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A Tale of 5 AC30s…

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
29,207
In the process of deciding about whether I "need" a Trainwreck style amp, I was playing thru a bunch of the stable and discovered that the AC30 Vox, above any other vintage amp, has that "fast", notes jump off the fretboard feel that Ken built into his amps. So, if I'm going to get another fast amp, I probably should think about thinning the herd, so I ended up playing all my Voxes back to back:

65 AC30: this one has had a hard life. It came to me with the Rola built, gold speakers from the American "Vox" amps of the late 60s and some weird OT. After a MM upgrade and a pair of Weber Blue Dogs, retuned with Tungsol Reissues and NOS Russian EL84s, it sounds great. No question it's darker than an EF86 or Top Boost version, and a little less gainy. But it takes pedals like a champ so I can make up for that. Today I'm using a PRS 513 and a Blackstone Mosfet overdrive (the PRS because most of my hum bucker guitars are un-potted pickups and at this volume level they squeal). The clean is stellar. It cleans up with the volume knob like a champ. I could live with this one amp and be happy.

65 AC30 Top Boost: Not sure how I feel about this one. Obviously in much better shape than above. More treble and gain from the Top Boost channel than the regular Brilliant channel. Sustains notes and takes pedals about as well as the regular amp. Crunches nicely, cleans up well, loud as hell. Still, maybe I feel sorry for the 3 legged dog, because I just like it a little better. Weird since this has the original speakers and proper OT and all… Maybe need to roll a little glass and see if I can find something that gives me a little more crunch and a bit less bite.

96 DC30: I know this isn't an AC30, but dimed*they sound pretty similar, at least the normal channel. A big more gain, a bit more bass, perhaps a teeny bit more volume but definitely amps from the same mother. This one comes with the glass that Sampson put in it at the factory. The EF86 channel can be brighter, a bit gainer, but definitely noisier. And I'm getting about the same amount of ghost notes when it's fully cranked. Sustain-perhaps a bit more. Cleans up with volume. Takes pedals well. Heavy as sin and just about as big.

Anniversary AC30HH: this is stock, except for some tube rolling. With no tube changes the crunch gets very "splatty" at full volume, especially on the EF86 channel. Surprisingly a Siemens EF86 didn't change things much. What did was subbing a GE into V2, Mullard in V3 and Telefunken in V4 (the PI, I assume). Sound settled down although I didn't find all the switches and clicks to change the basic tone of the amp, they did allow me to get the sweet spot for different guitars and pedals. Sure it's a little darker and less gain with the EF86 in Triode mode, but you can do the same thing by leaving it in Pentode and rolling back the guitar volume a notch or two. Anyway, good sustain, very bright with some settings, cleans up nicely with guitar volume, happy with the overdrive pedal. Oh yeah, some folks have said this is a PCB amp with flying leads? Mine's not, it definitely has a turret board, very cool!

Brian May AC30: This was a surprise. I've never really cranked it before. It noticeably louder and higher gain than ANY of the others. To the point that the un-potted pickups were simply useless. With the 513, though, I could get infinite sustain, some strings shifting to the octave harmonic and some staying on the root note. Clean up was still great. Did well with the OD. And the built in boost is really well voiced to get more crunch and sustain. It's a REALLY good sounding amp and I have no idea why they don't get more love. We don't need no stinking EQ (heck, there really isn't any EQ on the non-top boost AC30s anyway) and if we did a pedal would do the job.

So, which am I gonna keep? Well, the AC30HH is a cool amp and does some interesting stuff, but the DC30 covers all that ground and I'm more emotionally attached to it (I traded a tweed bassman*for it, I know, I know…) so it's likely to go. The AC30TB is unquestionably the best collector amp, but maybe, at my age I should be starting to get beyond that? I mean, how many AC30 style amps do I need? So, perhaps it's gonna be the AC30BM, the beat up 65 and the DC30… What would you do?
 

michael.e

Member
Messages
20,577
Great review! If you decide that you want to let go of the BM, let me know. I had one and I loved it.

I have had various AC30's as well and the BM was one of my favorites.
 

Rusty G.

Member
Messages
3,146
If you really like the DC30, you should keep it. I find the master volume on mine works very well, and you can still get the goods without giving up your eardrums or having to move to the country.

Great review by the way. What kind of speakers do the '65 Vox amps have?
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
29,207
I believe the Brian May is normal channel with volume knob only (no cut knob) and a germanium treble booster with a fixed (high) gain built in. It isn't Brian's sound from the Deacy amp (that weird, sustaining but strangely EQ'd thing) but more his "regular" tone if that makes sense.

The 65 TB has the original blue bell cover Vox Alnicos, the non-TB has a 15w Weber alnico Blue Dog and a 15w? ceramic Blue Dog. The ceramic speaker probably contributes a little bass.

I can't remember, was the BM built before or after the Vox blues were built in China?

No intention of selling the BM at the moment, but if you can find one they are a SMOKIN' deal!
 

Coldacre

Senior Member
Messages
9,839
I can't remember, was the BM built before or after the Vox blues were built in China?
after. the BM is made in China, with Chinese blues & the wrong speaker cone. I've seen inside one (just pictures) and it looks like the treble booster part is on a printed circuit board, the rest is hand wired.

some sites mention a tube rectifier, but I'm positive Brian May mods his Voxes to solid-state rec's. can you confirm?



It's a REALLY good sounding amp and I have no idea why they don't get more love.
could be because they only made 500 of them. impossible to find these days.
 
Messages
5,081
It sounds like the '65 Top Boost would be the one to go on the chopping block, based on your sentiments.

Though, if you want to be logical about things, the HH would by far be the easiest one to replace. You could sell that to put some cash towards a TW, and always find another if you regretted it.

If for some reason you want to part with the 65 normal, feel free to drop me a line. I'm not a collector, but i'm a player and have always sort of dreamed of having a well used vintage piece to compliment (or replace) my AC-30TBX, which is my go-to.

Anyways, it sounds like you're leaning towards the '65TB. I'd ponder between that and the HH. Regardless...awesome stable you have there!

-Nick
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
29,207
Looks like the BM is tube rectified. And yeah, the vast majority of it is hand wired much like the AC30HH and HW series.
 

Cirrus

Member
Messages
2,429
You can see the BM was built in the same factory as the CC series - similar chassis, same transformers. I'd love to try one out!
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
29,207
John Fryer, who built some of BM's amps has a big section on his website about mods to the AC30BM to make it "better". Some of them make sense (bigger choke, "better" OT, improved signal caps and more carefully chosen resistors) but some of them seemed less clear cut (removing the boost board and going straight into V1 for example). Has anyone played a modded BM?
 

paulvcarter

Member
Messages
2,680
There was some concern with the BM AC30 due to the speakers being Chinese alnico's and that they had some "ghost" notes. They are an amazing and very loud amp. If you have a good one I'd keep it.
 






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