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VOX AC15 or AC30 for Recording?
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Shaft
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10th March 2011
Old 10th March 2011
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VOX AC15 or AC30 for Recording?

Hi guitar guys--drummer here. For just recording--not gigging--will a VOX AC15 give me all the tone and vibe of an AC30? Seems like an AC30 is a hands-down fave for studio must-haves.

Will the AC15 do essentially the same or do I need to go for the 30?

thx
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10th March 2011
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thanks, man.

bump

how about straight up, recent models?
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10th March 2011
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Vox AC-15 Handwired

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaft View Post
thanks, man.

bump

how about straight up, recent models?
Shaft,
We have one of the AC-15 Handwired models in our studio. It is a GREAT little amp. I replaced the stock EF86 with a NOS Telefunken. The amp definitely covers the Peter Buck growl or jingle jangle "chimey-thing" when paired with our Rick 360 or a Tele and our Jangle Box compression pedal.
Also does a nice Beatles kinda thing when used with our Epiphone Casino. But my favorite sound maybe a 60's LP SG with the P90's straight into the amp with the Klon. The EF86 is still a little noisier than I would prefer but the tone is great.

Anybody have any tips on how to make it a little quieter, I'm open to ideas.

Hope this helps.

Tim Cochran
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10th March 2011
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Is there lotsa' difference between the handwired and the off-the-shelf variety?

My budget says stock will do.
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10th March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaft View Post
Is there lotsa' difference between the handwired and the off-the-shelf variety?

My budget says stock will do.
Never heard the stock amps, so I can't help you there.
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10th March 2011
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For a "real" VOX, you want the JMI (Jennings Musical Instruments) amps. But realize that these things are higher maintenance than dating a Kardashian. Poor design cooks the innards and they've started more fires than Phase Linear 400s.

The modern hardwires are very usable amps. With a great deal of the vintage VOX character. Much more so than any of the "clones" (Matchless, Top Hat ...)

Note that a good JMI AC30 is fairly loud at settings people go for. And all it's voices require it to be used at that particular volume. Set at 3 you get that Beatles jangle. At 5 it fattens up with a great soft bluesy breakup. At 8, it's pure Brian May. That really thick creamy overdrive tone that has no resemblance to the clear bright tone it had on 3. So you'd need to be able to isolate/deal with it all the way up to near full volume depending on what is being tracked. Although back in the day Jeff pushed them with a treble booster, it kind of misses the point of having a real JMI to put a pedal in front of it.

The 30 moves more air so those sounds are fatter in a large enough room. Close mic'd in a booth, I'd stick with a 15. Gets to the breakup at more reasonable volumes (half the power and moves half the air) and you can still get nice clean sounds out of it.
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10th March 2011
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And now to narrow it down to a stock, current AC30 or AC15--the 15 will give me everything the 30 will for just recording?

Thanks for all the input so far. Just want to narrow it down between the two.
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10th March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaft View Post
Is there lotsa' difference between the handwired and the off-the-shelf variety?

My budget says stock will do.
Yes, there are differences, but for folks on a budget, they probably don't warrant the cost. If I was going to spend a shit-ton on an amp that was my ONLY amp, there are other ones higher on the list than a HW AC15/30.

If you're looking for the VOX sound to add to your arsenal, I have a newer AC15CC. It's a fine amp.
I changed the speaker to a Weber, changed the tubes and did a couple of cheap/easy mods found here:AC15 mods

Buy a used one on eBay and with another $130-50 it will get you as close as anyone would need to "that" sound for recording.
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10th March 2011
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The new AC15-Customs - $599 - are KILLER...Seriously. Big time improvement over past models. Celestion speaker. More than enough for great recordings.
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10th March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnkenn View Post
The new AC15-Customs - $599 - are KILLER...Seriously. Big time improvement over past models. Celestion speaker. More than enough for great recordings.
+1!

I LOVE my AC15 Custom, even more than my old British AC15.
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10th March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnkenn View Post
The new AC15-Customs - $599 - are KILLER...Seriously. Big time improvement over past models. Celestion speaker. More than enough for great recordings.
Saw a YouTube demo by a VOX guy for Nova Music and it sounded sweet.

Just wanted to get some firsthand testimonials.

Thanks!
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10th March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
+1!

