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Vox Bobcat S66 & V90 review

Vox brings the Bobcat back in from the wildnerness, adding a few modern tweaks to a classic semi-hollow design

  • £1279
  • $1399
Vox Bobcat Series
(Image: © Future / Neil Godwin)

Our Verdict

The S66's brighter semi voice might win the day, with its three single-coil arrangement and individual volume controls offering sounds that you just don't hear on a semi thinline. But the V90 is not without its charms, its characterful drive and bright musical chime are similarly persuasive.

Pros

  • Very respectable builds.
  • Both are lightweight and resonate nicely.
  • The S66's pickup choice and switching is a little different.

Cons

  • Lot of lower-priced competition.

What is it?

In the 21st century, the Vox brand might be most easily associated with guitar amplifiers, its diamond-patterned grille cloth a visual signifier of classic British valve chime. But the brand has plenty of history when it comes to the electric guitar, too.

When you think of a Vox guitar, the mind is immediately drawn to the Vox Teardrop, a guitar with a body shape that actively resisted angles, its compact profile winning fans such as Tom Petty and Robert Smith, and most famously Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.

But there were others. By today's standards, some of those Vox designs were off the wall, to say the least, with onboard effects modules often complementing an eccentric design streak. Guitars such as the V286 Vox Grand Prix would be prized vintage curios today – a singlecut semi that looked a little like a country and western art installation. Onboard effects on a guitar? Wah-wah, distortion and various boosts? Crazy.

The company had some fewer avant-garde designs too, like the V219 Bobcat. Taking a leaf out of the ES-335 and Riviera playbook, it was a thinline semi with a trio of six-pole extended range single-coils. 

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Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Confusingly, the Bobcat was manufactured on commission by two different Italian companies, Eko and Crucianelli, with some variance in the respective outlet's guitars. You'd find a Crucianelli Bobcat had a batwing pickguard. There were differences in the sunburst finishes, too. 

But all this is history was the '60s, however, and here in 2021, the Bobcat is a South Korean build, with two models offered in the range – the S66 and V90 – each available with or without a Bigsby vibrato.

Our review models eschew the factory wiggle stick for an elegant if generic trapeze-style tailpiece. The body is made from maple laminate, with a solid spruce centre block, while the neck is mahogany and glued. There is a subtle volute to compensate for the truss rod routing.

The 12” radius fingerboards comprise Indonesian ebony and block inlays and offer quite a contemporary feel courtesy of 22 medium jumbo frets. The fretwork is impressive, and those pearloid blocks are meticulously applied and look the business in that dark and rich ebony 'board. 

Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Like the ES-335, the Bobcat is a generously proportioned semi. There's plenty to wrap your arms around. It has an interesting scale length that sees Vox take the Goldilocks (or PRS) approach and splitting the difference between the Gibson and Fender for a 25“ scale.

The fit and finish are very impressive, with some very well executed binding and a tidy scene awaiting you should you peer through the f-holes. In this respect, the finish comparable to rivals in Gretsch's Electromatic and Guild's Newark St series – which should be expected at this price. 

While the Bobcat largely plays it safe with the finish options and design, there are a few trace elements of its 60s largesse, with the pickup covers in bright white, matching the engraved pickguard. The knurled aluminium control knobs might seem a touch anachronistic but the Bobcat does a good job of holding its retro-curio, classic design and modern elements in equilibrium. 

The knurled aluminium control knobs might seem a touch anachronistic but the Bobcat does a good job of holding its retro-curio, classic design and modern elements in equilibrium

As for the pickups and electronics, the S66 comes equipped with a trio of Vox S66 single coils, which are controlled via a three-way toggle pickup selector switch, with individual pickup volume and master tone controls. As for the V90, well, the clue is in the name, and here we have a pair of Vox V90 soapbar single coils and a similar control circuit. 

Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Performance and verdict

Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Both of our review Bobcats feature shallow C profile necks. This, allied to the medium-jumbo fretwire, is judicious on Vox's part. These guitars might conform largely to vintage design principles but presenting the guitars in this fashion widens their appeal.

Also consider...

