I’ve been a guitarist for 45 years and reviewed products for guitar magazines for 25 years. Over all of that time I’ve played literally thousands of guitars, amps, stomp boxes and other guitar-related items of gear.
While I’m still impressed with new innovations and high-quality products inspired by 60+ year old classics, nothing has caused me to giggle wildly like a schoolgirl meeting a pop idol more than the new Vox MV50 series amplifiers. The micro size of the MV50 amps, which are smaller than my hand and weigh about one pound, is mind blowing, but what really got me was that these are true 50-watt amps that put out butt-kicking volume and ear-pleasing tone.
Vox offers three flavors of the MV50—AC, Clean and Rock—and the price of each is so affordable that you can buy all three and still end up paying less than you would for an amp that’s bigger and heavier yet not as flexible or powerful. The Vox MV50 series amps may look like cute toys, but they are truly beasts that mean business when it comes to delivering pro quality tone for the stage or studio.
I’m not an electrical engineer, so I’m not going to get into the finer details of the incredible technology that makes the Vox MV50 possible. According to Vox, the preamp is driven by something called Nutube, which apparently is a newly developed micro tube, and the preamp circuit is loaded with micro-sized analog components that deliver the same tone and dynamics of a full-size amp.
There’s also a miniature class D power amp that produces 50 watts RMS of output at four ohms (25 watts at eight ohms or 12.5 watts at 16 ohms). The three different models each have their own individual character and personality, but they share the same overall design and features with a few minor exceptions. All have three control knobs on the front panel, but the AC and Rock models provide Gain, Tone and Volume controls while the Clean model has Treble, Bass and Volume controls. Each model’s angled front panel also has a cool, retro-inspired VU output level meter and single 1/4-inch guitar input.
The rear panels of all three models are also identical, featuring 1/4-inch headphone/line and speaker outputs and Eco (auto power off) on/off, standby/on, EQ flat/deep and 4/8/16-ohm impedance mini switches (the Clean model has an attenuator switch with full, 1/10 and 1/100 settings instead of the impedance switch). Power comes courtesy of an included 19-volt power adapter.
There’s also a cute but unnecessary chrome-plated handle on top (hell, you can literally carry one of these with your pinkie). Too bad the handle isn’t removable, as otherwise one could easily stash this amp into a jacket or cargo pants pocket. A diamond-shaped clear plexi window that lets you view the blue-glowing Nutube working its hypnotic magic.
Given a choice of just one, I’d personally go with the AC model as it covers clean, crunch and medium overdrive tones quite capably and provides snappy, percussive attack and dazzling upper midrange sparkle. However, the others have their own attractive charms as well, with the Clean model providing impressive headroom and venturing into the edge of overdrive just shy of the three o’clock Volume setting, while the Rock model lives up to its name with a higher overall amount of gain and saturation as well as a slightly warmer, fatter tone than the AC model.
The Tone/EQ controls don’t provide dramatic range, but you really don’t need more than a little more treble edge or a slight boost of bass when each amp sounds so damn good from the get-go. Each head worked well with a wide variety of speakers and cabinets. The Rock head sounded best through a closed-back 4-ohm 4x12, which was also more than loud enough to gig with.
The AC head paired supremely with a 2x12 cabinet with a pair of Celestion Creambacks, and the Clean head worked especially well with an open-back 1x12 with the Deep setting engaged, although it honestly sounded great with every cabinet I tried. Having made many a chiropractor and masseuse wealthy from years of hauling massive amps to gigs, I wholeheartedly applaud Vox’s stellar efforts in bring huge tone down to tiny size.
LIST PRICE: $279.99 (each)
MANUFACTURER: Vox Amplification, voxamps.com
• Each is a 50-watt head featuring a preamp driven by Vox’s Nutube technology and a micro-sized class D power amp.
• The MV50 Clean features Treble and Bass controls as well as a built-in attenuator with full, 1/10 and 1/100 settings.
• The MV50 AC produces impressive clean, crunch and overdrive tones that can be fattened up with the EQ flat/deep switch.
• The MV50 Rock delivers the highest amount of gain for rich, aggressive distortion tones.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Vox’s micro-sized MV50 series amps may look like toys, but they deliver serious, professional-quality performance with a killer range of tones and gig-worthy volume output.