Price paid: € 365
Purchased from: M&C Music, Bucharest, Romania
Sound — 9
I use it with three guitars, a Yamaha Custom Tele-style (provided with two Seymour Duncans, SH-2n/ neck & JB/ bridge), a Yamaha Strat-style (provided with 2 Wilkinson WVS single-coils/ neck & middle and a Wilkinson WVH humbucker/ bridge) and a Vintage V 100, LP-Style (with 2 stock Wilkinson WVH humbuckers). Since I play mostly Classic Rock, Prog and Blues, it's obvious that I chose the Night Train because it suits my music and my guitars properly. It is, first of all, a very quiet amp. I must add: in the right environment. It's sensitive to electro-magnetic fields, so make sure, if you play at home, the TV set or the computer are shut down or at a resonable distance. Also make sure, if playing at home, your domestic plug is reliable: if it's not, as in most cases, you can either buy a power conditioner or a new alimentation cable from Evidence Audio (but the latter would cost you some bitter 245 euros). After you overcame all these little ennoying problems - which, I must stress, never showed up in the reharsall room or on stage -, the NT is very very quiet, which is a blessing to me. Although the application for Sound rating doesn't ask this specificly, I must also add I use the NT head with a Vox 112 NT cabinet, designed to match it. Together, they can deliver a huge area of sounds. If your style is Jazzy, for instance, you will appreciate its sparkling cleans (although switching the Middle beyond 12 o'clock will mellow them in an almost Country manner). Blues players will be delighted by its warm distortion, which can appear either you play clean and crank up the Gain switch, either you play "thick" on lower gain. As for Classic Rock and Prog players, NT is their paradise. Despite David Gilmour's commitment for Hiwatt amps, it's very easy to get an incredibly correct PF sound out of the NT. Just turn the Gain knob at 12 o'clock, cut the Bass volume at 9 o'clock, turn Middle and Trebble knobs at 3-4 o'clock, and... here you are, comfortably numb. It can be used for Heavy Metal too, but obviously an amp able to satisfy everybody hasn't been built yet, so I advice younger players, attracted by extreme Metal, to give a try to NT's more powerful brother, the NT 50, whose hi-gain stage was specificly designed for them. The NT reportedly relies on AC 15's design. However, it isn't an AC 15 sliced in two. It "sparkles" more and its cleans are a little crispier. It's a great amp for those in love with clean tones. In the end, I must add it works fine with effects too. If you still need more gain, a distortion pedal can boost amp's gain and make it operate as a full Heavy Metal amp. I own several effects and it does work great with them. Perhaps the NT is the best small amp for Prog.
Overall Impression — 9
Playing old Rock and my own songs, I needed an amp to match my style. NT is a good match: it allows me to do what I want and it also stimulates me to experience new areas. I play the guitar for about 30 years now, I own quality gear, two of my guitars are modified by me, so it is obvious I'm chasing for THAT sound. No other sound can do. This combination of NT head + NT cabinet is very good because it offers a great sound, no-compromise tonal versatility, amazing clean tones etc., in a very comfortably package. Actually, you can carry the head in its funny bag, on your shoulder, and the cabinet in one hand, since it weighs only 11 kg. And still having the back free for a guitar case! It isn't very easy, but it can be done. Compare it with AC 30's 36 kilos or to Fender's 45! There was nothing to ask before buying it, I was already fed up with information, but anyway the guys at the music shop are professional and very supportive, they've told me everything I had to know about the amp. If stolen??? I don't dare to think about such a disaster, because I'm not sure my budget would allow me buying a second one... but I'd definitely buy it again. There are many things I love about it and many more that other people might love too. On top of everything, I'd put the cleans: some of the greatest cleans I've ever heard, even compared to Fender's. I also love its versatility, its effective controls and the overall built and finish quality. But my favorite feature is the Pentode/ Triode switch: it allows me to use the Night Train at home without disturbing my neighbours or my family. I live in a block of flats, it's an important feature. As I've already underlined, it can be compared to its sibling, Vox AC 15, to Fender Blues and Blues Junior and, of course, to Orange's Tiny Terror (whose cleans didn't impress me at all). The price range is about the same if you consider the NT head + NT cab combination, the overall quality is the same, only the sound is different. Tiny Terror has more roughness in its hi-gain range, Fender is great for Southern Rock and Blues, the AC 15 for Beatles and Rolling Stones stuff, but I chose the NT for its versatility. The only real miss is a headphone jack. Otherwise, it's a superb amp, packed with contemporary features and classic vibe.
Reliability & Durability — 9
One month is not enough to judge the reliability of a music tool. I've already said it looks sturdy and, despite being assembled in Vietnam, it is well put together. I definitely depend on it, it provides me with the sound I was looking for ever since I decided to come back on stage again, after 20 years of glorious bedroom hero status. No problems whatsoever have emerged until now, but, anyway, I know how to take care of my gear. And service at my music shop is high quality, if need be. As I've just said, switching from my previous Vox Pathfinder (I was using only for practice) to the NT is a major step forward toward the Pro sound I was looking for. During these last months I gigged with many borrowed amps, from a Kustom Coupe 72 to an Ibanez Thermion Half-Stack. Most of them were good, but none of these amps have offered 100% of the sound I was desperately looking for. The NT did, that's why I bought it, instead of a Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue (more expensive, heavier, slightly too bluesy to be good for Prog), a Kustom Defender 35W (bad clean tones) and a Peavey Classic 30 (terrible speaker). The combination Vox Night Train head + Vox NT 112 cabinet is just fine for me.
Features — 7
My Vox Night Train was made in 2011, in Vietnam. It's basicly a 15W, single channel valve head, with a Thick switch that operates as an almost second channel. It has no effects loop (there's no need for that, since it's a single channel), but its 5 control knobs (volume, trebble, middle, bass and gain) make it a versatile amp. It also works in a dual mode: another switch allows you to use all of its 15W (through a pentode valve) or to cut it to 7,5W (through its triode), without loosing the all-tube vibe. This switch also acts like a tone one, because the triode mode relaxes the power stage, thus offering a smoother distortion and more warmth. It's not only versatile, but it can also be used in different types of locations. I use it at home, usually cutting its power to 7,5W, I use it to rehearse in the rehearsal room too, and also on stage, since its 15W let you be heard with enough authority. It has plenty of power and headroom and it can compete against amps with higher outputs because of its true Class A operation (I've tested it against a Peavey ValveKing112, switched to Class A operation: it blew it away, despite Peavey's advertised 50W, which can be reached only in Class A/B mode). Truth is I play in small venues, more often without a drummer: if you need to use it for larger venues, I'm pretty sure you must mic it. Vox Night Train is also aknowledged as a comfortable amp. It's light (only about 8 kg, cables included) and it has a smart bag you can carry it in. Its sturdy case makes me think it can withstand playing in a touring band as well. Its perforated case allows for a quick cooling, another feature a contemporary player may appreciate. Two things would have made it THE perfect tool: a headphone jack and, respectively, a possibility to footswitch the Thick function. They are missing, hence the Night Train is just a great small valve amp. I must also add I got it with a generous discount, its initial price being 510 euros. It helped me make my mind about buying it, but not in a decissive way. I would have bought it anyway, only a little later.