Vox AC10 - reaching new heights?

Discussion in 'Ampage Area' started by Tony65x55, Jun 23, 2019.

  1. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    63
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    Hi folks, sorry I haven't been posting much but life has been eating my time. However, I had this amazing experience last night and wanted to share it with you.

    I had purchased a Vox AC10 when they first came out. I really liked the sound and it was a fabulous amp for quiet rehearsals although it certainly would not keep up to a rock 'n roll drummer. I just enjoyed it for its serious Voxy sounds and its small size/light weight.

    I had been playing around with speaker selection for a 2x10" cab I was building for my AC30 head. I had a fairly large number of speakers to try and there were many choices that sounded good. After all, the AC30 is iconic for a reason.

    The speakers that seriously blew me away were the Eminence Red Fang 10" ceramics. In the AC30 they sounded better than two 10" Celestion Golds (they were pretty great too!) I was really delighted with the sound. Punchy, responsive and as Voxy as anything I've ever heard.

    I decided to try one in the little AC10. As replacing the speaker is a pain (Vox makes you remove a pile of screws and take the whole back off the amp) I decided to replace the cheap Chinese tubes at the same time.

    The difference was profound.

    The amp was much louder, much more responsive and a little bit heavier. It really did sound like a mini version of the AC30 and IMHO, better than the AC15. But to me, it was still just a very good practice amp. Bear in mind, I think a Bassman makes a great bedroom amp.

    One of the bands I play in has been gigging some of the Royal Canadian Legions - playing classic rock stuff. As the clientele seems a little older than the average, volume control has been a priority. Even my Princetons were difficult to control and still get a decent sound.

    Last night as I packed up the car to head to the gig, an idea popped in my head and I put the AC10 into the car with a 1971 Princeton Reverb as a back up.

    Holy Mother of Pearl! I spent the first four songs turning the little beast down after starting the first song (I wanna hold your hand) with the Master volume on 8 and the Gain on 3. I finally got it into balance (no sound check, right?) with the Master on 5 and the Gain about 2. A touch of the AC10's great digital reverb and the bass and treble controls on 2 and 7 respectively.

    Best of all, even at low volume levels it retained the famous top-boost grit and Vox jangle. I was playing a Gretsch Panther, a 5422-12 and a Elitist Casino last night and they all sounded incredible. World class!

    The other guitar player in the band, a gear head if ever there was one, was playing through a 1968 Deluxe Reverb and was struggling with the amp in the worst way. All through the night he kept asking questions about the little AC10 and is going to purchase one. This from a guy who has a huge collection of Matchless, Goodsells, Bad Cats and antique Fenders.

    Sorry for the long post but I thought I needed to share this with the many Vox fans here. For the cost of a inexpensive speaker, two EL-84s and two 12AX7s, you can have a mini AC30 that is very capable of keeping up with a live drummer. I even think it may be louder than the AC15 as I had no shortage of headroom.

    The improvement over a stock AC10 is tangible and the AC10 stock is already a great little amp. I have quite a few gigs in the next couple of months and I'll be wringing this tone monster out. I'll keep you posted.
     
  2. larryb

    larryb Gretschified

    Age:
    50
    Oct 29, 2012
    Greenville, SC
    Nice to see you back Tony and I love the new and improved AC10 review...Congrats on your discovery!
     
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  3. Ricochet

    Ricochet I Bleed Orange

    Nov 13, 2009
    Monkey Island
    Tnx Tony, always good to hear from reasonable priced alternatives for the Golds. One problem though. Now I want an AC10.
     
    blueruins and Tony65x55 like this.
  4. Robbie

    Robbie Country Gent

    Age:
    66
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    Interesting Tony. I returned the AC10 I bought but it was a difficult decision. This might make me go get another one.
     
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  5. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    63
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    I understand. While it does sound good, it is still just a practice amp. These simple mods really raised its game. It is difficult to find tube amps capable of sounding great at low volume levels. The two things are almost contrary to each other, particularly with the Vox sound.

    It is another arrow in the sonic quiver because we've all played those gigs where low volume is a priority for the management while sonic quality will always be the priority for the musician. If last night is a legitimate indication, this amp may be the middle ground.
     
  6. wabash slim

    wabash slim Friend of Fred

    Age:
    69
    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    I got my AC15 before the AC10 came out. No complaints with it at all. Still, for my uses, the AC10 would be fine. I've never heard anything negative about an AC10.
     
  7. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    63
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    The AC15 is a fine amp, just heavy for a 15 watter. But hey, all Vox amps are heavy for their size, even the AC10. When the AC10 first came out a lot of people were down on the digital reverb - until they heard it. Actually, they really do sound terrific, even with the stock speaker and tubes. The mods just take it to another level.
     
    wabash slim likes this.
  8. Scooter127

    Scooter127 Gretschie

    477
    Feb 25, 2019
    USA
    I recently replaced the single 12ax7 tube and speaker in my old Fender RocPro 700 and the difference was stunning.

    The new speaker made a big difference but the tube - all of $22 from Amazon - is what made the biggest difference.

    Although I just picked up a Fender GT40 on Friday and can't stop gushing about it.
     
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  9. G5422T

    G5422T Synchromatic

    589
    May 24, 2012
    usa
    I bought the AC10C1VS version, which has a speaker upgrade from the factory.

    I've commented many times how good this amp sounds at any volume level, and that the digital reverb sounds extremely good too. (and I'm a reverb tank guy)

    Great little amps. Great write up Tony.

    20181211_142447.jpg 20181211_145233.jpg
     
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  10. pmac11

    pmac11 Country Gent

    Age:
    55
    Mar 4, 2018
    Toronto, Ontario
    Sounds like struck gold with those mods, Tony. What was the stock speaker in the AC10?

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk
     
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  11. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    63
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    It is a Celestion VX10. It's quite a good speaker and sounds terrific, but not as good as the amp can be. The Red Fang is much more efficient at a sensitivity of 102.2 db vs 95 db for the Celestion. The rule of thumb is that 3 db equates to a doubling of volume so I guess that accounts for the dramatic difference in volume.
     
    pmac11 likes this.
  12. pmac11

    pmac11 Country Gent

    Age:
    55
    Mar 4, 2018
    Toronto, Ontario
    Yeah, +7db increase in speaker sensitivity is sure one way to get a louder amp !

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk
     
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  13. wabash slim

    wabash slim Friend of Fred

    Age:
    69
    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    Tubes and speakers are where the makers save money by going for the cheapest ones they can find. They're also the easiest things to modify and improve.
     
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  14. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    Well Vox do :)
    Sorry guys - I'm not impressed by this story.
    Vox AC10 is an expensive amp at $700 in Australia for a 10 watter.

    While you can often improve amps by replacing tubes an expensive combo should not have a low quality speaker like this Celestion VX10. Especially when you need a Blue or Greenback to deliver that Vox chimy tone.
    And I haven't even mentioned the weight of em :)

    Anyway - I'm happy that Tony has been able to improve his with these mods :)
     
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  15. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    63
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    Waxy, my friend, you may have missed the point. Finding any tube combo that sounds seriously good at very low levels is an accomplishment, unless you want to spend the bucks for boutique. Those of us that gig into the places that are very volume conscious have a difficult time with this issue sometimes.

    As I said at the beginning, in the Legion type environment with many people of more mature years, even a Princeton Reverb is tough to get a good sound from without getting too loud for the room. The AC10 with the speaker mods fits the bill for me, and the type of music I play with this band.

    It is a specialized niche, but unfortunately one that is encountered more as the demographic that buys our music ages. My post was directed at those players that may find themselves in that situation or may wish to be prepared in case they do. It was not intended as a one-size-fits-all solution

    I also wanted to come at this from the perspective of someone familiar with decent amps. I have been around the block a few times with everything from Roland Cubes to Tone Kings and these were simply my comments on a eureka moment to a vexing problem.

    Thanks for the congrats, I know it was heartfelt. :)

    I wouldn't say the VX10 was a low quality speaker and in fact, despite its modest price, it sounds quite good. But the AC10 with the VX10 speaker simply cannot be considered a gigging amp without being mic'd. That of course, would be dependent on the type of gigging one is doing but for my purposes, I needed a bit more horsepower and headroom.

    As an aside, the AC10 weighs only 27 lbs, add a couple more for the Red Fang speaker.

    I totally agree with you that cheaping out on a speaker seems like a poor business plan but sadly, it is prevalent in our world. I'm sure you understand what I mean, you know your stuff.
     
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  16. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    Tony - my point is that it's not hard to find tube combo's that sound seriously good at very low levels.
    It's easy if you look around and they are not boutique amps either.

    Egnater, Blackstar, Mesa Boogie, Bugera, Bad Cat, Supro and others have all been making them for over 10 yrs now and they've got better speakers than the Celestion VX10 imo.

    My other point is you shouldn't have to spend this added $$ on upgrading an already expensive 10 watter.
    Vox are very expensive amps in Australia.

    And at 27 lbs AC10 weighs a ton imo for a 10 watter with a 10" speaker and nothing much else.
    This 15 watt Egnater Tweaker, for example, has an excellent 1 x 12 speaker, weighs 30 lbs plus you get 2 channels, series loop, 3 band EQ and lots of tonal versatility.
    http://www.egnateramps.com/EgnaterProducts/Tweaker/Tweaker112/Tweaker112.html

    Or you can use this little Vox MV50 AC tube amp.
    It's 50w, costs $250, weighs 1 pound, and when added to the right speaker sounds just as good as an AC10 or 15 imo.
    https://voxamps.com/MV50AC

    The other option is to use this Fryette Power Station to either attenuate, or amp up to 50w, any amp you like.
    Gives you a great series loop as well.
    http://www.fryette.com/power-station-integrated-reactance-amplifier/

    Hey I'm not trying to rain on your upgraded AC10.
    I'm sure you'll love it and it's probably great for Beatles songs.
    But there are lots of other good options around in great sounding low watt tube amps :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
    Tony65x55 likes this.
  17. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    63
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    Well, I understand my friend but I'm not sure I agree. I have owned 3 Egnaters, 2 Blackstars, 3 Mesa Boogies, 3 Bugeras and one Bad Cat (that was considerably expensive) and the only one that sounded remotely good at lower volumes was the Egnater Tweaker, and it sure wasn't that quiet. In fact I mostly played through a Tweaker for well over a year and I liked it a lot. Very versatile to be sure and it hung nicely with a live drummer..

    However, it was also $130 more than the AC10 and little difference (like none) in weight. I have never owned a Supro but they are more dollars than the AC10, to be sure.

    Like I said, I never claimed it to be all things to all people but to fit a low volume niche perfect to the classic rock music I play. It would do a hella job on country music too. It fits my opinion but understandably, may not fit yours. That's what makes a horse race, brother.

    Peace to you friend.
     
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  18. Robbie

    Robbie Country Gent

    Age:
    66
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    Tony, how did the Red Fang sound in comparison to the Stock speaker? Did it warm the amp up at all or change the sound projection, if that makes any sense? Did the tube change warm it up? I went right down to the wire before returning mine, last day of the 30 day trial from Long & McQuade. I’m certain the tube swap would have helped and just wondering if the Red Fang would have got me past the single 10” speaker sound I’m not terribly crazy about. To be honest, I didn’t return it because I didn’t like it, it was primarily because I saw my live performance days winding down and didn’t think I’d use it a lot. To that point, it may be a useful purchase for me at this particular point in time with most of my playing being done at home. My thoughts were quite similar to yours as to where the amp would be useful though.

    That said, I used the AC10 on one job and mic’d it, just to see how it worked. Have to say it held up surprisingly well. I used it with my LP Special and it sat very nicely with the Blues, Soul and R&B we play.

    Thanks for the post brother.
     
  19. kjmac

    kjmac Gretschie

    270
    Mar 7, 2018
    Omaha, NE
    My guitar teacher has a Fender SCX2 that has been modified, put in a bigger cab with a 12" Eminence Cannabis Rex Speaker. We were doing the A/B thing comparing it with my Vox Mini Super Beetle and the little Vox SS amp held it's own at all volume levels. It comes standard with a Celestion 10" 50 watt OEM speaker which I'm sure is less than $8.00 out of China. I'm thinking about dropping in an Eminence Rajin Cajun just to see if it makes much difference. The RC is supposed to have deeper bass and about 6 db more SPL 1 watt 1 meter. I really like the AC10s and AC15s for small tube type amps, but I'm beginning to warm up to the NuTube technology that Vox is using in their solid state amps.
     
    pmac11 likes this.
  20. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Age:
    63
    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    First off, you are welcome to borrow it any time you choose. It also gives us a convenient excuse to get together twice. :)

    The Chinese tubes it comes were not sweet, just cheap. Two Tung Sol 12AX7s in the front end and two JJ EL-84s in the back. Big difference in tone and some in power. Coincidentally, the same combination sounds good in the AC15 too.

    Eminence has done amazing things with 10" speakers. The Ragin' Cajun, the Copperhead and now, the Red Fang - all sound like 12" speakers. Although Emi touts the Ramrod as being their British voiced speaker, I think it runs a distant second to the Red Fang.

    The speaker change really warmed the amp up. The RF has a lot more bottom end and I am running the Bass control at three o'clock. It also has a decent high end but I like bright, jangly sound and I get it with the Treble control at nine o'clock. The speaker is very articulate and in the AC10, the whole package is quite touch sensitive. Projection is very good, much like a 12".

    Importantly, the speaker change took the amp from "nice little practice amp with a good sound" to being a solid contender in those rooms where you simply can't run your '68 Custom DR on 4.5.

    It sounds yummy with P90s or Filtertrons. Works well with Strats and Teles and plays very nicely with decent PAFs. It handles pedals as good as anything else too.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
    Robbie likes this.
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