From the homemade electric guitar to the treble-boosted AC30s to the old sixpence-piece he uses as a pick, Brian May’s tone is quite literally the stuff books are written about. So, imagine if you could distil all of that into a tiny headphone amp and mini-cab. That’s exactly what Vox did when it set about creating the latest in its long-running line of amPlugs.
You’ve probably seen these before – the amPlug plugs directly into your guitar with a swivelling jack, loaded with controls and a headphone socket for the most portable practice possible. Now, Vox’s amPlug has been issued as a signature Brian May edition and it comes in two guises.
First is the lone amPlug Brian May ($/£59), but perhaps of more interest to Queen fans will be the amPlug Set Brian May Limited Edition, which is what we have here. The set bags you the same amPlug plus a matching red mini-cab boasting a three-inch speaker and pumping out two watts of power.
The amPlug itself is surprisingly packed with features: it’s got two channels (one ‘standard’ AC30 channel and one ‘treble-boosted’); a trio of effects (delay, phaser and chorus) and an onboard drum machine. The latter hosts a number of – let’s be honest – fairly dated-sounding, albeit useful drum patterns, but there’s a needle in the haystack courtesy of the stomps and claps from We Will Rock You.
If you’ve ever tried a battery-powered mini-amp before, you’ll know the results can vary. With our amPlug hooked up to the cabinet (it mounts in the top and there’s a mini-jack cable included), we’d say this sits on the clearer end of the tones this type of amp produces.
Channel one goes from a plucky clean, up to a smooth crunch sound, while holding down the power button switches to the higher-gain treble-boosted mode.
At the top end of its gain and volume spectrum things become waspy, but roll it back a bit and we’re back to classic overdrive territory. The effects are fun, with only the intensity and delay tempo tweakable, but they definitely give a moreish flavour of Brian’s tones.
So will you be ousting your ‘big amps’ in favour of this? It’s doubtful. But as a good-sounding practice amp with heaps of collectable appeal, this is a lot of fun. We can’t help noticing the price jump between a regular amPlug and cab and this set, but we assume that royalty comes with some royalties. Just don’t take it on the roof.
- PRICE: $/£149
- TYPE: Headphone/mini-practice amp
- CHANNELS: Two
- CONTROLS: Power, tap-tempo, gain, tone, volume, effect select/rhythm select switch
- EFFECTS: Delay, phaser chorus
- CONNECTIVITY: Input jack attached) headphone out, aux-in
- POWER: AAA batteries (x2), 9V PP3 (cab)
- CONTACT: Vox