#1
Hey there UG community. This is my first post, go figure I need some help

So here is the deal:

I have about about 820$ worth of store credit at a local shop - they carry Vox, Laney, and Blackstar amps that are new and will order anything from these companies. They also have whatever random trade in amps that arrive there. I have to get a new amp within these boundaries.

I have been playing electric guitar for about 3 years.. still learning lots and searching for the tone that suits me best. In this search, I have come to know that I like the tone of Vox amps alot, Marshall too - but not as much as vox. It is important to note that I play cleanish to crunchy and never super distorted (far from metal). I really love the sounds I get with my Godin Core p-90 into my Vox Pathfinder 15R ( i know its solid state, but hey it sounds really great at low volumes) You can get some nice shimmering cleans and fat percussive single notes. Of course, once you turn it up it starts to sounds fizzy not good at all.

I need a new amp to play with other people - one that can keep up with loud aggressive drumming.

The vox ac15 will not stay clean at the volumes i need
The vox ac30 is straight up too heavy for me to lug around ( I have a bad back)
The vox ac30 head + a cab is out of my price range.
The Vox NT 50 is no longer in production and the shop can't order any.

So finally getting to my question. They have a Kustom 50w Defender at this shop

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/amplifiers-effects/kustom-the-defender-50w-1x12-tube-guitar-combo-amp

This one to be specific - its pretty inexpensive (used) its only 38 pounds (yay) it has plenty of head room and crunch that fact that it only has 1 channel doesn't bother me as I have some great distortion pedals - the amps tone is decent although I would say it leans more towards the 'american' tone. Would it be possible with swapping the tubes and speaker that I could get closer to a vox tone? What gives Vox that punchy feeling? Is it the speaker type? The amp itself? the tubes? Everything? I would be willing to tweak this amp a bit for the price they are asking but I want to know if ya'll out there think its even worth my time. It doesn't have sound exactly like a vox - just kinda close with a punchy / percussive kinda feel with bold cleans ( if that makes sense lol)

So please give me your 2 cents

If I should tinker with this amp - what kind of tubes would you recommend?
It comes with three 12AX7 tubes and two EL34 which can be swapped out for 6L6 tubes if you choose.

What speaker would give a good vox feel? Alnico blues? Greenbacks?

If this whole idea is folly - what amp meets the criteria I've been blabbering about that you would recommend?

Help a newbie out
Last edited by stalahoy at Mar 31, 2013,
#2
Get the AC30 and a good trolley, preferably a stairwalker with a decent strap.
Gilchrist custom
Yamaha SBG500
Telecasters
Randall RM100 & RM20
Marshall JTM45 clone
Marshall JCM900 4102 (modded)
Marshall 18W clone
Fender 5F1 Champ clone
Atomic Amplifire
Marshall 1960A
Boss GT-100


Cathbard Amplification
My band
#3
Quote by Cathbard
Get the AC30 and a good trolley, preferably a stairwalker with a decent strap.


+1
This is your best bet.

I personally like the Alnico mixed with a darker speaker.
I have an AC30 with a 2x12 loaded with an Alnico Gold and a G12K-85
A DIY 2x12 cab
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?p=26372230#post26372230
Last edited by CodeMonk at Mar 31, 2013,
#4
Well fellas, I appreciate your straight forwardness. Unfortunately me lifting 70 pounds to go jam is just not happening. Tone will have to come in 2nd place this time around. My thought is this: Trying to get a different tone out of this amp is a low risk investment. If i get a great vox sounding speaker and swap it in, I can always swap it out and sell the amp for close to what I payed for it. I will still have that speaker and eventually through it in a cab and maybe get one of those pricey ac30 heads one day. So maybe I should phrase the question more like this:
How much of a difference can a speaker swap and different tubes affect the tone in getting it close to what I described in my original post? Thanks again for your input.
Last edited by stalahoy at Mar 31, 2013,
#5
Maybe a Laney VC30? I think they're supposed to be pretty Vox-ish (although I don't have personal experience with one, so take it with a grain of salt.)
Gear
Highway One Tele (w/Custom Shop 51 Nocaster pickups)
Standard Tele (modded to Nashville specs)
Reverend Roundhouse

Orange Rockerverb 50 MKI
Vox AC4c1
Jet City JCA20H

And pedals!



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#6
I have tried a number of Laney amps and I don't really care for the tone that much.. It seems to be more mellow. I haven't tried the VC30 but I watched some vids of it (i know things don't sound the same online) but I heard that same kind of mellow tone in the clean channel that I don't really care for.
#8
Consider getting the AC15 and an extension cab for when you need more volume. The main reason why the AC30 is able to be so much louder while staying cleaner than the 15 is because the 30 is almost always a 2x12" and the 15 is almost always a 1x12". The actual difference in volume between a 15 watt amp and a 30 watt is virtually nothing and the clean headroom actually isn't that much different either until you get to the point where the amps are really cranked high. So you could use the AC15 combo for when you're just practising then bring out an additional 1x12" (or even a 2x12") for gigs.

Though I would also suggest you simply take another look at the AC15 as-is, because unless you have high output pickups and always leave the guitar's volume controls on full then you shouldn't be having that much trouble getting a clean sound out of it at gigging volumes. Granted, a 15 watt amp with a single speaker isn't going to project your sound through a stadium, but it's loud enough to be heard clearly over a drummer.


As for speaker swapping, that will make a gigantic difference in tone and volume. In what way it will effect your tone depends on which speakers you're thinking of using, but it will change your tone drastically.

