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hand wired vox or not
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author hand wired vox or not
Looking at amps these days. I really really like the Vox AC15. Played one at my local shop. I know the AC15 runs around $600. However, dude tells me that this one is "hand wired" which is $1150. I say whaaa?
So I look on the Musician's Friend and the Guitar Center and they have the amps at the same price. $600 for the "regular" one and $1200 for the "hand wired."

So. What's the difference really? Are these the same amps, just one wired by a person and the other wired via automation? Is the sound better with the hand-wired? Is it $550 better? That's a couple of nice pedals there or modules there. Is this a marketing thing?
The difference is how much you're willing to buy into the non-pcb mystique.

There are some good arguments for the turret board, point to point wiring - it's easier to isolate the signal path from the noisy electrical parts that heat the tubes, switch the signal path and such. And if you're the type that might want to mod the amp down the road, it'll be a lot easier to do.

There's also good arguments that it's just a waste of money - that well designed pcb based amps can and should sound just as good. Which is true - some of the best amps you can get are pcb based. The Mesa Boogie amps have all been pcb based for decades.

So yea, it's a marketing thing. There's enough people buying into the mystique that these things sell well.

Or if you really want to get hand wired affordably, you could build your own like I did - ceriatone offers several vox clones - the stray cat and dizzy cat are AC30 clones.
Muff Wiggler
or spend the same amount of money for an amp from a small company that specializes in producing hand-wired amps, rather than a large company that specializes in mass-produced amps but is touting a special version

i don't know much about the Vox and certainly am NOT trying to knock it. I spent some time with a very very old AC30 and although it loved to shock the shit out of me, it was to this day one of the sweetest sounding amps i've ever heard. love
Muff Wiggler
fuck, i'll just come out and say it

buy an Atom or an AST

I'm such a shameless pimp for that company oops

I am so fucking in love with Swart amps I don't even know what to say.
I recently tried the AC15 C1 and it's absolutely fabulous.
My main amp is a Kingsley D30 (which is pretty boutique I guess) but next to it I have my Musicman 65 (which was a mass produced amp with a transistor preamp) and both are totally valid. The Kingsley is extremely sensitive to play which is great but it makes you work hard. It can go where I want it to rather than dictating my tone. On the other hand, the Musicman takes pedals brilliantly and has a great clean sound.
I think between amps there is a fair amount of difference in how they play and IMHO handwired boutique stuff tends to be more sensitive. This may be because of better components and all that rather than any inherent hand wired advantage. The Kingsley is a $3000 amp and you can tell but the AC15 I played sounded just as good for certain things. Not as flexible or sensitive, but killer sounding.
I'd probably go for the $600 option.
Muff Wiggler
Morley wrote:
Musicman 65

those ase AWESOME amps. Criminally under-appreciated.
Muff Wiggler wrote:
Morley wrote:
Musicman 65

those ase AWESOME amps. Criminally under-appreciated.

Indeed! I think mine cost me €300 but needed a new speaker. €60 Eminence solved that wonderfully.
if you like the ac15, you might try and track down an original Selmer amp from the late 50's. the guy who builds & repairs my amps has an an original Auditorium to fix and he was saying it's the origin for quite a few of the British small tube amps from that era (wem, ac15, bluesman, etc) and it sounded beautiful.
indexofmetals wrote:
if you like the ac15, you might try and track down an original Selmer amp from the late 50's. the guy who builds & repairs my amps has an an original new standard to fix and he was saying it's the origin for quite a few of the British small tube amps from that era (wem, ac15, bluesman, etc) and it sounded beautiful.

Preaching to the converted! I have a croc skin Selmer Zodiac Twin and a 12 watt Selmer Futurama. Fabulous amps. Getting hard to find though.
Muff, you may recall that you highly highly recommended the Swart when we were discussing such esoteric items. Believe me, I'll not be spending $1200 on a Vox. I'll very likely not be spending $1200 on an amp. Most likely I'll be finding a used AC15 or a Rivera or an Egnater and spending $400 or thereabouts. But if I have $1200, a Swart would be at the top of the list not because I've heard and liked, but because you say so.

I'm less interested with the original post in the discussion of boutique hand-wired amps than in the differences in response and sound in the same make and model amp being hand-wired or PCB. My ears aren't necessarily tuned for such subtleties yet, but as I didn't used to be able to hear the difference between an analog VCO and a digital one, which I now am pretty sure I can, I like to think that at some point I'll be there.

To me in my logical left-brain side, I can imagine that a hand-wired Swart amp would sound better/different from a standard Vox AC15, but not that a hand-wired AC15 would be worth twice the price of the PCB version. With a Swart, you're getting the one dude in North Carolina building these things from scratch. Kinda why I don't mind paying for one SynthTech E350 or a Hertz Donut what I would pay for a full-fledged synth from an Alesis or Korg. I asked my guitar fellow to find me a AC15 C1 because I would like to hear it compared to the hand-wired one that I really like, and I don't want to have to buy it from Guitar Center if I buy it. His belief is that if I'm interested in that, I may as well spend more time with the Egnater Tweaker or Rebel 20 head/cab combos. seriously, i just don't get it

I liked the hand-wired AC15 more than the Tweaker, and if the AC15 C1 (the PCB version) approaches the way that the hand-wired version breaks up on the dirty channel, I'm getting it. I really liked that Day Tripper sound with my G&L ASAT single-coils. I just want to bring in my fuzz pedals and see how they sound, and try a Strymon Blue Sky with it as well to compare the reverbs. I've heard the AC15's reverb is weird and I forgot to check it out on the hand-wired.

