Vox AC30 Overview
The Vox AC30™ has been around since 1960. It is one of the classic most recognisable British amps to this day. It sounds absolutely gorgeous and I bitterly regret over and over again selling my 1960’s one. Here is a quick look at the different models and my recommendation on the two best versions to buy.
The Vox AC30 users include , The Shadows, The Beatles, Rory Gallagher, Brian May ( Queen) . Quite a diverse set of music styles which reinforces this amp’s versatility and enduring qualities.
You can still buy A new Vox AC30 today so the same amp has been in production for 55 years ! It will soon be heading for its pension.
But is it the same amp? The big answer is no. There are solid state, semiconductor based versions and I only going to look at the “real AC30’s” and by that I mean the valve ones.
I have been looking at all the schematics since 1960 and so far there are ten different valve line-ups in these amps, so clearly there have been a lot of changes along the way. A good source for all the Vox AC 30 vintage amp schematics is Vox themselves and you can have a look by clicking here . They have done an excellent job of collating all the info.
The Vox AC30 was designed and made original by JMI (Jennings Musical Industries). Eventually, a big UK music distributor called Dallas Arbiter ( they used to be the Fender importer until Fender set up their UK operation) bought out the rights and starting making a few amps, and then Korg bought out the rights. Kong being a leading Japanese keyboard maker, no had a UK product line so has a challenge manufacturing the amps.
Marshall came to the rescue. At the start of Korg production Marshall built the VOX amps. Sounds like heresy but it made good business sense. Outside of the UK, Marshall products were distributed by Korg so there already was a close business relationship. I don’t believe any of the Vox products are made today by Marshall perhaps excepting the hand wired AC30’s.
Every valve Vox AC30 ever made has four EL84’s. Back in 1960 this was a common cheap valve found in record players. Usually only one so using four enabled the output power to be quoted as 30 watts.
Replacement Valve Kits
We have made complete replacement valve kits for these Vox AC 30 versions and there is a link in the time line below for each kit. Where required the GZ34 is included. The EL84’s are all matched and there is one matched ECC83S for the phase splitter position. Our Supermatch valves come with test certificates. all valves are fully tested. we have tried to date the models and this for production. Keep in mind that a model made in 1985 could have bought by a customer in 1986. Before ordering a good rough check is to count the number of valves in your particular model. On our home page if you use the search by make and model, all of these variants are listed and you will see the valve kit that is available kits.
A Brief History and Timeline of the Vox AC30
Here is a quick history of the valve line-ups ( excluding the EL84’s as they are in every one of these amp models). The list below shows the pre-amp and rectifier line up.
1960 : Introduced : GZ34 rectifier, one ECC82, 4x ECC83,
1961 AC30 Top Boost : 5 x ECC83, 1x ECC82, 1 x GZ34 ( the extras ECC83 adding the boost)
1964 : AC30 Bass : same line up as the 1960 amp
1970’s : Dallas Arbiter AC30 Top Boost : 4x ECC83, 1x ECC82. No GZ34 as it was replaced by 4 diodes. This model was in my mind a cost cutting exercise and a step backwards.
1978 : AC30 Top Boost : 6x ECC83, 1xECC82 . No GZ34. I guess they added the two ECC83’s to get the gain up
1986 : AC30 Top Boost. 1x ECC82, 5x ECC83
1990 : AC30 Limited Edition 1x ECC81, 1x ECC82, 4x ECC83
1991/2 : Ac30 Vintage Model with no reverb : 1x ECC81, 1x ECC82, 4x ECC83
1993 onward : AC30 Top Boost Re-issue : 1x ECC82, 5x ECC83, 1x GZ34. The valve rectifier made a return at this point because the diodes in the power supply removed the compression effect of the good old valve rectifiers
In the 2000’s : AC 30 C1, C2, C2X. This is the solid state/ valve hybrid . No GZ 34 , using solid state rectifiers and 3x ECC83. The CCX models at least have the Gz34 rectifier
Today : AC 30 CC1, CC2, CC2X : 3x ECC83. 1x GZ34. There are far fewer valves in these models as a lot of circuitry is now in semiconductor technology. The ECC82 was always used in the vibrato circuitry and this has gone in favour of solid state circuity.
The Vox website which shows all their current amps is at Voxamps.com
So if you want rectifier compression, with the total valve sound and a good high gain amp you can see why the 1960’s top boost amps are so highly sought after. The prices are high due to their sheer quality of sound. For me the nxet best model is a 1993 onward amp. Prices are better and they are close to the 1960’s spirit. Personally , if I want a valve amp then that is what I want . not the half way house of a mix of semiconductors and valves. I wonder if the semiconductors in these new generation of hybrids will be available to repair them in 50 years time. a 1963 Top boost Vox AC30 still can be renovated and repaired plus all the valves are still in full production. I doubt if this will be true in the fast moving world of semiconductor chips.