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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com

NAD - Vox VT20X (longish post)

Discussion in 'Modeling Amps, Plugins and Apps' started by raysachs, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. raysachs

    raysachs Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Age:
    58
    711
    May 21, 2017
    Near Philly
    I'm recently back into playing electric after barely touching the Ibanez I had sitting around for many years. About a month ago I picked up a used FSR Tele for $400 - I had a Strat before and I just love the feel and sound of Fenders. Went for a Tele this time because I never used the whammy bar on the Strat so figured I'd go for a solid bridge. Anyway, love the guitar, so I had to find a decent amp for it. When I used to play a lot I always had tube amps, the longest lasting being a big heavy Peavy Classic about 40 years ago and then a Blues Junior for many years. But now I live in a small condo with close neighbors and an even closer wife and I wanted/needed a small amp that could sound good at low volume. I haven't played in front of people or with a drummer since the 1980s and I don't anticipate doing so again, so the occasional jam session with another guitarist is all the volume I expect to need. And generally, sounding good at low volume is more important to me now than being able to get loud.

    I borrowed a Fender Mustang (I, v2) and loved the technology but didn't love the sound. Then I tried a tube amp again, picking up a Bugera V5. As soon as I played those back to back, I knew I'd never be happy with the Mustang compared to the sound of the V5. It's got that lovely warm tube growl when you drive it and really nice cleans. Comparing them back to back, it wasn't close.

    But after playing the V5 for a few weeks, I realized it wanted to be played louder than I can reasonably play it. It sounded best at it's full 5 watt setting, OK at 1 watt, and not particularly good fully attenuated at 0.1 watt, which is where I needed to play it if I was gonna drive it at all. So I decided to at least try another modeler that could be played loud at low volumes, or played to sound loud at low volumes. So I read and listened to a number of reviews. Before I got the Bugera, I'd been interested in a Vox AV15 but I dug the technology of the Mustang so much I decided I'd like the ability to save presets and even use the amp's presets as a starting point for some of my own. And while it's not a unanimous opinion, I talked to a few people who'd played both and thought the VTX series sounded as good as the AV, so I decided to try the VT20X - it was also notably less $$ than the AV15.

    I got one a couple of days ago and I'm really impressed by it. It's interface has pros and cons relative to the Mustang (and the new GT40, which I sort of considered despite the mixed reviews). The biggest con is you're stuck with the 33 presets they include (three each for the 11 amp models), although you do have three user slots for different amps, so you can change out those three amps, but you still get the presets they've written for whatever amp you choose. I really like the Fender's ability to overwrite the presets you don't like and put the one's you do in any order on the Mustang (although it sounds like the GT40 isn't quite as flexible currently). The Vox won't do anything like that - those built-in 33 presets are gonna just be there regardless.

    OTOH, I like the way the Vox has a fully manual mode where you just choose one of the amps from the dial and then all of the dials and buttons on the physical amplifier are active and real, unlike when you choose a preset and the settings of the dials on the amp itself are meaningless - much better to adjust the presets using the Toneroom app. Using the manual setup for each amp, I can really explore the possibilities for each on the amp itself and find the ones I like best. And build my own presets more organically than just using their pre-installed presets as a starting point. And then they do give you eight slots on the amp to save your own presets once you build them. You can save as many more as you want to the app and cycle them on and off the amp as you wish, but I suspect eight will be enough for me pretty much all the time. So the interface has pros and cons, but I can definitely work with it.

