Is there a way to be everything to everyone? Is it possible to please every comer no matter what his or her particular predilection may be? Is there even a point trying or is it simply too much to ask? These are the basic questions behind much of the research and development that has poured into the design and manufacture of most, if not all of the musical instrument, effect and amplification products available on the market today.
Nine times out of ten a product will take a specific bent, with the sole intention of doing one thing and doing it well. There are, however, a number of products, particularly of the digital persuasion, that have a ruddy good crack at the spread. The digital age has brought on wave after wave of advancements where the distillation of the spirit of analogue componentry is concerned and while most fall flat short of the finish line, increasingly over the last decade or so others have come as close as anyone before to getting the whole thing right.
Vox entered this arms race a long time ago with the advent of their Valvetronix range. Hot on the heels of the then fledgling Line 6 modelers, these amps used a combination of analogue, solid state and digital thinking to pack more sounds into the same box than ever before, to varying degrees of success. Skip ahead a number of years and it seems they have turned their attention partlyaway from modeling, back towards the classic tube realm. Enter the MVX150, a whopping 150-watt combination of PCB and proprietary Nutube technology. Developed in collaboration between KORG and the Noritake Itron Corporation, Nutube harnesses the tonal juiciness of the humble vacuum tube in order to rectify the sonic limitations of ones and zeroes. Vox first used a Nutube in the output stage of their VT and AV lines which were impressive enough, but it wasn’t until they unveiled their MV50 micro head units that people really started to sit up and notice. Both the MVX combo and head/cab units take the successful thinking of these previous iterations and apply it to a more performance-based approach.
The first thing I thought when I pulled the impressively lightweight combo out of its box was that it reminded me of my first big-box, only with more switches and dials. With all the lights off I’d be tempted to put it next to Peavey Bandit 112s and the ilk in a shop. Powered up though, it is a much more flashy and searching experience. There are two foot-switchable channels, each with a designated master volume and two-stage gain switch. Channel 1 is either bell-like and replete with headroom or mildly overdriven and crunchy depending on your mood and dialed in with a combination of a single tone knob, bright and fat switch. Channel 2 is the angry one. Go from beefy, ‘90s-friendly overdriven sounds to searing high gain at the flick of a switch. Zero in with both the three-way EQ and mid shift switch and you have just about every type of clip from transparent overdrive to flat out distortion at your fingertips.
To the left of the panel you have the aforementioned master volumes as well as a swelling, spring-style reverb. There are also presence and resonance knobs that allow you to wrap your tone up in a warm, rich, thick blanket of energy. On the back panel there are further enhancements that you can make. Dial in a healthy dollop of vintage charm on either or both channels with independent voicing knobs and keep your housemates happy with the six-way attenuator. The Celestion Redback speaker in both the combo and the separate BC112-150 cabinet is perfectly equipped to handle just about everything this amp can throw at it.
In the MVX150 range, Vox has made an excellent attempt at the above rubric—everything to everyone. While it may not have the inbuilt effects, amp models and user preset banks of it’s Valvetronics cousins, it is an incredibly versatile unit with the unmistakable warmth and distinguished air of a real tube amp.
Hits and Misses
Chiming, clear, clean and light crunch tones in a portable and snappy looking box
There’s nothing better than the real thing and no shame in being a one trick pony