Cost: $219.99, new but look for a deal on a new or used one on Reverb.com HERE.
How it Works and Final Score: 7.8
The Vox MV50 is an interesting and unique take on the classic Vox AC30’s chime and jangle. The 50 watt head fits in the palm of your head, but provides maximum volume thanks to the use of a Nutube in the preamp that emulates that classic tube performance. On the AC version of the MV50 you’ll find gain, master volume, and tone controls all on the front panel.
The back gets a bit more interesting, an “eco” mode switch sets the amp to automatically turn off when not used for 15 minutes. A normal standby switch is next to an interesting EQ control that has two settings, deep and flat. Deep lets you get a little extra low end when played through a smaller cabinet while flat is a more traditional signal path. You can also alternate between 50, 25, and 12.5 watts thanks to an attenuator switch on the back. Tones are in no shortage here on this solid state meets Nutube hybrid amp, plus the power supply is included! Also, there is a very convenient headphone/line jack on the back as well.
Right off the bat, I’m surprised at how nice it sounds for such a small, almost toy-like amplifier. It does a really nice job getting that classic AC30 chime and harmonic richness, especially with the gain and volume around the 12 o’clock. This is a really good emulation of the sound for a real fraction of the price. Single coils and P90s definitely sound the best through this head, no matter what cab I used, as they really bring out the top end and brightness that the MV50 AC sets out to achieve.
Humbuckers pushed the clean tone into a pretty nicely overdriven, crunchy sound that I really liked. However, with these high output pickups I felt like the MV50 AC lost some of the chime and note to note definition you want from a Vox AC30. Regardless of pickup choice, the gain produced by that Nutube simulation just doesn’t quite get the touch sensitivity and fizzle that I love from my Vox AC15. It’s not a bad tone at all, in fact it comes far closer to tube driven crunch than most solid state amps do, it’s just not quite at the level of the Vox AC30. Therefore, I recommend it to players who absolutely can’t afford to go out and get a real deal AC15 or AC30.
This is always hard to judge in the short time frame that I have gear for review, but I can’t find any type flaw or construction issue so far. The wiring seems good and the mirrored front plate material seems to be sturdy itself. However, I’m not overly familiar with Korg’s Nutube and how it holds up over time or on the road. It certainly sounds good, but Korg is known for producing pretty tough stuff, so I’m not too worried about taking this 50 watt head out on the road so far.
In terms of the $200 or so price tag, it’s definitely a great value. The MV50 AC sounds great, seems built to last, and supplies a ton of sound and tone in a micro package. With any head though, you have to spend money on a decent set of cabinets so you want to factor those expenses into the equation. Part of the reason I can’t give it a higher score is that I feel it really only emulates the cleaner Vox tones well, not so much the dirty, overdriven tones. And I know they make an MV50 that’s specifically for crunchier tones that is labeled the “Rock” model, but you want versatility in any amp that you’re going to rely on for live use. If this is limited to your practice amp then you might as well spend the same money and get a nice little combo like the Orange Crush 20W. Overall, the MV50 AC sounds great and costs next to nothing, but you’ll be boxed into clean chime and extra expenditures for the cabs.