Australian Guitar - - Reviews - PETER HODG­SON

VOX has al­ways been an in­no­va­tor. The ven­er­a­ble AC30 was both vis­ually and son­i­cally dis­tinct from the Fender amps that were cov­eted at the time, and they were a heck of a lot eas­ier for Bri­tish play­ers to get their hands on, which is a sim­i­lar story to how Mar­shall came to be.

Their Teardrop gui­tars were a re­fresh­ing ap­proach to gui­tar de­sign at a time when the in­stru­ment was strug­gling with how to ap­proach non-tra­di­tional shapes; the VOX Wah pedal was, and is still, iconic; the ValveTronix range was an early adopter for the blend of tube and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies in a multi-ef­fects unit; and the Night Train brought the bou­tique lunch­box amp head to the main­stream. Now, they’re do­ing it all over again with the MV50 line of amps.

The MV50 se­ries is de­signed to give you a unique voic­ing in an un­de­ni­ably cute, yet in­cred­i­bly road­wor­thy 50-watt minia­ture en­clo­sure. The range con­sists of three am­pli­fiers, each of them sin­glechan­nel units ded­i­cated with a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose. The MV50 AC is based on the AC30, in what is prob­a­bly the most log­i­cal mar­ket­ing choice in his­tory. The MV50 Clean is in­spired by clas­sic Amer­i­can am­pli­fiers, which is short­hand for “Fender-like clean tones”. Then there’s the MV50 Rock, which is based on more ag­gres­sive tones rem­i­nis­cent of high-gain Bri­tish am­pli­fiers – think of a cranked JCM800 and you’re some­where in the same zone.

The se­ries is kept quite uni­form, with more or less the same ba­sic fea­tures in each: there are three con­trol knobs, a retro-look­ing VU me­ter and an in­put jack on the front, while around the back you’ll find a line/phone jack and a speaker out. At the heart of all three mod­els is the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Nu­tube vac­uum tube. Con­cep­tu­ally, it’s sim­i­lar to a con­ven­tional vac­uum tube with an an­ode grid fil­a­ment struc­ture, and it op­er­ates ex­actly as a tri­ode vac­uum tube would as far as the cir­cuit is con­cerned.

But by ap­ply­ing their vac­uum flu­o­res­cent dis­play tech­nol­ogy, the de­sign­ers have de­vised a struc­ture which achieves sub­stan­tial power sav­ing, minia­tur­i­sa­tion and other gen­eral qual­ity im­prove­ments when com­pared to a con­ven­tional vac­uum tube. It ac­tu­ally looks more like a mi­crochip than a typ­i­cal vac­uum tube, and it re­quires less than two per­cent of the power that con­ven­tional tubes need to run.


Con­trols in­clude Gain, Tone and Vol­ume, and the Nu­tube is aug­mented with ana­log com­po­nents de­signed to em­u­late the dy­nam­ics and har­mon­ics of a regular tube amp. This amp has the ex­act chimey, bell-like ‘dirty/clean’ feel of an AC30, with all the ring and jan­gle you could want from sin­gle coil chord­ing with the beef and dis­tinc­tive midrange clang of a great hum­bucker-and-AC30 rig. The cir­cuit is very dy­namic: dig in harder with your pick, and you’ll most def­i­nitely no­tice more gain and vol­ume, and if you hit it with a tre­ble booster, Brian May style, it’ll re­spond ex­actly as you would hope.


Since the MV50 Clean has no need for a gain con­trol, its three knobs con­trol Tre­ble, Bass and Vol­ume. This is a great choice for this amp be­cause it al­lows VOX to voice each con­trol at their fre­quency sweet-spots rather than op­er­at­ing at some­thing of a com­pro­mise.

The tre­ble knob in par­tic­u­lar is very care­fully voiced to give you clar­ity and de­tail with­out get­ting too harsh. At its up­per set­tings, it made my Strat with Sey­mour Dun­can Jimi Hen­drix pick­ups sound al­most like an acous­tic gui­tar, espe­cially on the ‘ neck and mid­dle’ set­ting. But when I plugged in my Les Paul, I found a great jazz tone, and there were plenty of us­able coun­try tones to be found, espe­cially when adding a com­pres­sor and a tremolo pedal. It’s also a great amp for multi-ef­fect units be­cause it’ll clearly re­pro­duce what­ever you plug into it.


The MV50 Rock can sound very fat, yet fuzzy, in the spirit of clas­sic Tony Iommi rhythm tones – but it’s also ca­pa­ble of some per­fectly smooth blues rock sounds, hard rock tones and thick walls of chunky gain. Oh, and it does a sound that mim­ics Adam Jones or Tool like you wouldn’t be­lieve, with care­ful place­ment of the Gain con­trol and just the right pick­ups.

This amp is the most high-gain of the se­ries, but it also cleans up very nicely from your gui­tar’s vol­ume con­trol, mak­ing it the best all-rounder of the three. If you’re a Van Halen-style player who likes to run ev­ery­thing from the gui­tar, you’ll find all of your tone here. But more than the other two, this amp would re­ally ben­e­fit from an ef­fects loop or at least a rudi­men­tary re­verb con­trol. All of that gain and har­monic juice would be even bet­ter if you were able to place it in a spa­tial con­text with­out hav­ing to add ef­fects at the mix­ing desk.

Each of these amps are great at their own pur­pose, and they’re af­ford­able enough that you could eas­ily jus­tify buy­ing all three and a switch­ing pedal for a flex­i­ble and cool look­ing multi-amp rig. The MV50 Rock is clearly the most flex­i­ble of the three, but which­ever one you go for, these three amps are all very por­ta­ble, adapt­able, af­ford­able and loud.

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