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I've heard quite a few times that there is no such thing as a good low-wattage valve amp but lately that seems to be changing with amps such as the Blackstar HT-5, Blackheart Little Giant, Orange Tiny Terror and now the Vox AC4 TV. It is based on the old AC4 amplifier but reduced to 5 watts and with some nifty modern features.
Here are the specs:
Controls: Tone, Volume, OP Level (4W, 1W, 1/4 W)
In/Out Jacks: Input, External Speaker Jack (1/4")
Output: 4 Watt RMS 16-Ohm
Speakers: AC4TV 1 x 10" 16-Ohm Celestion VX10 custom speaker;
Valve/Tube Complement: 1 x 12AX7 (pre) / 1 x EL84 (power)
AC4TV Dimensions: 13.78" (W) x 8.46" (D) x 14.76" (H);
AC4TV Weight: 19.84 lbs
As you can see from the spec it has a built in attenuator. So you can select from 4 to 1, to 0.25 watts. This is a great feature which allows you to get valve tones at low volumes. It only has one channel so if you want to get overdrive you need to turn up the volume with humbuckers it usually breaks up at around 5 o'clock. There is a tone control which allows you to choose how bright or dark it sounds. This is my first valve amp and I love it so much already. The clean sound just has so much more quality than my old cube 30X. The only way I can describe it is that it has more presence and just sounds more sparkly. When you crank it you get that unmistakable vox overdrive and it sounds like the amp is roaring when you play chords. This amp is pretty versatile and has enough gain for most things except metal.
I heartily recommend this to anyone looking for a valve amp for bedroom pratice. A lot of people seem to be recommending the Blackstar but I think this is better especially if you don't play metal and even if you do you can get this and a decent overdrive pedal or distortion pedal for cheaper than the Blackstar.A pure bargain
Nowadays there's a whole host of small valve amps on the market. The AC4/TV is Vox's offering. At Â£189 it is reasonably priced, around the average for these small amps.
The most unique and interesting feature on the AC4 is the variable wattage. The amp runs at 4 watts but can be switched down to 1W or 1/4W. This is a great feature for bedroom practice. The amp doesn't offer a gain knob to get preamp gain so to get any kind of overdrive you need to crank the powertubes and that means turning the amp up. That's where the variable wattage comes in, even at 4 watts this amp is really loud if you want overdrive, turn it down to 1/4W and it becomes a lot more reasonable. However you'll still need quite a bit of volume to overdrive the amp, anyone who wants overdrive at the lowest volumes will need to look elsewhere or rely on pedals. I run a Digitech Bad Monkey through the amp to get overdrive at lower volumes. It sounds best with the amp starting to break up and using the Bad Monkey to add a little bit more gain on top.
The other controls on the amp are a single volume knob and a tone knob which acts as a very basic EQ.
The sound itself is typical Vox, the cleans are great providing the Vox chime you'd expect from an AC30. In my opinion it has better cleans than the rest of the small valve amps around the same price. The overdrive is good too and when cranked can easily handle classic rock like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd.
The AC4 is a very basic, single channel valve amp made for practice or recording. I believe it sounds a lot better than a lot of similarly priced amps, it really shines with cleans. The main feature is the variable wattage which I imagine would be a big reason that many people buy this amp. I wouldn't advise getting this amp if you play with a lot of distortion and if you want overdrive at really low volumes you will need a pedal. If you're looking for a well priced valve amp focusing on cleans then this is it.