AC30 Quest - From Vox to Z to Bruno

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by cap217, May 5, 2016.

  1. cap217

    cap217 Member

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    I was always a rock or metal player then one night at 4am I woke up w the TV on in Las Vegas and John Mayer Where the Light Is was on and it was the scene where he is playing his L5 through a line 6 delay and into a Two Rock. This forever changed my style and I started learning the more jazz/blues side of John Mayer then opened the door to other styles. Then I discovered Brad Paisley and had to relearn all guitar techniques and picking and bending and scales and style. I never knew benders existed and remember being so intrigued by them after already playing guitar for 15 years. Anyways, the quest for the Paisley sound started and that would be an AC30.

    I know that AC30s have a rock history but I am not looking at them as rock amps with gain. I am looking at them as more country/jazz amps with a unique cleaner sound. I have owned a lot of ac30 type amps over the years and just got a Bruno UG30 so I thought Id look back on what I have learned/thought of each amp.

    In order:

    -Vox ac30cch - This was my first ac30 amp and I didnt know about speakers yet so I rant this through my marshall 4x12 mostly. I got a 1x12 mesa cab for it too but that isnt a great setup. I did more of the rock thing with this because it ran though my Marshall and I didnt know how to play many country licks yet. Sounded good but I was using it the wrong way so I cant compare anything.

    -Vox ac30cch Don Butler Modded - I got rid of my cch and found a don butler modded cch on TGP. I bought it thinking that this would be it and it would be amazing. It was just about the same as the other one. Less harsh and a little more push out of it but it was the same amp (same transformers).

    Now I got into the country licks...

    -Vox ac30cc2x - This is where things started for me. I finally got a setup with 2x12 and blues which was the missing key with the other amps. This amp sounded great, big, full, bright, and punchy. I noticed that I liked the normal channel better than the top boost channel and would be on that mostly. I would mix in the TB channel for some highs and lows but only a small amount (the blend of channels is a nice touch on these). This got me that pop and snap that I wanted. I would say for a guy getting into ac30s the cc2x is a great amp and should be in everyones collection. Once you start to get into the botique world you lose the reverb and trem which are nice to have just in case. I kept this for a long time. These are forgiving amps.

    -Kane Trainwreck Liverpool - I saw Brad Paisley on CMT doing an Invitation Only show and his sound was great. I noticed the trainwreck and needed to have one. Well those are $50k so I searched and found a great deal on a Kane Liverpool from ebay. I got a really good deal on this and it was a great amp. I ran it through the vox blues mostly and I started searching for a Z 2x12 with golds. On this particular amp the cleans were amazing when turned down and the guitar down a little. I still cant find an amp that had these cleans. They were articulate and sterile in a way but it sounded so good, like hi fi. I liked this amp but I thought that with all the hype of a trainwreck and having one from one of the better builders I expected more. Nothing wrong with it but it just didnt do it for me. And when you start to turn these up, they get out of control, especially with teles and single coils. I sold it because it wasnt the right fit for me. I still had the ac30cc2x though.

    -Dr Z RXES - Now I found an amp that Paisley actually used and helped tweak the design. Like and NAD you think you found the missing piece so I was excited. I had a Z 2x12 with a gold/g12h30 mix and still had the cc2x at this time. This amp is really cool. It almost had those liverpool cleans. I never pushed this amp bc I didnt like the overdrive sound and you had to turn it up too much but for straight cleans this was at the top of the list. I didnt sound like Paisley but my country playing and chicken pickin got better when I had this amp. It made you play good and was very unforgiving. I learned here about the difference between forgiving and unforgiving amps and that it was a real thing. I think it has to do with the sag and bounce/feel of the amps. I liked that this had a mid control on it, something that was missing from every ac30 type amp I have tried. I didnt like that it was 45 watts because I was used to all ac30 amps being 30w and 2 blues being able to handle them. I was always afraid of blowing blues with it. I also didnt like the ef86 because they are all microphonic and expensive and hard to find. I kept this one for a long time.