Lastly, the Vox AC15 C1 matches perfectly my ASAT. Black and brown. Isn't that important? lol
Fuuuuck. And then there's this, an hour away.

It kinda matches the ASAT, too. eek! help
swarts sound godly, but pretty different than a vox

another amp to look for are old ampegs (with 6v6s) if your into swarts/tweed amps, they are usually cheap and sound amazing
Danotranto wrote:
swarts sound godly, but pretty different than a vox

Yeah I figure. I liked the Vox a lot. But I'm not gonna search for or expect something that's not Vox to sound like Vox. I like the Egnaters but it's kind of a turn-off that they have a switch that's supposed to emulate Fenders, Marshalls, and Voxes. I mean, dude, come up with your own sound.

So if I want something that sounds "as good as" a Vox, I don't necessarily mean sounds "like" the Vox.

That said, there's nothing in my Euro I want to sell right now, and I'm trying to take the family to Oregon this summer. The budget does not allow for any amp right now. In the fall maybe. But I'm still curious regarding thinkings on this hand-wired/PCB stuff.
I'd recommend buying a 1950s Supro - they're really nice amps (Jimmy Page used one - although no one knows which - on Led Zep I). I have two 'Super' 1606 and they're amazing little 5 watt combos which sound as nice as a Fender Champ 5F1 - one just sold on eBay for about $500. Supro were made by Valco and were also branded Gretsch.

Supro's are a well-kept secret but two points to remember: look for one which uses 12AX7 pre-amp valves (late '50s onwards) as the earlier amps don't break up as easily, and avoid the oval Rola speakers - they sound great but are impossible to re-cone.

Vox is an aquired taste and I much prefer the classic American amps.
I have an AC15 hand wired head and I really like it. I got it for $400 though. I wouldn't have paid $1000-1500 for it. If I were going to spend that much I'd look elsewhere.

As the the hand wired vs pcb, they are not the same IMO. One is not always better than the other. Based on subtleties in sound I tend to prefer point to point or turret amps over PCBs although I have some pcb I love. Just playing an amp i probably cant tell but when a/b-ing them ill typically choose the non pcb. Bottom line is that if an amp sounds good it doesn't matter which method it's made. If you think you can hear a difference and have money, go with the "better" one. If you can't hear the difference buy the one that you would be happiest with. There are some purely mental aspects that effect your satisfaction.
Muff Wiggler
MrBiggs wrote:
Fuuuuck. And then there's this, an hour away.

It kinda matches the ASAT, too. eek! help

oh fuck yeah

It's true that Swarts have their own sound, to me it's a bit of a hybrid between oldschool Fender clean and oldschool British distortion, but again in it's own camp. I don't know what to say, I just really love 'em. Never heard an amp sound so thick and full (for want of a better subjective term to use)

I have heard people complain they are too 'dark' and they are a little dark sounding, but I play guitars with single coils that tend to be pretty bright and chimey so the amp really helps round that out. If I played Les Pauls I suspect Swart would not be the perfect amp for me....

I second the recommendation on old Supros. Small tube amps are my favorite, I think you get the best tone from these little recording/practise amps. Even the AST at 18w is FAR FAR FAR louder than I could ever need, ever. I have no interest in big loud amps, and don't think they sound as good anyway. I'll never play a large club with my Swarts but if I had to I'd just mic them up.

Anyway, Supro, for sure.

That Swart SE linked at Craigslist was the first Swart model, the one that caused them to get a lot of attention and start having waitlists etc. The design started from a Gibson Scout, and was modified a fair bit, but again there's that "small practise amp" heritage coming through

Lots of deals to be had if you look at the old lesser known stuff, but again Supros and Scouts and the like are indeed starting to climb in price now that more people are starting to realize how fucking killer they sound.

Really there's no substitite for trying a number of different amps with your rig before figuring out what's best for you. We all have different ears, we all play differently. Our guitars and pickups and pedals are all voiced differently, we use different signal chains. There's no universal right answer, try as many as you can and pick the one with the sound that gives you a hard-on.
Really, you can't go wrong with a little Supro and, bear in mind, you'll never crank a 15 watt amp at home unless you want your neighbours to hate you forever, whereas an old 5 watt Supro is great at home and ideal for recording.
three other handwired options for the vox sound

valvetech hayseed 30

xits x10 & x4 (beautiful amp)

winfield thomas cyclone (ac15 clone - head for $800)

myself - i have a used Korg/Vox AC30CCH, couldn't be happier - spent under $600.
Glad to see someone mentioned the hayseed thumbs up
as for hand wired vs pcb - my general experience in the studio is that good hand wired amps can be a little quieter than pcb amps. but it's really hard to compare wiring because generally a hand wired amp will also have better components all around (speaker, transformers, higher voltage caps).

the other main argument is that a hand wired amp is easier to repair - and this is pretty much true - desoldering filter caps from a pcb can be a touchy process....
visible cow
Sorry, I don't have time to read every reply but I can HIGHLY recommend the Valvetech Hayseed. Absolutely beautiful sounding amp.

I went for the 15 watt head and I believe it was under $900. Get an avatar cab to go with it and you've got an incredible amp for around $1100.

I wish I'd purchased this thing years ago.
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