I LOVE my AC15 Custom, even more than my old British AC15.
Cool! I'm thinkin' that's the one.
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There were an earlier batch of "reissues" that I'd stay away from. I don't subscribe to the hardwired/PCB stuff. In my room I have a Fuchs ODS (PCB) and blackfaced Deluxe Reverb (hardwire). The Fuchs is my main amp. I have the Deluxe because it's easier to get a classic Fender sound out of than spinning dials on the Fuchs.

But the PCB Voxes were "improved" with various modern tweaks (the hardwires have master volumes but that only makes them more useful) that take them away from the classic Vox sound.

It really depends on what you are after. If everything burned down and I needed an amp this weekend, I'd go down and grab a Fender SuperSonic. Very versatile and almost impossible to get a bad sound out of. You should check out the Greg Koch vids (or go to one of his clinics to hear things live). Amazing the sounds he can pull out of one of those.

If you just want that driven Vox sound, you could get one of the little Brian May recording amps. That and a HotRod Deluxe (replace the speaker) for clean stuff would cover a lot of bases for the same money.
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4th April 2011
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AC15!

1. The AC15 has the perfect volume for recording. You can crank it up next to the drum kit and have a balanced sound for recording live in the studio.

2. The new AC30 sucks. However the new AC15 is great for the money.
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4th April 2011
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love the new ac15's for lotsa stuff, should be able to give you many tones. if you really want to spice up that ac15, get a celestion alnico blue speaker. it will take that amp from good to great really quick. speakers are something lots of people overlook, and are a very important puzzle piece.


Just to chime in on the handwired thing... i think that there is a difference, i have been down the hardwired road for a few years now, and i wont go back. they deliver a very organic sound, that to the "tone obsessed" is necessary. to expensive? naw, buy a kit (webber, metroamp) and build one. I didn't know how before i started, now i have a few small wattage marshalls at my disposal that sound better than anything i had purchased in the past.
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The classic AC30 sound requies an AC30 (not an AC15) because you don't close mic it in front of the speaker like you would a lot of amps. You place the mic in between the two speakers which gives it a cool and unique sound.The AC15 is a great amp but it is a different sound.
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4th April 2011
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Logic (not the DAW!) says that the AC15 is the better choice because you can do number 10 on the volume knob and hear the valves sing, which I won't lie, is a great sound.

But, being honest, if you've got the space and soundproofing to use an AC30, do that. It really does sound better. The bigger drivers have so much more powerful tone in them than the little one in the AC15, and even on 'Volume 7' the AC30 sings with a far more beautiful tone than the AC15 flat out.

Had a jam once with an AC30 turned up to about 7 or 8 so I could turn my Tubescreamer off because it was naturally clipping with a nice crunchy edge using a Gibson SG with bridge pickup. It was the best guitar tone I've ever had.

As has been said, use a mic between the speakers. SM57 is the old fashion choice but personally I find I get a far nicer sound putting a U87 in between or something like that. People knock it but the TLM103 also does a great job there. Then I put a on-axis 57 on one of the speakers and an off-axis 57 on the other. (But again, if you have other mics, I do prefer the Heil PR20 over the SM57).
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4th April 2011
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Got an off-the-shelf, stock AC15C1 and I love the sound!

I'm really happy with the tone--but I'm just a dumb ol' drummer--not a connoisseur like many of you.

Thanks, everyone for your helpful input!
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VOX AC15 or AC30 for Recording?

FYI, AC15's and AC30's are very different amps. Different preamp sections, different tone sections, different transformers, etc. Saying an AC15 is a quieter version of an AC30 is ridiculous. Though an AC15 is a cool amp, it's not "that sound" that people are talking about when referring to AC30's.

Our studio has an AC15, an original JMI AC30TB and a 90's Reissue AC30TB. I use the JMI or the reissue on almost every record I do. The AC15 on the other hand is more of a novelty and definitely not a workhorse like the AC30.

I'd also like to remind anyone looking for that AC30 sound that the "Custom Classic AC30" or "AC30cc" is not actually an AC30. It's a completely different amp in the classic AC30 cabinet. They aren't worth the money. Especially when you can find 90's reissues for under a $1000.
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Ac-15

The original JMI vox stuff is just about unbeatable. Straight wire (no pedals) into it and it's "insta-tone". Anything made during/post Korg era vox is VERY questionable in comparison. There are 20+ completely different amps called "AC-15" or "Ac-30" so be very careful when shopping. This book <http://www.voxguidebook.com/> explains it all.

