Vox’s trademark ‘British’ sound has defined rock and roll since the early 1950s and helped them win the favor of guitarists from George Harrison and Brian May to The Edge and Izzy Stradlin. As the smallest combo in their tube lineup, the AC4 has offered guitarists classic AC30 tube tones at a much more manageable size.
This hand-wired edition adds an improved speaker and cabinet along with all-new circuitry for better sound. While it’s a pricey combo for its size, the tones and style make this one of the best amps under $1,000. Let’s take a closer look at the details.
While it may share the same AC4 name as its more affordable, standard brethren, this hand-wired version offers features in a different league altogether.
The turret board here is hand-wired rather than using modern printed circuit boards, simplifying the signal path through the amp and offering purer, more accurate vintage tones when compared to PCBs.
Unlike some other AC4s, which ship with 10” speakers, this model features a 12” Celestion G12M Greenback – the same type found in larger AC15s and AC30s. The birch ply cabinet here is also significantly larger than the standard model, offering increased resonance and a fuller, more open sound.
Finally, the fawn cloth styling with the classic diamond grill cloth and gold Vox logo are sure to stand out from the crowd.
The controls on this AC4 are about as simple as it gets – there are just four knobs, controlling master volume, treble, bass, and preamp volume (this functions more like a gain switch).
There are two inputs, offering a high and a low voicing. An extension speaker output allows you to run the circuit into a larger cabinet if necessary. Finally, this amp does have an extra-special feature in its hot/cool switch.
When left on ‘cool’ mode, it gives vintage Vox top-boost tone. ‘Hot’ mode bypasses the entire tone circuit for a rich, overdriven tube saturation. While there aren’t fancy extras like reverb, tremolo, or a mid EQ band, this AC4 offers more than enough flexibility for players to find any tone they’re looking for.
While this may only produce four watts, they’re some of the loudest four watts you will ever hear! In terms of size and volume, this AC4 competes more with 10- and 15-watt combos like the Fender Blues Jr. than with dinky, home-use only amps.
That surprising power also gives this a decent amount of headroom. While it would definitely have to be mic’d up for gigs, players should have no problems finding fantastic clean sounds during practice or jam sessions.
Tonally, this delivers the chimey, sparkling cleans and creamy, saturated overdrives that have become the hallmarks of classic Vox sound. There’s not enough gain in this amp for metal or super hard rock without pedals, but blues and classic rock players will love the smooth, buttery breakup and crunchy tones.
While the circuit certainly emphasizes trebles – after all, they don’t call it ‘top boost’ for nothing – this amp also delivers a solid amount of bass and depth. It’s a great choice for recording, home use, and smaller jam sessions or solo gigs.
Some players might balk at spending over $800 for a four-watt combo. Those players haven’t heard this amp. This hand-wired AC4 perfectly distills vintage Vox tone into a manageable size for recording, practice, and jam sessions. Any guitarist looking for a portable tube amp with pristine cleans and full-bodied, saturated overdriven tones needs to take a look at the Vox AC4HW1.