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Cycles of Sound: the VOX AC4TV guitar amplifier

VOX AC4TV feature

The most famous guitar amp in the lauded VOX stable is the AC30. This model, however, doesn’t tell the whole story of VOX’s experimentation and commitment to quality in the 1960s. The AC4TV is a new amp that pays homage to a classic of the era, the AC4.

While the new model takes cues from the old one in terms of aesthetics, there have been key updates to suit the modern player. The AC4TV provides you with tones that range from the clean to the characterful, with a commitment to sophisticated simplicity at its core.

VOX AC4TV feature

Sometimes it pays to just keep it simple. VOX has demonstrated this virtue perfectly with the AC4TV, an amp that delivers valve-driven character at neighbour-friendly volume.

Retro-Inspired

In VOX’s boom era of the early ’60s, the company produced smaller amps to fit in alongside their flagship AC30. The AC10 and AC15 were mid-range options, but their smallest in that period was the AC4. Weighing in at just 4 watts and fitted with a single 8-inch speaker, this amp was suitable for bringing quality tone to smaller environments.

Due to the fact that they were at such a different scale compared to the likes of the AC30, they enjoyed commercial success for a different reason – they could be played comfortably at home and in the studio, without bursting eardrums. They were small enough to be cranked up to ten, so the user could extract the maximum amount of colour while maintaining a reasonable overall volume.

Though they sold in their thousands upon its release, by 1965, the AC4 was phased out of production. Fortunately, the company saw sense in bringing it back for a new generation of players who need a more intimate experience from an all-valve amp: the AC4TV was born.

Keeping it Simple

Though the AC4 was a guiding light for VOX in its new amp adventure, there were a couple of improvements to be made. Fitted in the original was an EF86 preamp tube and an EL84 power amp tube with no cascading gain staging, making it more difficult to drive. In the new model, the EL84 remains in the preamp section with a 12AX7 in the preamp section.

Gone also is the 8-inch speaker, which is replaced with 10-inch Celestion and in the head and cabinet edition, there’s a 12-inch speaker. But even in the combo version, there is a speaker extension output, which can feed any 16-ohm speaker.

VOX AC4TV angle

The control panel of the AC4TV redefines simplicity. Tone: think of it as a brightness control. Turn it up for that unmistakable VOX chime. Volume also delivers what it promises, but the results are twofold. Overall volume is delivered, but cranking it up also adds gain to the circuit, meaning you can create a symbiotic relationship between your guitar’s pickup controls and amp volume to determine how much vintage-style breakup you get from the AC4TV.

Speaking of volume, the AC4TV provides an ingenious way of adjusting the output level, no matter what situation you find yourself in. At maximum power, the amp puts out 4 watts. This can be cut down to 1 watt and even 1/4 of a watt.

This might seem pedantic, but if you’re looking to maintain healthy relations with your flatmates, you can dial it down but keep on rockin’. In particular recording situations where tone is essential but the need to keep it down for the sake of other instruments in the room is also a must, the attenuator will also be a godsend.

VOX AC4TV Controls

The AC4TV is VOX’s answer to the call of guitarists who desire old school tone and elegant simplicity. It’s a plug and play affair with no strings attached, but with a few subtle improvements that will help this amp slot into a workflow that’s suitable for now and the future.

For more information, visit the Yamaha website.

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December 20, 2019

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