One of the studios I work in has an original ac-15 in a two 12" speaker configuration. For the first 3 minutes, it's has the voice of god. Just about the time you have the guitar player excited and your mic's placed, the EF-86 pre amp tube starts ringing like a bell. The best sounding and most frustrating guitar amp of all time.

This era amp is well known for it's tonal qualities but the high impedance requirements being made in the Ef-86 makes 99% of the available tubes microphonic in this circuit. There seems to be slight difference in manufacturing between the modern Ef-86's and the vintage ones as the new ones will be fine in most other common uses but not in the original JMI amps. NOS telefunken & Mullard Ef-86's (same tube used in some vintage tube mics) are crazy expensive but seem to be the only things that really work well. I have seen the same issue with two ac-10's in two different studios that use the input/buffer stage and they are equally as awesome/frustrating. If you are set on a vintage Ef-86 driven Ac-15 (one of the best amps ever made by man), you can have your tech modify the socket to run an ef-806 (or equivalent) so you can actually use NOS tubes (chinese ef-86's suck). These are also pretty expensive but way more stable/available than a comparable Ef-86.

I don't know where you guys live but the Ac-voltage in my neighborhood has crept up to over 121 volts. My tech has speculated that the export taps on the vintage power transformers are expecting 110v AC (the old standard) and we could be un-necessarily roasting our vintage vox amps (which had heat problems to begin with) if you are not compensating for your power. If all the parts in the amp were built to a 20% tolerance and you are running almost 10% hotter, you can have a potential worst case scenario of exceeding component specs by 30%. It's best to use a variac or an additional 10% step down transformer for best results and to protect your investment.
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I think the AC15 would be a better option for recording. I've had more experience recording AC30's, and a lot of times I find that they are just too loud... Some guitarists get used to cranking their AC30's loud for gigs, and it's impossible to get them to turn it down enough in the studio to where I can get within 5 feet of the speaker with a ribbon mic like a Royer.

Some amps, like a nice marshall stack for instance, really need to be cranked to get certain sought after, heavy tones. For that kind of music though, I find myself going with just a dynamic mic on the speaker. I don't find that that's the case with an amp like an AC30, so I would personally go with an AC15 because it will get MORE than loud enough to get some drive out of it in the studio.

I've actually got a little Vox AC4 that I play around with at home, and I've recorded with it and it can still sound like an AC30 when you record it. Just go with the AC15 if you don't plan on giging in setting where deafening decibel levels are required...
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I have an AC30cc and love it. Super versatile, and just a great sounding amp in general. I Would definitely say they are worth the money, especially used, I found mine for $700. I have heard a few people say they sound closer to JMI's than the British Korgs, but I have no personal experience with this. The only issue in my mind is the well known reliablity problems.
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I am 95% 10-15 watt amps recording these days. AC 30 is great but depending on where you are recording it the DB's could be troublesome. Go ac 15, pony up for the alnico speaker upgrade, youll be good, that is until you hear a good example of a 60's one........
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patheticus View Post
FYI, AC15's and AC30's are very different amps. Different preamp sections, different tone sections, different transformers, etc. Saying an AC15 is a quieter version of an AC30 is ridiculous. Though an AC15 is a cool amp, it's not "that sound" that people are talking about when referring to AC30's.

Our studio has an AC15, an original JMI AC30TB and a 90's Reissue AC30TB. I use the JMI or the reissue on almost every record I do. The AC15 on the other hand is more of a novelty and definitely not a workhorse like the AC30.