Swapping valves isn't such a jump. Usually when people notice a big jump in sound when swapping valves it's either because they had gotten used to their worn out previous valves and aren't used to hearing new valves in action, or because they've gone through changing the amp to take a completely different sort of valve. If you are just swapping, for example, one 6L6 valve for another brand of 6L6 valve, and both are in similar condition, you won't really notice a difference in sound. Of all the many variables that can change your tone, valve brand is one of the smallest and isn't something you should worry about. So long as the valves you are using are from a decent brand that will last a while, that's all that matters. Compared to a speaker swap in particular, valves are nothing. Again, assuming you're just thinking of changing like-for-like.
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#9
If you don't get what you know you want, you will just waste money later when you sell this one at a loss to buy what you should've bought in the first place.

Also, nut up foo. I weigh 145 soaking wet and I lug an AC30 around 3-4 times a week.
Call me Justyn

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#10
I used to move around big amps and PA's while nursing injuries from motrobike accidents. It's all about having the right equipment. You use a good trolley to move it distance and get somebody to give you a hand when getting it in and out of the car. If you have a proper van/truck with a ramp you don't even need help because you just trolley it all the way. Smart removalists hardly ever lift anything by hand. It's all about being properly equipped, you shouldn't need to lift shit.
If you have a bad back you should own a decent trolley for all sorts of other things anyway. You need to learn how to operate without risking further injury, and not just for music related stuff but for everyday life.
Gilchrist custom
Yamaha SBG500
Telecasters
Randall RM100 & RM20
Marshall JTM45 clone
Marshall JCM900 4102 (modded)
Marshall 18W clone
Fender 5F1 Champ clone
Atomic Amplifire
Marshall 1960A
Boss GT-100


Cathbard Amplification
My band
Last edited by Cathbard at Mar 31, 2013,
#11
^+1 on all that. I've got nerve damage running down my left side, had unrelated surgery on my spine late last year and am in bad enough shape that I'll likely have to have surgery on my neck, too. Lifting a 2x12" is still no issue for me. It's not like I'm a big guy to begin with, either. Just learnt the proper ways to move things and nothing has been a problem since.
I think you may be overestimating the size of a 2x12" combo, or, if you really do have trouble dealing with an amp that size, there definitely are ways around it. If you can transport a guitar in a hardcase then you should be able to transport a 2x12" amp. If your body isn't up to it then there are all manner of tools to make the task easier.

That said, as someone who does have all manner of aches and pains, I can sympathise and I can understand how an AC30 may simply be too much. I do think it would be worth another look, but if you really can't cope with it then okay, there are plenty of other options. As I suggested before, an AC15 with an additional extension cab will basically do the same thing as an AC30, and be easier to transport as at least the weight is split between two.

Now, OP happened to shoot me an e-mail, which I will relay some of here as I'm a big believer in getting as many opinions so you can make your own, well-informed decision.

I also live where the nearest guitar center is like a 4 or 5 hour drive so there is nowhere I can really go to test em in person.
Unfortunately, you can't really make the right decision until you've heard these amps in person. I travelled to the other side of the country to pick out my Les Paul... which I promptly sold a year later Sometimes you've just got to do these things. In the case of amps, you can't judge things like headroom or volume without going to see one for yourself. Sound clips and videos can't convey these things. If you buy something without hearing it in person then chances are you won't be happy with some element of it.
It may suck, but making that trip to try some amps is the only way you can really be sure you're buying the right thing.

I've come across a lot of people that say the ac15 lacks headroom. I just want enough to be able to sound cleanish over loud drumming in a jam session. For performing, Mic'ing the amp would not be a problem.
An AC15 certainly can stay clean at practice/drum volume. Swapping the stock Wharfedale/Vox speaker with one built for really pushing air—a Celestion V30 is a good all-rounder with extra power—will allow you to be heard clearly without having to crank the amp all the way up. An extension cab to make it a 2x12" will effectively double your volume without having to push the volume controls up. You can also buy an AC15 with a Celestion Alnico Blue already fitted, which is a slightly louder speaker. Even with the regular speaker, you will be surprised by how loud a 15 watt amp can be before it starts to break up.
The 30s certainly will have more headroom, of course, but the 15 is capable of the job.

Now keep in mind.. I play with P-90s
Not an issue. If anything, that is perfect. Fender-style single coils can struggle to break up even a small amp without some sort of boost; humbuckers may make it break up a little earlier than you want. P-90s should be perfect for your needs with any Vox AC-series amp. You'll have the option of achieving quite saturated distortion but knocking the amp's controls back a notch or simply rolling your guitars' volume controls down will bring you right back to a perfectly clean tone. The output of standard P-90s is perfect for this role.

what are you thoughts on the hand wired one
Only heard it in person once. I couldn't tell you what guitar was being used or what the amp settings were; for what little it's worth, I don't remember it sounding any more impressive than a normal AC15. Lots of companies make 'hand wired' versions of their popular amps and it's not something I've ever valued, personally. That said, other people with more hands-on experience with it may see more value in it.
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#12
After over thinking my new amp choice, I have decided the most obvious choice: I'm going to wait tell I can get to a guitar shop with a huge inventory and test everything... I'll prolly be there all day and the guys working there will be sick of me. I'm taking a little advice from everyone who posted on this forum.. I think right now I am leaning towards an AC15 and then an extension cab if its needed. I will give the the ac30 a fair shot though.. and I may even get a trolly for the 50 pound amp just for kicks. Thanks for all the input and especially Mr. Fibble for answering my specific questions.