Guild Starfire I DC and I SC GVT

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Guild Starfire I
The Starfire I makes a great option for blues, jazz or rock 'n' roll but there's a nice versatility to their voice. Allied to the cool looks and sound materials, they make for excellent value in what is a crowded market for semi-hollow electrics.

Gretsch G5655TG Electromatic Center Block Jr
While you get all the Gretsch eye candy you can handle here, the G5655TG offers a wider tonal range than its illustrious ancestors.

The necks measure 20.5mm at the first fret, 23mm at the 12th, and the fretboard feels nice and roomy with string spacing measuring 52.5mm at the bridge. Again, today's player is not going to be intimidated by anything here. These are two slinky semis. 

Thinline semis like the Vox Bobcat could hardly be described as revolutionary. Their build and geometry are too familiar for that. But with that latent Vox eccentricity applied subtly across both guitars they've got a strong case against any charges of being simply another ES-335 knock-off.

What they display are the surprises that arise from pairing familiar elements in unfamiliar settings, like on the S66, which has taken the ES-template and redrawn it by fitting a trio of single-coils and an imaginative control circuit that gives each its own volume control and a master tone overseeing everything. 

Image 1 of 2

Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)
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Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

That might not sound hugely radical on paper but it's something that is just not done and it opens up an avenue to some fresh sounds. The V90 is more conventional but that's no bad thing when the convention at hand is that thinline semi format and a pair of V90 soapbar single-coils with a punchy drive and classic chime.

There is no shortage of guitars in this style and many at more approachable price points. But finding the guitar that best works for you is never that simple. These are very playable, very charming, and might just have the sound you've been looking for but was just out of reach.

MusicRadar verdict: The S66's brighter semi voice might win the day, with its three single-coil arrangement and individual volume controls offering sounds that you just don't hear on a semi thinline. But the V90 is not without its charms, its characterful drive and bright musical chime are similarly persuasive.

The web says

“It would be rude not to audition these with anything else but a Vox amp in person and in the digital world, and in moments we’re time-travelling to bright, happy shiny jangle that is easily nudged into Townshend/Weller edgy crunch on either. Game on. The V90 would perhaps be the more classic choice, but those who like to work with a more subtle palette will find plenty in the slightly lighter-sounding S66.“
Guitarist

Hands-on demos

Guitarist 

Premier Guitar

Eric Haugen Guitar

Vox

Specifications

Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

Vox Bobcat S66 (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Vox Bobcat S66

  • PRICE: $1,399 / £1,279 (inc case)
  • ORIGIN: Korea
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway centre-blocked thinline semi hollow electric
  • BODY: Laminated maple w/ weight relieved spruce centre-block
  • NECK: 1-piece mahogany, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: White synthetic/42.7mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Indonesian ebony, block inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Tune-o-matic style bridge with trapeze tailpiece, Grover open-back tuners – chrome-plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: 3x Vox S66 single coils, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume controls and master tone
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.27/7.19
  • OPTIONS: None
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Translucent Red (as reviewed) and Sunburst, opaque Black – all gloss polyester

Vox S66 and V90 Bobcat

Vox V90 Bobcat (Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Vox Bobcat V90

  • PRICE: From $1,399 / £1,279 (inc case)
  • ORIGIN: Korea
  • TYPE: Double-cutaway centre-blocked thinline semi hollow electric
  • BODY: Laminated maple w/ weight relieved spruce centre-block
  • NECK: 1-piece mahogany, glued-in
  • SCALE LENGTH: 635mm (25”)
  • NUT/WIDTH: White synthetic/43mm
  • FINGERBOARD: Indonesian ebony, block inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
  • FRETS: 22, medium jumbo
  • HARDWARE: Tune-o-matic style bridge with trapeze tailpiece, Grover open back tuners – chrome-plated
  • STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
  • ELECTRICS: 2x Vox V90 soapbar single coils, 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, individual pickup volume and tone controls
  • WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.13/6.89
  • OPTIONS: None
  • LEFT-HANDERS: No
  • FINISHES: Translucent Sunburst
  • (as reviewed) and Cherry Red,opaque Black – all gloss
  • NB: Just as we were going to press, Vox announced the 2021 Bobcats with Bigsby B70 vibratos in both V90 and S66 styles.
  • CONTACT: Vox