We recently ran a poll asking you, The Production Expert Community, to take part in a unique Vox AC30 blind listening test. We provided seven audio examples. One of the clips was a recording of a real Vox AC30, the other six where produced using a number of popular guitar amp plug-in emulations:
The results are in! Of the 177 community members who voted only 22% believed Example 5 was the real AC30. We are happy to announce that those voters were correct. Example 5 was in fact the real AC30 putting that example in third place… but what were the two plug-in emulations that beat the real AC30 recording in the polls?
Below we have revealed each of the guitar amp plug-in products below in order of highest votes to lowest along with a quick appraisal of each of the AC30 sounds produced by each plug-in.
Example 2 - Native Instruments Guitar Rig: AC Box
Native Instruments Guitar Rig has always felt like a bit of an under dog to me in the guitar amp sim category. I’ve always known it to be great suite yet I’ve always looked elsewhere for guitar tones. Moving forward these results may change my ignorant view of NI Guitar Rig. The example produced by Guitar Rig for this blind listening test was very close in sound to the original AC30 recording, I’m not surprised to see it in the top three, however, I am surprised to see it in first place in this poll!
Example 3 - Avid Eleven MkII (plug-in): 66 AC Hi Boost / 2x12 AC Blue
To be fair to Eleven, this was the front runner in the results for most of the week in which we ran the poll. A large number of votes came in towards the end of the voting period which put Eleven down to second place. If I had to pick one plug-in from this list as the ultimate AC30 emulation it would be this as it not only sounds like the real thing, it also feels like a real AC30 as well. The results are so close between the Eleven plug-in and the real AC30 example it’s fair to say both came joint second in this blind listening test.
Example 5 - The Real AC30
The real AC30 recording coming in at third place proves to me just how good both Native Instruments Guitar Rig and Eleven plug-in are at recreating the famous Vox AC30 sound.
Example 4 - Softube Vintage Amp Room: Green Amp
Softube’s Vintage Amp Room is a cool guitar amp plug-in because it’s forces users to focus only on getting great guitar tones at the amp head with an positionable “virtual mic”. This plug-in features three amps which aren’t officially named but their graphics do kind of give the game away to which is what. The Green Amp, although not my favourite amp in Vintage Amp Room, does a good job at reproducing the AC30 sound. Sadly it doesn’t overdrive anything like a real AC30 so if you are looking for a full on distorted sound then you’ll have to use a different plug-in but if you’re after a slightly backed off crunch AC30 rhythm sound then Vintage Amp room is the tool for the job.
Example 6 - Positive Grid BIAS Amp2: 66 AC Boost
When I was producing these examples I was quite surprised at how good this AC30 model felt to play through. The sound wasn’t as crisp as the other examples I had made that day but it was in my opinion closer than I thought it would get to sounding like an AC30. This BIAS model doesn’t quite match the original channel configuration of the AC30 as it only features a gain control not normal and brilliant channels which I think is a bit of fail as those two channels on AC30 amps are massive parts of its identity.
Example 7 - IK Multimedia Amplitube 4: British Copper 30TB
IK Multimedia’s Amplitube is a fantastic guitar amp product. Full of amps, stomp boxes, effects… you name it, it’s got it! The AC30 style model in Amplitube isn’t the best I’ve heard but it is close. It sounds a little bit too nasal in tone and the saturation isn’t quite creamy enough.
Example 1 - Line 6 Helix Native: Essex A30
When I reviewed Helix Native last year I was blown away at the AC30 like tones this could achieve. Obviously The Production Expert Community thinks otherwise. Like Native Instruments Guitar Rig and IK Multimedia’s Amplitube, Helix Native is a fully loaded guitar amp suite. The Vox AC30 tones may not be it’s best feature but there are plenty of other great tones to be had out of this, all accessible by use of a really well designed GUI.
This was a really fun test to produce as I’m a big fan of the Vox AC30 sound. It’s great to see that there are a vast selection of guitar amp plug-ins out there that do a good, if not amazing job at recreating the vibe, energy and tone of the famous noisy box wrapped in a diamond check cloth. Do you think the results from this poll provide us with a good representation of the best Vox AC30 guitar amp models?