Vox AC30S1 review

A lightweight new addition

  • £735
  • €775
  • $1099

MusicRadar Verdict

Another great amp in Vox’s catalogue and another niche effectively - and very temptingly - filled.


  • +

    More portable than a 2x12 AC30, without sacrificing too much volume or tone.


  • -

    It would be nice if the loop was footswitchable.

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This year is Vox’s 60th birthday, a rare event for any manufacturer and one that underlines Vox’s legendary status in the electric guitar universe. 

As part of the celebrations, we’ve already been treated to a bevy of stunning new products this year, and here we’re looking at a tempting amp that combines cutting-edge technology with vintage style and tone in typical Vox fashion: the AC30S1 combo. 

The AC30S1 is essentially a stripped-down AC30, with a single channel based on the classic Top Boost circuit and a slightly narrower cabinet holding a single 12-inch loudspeaker. This amp is dressed in full-on traditional Vox livery, with black basketweave vinyl, brown diamond grill cloth and suitably proportioned gold logo badge. However, underneath the vintage looks the electronics are thoroughly modern. 

Two main PCBs support most of the electronics including the valve sockets, with a smaller daughter board for the amp’s digital reverb effect. Everything is neatly wired up and connected by Molex plugs, making servicing easy if it’s needed. 

The semi-closed back cabinet means the valves aren’t so easy to get to, but this is the case with many AC30 variants. The combo features a single input, feeding controls for gain, bass, treble, master volume and reverb. There’s a simple series effects loop on the rear panel together with an extension speaker outlet, and that’s your lot with this ‘back to basics’ version. 

The AC30S1 has an energy-saving power supply that switches the amp off if no audio is detected for around 15 minutes. Thankfully, there’s a small switch to turn this function off. The power toggle switch has been replaced with a momentary action type that operates a relay, which feels a little odd at first, but we quickly got used to it. 

Overall, this amp is built to the typically high standards we’ve come to expect from Vox today: built to last as well as looking great. 


We auditioned the amp with a variety of guitars, including a Gibson Custom Shop ’63 ES-335, a PAF-loaded Les Paul and our Duncan Alnico Pro-loaded Strat. Like all cathode-biased amps, the AC30S1 takes a little while for its voltages to stabilise. After a few minutes though, initial hum fades away and the amp is remarkably quiet. 

The controls are deceptively simple, with a wide range of gain and tone that makes it easy to dial in any guitar. Low gain settings produce slightly boxy mids and a medium-fast attack, evoking many classic pop instrumentals from the 60s, especially when mixed with Vox’s digital spring reverb. This effect is excellent and matches many studio effect/plugins for quality, with a range that goes from natural background ambience to full-on cavern. 

Even with the level control maxed out, the effect doesn’t overpower the guitar and works well for authentic 60s guitar sounds. If you pick ‘Marvin style’, using the bridge pickup of a Strat and holding the trem with your little finger so the pick is roughly over the neck pickup, any decent delay in the AC30S1’s effects loop will get you a satisfyingly authentic Shadows sound. 

The AC30S1 gives a modern interpretation of the Top Boost tone wrapped up in traditional looks

Take the reverb off, add a little more gain and you’ll find a perfect Beatles Top Boost jangle, which sounds superb with our ES-335. Pushing up the gain to about halfway takes you into the Blues Invasion era, with a singing sustain and a touch- sensitive toothy attack that compliments any guitar. It’s ideal for blues players looking for a slightly more aggressive edge to their tone, compared to the regular ‘benchmark’ tweed sound. Diming the gain and tones comes very close to classic Queen, with maybe a touch more gain needed for lower output pickups. The single Celestion VX12 speaker in this near closed-back cabinet produces plenty of volume and bottom end, with a slightly more focused treble when you listen on-axis compared to a 2x12 enclosure. 

Vox was originally built on innovation and over the last 25 years that pioneering spirit has continued to flourish under Korg’s ownership, allowing the brand to achieve its true potential as one of the world’s top musical instrument brands. 

The AC30S1 is an ideal no-frills AC30 for players after a modern interpretation of the Top Boost tone wrapped up in traditional looks. It’s certainly more portable than 2x12 versions, without sacrificing anything significant in terms of tone or volume. Despite its simplicity, the sounds are very versatile and well-suited for 60s, indie, classic rock, blues, country... and much more. 

So, another great amp in Vox’s catalogue and another niche effectively - and very temptingly - filled.