Vox Cambridge 30 Guitar Combo
Who would have guessed that when accordion playing music store owner Tom Jennings and electronics whizz Dick Denny gave birth to the first Vox guitar amp at the tail end of the fifties that they’d end up defining the sound of an era. More recently, the Brit sound – with bands like Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene and Cast – has renewed the excitement of that sound used by the Beatles, Stones and The Shadows in the sixties.
But not everyone can stomach the expense of a genuine AC30 re-issue. With this in mind, a new series of Korean-made Vox combos have evolved. The range includes the dinky Pathfinder and Cambridge 15 which are now joined by this pair: the Cambridge 30 Reverb and T25 bass amp. They’re loosely based on Vox models of yesteryear, but with more than a few changes, for the better.
Cambridge 30 Reverb
This combo’s half-closed MDF cabinet is neatly covered in authentic basket-weave vinyl but unlike the AC30 that it stylistically apes, the combo has no corner protection, just rubber. But a combo of this type is likely to be carted around a mate’s house and rehearsal rooms so it could do with being a bit tougher.
Behind the dapper, diamond speaker-cloth and sexy gold and white piping lies a custom designed, 10-inch Celestion Bulldog speaker. Dr Decibel, Celestion’s technical guru, said: The speaker was built exclusively for Vox, and designed for the new Cambridge amp.
The original sample was made when the amp chassis was still on the engineer’s desk, and then the amp and speaker were fine- tuned together.”
If you’ve never played a Vox amp before, the first thing you have to get used to are the topsy-turvy knobs. With the amp facing you, the maroon control panel is upside down. The single input, now to your right, is logically positioned next to the clean channel controls of volume, treble and bass. For channel selection, a push button sits before the drive channel – it can also be remotely operated via a footswitch.
The drive channel features just gain, gain boost, treble, mid-range boost, bass and finally volume control.
Both channels enjoy the in-built tremolo effect which you can dial in via the self-explanatory speed and depth controls. With just a reverb knob, a footswitch jack and the power switch remaining, the top panel is hardly likely to induce techno-fear.
As well as the top panel features, the Cambridge’s studio and stage prowess is enhanced by a quartet of jacks on the rear.
A headphone socket, eight ohm speaker output and line output cover practice, recording and stage applications while a second footswitch jack improves the Vox’s versatility, allowing on/off control of reverb and gain boost. A handy extra if you want complete control over all of the Cambridge’s features.
Here is an amp caught in a sonic time-warp. Firstly, the clean sound is just beautiful, the Celestion Bulldog speaks eloquent and with an accent that is unmistakably Vox. It’s warm, full, rich, punchy and responsive all at once – and clean. It can give your rhythm playing anything from funky finesse to thick crunchy overdrive as you crank the volume beyond halfway. The tremolo effect – which has the pleasant by-product of fading to a harmonic – like the clean channel, is generally very musical, incapable of producing a nasty tone even with extreme settings.
The drive channel does a perfect Paul Weller, a great Peter Green and has blues tones on tap from the three Kings to Robben Ford, especially with that midrange boost in. The gain boost elicits a fuzz-tone which is sublimely smooth and services both Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page sounds well.
At just a snip over £200 the Cambridge 30 Reverb is bound to find its way not just into first-time-buyers’ bedrooms, but also into the music rooms of players hankering for nostalgia. It would make a great living-room amp for the guitarist with everything, and almost sounds like it’s Vox-full of toasty tubes despite having just a single 12AX7 preamp valve.
We liked everything about this combo from its style and portability to the surprisingly authentic sounds and ease of use. It’s not exactly a powerhouse in the volume stakes, but it can comfortably handle practice, smaller rehearsal situations and intimate performances. The Vox Cambridge 30 Reverb is guitar amplification with character at an exceptionally good price.