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A comparison of the AC15C1 and AC4HW1

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by maj34, Aug 31, 2017.

  1. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

    209
    Nov 19, 2013
    Calgary
    There aren't a lot of AC15C1 to AC4HW1 comparisons out there, even though it seems like an obvious step for home players who realize the AC15 is too loud. Most times people are comparing the other AC4 models... or posters in the thread start getting HW1 confused with AC4TV, AC4-BL, and AC4C1-12.

    I thought I'd post one that compares the AC4HW1 and AC15C1 based on my recent experience.

    I have an AC15C1 that I really love on days when I can get the master up to about 4. But often that's still too loud if I'm pushing the gain to breakup.

    Being a forum lurker, I know I'm not alone in this. The AC15C1 has a great master volume. But it's just not enough sometimes. So I've been curious about the AC4HW1 for a while.

    So yesterday I found one for a decent price and went for it.

    Turns out the AC4HW1 is a completely different amp. The seller warned me of this, but I was not prepared when I put them both on an A/B box and spent some time experimenting.

    I was really hating the AC4HW1 for a while. It's extremely honky, muddy and thin at the same time, with no clarity compared to the AC15C1. With the treble and bass at noon it sounded more like the little 8" Orange PPC108 cab that I sold recently (a beer-box sized cabinet). I could boost the bass and get some more boom - but all the other frequencies quickly got undefined and smothered sounding.

    The only thing it had going for it was the top end chime. Above all the muddy/honkiness, there's a beautiful chime to it - moreso than my AC15C1.

    I tried scooping the mids on the AC4HW1 (i.e. crank treble and bass and adjust volume). It moved things in the right direction a bit, but didn't even get me close to where I wanted to be. Honk/honk/honk. My Rat sounds nasty in a good way in the AC15C1, and then nasty in a terrible way on the AC4HW1.

    • Is it the speaker? No. Both identical greenbacks.
    • Is it the cab? No. I swapped wiring and played each amp through hte other cab/speaker. The sound quality follows the amp itself - at least 99% of the sound quality to my ears.
    • Is it the tubes? No. I swapped V1 and V2 and it did help marginally, but only marginally. I couldn't exactly swap the EL84s, so I put a new JJ in the AC4HW1 - still no improvement.

    Then I tried an GE7 EQ. Bingo! I put the EQ on the AC4HW1 only, then I notched out 400, 800, and 1.6k - I probably took about 8-10dB off each one.

    Both amps are now very close in every way - bass is there, honk is gone, fullness is there, amp takes the rat like a champ. They're not identical, but are now well within the tolerance I was willing to accept while going to a smaller amp.

    But I'm disappointed that this isn't a grab and go amp now. That's one thing I really liked about the AC15C1. I just needed the amp and enough energy to move it. With the AC4HW1 it's now amp+pedal+extra cable+power supply.... I know, I now... first world problems.

    So I'm already thinking about modding the thing. I think if I do a treble bypass it'll get me closer to my beloved AC15C1. THink I'm going to draw out the circuit this weekend and start thinking about how I could change the tone circuit.

    If I come up with anything useful I'll post back here.
     
    Dukex likes this.

  2. bluescube

    bluescube Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    50
    Mar 9, 2004
    Greensboro NC
    Sounds like it's time to sell the AC4. If an amp can't stand on it's own the it's not worth keeping.

    That said, I am replacing my AC15 with the Monoprice 15W Laney copy. It makes the AC15 sound thin in comparison. Much fuller sound and mids (not honky).
     

  3. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 3, 2003
    Athens-GREECE
    Mine sounds nothing like you are describing,it is a KILLER sounding amp and its 2 "brothers" (a Marshall 1974x and a great custom made tweed deluxe made with top quality components) are used less than the VOX simply because of the fantastic tone it produces at sane vol. levels.

    [​IMG]
     

  4. crossroader

    crossroader Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    60
    Sep 24, 2004
    Endicott, NY
    I would think the AC10 would a step in between - and might get you a lot closer to the AC15 tones without any pedals or mods.

