Review: Vox AC10C1
Way back in 1959, the Vox AC-10 was introduced as a midway point between the entry-level AC-4 and professional grade AC-15. Loaded with a single 10” speaker and all the Vox panache, the company holds the AC-10 as one of the most highly coveted pieces in its storied history. Today though, a full 50 years since the original was discontinued, a new, re-envisioned model finds the same sweet spot — rich, articulate tube tone at manageable volume levels and a reasonable price point.
Though the 2015 version of the AC10 is a bit stripped down compared to its forebear, everything you need is still there. Gone is the finicky EF86 in the preamp, the tremolo and the cut control, but honestly — I don’t miss any of it.
You want jangly Vox cleans? They’re in there. Sparkling overdrive? Yup. That’s in there, too. Oh — it’s full-on, cranked-up Top Boost tone you’re after? You got it. And you want all that with reverb, enough volume to get over a modest drummer, a price tag well under 500 bucks and a weight that won’t break your back? Done, done, done and done.
When I first unboxed and fired up the AC10C1, I was immediately impressed by the cleans and edge-of-breakup to medium gain textures. Again, the iconic Vox chime and growl I wanted was right there under my fingers — and I could dial in the EQ exactly the way I wanted, thanks to the interactive treble and bass controls.
Cranking it up was a bit less impressive, however. I wasn’t exactly expecting Brian May, but the grind that came out was pretty mushy and not nearly as articulate as I was hoping for. A quick tube swap with some quality glass though — note that I’m using the word quick with some hesitation here, as most of the 19 screws holding the back panel and chassis in place need to come out to get to the tubes — and I was much happier with the overall experience.
The Vox roar I wanted was there, it was clear, and it felt awesome.
And at a mere 10 watts, the AC10C1 is one of the best bedroom tube amps I’ve ever played. I’m not saying you can dime it and not wake the baby — but at modest levels, it’s more than manageable for home or apartment use.
The AC10C1 landed just in time for me to take it along to my usual Thursday night rehearsal. So I took it along to play in stereo with my primary amp — a Dr. Z M12 — and then spent the rest of the night flipping back and forth between the two.
In short, it held up very well. I set it for a chimey edge-of-breakup tone and ran the M12 a little flatter than usual in a stereo setup. In short: tonal bliss. So much extra dimension for my sound — and the Vox took my pedalboard much better than expected. (In my experience, Top Boost platforms can be frustrating with some of my favorite drives and fuzzes, but the AC10C1 was great.)
Then, to top it all off, I let a buddy run it for a set while I sat back and listened. He was running a Les Paul straight in and it was awesome. Unmistakably Vox.
Pros and Cons
The weight of the AC10C1 is fantastic. Its big brother, the nearly 50 pound AC15C1, is a real backbreaker. But at a mere 27 pounds, this new 10” model is a godsend for gigging musicians everywhere. And yes, even at 10w, it’s definitely loud enough to work in a smaller venue. There might not be enough clean headroom to get over the modest drummer in your life — but what's the fun in playing clean anyway?
On the negative side — and this may just be personal preference — while I didn’t miss some of the tertiary controls, I definitely missed having a standby switch.
And the digital reverb is somewhere in the middle. I could take it or leave it. There's a bit of splash going on, something like a real spring tank would do, but it's bigger and deeper than that, so a little goes a long way. Especially as you increase the gain. I found myself leaving it around 9:00 most of the time, just to add a bit of space to the sound, and was happy with it there.
Vox should be proud of this one. The AC10C1 packs authentic tones, solid construction, a nice price and a weight that makes it a perfect choice for a lot of situations. My only real concern is that, if amp pushed more air, I might be a little concerned about the proximity of the tubes to the speaker — but being a 10 watter, I’m not that worried. The design is pretty standard for a small combo and I didn’t notice any extra noise during my extended playthrough, even at the highest volume settings.
Finally, if you can find one that has a 10" Greenback in it, I think that's a solid upgrade over the VX10 speaker that the AC10C1 comes with stock.
Note: This review was originally featured in Tone Report Weekly