DA15 review by Vox

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.7 (46 votes)
Vox: DA15
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Purchased from: Tom Lee

Sound — 8
I have rated the sound an "8," excellent for a digital modeller, but far short of a tube amplifier. I A/B'd the amp with a Roland Microcube and thought the Vox had better tones all around. I thought the cleans sounded better than a Spider II. The two clean models are very nice: one is a little more bassy than the other. They mimic the clean Vox AC30 sound fairly well. I particularly enjoyed cranking the gain on the clean channel and adding a touch of reverb for a gently overdriven tone. The blues amp models are warm and fun. The highest-gain blues amp model at high gain settings are good for Black Sabbathy and heavy blues tones. The distortion gets a little harsh in comparison to a tube amp, but I liked it better than the Microcube. The crunch models mimic an overdriven AC30 and (I think) an overdriven Marshall. Some fun rhthym sounds may be found there, but it quickly becomes muddy, especially on a lower-end LP-style guitar. The high-gain channels are fun, but I only really used one of them. The others didn't sound quite right to me -- less organic, more harsh. It was possible for me to get some 80s metal sounds (sort of) through the humbucker bridge pickup on my Yamaha Pacifica 112 (fat strat clone starter guitar). More often than not, I was disatisfied with the tone, and often opted for lower-gain substitutes on the clean channel with the gain dimed. The tones on the high-gain models often got muddy, even with a bright guitar like the Pacifica. I did not use the "Drive" (overdriven) model very much, as I preferred the tone of the High-Gain-1 model. I used this for bedroom practice while first learning guitar. It sounded fine at lower volumes, but did not sound very good when the amplifier was pushed at all. The amp is quiet when running but not played, even on high-gain settings. The effects are hit and miss. The reverb is okay, and does a lot to spice up the clean channel. The compressor, chorus, and compressor/chorus combination worked well with the higher-gain blues amp model for heavy blues sounds. The auto-wah didn't do much for me and seemed more gimmicky than useful. The phaser and flanger are a lot of fun and tweakable, but I didn't use them much for actual songs. I didn't use the rotary effect much. In general, I didn't like them as much as the stomp-boxes I've tried, but I thought they compared favourably to the Microcube.

Overall Impression — 8
As a beginner guitarist, I tried many different styles of playing within my limits: fingerpicked classical by Carulli, Chet Atkins-style country fingerpicking, heavy blues (Sabbath), and attempts at '80s metal. I would unreservedly recommend this amp to a beginner Who wants an inexpensive introduction to a variety of amp models and effects. When I first bought the amp, I compared it to the Valvetronix amps, which were ~25% more expensive at the time. To my admittedly noobish ears, I didn't hear enough of a difference in tone to justify the higher price of the Valvetronix. For overall impression, I rate this an "8", because it is an excellent beginner modelling amp, but more experienced players may find it to be insufficient for regular practice. In retrospect, this amp is a funny size: bigger than required for a practice amp (although the 8" speaker is nice compared to the smaller ones on the Vox DA5 and Microcube), but not big enough to play with a drummer. Those who are looking for a starter or practice amp prior to upgrading to a tube amp would be better off purchasing the Vox DA5: it is more portable, it is smaller, and it has all the same sounds on it. When the tube amp upgrade is purchased, the DA5 could be retained as a portable or headphone amp. Since I Live in an apartment, I am likely to sell my DA15 (now that I have a new tube amp) because it takes up too much space, and then consider replacing it with a DA5 for headphone practice (i.e. when the wife has had enough of me plinking away). Although the footswitch would have been nice, it really isn't necessary with this amp: this amp is aimed at beginners Who may not need to quickly change tones part-way through a song; and it doesn't sound as good at volumes at which you would want to be further away from the speaker.

Reliability & Durability — 10
I used this amp a lot over the past year. I have had no problems with it whatsoever, but I have babied it (it has never been used as a beer coaster, etc). This is not a gigging amp. I suppose in theory it could be hooked up to a PA, but if playing over drums you would need more volume for a stage monitor. I don't think the sounds (aside the clean channel) really cut it for gigging in comparison to a tube amp. Although it responds well to picking dynamics relative to the Microcube, it is still far from a tube amp in this regard.

Features — 9
I bought the Vox DA15 amplifier as my first guitar amp one year ago. 15 Watts of digital modelling power. I was looking for something apartment-friendly, inexpensive and versatile, that would allow me to experiment with a variety of styles and effects, since I wasn't sure where my interest in guitar would take me (my tastes are broad). I was new to guitar when I purchased it, but I have been involved in playing music on an amateur level (organ, tuba, baritone, choirs) on and off for thirty years. This is a two-channel amplifier. Each channel may be programmed, so the user may select between two different sounds and effects combinations. There are also a variety of 11 pre-set amp models and 11 effects and effect combinations to choose from. The pre-sets offer a useful start prior to doing your own tweaking. The effects may be bypassed completely. The amp has a headphone jack and an 8" speaker. The speaker is okay, but I was very pleasantly surprised to hear the quality of the amp through a pair of higher-end headphones. There is some ability to tweak the parameters on the effects. The controls are intuitive to use, offering a pot and "tap in" controls. The amp has gain, volume, treble, mids, bass and a master volume control. The power of these controls vary with the amp that is being modelled. They are not as powerful as on my new tube amp (Mesa Express 5\:25).

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