Vox Classic Plus Series - Overview

I recall reading a chat room post in late 2006 regarding the 1964 - 67 era Vox AC-100 amp head. The writer was complaining to the chat room about the high prices of vintage Vox AC100 heads. Prices had blown though the roof, clear out of the reach of the "average guy." A number of chat room responders agreed, and some wondered why Vox had not brought back the beloved "Beatle era" AC-100 head. The final post of that thread was from Mitch Colby, the head of Vox at Korg USA. He suggested that Vox fans should stand by...something was coming soon.

A month later, the Winter NAMM Music Show in Anaheim revealed why Mitch Colby advised the chat room to wait. Vox introduced the "Classic Plus" series of amps. The Classic Plus Series was comprised of two heads - the AC100CPH and the AC50CPH and one combo, the AC50CP2 with two 12" Wharfedale speakers.

Cosmetically, there is little doubt that afficianados of Beatle era Vox amps were disappointed. These new amps did not look like the 60s era Vox models that the chat room had hoped for. The new heads resembled a Marshall more than a Vox. The combo looked a bit like an odd version of the AC-30 with the control panel in the front, rather than on the top. I will admit, I was a bit surprised with the appearance of the heads but a bit of explanation from Steve Grindsrod, then the head engineer at Vox, showed the reasoning in their design.

In 1964, an AC-100 head had only three controls: volume, treble, and bass. These controls were mounted horizontally on the top of the amp. Despite the control placement, they were still visible to the musician because the AC-100 speaker cab and trolley was only 48" tall. The 1964 Vox AC-100 amp was designed to be loud but not particularly versatile. It was doubtful that amp customers in 2007 would buy a 100 watt tube amp with three controls.

To fit into the marketplace, the inclusion of modern tone shaping circuits, gain controls, master and channel volume controls, reverb and channel switching were a given. The new AC-50CPH and new AC-100CPH must not only be retro in tone and appearance, they must have modern features as well. If one were to use these heads on a stack of modern 4x12 enclosures, the control panel could not face up, as in the old AC-100. You wouldn't be able to see the control panel; the controls would now need to face forward. The design would need to incorporate the heart of a 60s era Vox AC-100 into a fully modern amp.

Reading onward, you will see how Vox implemented these design criteria into the Classic Plus Series.

Just like the original 1964 AC-100 head, the new AC-100CPH is powered by four EL-34 power tubes in Class AB configuration. Unlike the single channel 1964 AC-100, which featured only a volume, bass and treble control and one channel, the new AC-100CPH features dual channels.

Channel One is based on the legendary AC-30 Top Boost preamp

Everything you would expect from a classic AC-30 Top Boost amp can be found in this channel from sparkling clean to raunchy overdrive. The EQ on this channel is of the interactive passive format that is historically correct to the AC-30 Top Boost amplifier. It also includes the "Tone Cut" control found on AC-30 amplifiers. This control musically rolls off the high end of the amp as it is turned up. A Gain Conrol, Middle Control, and Reverb complete the channel, offering even more tonal possibilities.

Channel Two introduces the tones of the later British "stack amplifiers" to Vox

Channel Two picks up where Channel One leaves off, delivering the tones made popular by the towering later 60s British stack amplifers. Here you will find everything from modern blues and classic rock tones all the way to high gain classic metal sounds and fluid lead tones. While the tone controls in Channel Two are also the interactive passive format as Channel One, they are centered on different frequencies to create a larger tonal pallete for the amp. A Bright Switch boosts the mid to high frequencies and is great for giving extra bite to muddy sounding humbucking pickups. A Fat Switch adds extra gain and helps to produce a "singing" tone to your guitar when playing leads. The Presence Control not only produces a presence boost when engaged, it also introduces a high frequency cut filter if turned down. This can be used to "defuzz" the preamp section, making it less aggressive and sweeter.

It's almost like being able to mix and match two completely different amplifiers!

A Master Volume control allows you to
keep the total level of the amp easily in check.
Whether you connect to an 8 ohm or a 16 ohm load,
the amp will produce 100 watts of pure tube power.

On the rear panel, an effects loop and a direct out with adjustable level and both a traditional 1/4" or XLR out can be found.


The VOX Showroom!

Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music

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