Vox Throwback

Vox 2000 Catalog

“Classic Vox Sound- standard on all Vox amplifiers” –  Yes!

I saw this 2000 Vox equipment catalog on ebay, and had to share the pics.

They were going for a throwback, misogynistic vibe with this catalog.  Amusing, horrifying, yes, all that and more.

“Lonely?  Amazing new sound attracts Devil Women!”

“What a lovely pair” (referring to the pair of Alnico Blue speakers in an AC30)

Vox 2000 Catalog Outside

Vox 2000 Catalog inside

Les’ Sustain for Days

Gibson Les Paul TraditionalA couple months ago, I had an unexpected revelation.  An eye-opening, earth-shaking, revolutionary enlightenment.   Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating and obsessing, but it was an honest-to-goodness WTF!

I was at a local music shop (ok, I admit it was Best Buy), and out of curiosity, I picked up an absurdly expensive Gibson Les Paul Traditional from the wall-o-guitars, plugged it into a Vox Night Train, and gave it a spin.  I’ve never really given the Les Paul guitars much attention.  Despite their iconic status and near ubiquity, I’ve always thought the Les Paul was just too heavy to consider. But…

I was shocked! This guitar had so much sustain, it felt like there must be an active sustainer circuit in there.  But no- just passive ‘57 Classic humbuckers, a Nashville Tune-o-matic, and a whole bunch of mahogany and maple.  I was stunned. I always thought my G&L ASAT III with its Saddle-Lock bridge and my Vox SSC-55 with its MaxConnect bridge both had reasonably good sustain, but this was in a whole ‘nother league.   It actually felt like a different breed of instrument, one that may even require a different playing style to accommodate and leverage such an impressive sustain.  And those 57 Classics sounded fantastic!

So, ok, I walked out of there telling Chunling “Wow- that was mind-blowing.  But $2400, forget about it!!”  I convinced myself to let it go, and stopped thinking about it. Until…

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Current Pedalboard Rig

Setting up for the gig

My pedalboard for the recent Summer Music Project gig was a a bit of a compromise.  I couldn’t fit the JamMan Delay on the pedal board so it was hanging off to one side, and I had no space for my fuzz and chorus.

I’ve been planning to build a new larger PedalTrain-inspired pedalboard, and make some new correct-length cables.

Meanwhile, some of this pedal order is dependent on the short cables I had on hand. I would prefer to wire the tuner before the volume pedal, and the compressor before the wah, but that will have to wait for the redo.

The pedal chain I settled on for the gig was:

I received the VOX Ice 9 just before the gig, so I haven’t fully explored its voicing yet, but it sounds really nice.  It has an overall darker sound that my Speed Racer, so I’m initially using it as a very mellow overdrive/boost, and using my Speed Racer for more bright aggressive drive.   I wasn’t doing any live looping with the JamMan Delay- I was just using the delays, and loving that tap tempo switch.

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George Harrison’s Vox UL730

George Harrison's Vox UL730

It’s an interesting tale of intrigue, the discovery that this old dusty Vox UL730 belonged to George Harrison.  It was used during the recording of Revolver and Sgt. Peppers.

You want that sound?  Buy this amp at auction!  It’ll only cost you about $100,000.

Update 1/4/2012: I went back to see how much the amp sold for, and it turns out the auction was withdrawn- the mystery owner decided to keep it.

Read more about this amp at the vox showroom.

 Beatles In Studio with Vox UL730

 

 

 

 

 

… November 29. Rest in peace, George, 10 years now gone …

Breaking in the Speaker

Vox AC15HW1I’ve often heard people talk about how their headphones or guitar speakers really “opened up” or became more “dynamic and alive” after breaking them in.  

I recently had the opportunity to borrow a virgin, unplayed Celestion G12M Greenback speaker, which is the same speaker as in my Vox AC15HW1 hand-wired

Celestion G12M GreenbackSo, I thought it would be interesting to do a swap-in comparison with my current G12M, which has probably about 100 hours of playtime on it, at both bedroom and gigging levels.

Honestly, I was not blown away.  I thought the differences would be really obvious, but they’re pretty subtle. 

Have a listen:

And here’s a little pictorial of swapping the speaker.   After removing its screws, the speaker is still stuck in there.   There’s a thin layer of cork between the speaker and the cabinet, which either has adhesive applied to it, or has just kinda bonded with the cabinet interior.   It needs a little coaxing to get out of there.  I’m using a 15" utility bar to gently pry free the speaker. 

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CoAxe Pickups: Interview with Vox R&D

CoAxe pickup on SSC33TBCoAxe Pickup Internals

As you can hear in my recent video review of the Vox SSC33, the Vox CoAxe pickups sound amazing.  They’re dynamic, noiseless in all modes, and most importantly offer up a wide range of incredible sounds.

With the two blades sandwiching the pole pieces, you can see right away that these aren’t your typical humbucker, single-coil or P90…

Curious for more details on these mysterious creations, I got in touch with the man behind the magic- the inventor of the CoAxe pickup: Eric Kirkland, Chief Designer at Vox Guitar Development (G-Rok), in Novato, California.    Read on…

Why the name CoAxe?

Eric: The name “CoAxe”, of course, refers to the orientation of the coils.  Stacked humbuckers (the so-called “stacked single coil” pickups) are also coaxial, but our pickups are co-planar as well.  Maybe “Concentric” would have been a more descriptive name, but it just didn’t sound cool enough.

CoAxe Bobbin AssemblyTell us about those blades, poles and coils!

