VOX AC4TV

Sunday, August 2, 2009| by Will Chen

I picked up the AC4TV at the 2009 Dallas Guitar Show and believe it may have been destiny. After auditioning the amp early in the day and being impressed, I walked around the show for a couple of hours and the amp haunted me. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I finally told myself that if it was still there at the end of the day I’d buy it. We’ll sure enough it was still there and while the vendor was ringing me up, we noticed the serial number was 000001. Now I don’t know if this necessarily means it was the first one off the production line, but a cool coincidence none the less.

Vox originally released the AC4 back in 1961 as an affordable practice amp. However, there is little other than the name that the amp shares with the original featuring an EL84 power tube and a 12AX7 pre-amp versus the original’s EZ80 rectifier, ECC83 tremolo oscillator/buffer, EF86 pre-amp and EL84 output. Also differing from the original is a 10” custom design Celestion speaker in a closed back design versus the 8” speaker of the original.

Honestly, the pairing of single coils and the AC4TV is simply inspiring.

The AC4TV is a single ended Class A design with minimalistic controls including only a power switch, input, volume, tone, and power attenuator allowing operation at 4 watts, 1 watt, and ¼ watt. The back panel sports a 16 ohm external speaker jack for running into a bigger cabinet. Weighing in at around 20 pounds, this compact amp is a great grab and go option for lower volume jamming with friends.

Sonically, the amp has a very signature Vox characteristic, which is to say the amp sports a slightly extended high end (aka Vox Chime) and prominent upper midrange with a looser low end response. With my SX SST57 and Fernades TE3 (’69 Thinline Tele copy), the amp really begins to come to life once you hit about 3 on the volume where the amp begins compress very naturally with just a touch of hair around the tone. The amp really seems to complement the glassy nature of single coil pickups perfectly and the tone control is effective at keeping the high end in check. Honestly, the pairing of single coils and the AC4TV is simply inspiring. With humbuckers, the tone can get muddy real quick and as the amp distorts and compresses fairly early you’ll be hard pressed finding a clean tone without dialing back the volume significantly if your axe has a modern hotter output. With the volume between one and two using a Highland Royal’s neck pickup and the tone control full up, I was able to elicit 60’s groove oriented jazz (think Grant Green) riffs with authority. Too cool. Cranking the volume results in the amp breaking up in a somewhat gruff fuzz like manner which may or may not be to your liking. Personally, I didn’t much care for the volume much past noon. Strangely, the tone control seems to be more effective as the gain is increased and I often had to roll back the tone versus settings with the volume lower.

With the volume between one and two using a Highland Royal’s neck pickup and the tone control full up, I was able to elicit 60’s groove oriented jazz (think Grant Green) riffs with authority. Too cool.

As I tend to like lead tones smoother than the AC4TV was capable of delivering on its own, I plugged up several pedals to run the amp through its paces. It didn’t particularly bond with the midrange hump of an Ibanez TS9 but really liked the Tech 21 Sansamp British pedal as well as the First Act V-Stack Classic where it was easy to dial in tones with the perfect amount of bite and clarity of attack and crunchy midrange.

Volume wise, the AC4TV has a bit of a personality disorder. It’s pretty loud, but not quite loud enough to hang in a performance situation. While the volume attenuation circuit is effective at taming the volume significantly, even at the ¼ watt setting with the volume past 4 the amp is louder than apartment dwellers or late night pickers will prefer. The Vox AC4TV is one sweet little amp. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become one of tomorrow’s classics.

Price: ~$250 USD
Pros: Classic Vox tones on a budget
Cons: A bit loud as a practice amp yet too quiet to gig.

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Filed Under: Vox, Reviews