Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most Out of Your Vox AC30

The Vox AC30 has held a certain mystery and intrigue since it was launched in 1958. From Hank Marvin to the Beatles to the Foo Fighters, and handling everything from Gretsch Country Gentlemen to Gibson Explorers, this alluring amp is capable of a wide variety of sounds.

The AC30 has been available in several incarnations over the years and they are not all created equal. In this article, we’ll consider some similarities and differences, and offer some pointers for making the most of this classic amplifier, regardless of which version you own.

Head, Cabs and Speakers

Celestion Alnico Blue Speakers and Celestion Greenbacks and are probably the most common speaker found in these amplifiers. Many users prefer the Blue speakers for their chime-y, shimmering sound. Others prefer the Greenbacks’ crunchy, rock ‘n’ roll sound, which has an appeal all its own.

Other common options are the Alnico Golds and Celestion Creambacks, although you can use any speaker you want, provided the impedance is correct. Vintage 30s work well too, providing a tight and effective sound and definitely are worth checking out if those traditional speakers suit your taste.

Celestion Alnico Blue

Celestion Greenback

Celestion Alnico Gold

Celestion Creamback

User Tip: Try running the head portion of the combo into a separate speaker cabinet. On most models, there is a speaker output underneath the control panel. Run a speaker cable from here to your favorite cabinet for a whole new slant. This also will help you get an idea of how much tone comes from the amp head vs. the speakers. This is also an excellent way to try speakers out before installing them into the amp itself.

Versions

A complete history of Vox AC30 is a story for another day, but Korg bought Vox in the early ‘90s and these reissues became some of the most consistent, well put-together, and sought after versions of the amplifier.

Vox AC30HW2X Handwired 2x12 Combo

In 2004, Vox created the Custom Classic Series, and production was moved to China at some point thereafter. Unlike previous versions, the Custom contains a solid-state rectifier rather than a GZ34 valve and hardcore aficionados will argue that this had a negative effect on the amplifier; words like “paper-y” and “thin” were used as descriptions. That said, the Custom has earned a Guitarist’s Choice rating on Music Radar, so it does have its fans.

Later models include the Custom Series and the 2007 Handwired model and these have garnered some attention. My personal advice: nothing beats the ‘90s reissues for tone and consistency. The originals are great but they have a tendency to um, catch fire. U2’s The Edge, for example, has traditionally kept fans behind his AC30s for this reason.

Tone Controls

If there’s not quite enough top end for your taste, you can jump the channels on models with two inputs for each of the normal and brilliant channels. For example, by connecting a cable from one the normal channel inputs to one of the brilliant channel inputs, you can use both channels’ volume knobs and blend to taste. You can also do this between the normal channel and the vib-trem channel if you’d like to use the built-in tremolo but be able to dial in the exact mix of tremolo you’d like.

The treble and bass knobs aren’t particularly linear. You may find you have to use some extreme settings to hear a difference. The cut can be very effective for dialing just the right amount of top end.

Controls on a Vox AC30C2 2x12 Combo

User tip: These amps tend to be very directional. Try raising it up so that the center cones are facing your ears. You will get a much better sense of the high frequencies especially.

AC30s can easily be used as a clean amp, but you can get some really nice grit out of them if you turn them up a bit or use a power attenuator. Players often talk about getting that “clean yet gritty” sound. A good AC30 can really blossom when you get it to the point of overdrive. Be careful as you crank the volume, though. As you get towards max volume, some can start squealing and have an overly fuzzed out sound, although this can be kind of cool in the right context.

Lift with your legs!

RELATED ARTICLE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Worrell

Bill Worrell is the lead guitarist for the band America. He holds a degree in classical guitar performance from California State Northridge. Additionally, he is a music journalist and records out of his home studio in Nashville, TN.


comments powered by Disqus