Playing the electric guitar is one of the best feelings available to us. From smooth chords, big riffs to soulful solos, there are lots of ways to express yourself on this instrument. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to bring these possibilities anywhere without the hassle of lugging an amp around? This is where the Vox Amplug comes in. This handy tool will bring you sonic pleasure, no matter where you are, without disturbing anyone in the vicinity. I took the AC30 model for a spin and I’m here to report on how it works and sounds.
I’ve documented my initial impressions in this video. It includes a few sound samples to give you an idea of what it can do.
Versatile design that you can take anywhere
The AC30 Amplug is a compact headphone amplifier. You plug it in directly into your guitar and use its 1/8th jack to connect a pair of headphones. It’s a very simple system that has many possibilities and advantages. At first, I was worried that it wouldn’t be compatible with all the different types of guitar I have. There are lots of input jacks on the market and they don’t all have the same shape. Some are recessed deeper in the body (such as on a Stratocaster). Other guitars are sometimes outfitted with the ever-popular electro socket which is also very deep. Luckily Vox thought of everything and the connector is long enough to be compatible with all the jacks I’ve tried. It even pivots to various angles to accommodate any playing position or situation. It firmly clicks into place every 45 degrees so it stays put while you practise.
The unit is powered by a pair of AAA batteries and Vox promises up to 17 hours of continuous use and up to 11 if you keep the built-in effects activated (more on that later). To extend the battery life, it has an auto-shutdown feature that will power down the item if it doesn’t receive signal or button usage in a 30-minute time span. Lastly, you have an additional 1/8 connector. This is an auxiliary input that lets you connect various music players to jam along with while using the same pair of headphones.
Many tonal flavours
There are several controls to tailor your desired tone. The amp model is based on the AC30, Vox’s legendary amplifier. Imitating the top boost channel, you’ll get a nice range of driven cleans to thick distortion. It’s important to note that unless you have lower output single coils, you’ll need to use your volume knob to tame the amount of overdrive in the circuit. It doesn’t have a lot of headroom, so it’s not ideal for super clean jazzy tones.
If this is not your cup of tea, there are several additional models of AmPlugs that Vox makes. Depending on your style, you might go for one of the other 5 options directed towards guitarists. These include Blues, Clean, Classic Rock, Lead and Metal variations. There’s even another model made specifically for bassists, so they can join in on the fun too!
You get access to Gain, Tone and Volume thanks to 3 finger wheels. These are basic controls, but they provide a wide variety of settings. The Gain control will adjust the amount of saturation and lets you navigate between slightly overdriven timbres to big rock tones. Think edgy Beatles rhythm tones (they did in fact make use of Vox amps) for the lower range. Cranking it up will get you a big sound akin to Brian May of Queen (another Vox user). It’s great for massive riffs and lead playing.
The tone wheel lets you set the equalization to your liking. Turning it down will give you a darker tone, while cranking it up adds bite and crispiness. It’s a good tool to adjust to the natural sound of your headphones too. Lastly, the volume sets the overall volume so you can play comfortably.
Access to several effects
Vox has packed the AC30 Amplug with even more features, including effects. You’ll have access to tremolo, chorus, delay and reverb. The dedicated FX button activates one of these at a time. Each effect has three different intensities, so there is a bit of variety to play with. You’ll be able to call the variations by holding down the FX control and clicking the power switch. You’ll have a separate control for two intensities of tremolo (the power button engages the effect with a short press). I found this to be a neat addition, because the original amp has an integrated tremolo circuit also.
Good portable tone
I like how simple and affordable the Vox AC30 Amplug is. It’s basically a very convenient practice tool, that won’t take up much space in your gig bag. If you want to practise no matter the location you’re in, without disturbing the peace around you, it’s a great avenue to explore. It sounds and feels pretty good and the wheels offer just enough control to find a suitable sound for what you are playing. Although I think it’s pretty versatile, the AC30 might not be your cup of tea if you rather very clean tones. The Blues and Clean models might be the way to go for you. The same is true for the complete opposite; if you’re looking for hi-gain, Vox has you covered with the Metal and Lead options.
Depending on your musical goals, you might even get a few of these, to practise different musical situations. I can imagine someone rehearsing jazz chords and lines with the Clean model, switching over to the AC30 for Brit Pop tunes and then working on lead playing with the appropriately named unit. The best part is that they are so compact; it won’t be much of a hassle carrying multiple amplugs with you, wherever you go.
If you’re looking for a streamlined practice solution that won’t wake the members of the household during the night, Vox’ Amplugs are definitely worth checking out.