    I don't know, I think I'd be leaning toward....

    ^^...this^^

    Especially if you were looking for something in the "grab and go" category.
     

  5. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

    209
    Nov 19, 2013
    Calgary
    Oh no you didn't. ;)

    I've been so curious about the monoprice tube amps. I have a monoprice compressor, the digital delay, and flanger. I also have the Monoprice ukulele which I got on sale. Think it cost me about $25 shipped and it's been a LOT of fun. It feels like a real instrument.

    Yeah, I played the AC4HW1 against the AC15C1 last night again, and I liked hte HW1 a bit more. Still - I like the AC15C1 more. With an EQ I could get similar cleans from the HW1. But I couldn't get the same gain tones. I like how dark and nasty the AC15C1 gets with a bunch of gain - it gets evil.

    It probably will go up for sale. I think I'll keep it for another while to be sure, but it's looking like it might need a new home.

    But now I've figured out what I really want Vox to make: Two new handwired AC10s:
    - One with a 112
    - One with a 2x10

    Then I just have to decide which one to buy.
     

  6. bluescube

    bluescube Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    50
    Mar 9, 2004
    Greensboro NC
    Monoprice has 15% off sale on amps, just saying
     

  7. bluescube

    bluescube Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    50
    Mar 9, 2004
    Greensboro NC
    The Monoprice 15 is based on Laney CUB12R.

    [​IMG][/QUOTE]
     

  8. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

    209
    Nov 19, 2013
    Calgary
    Haha!

    I might go for the Monoprice 15 yet.

    What a weird and wonderful company. My last order I flanger pedal, a ukulele, and a bunch of CAT5 cables.
     

  9. Il Duce

    Il Duce Tele-Holic

    Age:
    53
    590
    Nov 11, 2013
    NYC
    Maybe using the AC4 with a band it might work great in the mix? Sometimes gear that doesn't sound very good on its own will sound perfect when mixed with other instruments.
     
    3-Chord-Genius likes this.

  10. heltershelton

    heltershelton Tele-Meister

    240
    Sep 14, 2016
    not houston
    i used my ac4c112 at band rehearsals many times and it sounded great. it sounds great by itself too and i havent modded it in any way.
     
    3-Chord-Genius likes this.

  11. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

    209
    Nov 19, 2013
    Calgary
    Yeah, you are both probably right. It might be more appropriate for a band context. Just interesting that the AC4 is, in my opinion, voiced with a lot more midrange that is better for a band context, whereas the AC15C1 has way less midrange (relative to the AC4) and is a better home/garage amp.

    Your mileage may vary of course... but I'm now convinced of the above, and it's not a subtle difference. Playing with my EQ it seems like the AC4 has about 10dB more from about 400-1000Hz
     
    asnarski likes this.

  12. Dukex

    Dukex Tele-Meister

    340
    Nov 8, 2012
    SoCal
    Thanks for the review, maj34. I do not have experience with the AC15, but I do have the AC4HW1. I love mine. It is a great compliment to my Lil Dawg 5e3 and Vintage Sound Vintage 15. I also play mine through a cab with two Weber British series alnicos (Blue Pup + Silver 10) for different tones.

    At least if you sell yours (since you got a good deal) you'll get your money back.
     

  13. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    Of course it's a different amp you would need to treat differently. If you compared a Champ to a Deluxe Reverb or Princeton you'd find the same thing.

    The AC15's got a pushpull power section and a lot more iron. A small single-ended class A amp sounds and responds different to a p-p AB1 amp (no the AC15 is not Class A). It would likely have a thicker tone out of the box. If you dimed everything you'd likely find it quite yucky

    You would need to be careful with mid and bass with only 4 s-e watts especially with Topboost or it'd fart out really quickly. JJ 12AX7s are noted for being a bit dark - there's other brighter options.

    The AC4 is meant to be a home practice amp of somewhat vintage tone/construction. To expect it to project volume and tone in a similar way to a bigger performance amp (AC15) is a bit much.