    -AC30hw head - I sold my ac30cc2x and had a z 2x12 with a gold/g12h30 to handle the power of the rxes and found a z wreck cab that I bought. I got the ac30hwh and ran that through both cabs and this was a nice sound. I dont know if it sounded better than the ac30cc2x but the fact that I was now back to a head/cab setup I really liked and that it was handwired made me think it was a better amp. I was bigger with more options on it but it lacked the sparkle/clarity that the cc2x had for some reason. The cc2x was more bouncy in the attack and more forgiving. These are great amps and nothing wrong with them but I did feel like they wimped out when you tried to push them.

    -Z Wreck - I went to Guitar Riot one day and played the Z Wreck. I was absolutely blown away at how the more you turned it up, the better it sounded and the bigger it got. No flub or anything bad happened. I remember thinking it was like a plexi and just kept getting louder and louder. This was the amp to have from all the reviews and posts online and that paisley was currently using one. It was also based on a trainwreck so it cant get better than that. Kind of the end of the road amp for someone on the quest that I was on. What I liked about the Z vs the trainwreck was that it was stable with no microphincs and it was quiet no matter how much you tuned it up. Great amp but it didnt have that sparkle that paisley had on his earlier stuff. Around this time brads sound changed and I liked the mud on the tires and tww ed and the christmas record sounds (winter wonderland is my staple paisley sound that I search for and that was a stang ray). So I looked for one of those and kept this.

    -Dr Z Stang Ray - This was supposed to be THE AMP for everything I envisioned an ac30 to be. Big, bold, punchy, bright, loud, and CLEAN. It was a really nice amp but it was harsh in the highs and the mids were lacking. I know that was by design but it didnt wow me. I really tried to love this amp bc this is the sound for Paisley but it never got me there. The rxes sounded more like I wanted. I had this for a while and sold it. I really hated the ef86 in this amp bc it always went microphonic. I also didnt like that I only had volume, tone, cut. I liked having a bass, mid, treble on the rxes. The rxes was just a better fit for me and what I was looking for. It also didnt work with pedals. Now at this time I have an RXES, StangRay, Z Wreck. I sold the wreck and ray.

    Now all I have is an rxes...

    -Ac30hw Pisonic Mod with matching cab - I got this amp because I sold my other stuff and the rxes wasnt really an ac30 and I wanted that back. I thought that if I got a modded ac30 it would solve all my problems. I also saw brad in vintage guitar and he had a pic of him with trainwrecks and a tan ac30 head. My thought was that it all comes back to the basics. If you want a marshall sound, get a marshall. If you want a fender sound, get a blackface. If you want an ac30 sound, get a vox. So I did and got the best I could with a modded one. This amp was nice and it did sound a lot like a stang ray if I wanted it to but with more mids which was nice. It couldnt do the rxes sound but it could also come close to the z wreck on the tb channel. So it was like having a ray in the normal and a wreck in the tb channels. Great amp, no complaints but I ended up playing a z wreck again and realized that the wreck just had more of everything and the vox couldnt do it. So I sold the head/cab and got a z wreck again.

    -Z Wreck (again) - Nothing new from the last one except that I tried everything I could and the wreck is the best of the bunch for clean, punch, sparkle, balls. The really interesting thing about the z wreck is the cab. The stock silver blue/gold cab had a weird mids sound to it. If I run the wreck through a 2x12 w blues only it sounds more like a vox but if it runs through the stock cab, it sounds like a wreck. Keep that in mind as its the most important thing I have learned about the wreck.

    Sold the rxes actually traded it for a Mojave...

    -Kane Liverpool #2 - I got another one to satisfy the missing cleans but this one didnt do it for me. I feel like my original one was way better but it was also years ago so I dont know. I just didnt like this amp and sold it quickly for a loss.

    -Ac30cc2x - I found one of these for sale locally for a really good price so I bought it. I didnt need it but it was a good deal. I actually dont play it much but its nice to have a 2x12 w blues again. I use it more for that. Actually, I recently took the head out and just use the cab itsself. But the cc2x is a really nice amp and a great price. I would recommend one to anyone looking for the ac30 sound with blues for a good price.

