Wednesday, January 4, 2012

We Make What We Make When We Make It And We Can Call It Whatever We Like

We are, of course, referring to the newly released Vox AC15C, and thereby hangs a tale.

The star-crossed history of the AC series of amps from what we'll call the Vox people is pretty well documented in several nice coffee table books, the most recent by Jim Elyea for which I've yet to scrape up the C-note that it'll cost to get it here.

When the Jennings empire folded after an ill advised toxic marriage to the Thomas Organ Co. in the US-a classic case of brand dilution that many a business school MBA ought to take note of-the manufacture of the flagship model AC30 passed through several owners with a gradual decline in build quality until it was naught but a shell of its former self.

When the Korg people picked up Vox in the mid nineties, they set about rehabilitating the brand, using the signature AC15 and AC30 as leaders for a line of forgettable modeling amps that are suited for lesser tasks, but the AC15 and AC30 retained much of what people bought them for.

When Korg reached the ultimate decision to move production out of the UK, they moved it to a factory in China owned by something known as the IAG group-a vertically integrated facility that actually makes a lot of the components that were used in the AC15 and AC30 Custom Classics as they were known. Although built on a printed circuit and incorporating solid state reverb drive and vibrato, they held true to the original Dick Denney inspired dual chassis build.

According to Denney and Peterson's "The Vox Story" Denney built the prototype AC15 on a standard box chassis but realized that they couldn't take a pounding on the road. Ordinarily the answer would be to build on a steel chassis but because the amplifier is high gain, that presented a risk of undesired hum and oscillation. Denney's solution was to put the power supply on a steel chassis and the higher gain stages on an aluminum chassis attached at a right angle to the power supply chassis-all of which served to reduce crosstalk and made the resulting chassis robust and easily serviceable. Air circulation and overheating was always a problem however.

Apparently there was some sort of a falling out between Korg and the IAG Group, as evidenced by the departure of Steve Grindrod, the designer of the Custom Classics, to employ with Wharfedale, an arm of the IAG Group, and the departure of AC15 and AC30 production to an as yet undetermined production facility.

The new amps are being made with MDF cabinets rather than the Baltic birch plywood of the IAG built amps, no more Wharfedale speakers (fancy that), but what's notable is the layout and construction of the chassis, which appears to be a much more production oriented, reduced labor setup. The two chassis approach is gone, perhaps for good.

Which brings us to the ultimate question: When is an AC15 not an AC15 even though the people who make it and are entitled to the name call it so?

We haven't yet seen gut shots of the new improved AC30C, but if what we see here is a portent, it's going to be quite different.

Photos courtesy of ampaholics and oddjobpeters, whose PM bounced.

Sorry, man, they said you don't exist.

1 comment:

  1. Sad with all the MDF being used for guitar combo these days... Baltic birch ply is stronger, sounds "better" and is lighter..
    I lifter a AC15C1 in a store one day and thought that it was way to heavy for a 15W tube combo..