Price paid: $ 179.99
Features — 9
When you start labeling the features of a modeling amp then you can get a long list pretty quickly - and the Vox VT20+ is no different. In addition to being a richly-featured modeling amp, the VT20+ also sports a 12AX7 tube in the preamp section of the amp, making this a hybrid amp and giving the overall tone a warmness you won't normally get from full solid-state amps. I will briefly touch on the features offered: 20 optimum watts driven through an 8" Vox speaker, the Valve Reactor circuit is ran by a 12AX7 tube, you get 33 basic amp models, 33 amp models with effects, and 33 song presets pre-loaded, 25 built-in effects, 3 band EQ, Power level control (essentially a wattage attenuator), built-in tuner, auxiliary input and headphones output, and 8 user editable programs for custom settings. The most accurate amp models on the VT20+ are definitely the ones based off of the Vox amps, and especially the AC15 and AC30 models. Some of the "negative" of this amp, and others of its type, is to really get the most out of this amp you have to absolutely spend some time with the settings and reading the literature. For those wanting to jump straight in, you can absolutely take advantage of the presets to get you started. The optional VFS5 VT pedal gives you some added control on the fly, and can be purchased for $59.99 (which is significantly cheaper than the foot controllers for some of its competitors).
Sound — 9
I tested the VT20+ out with a few different guitars - basically a high output HH, a mid-output HH, a mid-output HSH, and a low-output SSS configuration. I tried to make sure I moved through as many settings and sounds on each guitar as possible to get a good idea of what the VT20+ is really capable of. At first I was going to my own familiar ground with tone, trying to find a good modern metal tone, then a '90s grunge, then classic rock, then a good tone for ultra-clean passages, and then effects-drenched tones for different types of psychedelia. Pretty soon I was trying to match tones from songs on the radio or some of my favorite songs. You have to give Vox credit - they've made a seriously versatile amp, here. I couldn't find any tone that I couldn't get a fairly close approximation to. I really got into moving between really vintage tones to modern tones and how easy it is to transition between some very different sounds.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The Vox VT20+ is a close-backed combo, which definitely helps in the overall sturdiness of the amp. The one 12AX7 tube in the Valve Reactor circuit seems to have a very long life from all of my research, though I haven't had the amp long enough to say anything from firsthand experience on this subject. It has 4 rubber feet and a tough faux-leather handle on top, which are both nice features. If I'm being critical, I would like to see corner caps on an amp, because I feel like that adds a little bit of extra protection in case of accidents. The closed-back is actually one of the features on this amp that would have me rate it higher than some of its competitors on the market today.
Overall Impression — 9
I'm reviewing a "loaner" from Vox, and it makes me sad knowing that I have to send it back. A lot of people dismiss modeling amps because they get in their heads that if an amp isn't full tube then it isn't worth having, or the whole saying "jack of all trades, master of none." I'm not saying you couldn't get a specific tone better with a high-priced tube amp, but I absolutely do believe that you aren't going to get this type of versatility and quality at this price point anywhere else. I also think that most non-professional musicians could meet their needs with the VT20+. Not saying you aren't "allowed" to have more expensive equipment if you want, but if you are home recording, practicing, or even playing small gigs, then the VT20+ is enough amp and also helps to keep your rig somewhat simplified. There are also larger models of the Valvetronix series available for people who need more volume or headroom - this includes the VT40+, the VT80+ and the VT120+. In closing, I would recommend this for anybody from the bedroom practitioner to the guitarist playing small bar gigs and pretty much everyone in-between for three reasons: This amp is super versatile, it is super affordable, and it is conveniently sized for those with space constraints (such as those in dorms or small apartments).