    I had the Z wreck for a while now and the cc2x. I still thought I was missing something and have been searching for Brunos for years. This was the only amp I havent played that brad used. Maybe its the secret sauce in his sound? I know that brad has some vox's modded by bruno too but I wont ever be able to find those and Im sure that the caldwell or butler mods are close to what bruno does.

    -Bruno Underground 30 - I finally found one and got it. I only had it for a day but Im past the honeymoon stuff with amps and Im honest with myself. You have to understand that for years this amp has haunted me. I always felt like this was the missing piece and the key to everything I have been searching for. Its kept me up at night sometimes, ha. Im running it thought he Z with a gold/g12h30. So what did I think the first time I plugged it in? Sounds a lot like a z wreck! Ignoring the reverb section, this amp is just another ac30 type amp with some tweaks but these tweaks dont make you an amazing guitarist or sound any different. But the Bruno is a little different in ways. It never gets harsh. It can keep up the low end while adding a lot of high end. The Z wreck kind of starts to flatten out when you get to a certain point with the eq. The wreck only has a cut and the bruno has a presence so I think the presence is a nicer touch and more use able. But the biggest difference is the feel. The wreck like all Z amps in my opinion are very stiff in the filtering. They all kind of feel/play the same. Ive grown to love the z wreck, especially because I have been though so many amps that I always come back to the wreck so that means something. But the Bruno is a keeper as well. I has more range than a wreck but it is softer and bouncy and sags more. Its more playable and not as stiff and more forgiving for playing. Plus it has a great reverb. The bruno does fill the mids more than the wreck in a very pleasing way. It blooms and its rounded.


    So no amp is magic. They all kind of sound the same but have their own pros/cons. The cab and speakers probably mean more to the sound than anything else. Transformers matter and thats where the Vox amps lack I think. They dont push more as you turn them up, they start to get flabby. But thats being really picky. The rxes is the most unique out of all of them. I wouldnt mind having one again but just wish it didnt have an ef86 in it.

    The more I listed to the older paisley stuff I hear more fender blackface in it too. He obviously mixed amps when he records. I know there is a list with his gear and his main stay was his early ac30. What matters even more is that brad sounds like brad no matter what he plays. In the guitar center interview he was playing his silver sparkle 63 through a marshall and it sounded like him. He actually uses marshalls now too.

    In the end, it was a quest for a sound. I never got there but I have everything besides the fingers. It was fun but Im at the end of the ac30 journey. On to the next.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2016
  2. morgan918

    morgan918 Member

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    Interesting read. When I went on my vox quest I also wanted more of a clean sound, less the gain (I use pedals). I ended up with the UK built AC30TBX and AC15TBX. I had owned and tried a bunch of others but the UK's always came out on top. I've had those for a decade now and see no reason to stop. Those two were the magic ones for me.
     
  3. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    Country/Jazz amp........for grins and giggles, you should try a non-EL84 amp, 4x6V6, 2x6L6, 2xEL4, etc. You might like something like the Suhr Bella, for example.
     
  4. cap217

    cap217 Member

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    I had an ac30tbx w blues too. I forgot to mention that. It was nice and for some reason sounded bigger than the cc2x but lacked some sparkle. Great amp but it didnt stay with me long. I went to the hw series bc it was bascially the same price.
     
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  5. cap217

    cap217 Member

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    I wasnt looking for a jazz amp as much as I was searching for a paisley sound. He is ac30 so I went that route. I do have a 66 super, princeton, had a few d-style botiques, two rock, and marhshalls. But again, this was an ac30 quest. I do agree with you though. Maybe if I started with a twin reverb, I could have stopped there. I wouldnt have but I could have...
     
  6. BMX

    BMX Member

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    Have you ever tried an ac30 with a fender combo on at the same time?

     
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  7. cap217

    cap217 Member

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    I sold my ab boxes a long time ago but I just ordered a new one yesterday so when I get it, I assume the combo of amps will be great.
     
