Marshall-like punch from a Vox headphone amp!
I bought the Vox Amplug AC30 and loved it so much, it probably doubled (or tripled) the amount of time I play guitar. I loved it so much I went out and got the more expensive (by $10) Joe Satriani Signature Amplug. I liked the Satriani model also because it covered a different tonal range than the AC30, and delay feature is a lot of fun. But I had serious questions about the Classic Rock Amplug. Why did have only a 4-star review on Amazon - among the lowest for any of the fabulous Amplug products. Would it be only a "one trick pony"?
Well, I have to tell you, I was completely blown away by how great the Classic Rock Amplug is, and I'm now even more blown away by some of these negative reviews. I've tried out a number of effects pedals for plugging into an actual guitar amplifier, and many pedal users are seeking what they call a "Marshall-in-a-box". In other words, they want a effects pedal that will single-handedly transform whatever amp they have into the sound of a miniaturized stack of Marshalls. Believe it or not, the Vox Classic Rock on higher gain settings is about as close to a "Marshall" sound as I can imagine. And it comes in a small, plastic headphone amplifier that runs on 2 AAA batteries and costs all of $39.99.
Functionally, the Classic Rock Amplug is the same as the AC30 - three dials for gain, tone, and volume, an aux in jack (for MP3 players), a headphone jack, and an on/off switch. But that's where the similarities end. While the excellent AC30 model simulates the boxy, sparkly sound of a tube amplifier, the Classic Rock packs some PUNCH. The low end presence on this thing (even through a $20 set of entry-level Sony headphones from Target) is significantly greater than on the AC30. More importantly, the sound doesn't deteriorate with higher volumes. There are plenty of ways you can try to play guitar through headphones, but most of them become a static-filled mess as soon as you turn up the volume. Amazingly, the tiny Amplug has plenty of power on tap, and the "overdrive" is controlled through analog circuitry, with amazing clarity.
But the real surprise in the Classic Rock Amplug (and the point upon which I disagree with several other reviewers here) are the clean and slightly overdrive tones as you roll back on the gain knob. Several reviewers referred to the clean tones as weak, or claimed that there were no clean tones. Yet, with both my Les Paul and a Strat, I was able to set the Volume at around 6-8 and the gain at about level 2 and get a very nice clean tone without loss of volume. If any dirt was remaining, a slight rollback on the guitar volume further cured the problem. Even better, playing a Strat into the Classic Rock with the gain set somewhere between 2 to 4 actually created a Tubescreamer-like blues tone! This tone was one of the audio demos offered on Vox's website, but I didn't believe it for myself until I plugged the Classic Rock in and dialed in that tone.
Long story short, the Classic Rock is extremely powerful, but more verstaile than I thought. It can do the high-gain Marshall tones I expected, but also offers a wide array of clean or slightly-overdriven tones. It might even be more versatile than the AC30 Amplug, though I remain pretty loyal to the AC30. The good news is that the two models are different enough and cheap enough that you can own both. Highly recommend the Classic Rock - 5 stars.