Vox is no stranger to the realm of digital modellers, having released a variety of miniature and retro television-esque amps in the past. Their latest release, the Cambridge 50, bears the most similarity with the VX50GTV, but with a number of changes under the hood. Like its older cousin, the Cambridge is a 50-watt digital modelling amplifier powered by NuTube technology, but now equipped with a custom Celestion VX12 speaker compared to a smaller eight inch speaker in the VX50GTV. Aesthetically, it’s unmistakably Vox: the amp bears a classy elephant-black tolex exterior, covered with a matching diamond-hatched grille cloth and stamped with a silver Vox logo. The Cambridge 50 also features an open-backed design, eliminating the undesirable “boxiness” of similar-sized digital amplifiers.
However, the main attraction of the Cambridge 50 is its wealth of beautifully rendered amp models, in addition to a variety of effects and miscellaneous features. There are a total of 11 preset programs, eight effects, and even two customisable user programs to choose from. You’ve also got access to a cab simulated headphone output, auxiliary input, footswitch, and even a USB audio interface for direct recording. A handy power attenuator and onboard tuner caps off the exhaustive list of features for this amp, making it a true plug-and-play experience. The attenuator itself is an interesting design – it’s not a standard toggle switch, but rather a potentiometer that allows you to go from a mere one watt all the way to 50. This flexible feature allows the Cambridge 50 to double as a practice amp for the quieter hours of the day.
The preset amp models span decades of guitar amp history. The Cambridge 50 offers tones referencing glassy Fender and Dumble cleans, to electrifying higher-gain Marshall and Soldano amplifiers of years gone by. While the manual doesn’t directly name which amp each program is modelling, the subtle hints left behind are more than enough to identify them.
The clean tones offered by the Blackface and Dumble amp presets are astonishingly fluid and lush. There’s plenty of depth and warmth to be found within the two, and sound especially potent when paired with the onboard tremolo and reverb. Cross over to the Plexis and the snakeskin covered Soldano, and you’ve got an overwhelming amount of distortion on tap. Push the gain control past noon, and you’ve got an incredibly satisfying rock and roll chug at your disposal. Crank it past three o’ clock and add a phaser in, and now you’ve reached the era of ‘80s heavy metal. If there’s one thing you should take away from this review, it’s that this amp sounds massive for its size.
Special mention has to be made for the Cambridge 50’s pair of AC30 presets. While these are the only two unadulterated Vox amp models, they’ve absolutely nailed it in terms of tonality. Even through all its different iterations throughout Vox’s history, the venerable AC30 is most well known for its jangly, inimitable top end, further supplemented by a secondary top boost channel. I’m very pleased to report that the Cambridge 50, even with its lack of traditional preamp and power tubes, has nailed the sonic brief here.
All in all, the Cambridge 50 is another excellent showing from the British company. Its generous variety of gorgeous-sounding presets, range of modulation and time-based effects, and veritable arsenal of additional features can effectively cover every need of the modern guitarist.