Eric: The arrangement of the coils is significant, as is the position of the blades between the coils.  The inner sensing coil, with its load of six poles, works like any single coil.  Since the load of the outer noise canceling coil consists of both the six poles and the two blades, less wire is required to produce a noise signal equivalent to the noise in the inner coil.  Less wire means less impedance, so the Clean and Crunch modes can be both noise-free and sparkly.  (Exposed to typical ambient EMI, our pickups have less noise than a covered Gibson PAF type humbucker – and more output.)

 

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Vox SSC33TB Guitar

I recently had a chance to play the new Vox SSC33, and it’s a thing of beauty.  This is the mid-priced 33 series guitar, in the single cutaway, teaburst finish, with an ash top, mahogany body and neck, and rosewood fretboard.  It’s an incredible value when you consider it shares the same MaxConnect aluminum bridge, CoAxe pickups, and super-smooth tuners as Vox’s higher end 55, 77 and Virage guitars.  And it comes with a really nice padded gig bag.

The neck is very comfortable and playable, with a 12” radius and 25 1/8” scale length.  I’ve updated my Neck and Neck chart with all the measurements and details. 

As you can hear in the video, you can get an incredibly versatile range of sounds out of the pair of CoAxe pickups, with the Clean and Lead modes.   The volume pot is an Alpha 500k audio taper, with no treble bleed- but you can hear in my volume examples that it maintains brightness pretty well when turning down.  It has a really uncommon 4PDT switch in there for the pickup mode selector.    The tone cap is a .015uF poly film, which provides a nice useful tone range.

Total quality workmanship, perfect setup, excellent sound.  It’s a winner.

Update May 18, 2011: For more about the CoAxe pickup system, see my interview with Vox R&D’s Eric Kirkland.

Photo gallery continues after the break:

2011-03-26 Vox SSC33 0152011-03-26 Vox SSC33 016

 

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What’s In The Cabinet?

What’s in an amp cabinet?   As it turns out, quite a lot.  In this video I do an experiment with the same two AC15 amps as in my last video– the AC15C1 Custom, and the AC15HW1 hand-wired.

G12M-GREENBACK-8Both amps use the same Celestion Greenback G12M speaker, and these two here have each been played about the same amount, so they should be “broken in” evenly.  Now, by disconnecting the wires from the two speakers, and routing them through an AB box to the external speaker output of one the amps, I can isolate a single amplifier circuit, and hear it through both cabinets in turn.   In this way, we can first listen to the AC15C1 amp circuit through its own cabinet, and then listen to that same AC15C1 amp circuit through the AC15HW1 cabinet.   Switching back and forth really highlights the different sound character provided by the two cabinets.

2011-02-08-VOX-AC15-high-frequency-diffuser-004Why so different?  The AC15HW1 cabinet is obviously larger, which provides a bigger resonant cavity.  It’s also built with birch plywood which is lighter weight and perhaps more resonant than the denser MDF used in the Custom.   Another important difference is the high frequency diffuser used in the AC15HW1 which really softens the high-end.  In the video, I also experiment taping a makeshift little diffuser over the AC15C1 cabinet to see what happens.

Vox AC15 Comparison

In this video, I review and compare these two excellent Vox AC15 amps, the AC15C1 Custom, and the AC15HW1 hand-wired.

These amps are similar in many respects:

Celestion Greenback G12MVox AC15HW1 Tubes

  • same Celestion Greenback G12M speaker
  • same preamp and power amp tube complement (3 12AX7’s and 2 EL84’s)
  • same two channels: Normal and Top Boost.
  • same tone cut and interactive EQ controls
  • same weight – 48 pounds. Handwired is larger but birch plywood is lighter than MDF
  • same AC15 legacy and tradition
  • However, there are some obvious differences:

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    Oh, For the Love of an AC15

    Vox AC15C1 Wow.  Yesterday, I had a chance to play a session through a new Vox AC15C1.  Really dynamic and responsive to play.  Great character and presence, and a really nice break up when you dig in.

    My usual session amp, a late-eighties solid-state Fender Stage 185, is increasingly unsatisfying to play- seems I can never find the right level of brightness in a band setting.  Cranking up the presence, or tweaking the treble tends to make it harsh before it becomes pleasant.  The clean channel is pretty nice, but the drive/boost channel tends to feel a bit fizzy.  

    Vox AC15HW1 Vox has just released a new hand-wired series, including the AC15HW1, pictured left.  After my experience with the AC15C1, I’m anxious to hear whether the use of top-shelf components, hand wiring, tube rectifier, birch cabinet, ruby tubes, can make the already great sounding AC15 even better.

    I also really like the ability to kick in extra gain with the new hot/cool foot switch, and the the OP mode switch to drop to 7.5W for nighttime playing.

    The only things missing from the hand-wired series are the tremolo and reverb.  One tune in yesterday’s session, Glen Phillips’ excellent laid back version of I Want A New Drug, calls for a bit of tremolo- but every time I tried kicking in the AC15C1’s trem, I just found it distracting and reached back to flick down the knob- perhaps I was just overdoing it, but I think I can probably live without it :)   And while the AC15C1’s reverb is very warm, smooth and pleasant- I rarely use reverb.  And I must say, if you turn the verb knob up over about 10%, it just sounds huuuuge, like you’re playing inside a water tower.

    Warning- explicit photos follow:

    Vox AC15HW1 Turret Board Wiring Vox AC15HW1 Ruby Tubes

    Full disclosure- I work for Korg R&D, which owns Vox.  So perhaps I’m a little biased towards Vox, over other alternatives (employee discount, woo-hoo!)

    UPDATE 3/22/2011: I did eventually buy that AC15HW1, and it is a thing of beauty.  I borrowed Chuck’s AC15C1 again and made a video comparing the two.

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