Vox AC4TV- Bang For Your Buck
(Sorry for the long review- take a minute to read it. It's worth it for this amp)
I bought this amp secondhand off of craigslist several days ago (amp was in like-new condition). The amp is a 4-watt all-tube 1x10 combo, with an attenuator switch between 4 watts, 1 watt and 1/4 watt (more on that in a bit).
I've only owned 2 other amps before this: a tiny piece of junk starter amp, and a solid-state Crate 2x12 combo (I don't know the exact model, sorry). I've only played guitar for ~2 years and drums are my main instrument. In my band where I play drums, both of the guitarists play solid-state modeling amps (Peavey Vypyr, Line 6). Admittedly, I don't have a lot of experience with tube amps...but it doesn't matter. This amp is AMAZING. Really. As soon as I plugged in, I was blown away by the sound. I started by turning the volume to about 25% of the way up and got a gorgeous high-end clean sound. After that I turned the volume up to 40 or 50%- the PERFECT distortion - I thought to myself, am I really playing a $250 amp? I thought I would never own an amp that sounded like this. The tubes break up and distort SO beautifully. This amp reminds me of so many old classic rock songs. My friends' $500 modeling amps don't hold a candle to this amp's distortion.
Even though this amp is pretty much "plug n play" (the only real controls are volume & tone, plus the attenuator switch), there is actually a LOT of room to experiment and change your sound. I have been playing the amp constantly for the last week and I'm still messing with the controls to dial in different sounds. The power attenuator switch is, in my opinion, one of the best features of this amp. Basically, you switch depending on your desired overall volume level. Set the power to 1 watt and turn the volume knob to about 11:00- you'll start to hear the tubes break up beautifully. Set the power to 4 watts and roll back the volume to 8:00 or 9:00- you'll get that clear, "chimey" Vox sound. Oh yeah, speaking of volume, this amp is LOUD for 4 watts. The guy who sold it to me was only getting rid of it because it was too loud for bedroom practice. Just for fun, I set it to 4 watts, set the amp volume at 50%, and turned my guitar's volume knobs all the way up-- and my ears physically hurt afterwards! I'd venture to say that at the 4 watt setting you'd have enough volume to match your average rock drummer or play small coffeeshop-style indoor gigs- although admittedly there is not a lot of clean-sounding headroom, since the amp starts to distort once you reach 40 or 50% volume. If anything else, this amp helped me learn the valuable skill of adjusting volume knobs to sculpt your sound, rather than using effects or pedals to do it for you. The amp's volume knob, your guitar's volume knobs, and even the aggressiveness of your strumming/picking- all of this will affect how much this amp distorts- and I think that's a good thing. Plus, if it is too quiet for your stadium gigs, it's got an external speaker output (16 ohms).
Cons: Not many to speak of (for the insanely low price!!). If you check youtube, you'll find a lot of video demos, most of them featuring single-coil pickup guitars- strats and teles. I play a 2008 Gibson SG Special Faded, all-stock, and some people say that humbuckers can sound muddy on the AC4TV. Personally I haven't had a problem dialing in a clear and balanced sound, although I usually leave the amp's Tone knob all the way up. I also keep the Tone knobs on my guitar at least 75% of the way up, especially on the neck pickup...YMMV. If you can, try out the amp in person with YOUR guitar before buying it, so you can be the judge of whether you think it's muddy-sounding.
The tubes break up really nicely with the volume anywhere between 9:00 and 1:00 or so. If you keep going past that, however, you really start to lose definition; rather than more volume, you really just get more mud. So the full range of volume may not be TOTALLY usable, depending on the sound you're going for. Again, try this amp out in person before buying it, if you can.
Regardless of these minor downsides, this is a standout amp. The flaws are so minimal simply because you get a high-quality, gorgeous-sounding all-tube amp for $250. I've been spending all day playing some of my favorite songs on this amp just because they sound so strikingly similar to the original recording. White Stripes, Black Keys, Weezer, The Who, Beatles, Stones- Songs by these bands sound simply stunning through this amp. Check out the guy on youtube playing U2 covers with a strat and deluxe memory man running into this $250 amp. I'd swear he was playing the Edge's guitar rig. Every day I'm more amazed by this amp, it's such an incredible deal, buy one now before they jack up the price or discontinue it.