time, but the EL84 sound, it really is a EL84 kind of sound. It's got an intricacy, I would describe, because they're smaller valves, and this richness because they're running so hot but they're still clean, and they're not like saturated to a point where it's just mush. So you can set up a pretty clean sound, but then all of a sudden the thing I love about VOX's in general is they start getting all colourful and feedback even when you don't think they're gonna feedback 'cause it's sort of, they've been running at a really nice temperature. And they just have the nicest top end, the whole top boost thing”.
And we weren’t at all surprised that an in-depth chat about the AC15 was eventually going to lead on to talking about Celestion Speakers:
DIESEL: “… well my favourite are the Blue Celestion ... Blue Bulldogs as they call them. That's quite a special speaker. I've noticed even just putting that speaker in with other amps in general, it sounds good, then you use it with that speaker and it's like, oh, wow. That speaker can bring some goodness, can make anything shine better”.
One of the questions we get asked a lot in store is ‘what’s the best sounding tube amp’, and of course the answer depends on what you want to use it for, and what kind of sound you’re after. One thing we do always mention, is how many different sounds you seem to be able to get out of the VOX AC range, so it was interesting to hear Mark offer up his thoughts:
DIESEL: “I find, yeah, I can get Fender-ish sounds out of 'em, with a few pedals I can really, they really are a versatile amp. Whereas if I use other amps I feel it does the job but I feel like it's really got a footprint of like that's what it is. Whereas a VOX, I feel like I've got a big piece of all the amps in that amp. It's a really encompassing sound. And yeah, the AC15s proved to be a real big workhorse for me”.
We also often chat in-store about ‘how loud is it?’ so Gra brought it up with the guys, and we got their take on the AC range, and specifically about when Mark and Waz like the AC30 over the 15:
GRA: “I mean, back 20, 30, 40 years ago, people were coming looking at AC30s and they'd say, oh, I don't think 30 watts is gonna be loud enough. Now we have people coming into the shop saying, oh, I don’t need 30 watts, I need 15 watts, I need 10 watts. They even make an AC4, a four watter, so it's really been a transition back to the lower ones so that people can drive them hard at lower volumes”.
WAZ: “And look, an AC30 is a loud 30 watts, 'cause there's no negative feedback, yeah. So most amplifiers like Marshall's, Fenders, have got a negative feedback circuit in them, whereas VOX don't. So they're are a lot more open, yeah, so that's a real 30 watts you're getting. It's all ka pow, straight into the speaker”.
DIESEL: “I use the 15 most, I'd say almost 75% of the gigs, even in shows where it's indoors and quite big, we've just found that we're just a lot happier if we play down to that level and tighten it and get closer to each other. Let the PA do the work. But when it's time to go to that AC30, that's the next step for us and outdoor shows obviously or sometimes we just used two AC15s, and that's really nice”.
WAZ: “Yeah, that works great”.
DIESEL: “Yeah, 'cause then you get the coupling thing. I almost prefer that, that's probably my favourite rig is actually two AC15s, and then another AC15 of some kind for delay or a night train in the cab for delay, that's pretty sweet rig for me”.
It was an absolutely fascinating chat, and we got the feeling that these guys could have kept going for hours! We’re looking forward to chatting to them again, and Diesel and Waz, we really want to thank you again for your time. Thanks!
Check out the full chat at: