Review: Vox AV15

Vox AV15 – logo

Vox Amplification’s new AV-series comprises three affordable guitar combos. The Vox AV15, AV30 and AV60 – named according to their power amp wattage – are modelling valve hybrid amplifiers that combine the best elements of solid state and tube technology.

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Vox AV15 – front view new

KitarablogiDotCom took the smallest of the trio, the Vox AV15 (street price in Finland approx. 269 €) for a spin.

The AV15 is a compact little combo (height: 37 cm, width: 45 cm, depth: 23 cm), weighing in at just below eight kilos.

AV15 cabinet construction

The combo’s cabinet has taken a big leaf out of the book of hi-fi speaker construction. Normally a guitar cab is meant to add its own bit of tonal modification into the mix, but when dealing with a modelling amplifier meant to imitate a number of different amp and speaker configurations, the more linear frequency response of a bass reflex cabinet is highly desirable.

Vox AV15 – back angle

Vox AV15 – back panel

The only thing you’ll find on the Vox AV15’s back panel is the connector for the amp’s external power supply unit (12 VDC, included).

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Vox AV15 – control panel 2 LRG

The Preamp Circuit-switch lets you select one of the eight amp models offered by the Vox. The selection takes you from Fender Twin-style cleans, and Vox- and Marshall-type crunch, all the way to Rectifier-like high gain tones.

You can fine-tune your tone using the three-band EQ section. The AV15 also comes equipped with an effects section made up of three different effects – reverb, delay and chorus (called modulation on the front panel). You are free to choose any or all of the effects. Each effect allows you to control a second parameter (in addition to the effect level) by keeping the respective effect’s effect button depressed while turning the Effects-control. You can change the modulation speed of the chorus, the delay time for the delay effect, and the length of the reverb tail of the reverb effect. The effects are the only digital bits in the AV-combo’s architecture, the rest of the Vox’ signal path – including the amp modelling – is kept all-analogue.

Here are three short clips illustrating the AV15’s effects (Gibson Les Paul Junior, Shure SM57):

CHORUS (with a little added reverb)

DELAY

REVERB

It may seem a bit unusual, but the AV15 features three different ”volume controls”, which all have a different bearing on the combo’s sound:

The Gain-knob sets the signal level before the signal is sent to the preamp’s valve stage. Low Gain settings result in a clean sound, while higher Gain settings will lead to preamp break-up and (depending on the chosen amp model) distortion. The Volume-control adjusts the signal level right in front of the power amp’s tube stage. Lower Volume settings will give you a clean and dynamic signal, while higher settings will bring in some power amp compression and saturation (= distortion). The last volume knob – called Power Level on the Vox AV15 – determines the final volume level in your room (or in your headphones).

Vox AV15 – tube and switches LRG

While its bigger siblings – the AV30 and the AV60 – feature two valves in their architecture (one for the preamp, one for the power amp), the smaller Vox AV15 makes do with just a single tube for both pre- and power amp duties. This is made possible by the way the good-old 12AX7-valve is constructed, offering you two triodes in one single tube. This means, you can split this valve type to perform two jobs simultaneously.

This Vox’ Valve Stage-section features four small slider switches that you can use to modify the way the two valve stages react and sound:

The Pre Amp side of things sports a Bright-switch for adding sparkle to your top end, as well as a Fat-switch that will boost the bass response.

The switches labelled ”Power Amp” really do make a significant difference to this combo’s ”feel”. The Bias- and Reactor-switches let you select how much the power amp’s tube section is ”pushed” and how much power amp compression will be audible.

Listen to these two sound clips – clean and crunch – to get an idea of how the Valve Stage switches change the combo’s sound (Gibson Les Paul Junior, Shure SM57). Both clips start with all the switches in the left position. Then I put one switch after the other to its right position (starting with the Bright-switch, and continuing left to right):

Vox AV15 – front angle 2

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Vox AV15 – front angle 3

Snobbism seems to be the fashion of the day – we’ve got cork sniffers, we’ve got vinyl snobs, and we’ve got valve amp anoraks.

But in our heart of hearts, most of us ”old farts” would have been more than happy, if we would have had such a great-sounding and versatile amp as the Vox AV15 when we started playing in the 1970s and 80s! The AV15 really wins you over with its array of inspiring tones and its affordable price tag.

The Vox AV15 is a real amp, not a plastic toy sucking all of the sheer joy of playing out of an eager novice. Vox AV-series hybrid combos can also serve more advanced players as fun living room amps, they can be used for backstage warm-up, and they also make a good figure as home studio amps (as you can hear in the demo songs).

BLUES demo

Rhythm guitars: Fender Telecaster (left channel) & Epiphone Casino (right channel)

Lead guitar: Fender Stratocaster

ROCK demo

Rhythm guitars: Fender Telecaster (left channel) & Gibson Les Paul Junior (right channel)

Lead guitar: Gibson Melody Maker SG

METAL demo

Rhythm guitars: Gibson Melody Maker SG (left channel) & Fender Stratocaster (right channel)

Lead guitar: Hamer USA Studio Custom

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Vox AV15 – front angle 4

In my opinion Vox Amplification’s new AV15 is a fine choice as a practice amp, for guitar teachers, or for school bands. The affordable Vox AV15 is easy to use and sounds great.

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Vox AV15

Finnish street price approx. 269 €

Finnish distributor: EM Nordic

A big ”thank you” goes to DLX Music Helsinki for the loan of the review amp!

Pros:

+ compact

+ lightweight

+ versatile

+ Valve Stage-section

+ sound

+ value-for-money

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