    The selling feature of the HW is it's a handwired somewhat-replica of a 1960s amp. It may give you 'that Tone' that a young Paul or George or Keef or Ronnie might have played through although they never had Topboost or 12" speakers. Plus -it's supposedly got better spec trannies and hand made in Britain. The wiring and construction should make it more serviceable and worth it for long-term - it won't be landfill like the Vietnam made Classics when something fritzes.

    Expecting a little AC15 - you're better off selling it to a Britpop nut and getting an AC10 or small modelling amp. It's a chance to learn how to set your amp up wet vol, tone and interplay. I think it's probably be better through a small speaker.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017

  14. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Friend of Leo's

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    I think much of the "tube talk" is purely subjective, but you're absolutely right about the JJ 12AX7s being dark. In my Vox amps, not only did it sound like a blanket was thrown over the amp, but they offered less overdrive.
     

  15. gobi_grey

    gobi_grey Tele-Meister

    271
    Jun 7, 2011
    clinton, ia
    I've wanted an AC15 for a while now but my mono 15 has kept me from getting one. It sounds like a Vox to me and it does that sound well in my opinion. Glad someone else feels the same. Cheaper and a heck of a lot lighter!
     

  16. bluescube

    bluescube Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    50
    Mar 9, 2004
    Greensboro NC
    Half the weight!
     
    asnarski likes this.

  17. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Meister

    209
    Nov 19, 2013
    Calgary
    I thought I'd update this thread with my thoughts on this thread... since I started it because of a bit of disappointment with the AC4HW1 when it was side by side with my AC15C1. Here's my thoughts and opinions based on what my ears hear:

    [This is a comparison of the AC15C1 with no reverb or tremolo on, and on the top boost channel]
    • They both do a lot of the same things. I can dial in a lot of the same tones (almost identically) on both amps.
    • The AC4HW1 has a lot more mids. So if you are used to running the AC15C1 bass and treble on 9AM each, you'll almost need to go to about 2PM on the AC4HW1 to get the same scoop, and then the amps sound very similar. If you're used to running the AC15C1 at 2PM and 2PM you can't get there on the AC4HW1 by itself, but use an EQ and you can get there.
    • A lot of these "same tones" can be had at a bit of a lower volume on the AC4HW1. Not much quieter - but I feel like the AC4HW1 gets below that critical volume threshold where your family won't hate you because you need to get good tone. ;)
    • The AC4HW1 has a lot less bass than the AC15C1 and there's no way to dial it in with just the amp. But stick an EQ in front and give it a big bump on the low end and you will get very close to the same place. But you will miss a touch of the airy sound of the larger cab.
    • The top boost circuit has interactive treble and bass on both amps, but it's way more interactive on the AC4HW1, especially when it comes to boosting the treble. Get the treble above 3PM and the bass becomes non-existent.
    • There's more headroom on the AC4HW1 - even though that clean headroom is happening at a lower volume. Put the other way around: there's less crunch and distortion available in the AC4HW1. If you're used to dialing in gains above 2PM on the AC15C1 you can't get there on the AC4HW1.
    • The very top end chime is special on the AC4HW1. I'm not sure if I ever got the "vox chime" thing on the AC15C1.
    • Both work great with a EQ if you want to try to get to a Fender-y place (boost bottom, cut some mids).
    • Both work great with a Ruetz-modded rat.
    • Both work great with a DS1.
    • Both are ok with a OCD.
    • Both are special with my 72 Custom which adds some of that bass back in the equation.

    In the end I'm now much happier with the AC4HW1. I've just come to realise it's a related, but different beast than the AC15C1.

    Now... since I bought the AC4HW1 with the plan of selling the AC15C1, how can I justify keeping both?
     

  18. crossroader

    crossroader Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    60
    Sep 24, 2004
    Endicott, NY
    You already answered that yourself - because it's a "related but different beast."
    :D
    You're welcome.
     

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