Sound — 8
This is a LOUD amp, and it lives up to its 50-watt monicker. Running through a Marshall 2x12, the amp produces room-filling tube tone even at lower volumes, and it shakes the house down when cranked. It was very easy to use the Gain knobs and Volume knobs on each channel, in conduction with the EQ, to find great tones and then balance them to the same volume, using the Master Volume from that point onward. The EQ was very responsive, and the Tight Switch had a very noticeable effect on the Girth channel, although less so on the Clean channel. The clean tones are very good. While you may miss the reverb on classic tones like this, there is a lot of variety to be had with the gain knob and EQ, and it responded well to humbuckers or single-coils. The "Thick" tone boosted the gain and volume, but also created a "larger" sound, with a slightly gritty Texas blues feel. This is where you may spend the most time on the amp, as it's a lot of fun to play! The Girth channel offers a lot of variety as well. Low gain provides classic crunch tones, but cranking the gain offers up rock distortion. The lower gain sounds felt more refined on this channel, while the higher gain settings evoked a pushed Plexi tone. The string articulation starts to get lost here, but that's standard of most amps at higher gain settings.
Overall Impression — 8
The Night Train 50 is an affordable 50-Watt tube head that brings plenty of what makes classic Vox amps great to the modern age. It comes loaded with stage-ready features, and for those who own the previous Night Train, but want to move up to the next level, this is a great choice. With a powerhouse set of features and tone like this in such a light weight head, it's hard to justify lugging a full-sized head to gigs with an amp like this delivering tube tone at a reasonable price.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The Night Train 50 is the big brother of the Night Train family, and it comes in a similar chrome "small box" head, with a convenient, sturdy carrying handle on top. The chrome feels thin, but it looks amazing, and would look even better reflecting stage lights. This form factor allows very easy access to the tubes for replacements, unlike larger heads where a tube change takes time. The inputs all seemed solid, and the general build quality was very good. Especially nice is the solid, even feel of the sweep on every dial, and the solid "thunk" of every switch.
Features — 7
The Vox Night Train 50 is the biggest incarnation yet of Vox's popular line of "lunchbox-sized" amp. The original Night Train was a huge hit for those that wanted tube tone in a low weight and easy-to-handle package, that didn't need to be cranked to earth-shattering volumes to enjoy fully saturated sound. This newest version is a 2-channel amp, offering both a clean tone (the "Bright" channel), and a "girth" channel for gritty blues and classic rock tones, up to hard rock tones with a turn of the gain knob. The Bright channel is meant to deliver the classic Vox chime, but it also has a "Thick" Switch which fattens up the tone, and pushes more towards a loud classic Fender tone. Each channel has its own 3-Band EQ, Gain and Volume controls. There is also a very functional master volume, which has a nice sweep and allows you to achieve tube tone at very low volume, or open it wide for a live performance. There is also a master Tone Cut knob, and a master Tight knob which seems to operate somewhat like a compressor in the final tone signal. There is also a series FX loop with a hard bypass switch, and an input for a traditional switching-style footswitch. On the downside, there is no reverb, and the footswitch must be purchased separately. The Night Train 50 is a Class AB amp running 4 12AX7 preamp tubes and 2 EL34B power tubes. This ratchets up the volume to a full 50-watts that can be sent through an 8 ohm, 16 ohm, or two 8 ohm outputs to any compatible speaker cab. A nice added bonus is the inclusion of a speaker cable, which is typically not provided with amplifiers.