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  8. Geetarman74

    Geetarman74 Member

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    Enjoyable read...thanks for sharing.

    Interestingly enough, the Z Wreck and Bruno UG30 have both been on my list for YEARS and I've never tried either. It may be time to give them a try.

    FWIW...I've owned a lot of EL84 Voxy amps and I'm happy with my Xits X10 at the moment. But it can get really loose in the low end at times. Has a nice complexity to it. And takes pedals like an ace.
     
  9. misa

    misa Supporting Member

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    Typically gets passed over, but the Vox Bruno TB35 is a pretty cool blend of Fender/Vox vibe. Have you ever had a chance to try one? I would be interested to hear your take on it.

    I wish I could get a hold of a schematic for it, to better see how heavily the circuit is based on a Fender. Perhaps it is the Celestion that is imparting the more British character to the amp and a swap for Jensen-style speakers would get it sounding more like a Pro Reverb (with a quad of 6V6s rather than a pair of 6L6s).
     
  10. MHG

    MHG Member

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    Been through tons if Vox style amps as well.....From Matchless, to Vox, Bruno, Bad Cat, Mojave, Star, JMI, Jackson Ampwrks, Savage, Morgan, DR. Z, Xits, 65 Amps. My favorites so far are my Shadow Amps MK40, and Magic Amps Crossroads...........I very much look forward to trying a Carr Lincoln as well.
     
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  11. EuroCool

    EuroCool Member

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    You should try a Matchless HC 30 + Es212 or; a good original 60's AC30 with known good tubes & speakers like Blues or Silvers...
    Personnaly I like to blend a JMI AC15 & a Deluxe reverb on stage: it's a great sound!
     
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  12. morgan918

    morgan918 Member

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    Funny, I went the opposite way. I had the HW and found it didn't have enough sparkle and the TBX's had that in spades. It's that crushed glass sound that's perfect for me, although it can be very specific and get ice picky if I'm not careful.
     
  13. morgan918

    morgan918 Member

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    I've done this. My AC30 and a 68 bassman through a 2x12. Epically freaking huge.
     
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  14. cap217

    cap217 Member

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    I had one when they came out. I had the 1x12 versions. Its build quality was sloppy and it rattled so I returned it. It sounded dual to me but I could have had a bad one. I didnt give it much of a shot though because of the rattling. I was just thinking that Id like to try one again. Id like to try a cowtipper too. But I might be getting a twin reverb next bc those cleans are amazing. When I go to the store, every guitar sounds great through the twin.
     
  15. cap217

    cap217 Member

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    I played an early 60s vox copper top. I dont know much about the vintage vox stuff but this one hummed a lot and was noisy. Nothing special but it was probably bad. They wanted $3k for it. At this point Id like to find a 62 vox fawn like brad has.
     
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  16. sksmith66

    sksmith66 Supporting Member

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    thats josh smith's go to sound.
     
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  17. cap217

    cap217 Member

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    I went from the tbx to the hw bc the tbx didnt have sparkle and the hw was the same price and it was handwired. The hw didnt have more sprakle I dont think. I assumed it would but the hw is pretty dark sounding I think. I messed with some cap values though and that helped a lot.
     
  18. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    I was thinking this, too. Matchless is missing from the OP's list.
     
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  19. morgan918

    morgan918 Member

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    Yeah, I was shocked at how dark the HW was too. I then went to the Hayseed 30 but while nice it just wasn't magic for me. There's really something about the upper mids/treble in the TBX's that's hard to describe. It's a complexity, almost a breakup maybe that the others lack. I'm talking on the Top Boost channel. I traded the Hayseed to a friend for his TBX. I remember at the time people said the TBX's weren't reliable but I've played hundreds of shows with that thing and have never had a problem.
     
  20. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    Twins are a bit too pristine for my taste, unless you can crank them....but of course you need a big room for that. From your amp list sounds like you've already dipped into many different waters....good luck with your next amp! :)
     

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