5/09/2017

Review: Vox MV50 AC Amplifier Direct-Out





As a guy who loves electric right alongside his acoustics but mostly plays with acoustic players in a live setting, amp choice is brutal. Most acoustic players either get confused, irritated, or down-right flabbergasted by an electric player's amp bleeding into the monitor mix or into the background of their playing at all. I've thus been on the quest -- for a decade -- to find something adequate to solve this problem. The ideal solution is to plug your guitar into the mixer "direct" with some sort of modeling equipment in front -- but we all know how awful that stuff generally sounds... even the pricey stuff! I think I've gone through purchasing 4 or 5 different amps with "regarded" emulated speaker direct-out (DI) jacks... all lackluster.

In the meantime since last year, my solution has been to use my Vox AC4 (now sounding wonderful in its "new" '61 cab) turned way down and slap a Sennheiser amp-mic on it. This sounds excellent but still means my neighbors get bleed into their airspace and it makes them antsy -- plus I have to carry around an amp.

So... when I heard that Vox was coming out with a Nutube-equipped 50w hybrid amp and the DI was supposed to be decent, I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled at the price -- $200 shipped. It even comes in three versions -- rock (ew), clean (practical), and AC (yum) which tries to emulate an AC30 vibe. I bought one as soon as I could and it arrived on Monday.

My first test of it was to plug it into my Vox AC4's old skeleton cab to see what it sounded like in a trashy unit. It wasn't bad but that cabinet just does not speak. I then plugged it into the Jensen 10" in the '61 cab my Vox AC4 currently resides in and holy shimoli! I have to admit I was absolutely shocked. It sounds great, handles like a "normal" tube amp, and nails the Vox sound. It also uses a fraction of the power of any "normal" tube amp. The drive is a little tighter and slightly more hi-fi than my AC4, but the sonic signature of a Vox is right there. I had "my usual tone" dialed-in very quickly.

The true test, however, is what you hear in the soundclip above -- whether it stands-up plugged direct-in with no EQ into a mixer. My answer? For my use -- which is usually somewhat clean or a bit driven (to get that mwah on chomp-chords), it sounds perfect. It is absolutely going to replace any need for a traditional amp in most live settings I'll encounter and the unit is so small that it fits in my gigbag. I'm happy.

For those who like to play dirty, however, the verdict is not clear. I like the dirty sounds alright when there's a bit of reverb but I think they sound a tad compressed or fizzy, I suppose, without it. If I were playing or recording just a few "fairly dirty" parts I wouldn't hesitate to use it, though, as it's so convenient just to plug in without the hassle.

Annnnnd... just for reference... this is the guitar I was playing in the soundclip above -- and you can hear my mic'd AC4 in the soundclip on its page.

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