Vox AC10C1 Custom 10-watt 1×10″ Tube (Valve) Combo with Celestion Greenback Speaker

Been looking to add some Voxy tones to my amp collection for some time. I tried using some pedals and had some success, but there is really nothing like a classic Vox tube amp. Looking for an Vox for mostly home studio use, but a small grab and go amp is nice to have. Mostly after some Beatles clean and chime and Tom Petty crunch tones.

Vox originally introduced the AC10 in 1959 to fill a point between the entry-level AC-4 and professional AC-15. The AC10 had single 10-inch speaker, but was discontinued in 1965. Making the original AC10 a very rare and collectable amp. A 2×10 version came along in 1963, but as rock and roll got louder, the AC30 became Vox’s new norm, the Twin was gone as well in 1967. Times change and small amps are back in demand. Took 50 years for Vox to bring back an AC10 10-watt amp although this version is quite a bit different than the 1959 version. Reason seems the same however, to offer an amp in-between the AC4 and AC15.

While the original was a dual-channel amp with four inputs, the new AC10 Custom has a single channel with one input. It’s based on two ECC83/12AX7 preamp tubes and a pair of EL84 output tubes in Class A design. This differs from the original’s six-tube setup, but it shares the fundamental preamp-output tubes. Gone is the original’s Tremolo circuit. The new AC10 has a digital reverb that is quite sensitive and can easily go into drip territory.

I investigated vintage Vox amps, but the unreliability, cost, size and weight discouraged me. Next I looked in the newer Vox hand wired series which are probably some of the best Vox amps made in years, but the cost, size, weight and the fact that they offer no reverb or tremolo. Got really close to buying a AC15 Custom (AC30 volume, size and weight ruled it out from the beginning). AC15 Custom is offered with either one or two 12-inch Celestion Greenback speaker(s) or Alnico Blues. The AC15 also offers tube Reverb and Tremolo. My only reservation was size and volume.

Vox Clones (and designs based on Vox)
There are quite a few boutique amps available using basic Vox designs from makers like Matchless, Badcat, Morgan, JMI, Divided By 13, 65 Amps, Top Hat, Magic Amplification, Carr, Bruno, Swart, Mesa, Dr. Z, Valvetech, Winfield, etc. Many of these offer better reliability, point-to-point wiring and are awesome amps. Price was the biggest factor… Not being a Vox was another.

I wanted the sound of a real Vox amp…so I bought a real Vox amp! Even though it was made in China…

The Vox AC10 Custom’s low price and size won me over. Especially since I already own quite few nice tube amps including some boutique and vintage. The AC10 seemed like the best compromise to adding a real Vox amp, even if the reverb is digital and lacks a tremolo. I own plenty of pedals that can give me those effects. Digital reverb still beats no reverb. What I am after is the chimney Vox tone and the early breakup and the AC10 has this figured out. Gonna love a Vox amp that sounds bigger than it is and only weights 27-lbs!

The 10-inch Greenback speaker can sound a bit like a 12-inch allowing this small amp to not sound so boxy mostly due to the closed back design. Amp sounds a lot like an AC15 with less size, weight and cost. When I tested the AC4 (4-watt Vox) it lacked the sound I was hoping for. Sounding small and boxy.

At 10 watts and featuring a master volume the AC10C1 is nice bedroom tube amps and great for the studio. Amp does not have a standby switch or a effects loop, but not too surprising as most small wattage amps at this low price point don’t either. I found that you can obtain nice tones at bedroom volumes due to the Gain/Volume controls.

The AC10 Custom uses a compact design and a some compromises that allow this amp’s price point and size/weight ratio. It is made in China and uses Chinese tubes (or valves). Probably best to swap out these tubes for better ones. The amp is cathode-biased so swapping out tubes is easy enough. Just need to take the back off and replace the tubes with a set of matched EL84 power tubes and two 12AX7 preamp tubes. Russian or NOS tubes should improve the amp and give it a bit more headroom and grind.

Ordered Preferred Series tube set from the The Tube Store. Amp sounds good, but I think these upgraded tubes make a nice improvement.

Tube swap is pretty easy and can be done in about 10-15 minutes. Since the amp has a closed back you need to remove ten screws. Two from the top and eight from the back. I indicated which ones to remove below. Electric screwdriver makes it fast and easy. Be careful when pulling off back panel for speaker cable. I simply slid off the speaker leads.

Remove ten screws as indicated to remove back

Upgraded Celestion Greenback speaker

Be careful not to touch any of the wiring as capacitors can be charged and tube amps are dangerous. Slipping out the chinese tubes and replacing is easy. Best to wear gloves or anything as to not touch tubes and electronics. I replaced all four tubes. The power tubes EL84s should be a matched set.

Tubes for Vox AC10

Original EL84 tube made in China

The Vox AC10 is cathode-biased so nothing more needs to be done. Just carefully put it back together. I noticed to my hears a bit of improvement. Nothing drastic mind you, but amp seems to be less brittle and maybe a bit more headroom.

Also it lacks what I would call a solid chassis that you might expect. No point-to-point wiring or use of turret boards here. This was compromised for cost, size and weight. The tubes are circuit board mounted and the electronics are fastened to the back cover of the amp. Could make for a repair nightmare. If I was roading this amp heavily I would likely be more concerned. However, Sweetwater offers a two year warrantee and this amp will spend most all of its time in my home studio. To be fair this is why these amps cost so little.

This is a Sweetwater-exclusive Vox AC10 guitar amplifier combo delivers iconic Top Boost tone with a twist. This 10-watt combo gives you popular AC10 chime and grit through a Celestion 10″ Greenback. The volume, treble, bass, reverb, and gain controls let you dial in Vox-style clean and crunch.

Upgraded with a 10″ Celestion Greenback
The installation of a Celestion Greenback speaker has always been a popular upgrade to Vox tube amps. These legendary speakers are beloved for the way they add warmth to any guitar signal while never muddying the tone or losing clarity. That’s why Sweetwater decided to put one of Celestion’s 10″ models inside these popular combos. You’ll still enjoy the clarity, jangle, and overdrive of the AC10, but with fatter bass, more mid-range definition, and incredible speaker breakup. Saves replacing the stock speaker in an AC10 Custom amp.

Classic Vox Top Boost tones
The Vox AC10 Custom delivers legendary Top Boost tone in a compact package. A simple 2-band EQ sculpts your tone. And the Vox AC10 Custom sports 10 watts that offer plenty of headroom for guitarists wanting a Vox platform for their favorite effects pedals. And the separate gain and volume controls offer the harmonically rich Vox grind at volumes that work well whether rehearsing, recording, or playing live.

Tube design
Vox AC10 Custom combo amp features two 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 power tubes. This combination is directly responsible for the iconic tones that have powered Brian May, The Edge, and the British Invasion tones of the Beatles. This sound is glassy with a lot of clarity and chime, but as you push the amp harder, you’ll hear an aggressive top end that cuts through any band’s mix.

Specs:

  • 10-watt – tube combo
  • Single channel amp with the classic Top Boost circuitry
  • Total Power: 10W
  • Speaker Size: 10-inch Celestion G10 Greenback
  • Master volume control lets you create the perfect degree of gain staging
  • Reverb: Digital
  • EQ: Bass, Treble
  • Preamp Tubes: 2 x 12AX7
  • Power Tubes: 2 x EL84
  • Solid State Rectifier
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4″
  • Outputs: 1 x 1/4″ (external speaker out)
  • Height: 16.14″
  • Width: 20.47″
  • Depth: 8.27″
  • Weight: 27.12 lbs.