VOX MSB25 MINI SUPERBEETLE AMP + CAB

AN ICONIC DE­SIGN REIMAG­INED FOR A NEW GEN­ER­A­TION, WITH A NEW TAKE ON THE AU­DIO TUBE.

Australian Guitar - - Reviews - WORDS BY PETER HODG­SON.

The sight of di­a­mond-grille Vox am­pli­fiers is as much a part of The Bea­tles’ iconog­ra­phy as moppy hair­cuts and Heinz Edel­mann’s

Yel­low Sub­ma­rine de­signs. You sim­ply can’t sound like The Bea­tles – es­pe­cially the early da ys – with­out a Vox. The Vox MSB25 Mini Superbeetle is not a Bea­tles sig­na­ture amp, but rather a trib­ute to the iconic ‘60s amps. Still, it’s hard to sep­a­rate the two, es­pe­cially with its di­a­mond-grille cloth and the cool ‘roll-cage’ speaker cabi­net.

LOVE ME DO

Now, this isn’t a hand-wired minia­ture re­cre­ation of an old Vox de­sign. It’s a blend of new and old tech­nolo­gies, the hear t of which is Nu­tube – a new vac­uum tube de­signed by KORG and Nori­take Itron. It’s an in­ge­nious lit­tle de­vice which uses vac­uum flu­o­res­cent dis­play tech­nol­ogy to ob­tain the same sound and re­sponse as a tra­di­tional valve, but with more re­li­a­bil­ity and a much smaller form-fac­tor.

There’s an on­board dig­i­tal re­verb, which is voiced like a true spring re­verb, plus a Nu­tube-driven tremolo ef­fect which changes not only the am­pli­tude of the sig­nal vol­ume it­self, but also the depth of the Nu­tube’s dis­tor­tion for a funky and or­ganic ef­fect.

There’s an in­cluded open-backed cabi­net with a ten-inch Ce­lestion speaker, but you can pair it with other cab­i­nets rather eas­ily. There’s a head­phone/line out­put for prat­ice or record­ing, and the con­trol lay­out con­sists of all the stan­dard Vox fare: Vol­ume, Re­verb, Tremolo, Bass, Tre­ble and Gain knobs.

There’s no Midrange con­trol, which is in line with the tra­di­tional Vox style – Voxes tend to have per­fect mids any­way. There’s also an EQ Flat/ Deep con­trol, and switch­able im­ped­ance be­tween four, eight and 16 ohms.

The Mini Superbeetle looks so good that it would be quite com­fort­able as a piece of home decor. It’s also tiny, and sur­pris­ingly af­ford­able – one could cer­tainly make a case for pick­ing up a pair of these amps to use as a sw eet stereo rig.

One thing that is no­tice­ably miss­ing is the tra­di­tional Vox heft; if you’ve ever tried to pick up an AC30 by your­self, you’ll know the toll it can place on your back. But not the Mini Superbeetle; when load­ing the re­view unit into our car, we had no prob­lem hold­ing the box un­der one arm while open­ing the car boot with the other. The whole sys­tem (con­sist­ing of a head and cabi­net) weighs less than nine kilo­grams!

WHILE MY GUI­TAR GEN­TLY SHREDS

Nat­u­rally, you’re go­ing to want to play clean-toned through this am­pli­fier – likely with a Rick­en­backer or a Gretsch – and that’s cer­tainly a very ad­dic­tive and au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. I plugged in my Tay­lor Solid­body elec­tric with mini-hum­buck­ers voiced some­what like Gretsch Fil­ter’Trons, and leaned into a few of my favourite Ge­orge Har­ri­son riffs.

And there it was: that clas­sic Bea­tles sound. It was per­haps more of a cleaner and more con­trol­lable ver­sion, be­cause you can hear the feed­back and growl on those old Bea­tles tracks, but def­i­nitely recog­nis­able.

The su­per clean sounds are sparkly and airy

with a bit of acous­tic-like zing, but not nec­es­sar­ily the most iden­ti­fi­able char­ac­ter, es­pe­cially when you play through the amp at low vol­ume lev­els. You need to turn it up a lit tle bit to get some real per­son­al­ity into the tone.

But it’s not just a clean amp. The mid-gain set­tings have a great re­spon­sive warmth with a bit of hair on the high end, but don ’t worry: as you crank up to higher lev­els of dis­tor­tion, you can in­dulge your Brian May fan­tasies as well, with more rounded tre­ble and honk­ing mids.

Don’t get us wrong – it’s not a high-gain, ul­tra dis­torted sound at its high­est lev­els, but it’s still a very use­ful and solo-friendly tone. It has a rather AC15-ish vibe, and is nicely re­spon­sive to vari­ances in pickup type.

The re­verb isn’t quite as springy or re­ac­tive as a real spring re­verb, but it’s still pretty dang great sound­ing, and the tremolo is quite mag­i­cal as it wa­vers in both vol­ume and gain. I can only imag­ine how great it would sound to run into a pair of these with the tremo­los in sync.

The MSB25 can get pretty loud, but it seems that 50 watts of Nu­tube power doesn’t equate to 50 watts of EL84 power, be­cause it sounds a lit­tle rough at the high­est vol­ume lev­els. But hit it at about 75 per­cent and you’ll get great feed­back, sus­tain and gain.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

This is a sur­pris­ingly tough sound­ing amp for such an itty bitty baby unit. It’s not ex­actly gonna fill an arena by it­self, but it’s a great around-the-house or small-gig amp. There’s no rea­son you can’t mic it up for big­ger venues, but there’s some­thing su­per charm­ing about hear­ing the sound com­ing right out of the cabi­net and bounc­ing around your room.

It should also be pointed out that Nu­tube is an ac­tual tube, and there­fore it sounds bet­ter when cranked, with more har­monic con­tent and re­sponse. At this price, you can prob­a­bly talk your­self into buy­ing a cou­ple of these if you re­ally dig the style and sound.

RRP: $699

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