With that unmistakable shimmering top end, creamy saturation and, of course, that diamond pattern speaker cloth, the Vox AC30 has been one of the most recognisable and desirable guitar amps in the world for decades. Used by countless world class artists like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Brian May, Edge from U2, the AC30 has been included in many top guitar amp modelling technologies.
There’s nothing quite like recording a real Vox AC30 in the flesh. It’s typically a raw and loud affair, especially if you demand some all out overdriven tones from it. There’s a special kind of excitement and magic to playing through a Vox AC30 that for me no other model of amp offers. It must be a challenge for developers of guitar amp plug-ins to capture and recreate the sound of the AC30 in their software. Luckily, many have succeeded in producing great sounding Vox AC30 recreations which to my ears all feel pretty dam close to playing through the real thing.
In this article we feature 7 audio examples, six of which are plug-in emulations of AC30s… but can you spot the real AC30 example in amongst these examples?
To set the tone of this blind listening test article… pun intended… we’ve included two videos we published in the past that feature two models of Vox AC30:
How To Record A Vox AC30 - 1990’s 6TB
Review - Modern Day Vox AC30 HW2X Hand Wired Amp
Guitar Amp Simulator Plug-ins Used In This Blind Listening Test
The order in which the products are listed below bear no resemblance to the order of the audio examples in the blind listening test:
Native Instruments Guitar Rig: AC Box
Avid Eleven MkII (plug-in): 66 AC Hi Boost / 2x12 AC Blue
Softube Vintage Amp Room: Green Amp
IK Multimedia Amplitube 4: British Copper 30TB
Positive Grid BIAS Amp2: 66 AC Boost
Line 6 Helix Native: Essex A30
Real Vox AC30: Can you spot the real amp?
How We Produced The Vox AC30 Blind Listening Test
Each plug-in example in this test, including the real AC30 recording, used on the brilliant channel.
The real AC30 example was recorded using a Shure SM57 dynamic microphone on axis, the same placement was set within each of the guitar amp plug-ins. The model used was a 6TB Vox AC30 from the 1990’s (last of the British hand wired models)
Each of the examples are level matched.
In the interests of fairness, each example has been strip silenced to trim out the pickup noise between each power chord. This redundant noise between strums gave the game away as to which example was the real AC30 recording.
Each guitar performance is the same in chord progression… but not in actual guitar performance. We worked hard to get each performance as close as possible.
The original recording of the Vox AC30 was recorded with the brilliant channel at full volume (no audio engineers were injured in the recording of that example)
Minor differences in tone and channel volume were set in each of the guitar amp plug-ins so that we could get the examples to match as close a possible in tone and saturation.
The guitar used to produce these examples was a Brian May Special guitar, no pedals were used. The guitar was plugged DI into a Hi-Z input on a Focusrite ISA 428 mkii.
Can You Identify The Real Vox AC30 In These 7 Audio Examples?
Listen to each example below. Can you spot the real Vox AC30 in amongst these examples? If you feel you know which example is the real AC30 then vote for it in the poll below these examples…
We will post a follow up article in the coming weeks which will announce the results. Make a note of which audio example you voted for and indeed believe to be the real Vox AC30.