Features: The prototype of this amp was an original design by Tony Bruno, a very excellent boutique builder. Once the hand-wired prototype was built, Vox took to the task of building a PCB version that could be mass produced, but was true to the tone of the prototype (and to Tony's ultra-high standards). A few features were added during this transition phase, I'm guessing that the master volume was one of them. It's a 1x12 tube combo amp, 35 watts with reverb (4 x 6v6's, 5 x 12AX7's). As far as I know this amp was made last year. It's only one channel, so if that's not your thing this probably isn't your amp. The controls are as follows: MV bypass switch, MV, Reverb, Bass, Middle, Treble, Bass boost, 'Macho' switch (gain boost) and Volume (preamp). It also has high and low inputs. Nothing that I wish it had, it suits me just fine, but I don't use the master volume, I always leave it bypassed (more to come on that). I use this at home and at my church occasionally and it has plenty of power for those settings. I'd actually been thinking of having a small custom amp made with similar features, it was nice to have a cheaper option. I'm giving the features a 8 because this amp isn't versatile enough for everyone and because I hate the master volume. // 8
Sound: I'm using my mahogany warmoth tele with a DiMarzio 36th anniversary PAF in the bridge (currently the only electric guitar I own/need). This amp suits my playing style and preferences quite wonderfully (I mostly play/write in a classic-rock to hard rock vibe; in the veins of AC/DC the Foo Fighters and Rage Against The Machine). I don't find the amp to be noisy at all, even with all the knobs dimed there's only a very, VERY slight hiss (but the amp's running a full tilt, so that's moderately expected).
This amp will get you everything from high-volume sparkling cleans (LOVE the cleans on this amp BTW, some of the nicest I've EVER heard) to some seriously wonderful chewy-tweed-esque meets plexi growl with a healthy dose of punch. The high and low inputs are wonderfully functional, especially if you're strictly a pedal person. Leave the macho switch disengaged, and plug into the low input for VERY light max volume crunch that is easily squeaky clean by playing just a smidge lighter. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, plug into the high input and turn ON the macho switch (or use the included one button foot switch) and you're in classic/early hard rock heaven! I should note again that I DO NOT use the master volume on this amp. I'm not sure if it's just this amp, or the circuit design in general, but it makes the amp sound thin and nasty, like a fuzz pedal having the life choked out of it. If that's your thing, great, but it's my firm belief that the master volume was an after thought and that this amp was originally made as a non-master intended to be played loud and proud ('cause that's the way uh-huh uh-huh I like it). This is why I LOVE the master volume bypass switch, keep that nastiness out of the circuit! I should also note that the EQ is very usable on this amp and all knobs do what they're supposed to. However, the treble and middle controls are very interactive with one another (they're fairly close in frequency value) and you'll need to find the sweet spot for your own tastes or the amp will sound odd. Anyway...
Overall this amp does have the traditional Vox-vibe (chimey cleans, a roaring overdriven tone, volumes that won't kill small animals), but it's also (like I mentioned above) equal parts American tweed amp and early plexi. But the overall theme is PUNCH. Wonderful pick attack from this amp. Best playing dynamics I've ever heard in an amp personally (and that's including the 3-5K$ boutique and so-called 'high quality' amps I've played through as well). At full tilt you can have all the distortion the amp can deliver along with a clean tone when you play softly or roll back the guitar's volume just a bit. In my humble opinion, this is the nicest sounding Vox amp you can get, but again that's just my two sense.
One last thing, and this was a big issue for me. The amp comes stock with a Celestion G12-65 (or at least a cheaper made one) which sounds HORRIBLE! The low end on the stock speaker is flubby and the tone is too dark and weak. Thankfully I had two other speakers lying around to try out (the amp has an external speaker jack, but the external cab must match the impedance of the speaker in the amp or you won't be able to use them in tandem) in a nice 1x12 cab. I first tried a Warehouse Guitar Speakers Retro 30 (a much, much nicer sounding and beefed up Vintage 30 that's not harsh at all). This speaker has a tighter bottom end and the midrange isn't weak and breathy. I also had a Jensen Electric Lightning which I also greatly enjoy with this amp (this is a killer hard rock/heavy metal speaker BTW, my bro-in-law has two of them in a closed back cab with his MK II C+ and the KILL!). The former I like better for clean sounds, the latter for dirty. But right now I have the Elec. Light. in the amp and the Retro 30 in a 1x12 sitting next to the amp. HUGE sound! I haven't been this satisfied with an amp in a while. For me, this is a 9. I would say 10, but the stock speaker is poop (though the amp should not be judged off of it).
Oh yeah, I totally forgot! The reverb is pretty killer on this thing too. Not overbearing, very effective. // 9
Reliability & Durability: Two things here: 1. I don't know of any quality issues from Vox (at least when you aren't buying a super-cheap practice amp, and plenty of folks tour with them). 2. Tony Bruno is obsessed with quality, to the point where some people have called his amps the best in the world. Going off of these two pieces of information, I'll only be worrying about the tubes going out and replacing them regularly. But that's the bane of every tube amp. // 9
Overall Impression: I totally dig this amp. It's a wonderful amalgam of a few different things that probably wouldn't normally work so well together IMHO. I don't own much other gear, as space and my wife won't let me, but I've cycled through enough to know a wonderful piece of gear when I get my hands on one. I plan on keeping this amp for a while. I would definitely replace it if stolen/lost, and I compared it to many similarly featured amps before committing to this one. I chose this amp because it is unique and because it doesn't sound the same as anything I've ever heard before. THERE ARE ONLY TWO THINGS that I dislike about it stock, and I've already mentioned them. The master volume is crap and should be bypassed, and the stock speaker should be replaced with something bigger and tighter. There's my spastic and most likely poorly organized view of this amp. Given it's quirks, I'll give it a 9 overall. I'm starting not to like perfect 10's, there's no room for character in them. // 9