I'd also like to remind anyone looking for that AC30 sound that the "Custom Classic AC30" or "AC30cc" is not actually an AC30. It's a completely different amp in the classic AC30 cabinet. They aren't worth the money. Especially when you can find 90's reissues for under a $1000.
Why I've just heard many videos on youtube and the AC15 sounds pretty identical to the AC30 and in many cases it seems to actually sound much better (probably because is more pushed.. more suited for recording studio instead live)?
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
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Why I've just heard many videos on youtube and the AC15 sounds pretty identical to the AC30 and in many cases it seems to actually sound much better (probably because is more pushed.. more suited for recording studio instead live)?
I assume you guys are all recording in your bedrooms if you can't crank an ac30. In what real studio can you not crank up an AC30? Calling something more suited for the studio because its quieter seems silly to me. Having a separate control room and live room does serve a purpose. Most guitar players I work with pick the AC30 over the AC15. It got to the point that I sold our AC15. It never got used over either of our AC30's. Anyway, thinking they sound the same seems nuts to me.
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andersmv View Post
I think the AC15 would be a better option for recording. I've had more experience recording AC30's, and a lot of times I find that they are just too loud... Some guitarists get used to cranking their AC30's loud for gigs, and it's impossible to get them to turn it down enough in the studio to where I can get within 5 feet of the speaker with a ribbon mic like a Royer.

Some amps, like a nice marshall stack for instance, really need to be cranked to get certain sought after, heavy tones. For that kind of music though, I find myself going with just a dynamic mic on the speaker. I don't find that that's the case with an amp like an AC30, so I would personally go with an AC15 because it will get MORE than loud enough to get some drive out of it in the studio.

I've actually got a little Vox AC4 that I play around with at home, and I've recorded with it and it can still sound like an AC30 when you record it. Just go with the AC15 if you don't plan on giging in setting where deafening decibel levels are required...
I've been putting an R121 on cranked AC30's and cranked 100w Marshall's for many years and it hasn't blown. Don't be afraid. It was built to take it.
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patheticus View Post
I assume you guys are all recording in your bedrooms if you can't crank an ac30. In what real studio can you not crank up an AC30? Calling something more suited for the studio because its quieter seems silly to me. Having a separate control room and live room does serve a purpose. Most guitar players I work with pick the AC30 over the AC15. It got to the point that I sold our AC15. It never got used over either of our AC30's. Anyway, thinking they sound the same seems nuts to me.

Who's you guys?
That's me and I was talking about youtube videos
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21st December 2012
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I'm primarily a guitar player and have played many AC30's. I have found the CC to be quite uninspiring to play. Struggle to get a tone that blows me away. I've had some good experiences with what I recall was a heritage. But really one of the best AC30 tones is my buddies '72ish. That thing slays, probably even more than his '65. With any AC30, hope you are good friends with an amp tech.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Draytone View Post
I'm primarily a guitar player and have played many AC30's. I have found the CC to be quite uninspiring to play. Struggle to get a tone that blows me away. I've had some good experiences with what I recall was a heritage. But really one of the best AC30 tones is my buddies '72ish. That thing slays, probably even more than his '65. With any AC30, hope you are good friends with an amp tech.
Uhm.. that's exactly the opposite for me, I mean, I'm considering to change the Twin with an AC30 and the reason why I do that is that it seems to me more inspiring... it has more nuances dependent to the way you hit the strings

The Twin is amazing, but I don't like distortions in it too much... I mean it becomes evil.. while the AC30 is more sweet and rock 'n roll, unpredictable and growling

That's what it seems to me, then I don't know, I haven't ever tried it

Also I hope I can manage it better than the Twin which is really too loud, at least the AC30 has the master level and I can dial the level of distortion... the Twin doesn't distort.. even thought the clean sounds so huge

Why should I have a tech friend? Which kind of problems do they have?

Thanks
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22nd December 2012
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Quote:
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Uhm.. that's exactly the opposite for me, I mean, I'm considering to change the Twin with an AC30 and the reason why I do that is that it seems to me more inspiring... it has more nuances dependent to the way you hit the strings
This is true with MOST AC30's...however one thing you will find is that there is an AC30 sound, and then there is things such as Custom Classics. Not to dis on the CC's, but just my personal experiences have been that some of the current production AC30's just seem a bit lifeless and don't have that "make you pull a dumb smile like a kid in a candy store" tone. Still sounds like an AC30, but to me, kinda more an OK imitation of an AC30...if that makes any sense at all.

Another odd thing about AC30's, is so many sound different. All similar, but also often different.

Reliability... They seem to burn through tubes like no other amp I know. Also, I've had many people bring the newer AC30's to me with rectifier issues. But yeah, don't discredit if you do have any issues with an AC30, replace your tubes first. Even if you don't think it could be such, do it anyway.

-Rob
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