The Vox MV50 AC is Not Just Good … it is Ridiculously Good
Let’s face the facts: solid-state guitar amps are no longer being ruled out of hand as a matter of course in 2019. In the last couple of years, solid state amps have gone from perceived undesirable beginner amps to some of the most popular and sought-after amps in the market. Amps such as the modeling powerhouses by Kemper and Positive Grid, the ubiquitous Boss Katana combos, pedal-sized amps by Quilter and even Seymour Duncan, and micro pedal-sized amps by Mooer have brought solid state into a new day. Even the boutique guys are getting in on the action, with Milkman Sound’s The Amp being one of the hottest and most highly-anticipated amps of the last year. Note that some of these are considered hybrids, meaning that they have a tube preamp but a solid state power amp, but generally, it is appropriate to group hybrids and full solid state amps together.
In a similar category as Milkman’s The Amp, we find the Vox MV50 series. I group these together because they are both pedalboard-friendly and contain both a power amp and a tube pre-amp, to serve as a sole amp head that powers a cab and can sculpt your tone, hopefully, without the need for a separate pre-amp pedal. The Amp runs a single 12AX7 while the MV50 series amps run a duet of Korg’s proprietary Nutubes, which are practically microscopic vacuum tubes that run cool and last practically forever. To be specific, Nutubes require less than 2% of the electrical power of a conventional tube, and they are purported to last 30,000 hours.
I finally had a chance to audition a Vox MV50 AC, which true to its name, is voiced to emulate an AC amp. Plugging into the MV50 AC was something of an emotionally anxious moment for me. I once had a Vox AC30 combo and it was something of a dream amp. The AC sound is perhaps my favorite of all amps. What was not so dreamy about that amp was its 80-lb. heft. I knew of the notorious weight of AC30 combos when I bought the amp, but my love of the tone forced me to just suck it up and buy one. I eventually had to sell it when the weight just made it too much to handle, literally. It was a pretty gut-wrenching sell considering how much I adore the glassy, compressed, super clean cleans of the amp. So when I plugged a Telecaster into the MV50 AC and hit the power switch, all I could think was “please let this be good.”
And good, it was. Very good, in fact. So good, actually, that if I closed my eyes, it is possible that I might not be able to tell whether I was plugged into a tiny amp head or a monster AC30.
One of the reasons that it took me so long to audition an MV50 head was that I admittedly have not ever been terribly impressed with what I heard on YouTube demos of the units, which I think has made me learn a valuable lesson: withhold judgment of a product until you try it for yourself. Many of the demos on YouTube utilize a 1x8” Vox cabinet, which is a very fine and totally usable cab for practice and bedroom use, but let’s be honest, this is supposed to be a gigable 50-watt amp, right? I plugged it into a proper 1x12” and the tone opened right up. The hushed, fizzy, digitized tones that I heard through my iPhone speaker (shame on me) were nowhere to be found. This was pure Vox. I dialed the gain, tone, and volume, to noon and strummed an E chord and it was instant gratification. Every nuance of what makes a Vox a Vox was present and it was supremely delicious. The edge of breakup compression and glassiness was completely authentic, as it should be, being a Vox product.
The drawbacks of the MV50 are few and relatively inconsequential:
- Tone sculpting is limited to a single tone pot, which I personally don’t find as a drawback at all, but mention it as some might take issue with it. Considering that a proper AC should have two channels (normal and Top Boost), as well as a standard EQ section, the single tone control limits the palette of a typical AC, but across the whole spectrum of what the MV50’s tone control offers, there is truly a tone for all players, so not to worry.
- For an amp that only weighs one pound and isn’t much larger than a pedal, the handle really is not necessary. I can see how aesthetically it ties the whole package together a bit, but functionally, it is not needed, and more seriously, it adds an inch or two in height, which could be problematic for those who have this unit mounted to a pedalboard and are trying to fit the pedalboard in a case.
- The DC power input on the back of the unit is within a fraction of an inch of the (very small) on/off switch. This might not be so much of an issue if the supplied power plug didn’t have a right angle connector, which means you will have to insert the plug with the long part of the right angle opposite the on/off switch, otherwise the plug covers the switch entirely. A toggle on the front of the amp would have been preferred.
- Though not a gripe with the product itself, rather the marketing, it would be more appropriate to call the amp the MV25 instead of the MV50. While it is true, this is indeed a 50-watt amp, you can only achieve 50 watts of output when pairing the amp with an uncommonly-used 4-ohm speaker. Though not impossible to find by any means (popular aftermarket speaker brand Warehouse Guitar Speakers offers 4-ohm variants on most all of their speakers), 4-ohm speakers are almost never preloaded in cabinets or combos. 8-ohm is the current standard for guitar speakers, and ironically enough, some Vox cabinets have historically been loaded with 16-ohm speakers, which, if paired with an MV50 will only get you 12.5 watts of power.
Minor quibbles aside, let’s remind ourselves that these amps hover around $200 and can fit on your pedalboard. What more could you ask for? Give one a go and judge for yourself!