    Then there's the sound. I'm honestly shocked at how good some of the amp models sound on this little amp. The Fenders (Deluxe and Bassman) are pretty decent for clean and slightly overdriven sounds, the Voxes are predictably excellent (although not generally as much to my taste), there's a Marshall 959 emulation that I like a lot, a great overdriven solid state sound from an Orange emulator, a few heavy metal emulations I'll never ever use, and the best of all are a couple of Dumble emulations. Now I've never heard an actual Dumble (unless on a recording somewhere along the line), so saying this is a great emulation is kind of like saying an actor did a great impression of George Washington - nobody's actually seen or heard the original, so we just have to decide whether we like how the actor did it. Well, I don't know how close these come to an actual Dumble - can't be very close given the cost and custom nature of Dumbles, but they're wonderful sounding emulations. There's a clean one and an overdrive version and both are my favorite amps on the dial. The first thing I did was using the clean Dumble channel I came up with sounds nearly identical to both the clean and overdriven sounds of the Bugera V5 and then played them back to back a few times. And if I hadn't been looking at the amps when I moved the plug back and forth, I wouldn't have been able to tell them apart. It's got a very warm tube-like growl when overdriven a bit and an excellent clean sound as well. And I'd say the reverb options in the Vox are better than the digital reverb in the Bugera. There are other effects, but a bit of reverb is all I use most of the time - stuff like chorus and compression only occasionally. These are small amps with 8" speakers, so they're never gonna breath like the big guys, but comparing this modeling amp and this tube amp, it's a draw to my ears, unlike with the Mustang.

    So, bottom line, I'm returning the Bugera to Guitar Center - I'm only about half way through the 45 day return window. I've already created eight presets I like pretty well for the Vox. Clean ones with the Dumble and Vox, a real chimey Vox sound, a good Keef sound with the Bassman, a ZZ Top sound with the Dumble overdrive, a couple of good blues sounds wth the Dumble and Marshall, and a screaming lead sound with the Orange. I'm sure I'll refine and change these as I spend more time with the amp, but it's a good starting point. And a handful of the presets that are built in and can't be changed are pretty decent as well, so I'll occasionally use those too, since I'm stuck with them on the amp anyway.

    I loved the little Bugera, but I think this Vox modeler is a better fit for my current situation, since it can be played to it's full advantage at pretty much any volume. I'm sure this wouldn't be the right amp for a lot of people, but it seems to fit the bill for me...

    -Ray
     
    Richie-string likes this.

  2. wblynch

    wblynch Tele-Meister

    Age:
    65
    102
    Apr 24, 2017
    California USA
    I also had a Mustang I.v2 that I couldn't stand and returned for a VTX20/VT20X

    I haven't messed with the VOX much in the 5 months I've had it but I get very annoyed by it. I especially hate that if you switch to another preset the volume goes way up to whatever that preset was set to at the factory.

    So, I get everything at the volume and tone I like then want to switch models (usually at 1am) and WHAM! The thing explodes in volume.

    I need to learn how to disconnect the volume from the Amp Models dial.

    Why cant it just keep the volume setting where you had it?

    Gah! Annoying as Hell
     

  3. raysachs

    raysachs Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Age:
    58
    711
    May 21, 2017
    Near Philly
    It actually makes a certain amount of sense, but it does take some getting used to. When you create a preset, or when the Vox folks create one at the factory, they create it with just the right mix of volume and gain to get it sounding right, as well as whatever settings and effects they include. Several of which can affect volume. So when you choose a preset, it goes to that combination of volume and gain and whatever else is stored with the preset. Which CAN be very different than the settings you were using before you switched to that preset, either higher or lower. The way to deal with this to avoid those volume explosions is to turn down the "Power Level" dial on the far right before you switch. That's the ONLY control on the amp that's not controlled by the presets, so if you turn that down, switch preset, and then gradually increase that to a comfortable volume, you'll avoid that problem.

    The thing with modeling amps that I had the hardest time initially wrapping my head around is the total disconnect between the physical dials on the amp and the settings that will control when you pull up a preset. If you pull up the preset with the Toneroom app (or Tune or Fuse with Fender modelers), you'll see the settings for the presets in the software and THOSE are the ones controlling the preset. If you pull up the preset from the amp on the VT models, without the app running also, you're kind of flying blind in this regard. I had the same problem when I tried a Mustang, BTW, explosions of volume when you pull up a new preset that's set with higher volume. But the Mustang also had something like the "power level" knob that you could turn down before you switched to solve the problem. What I often do with the VT20X is just run it in manual mode and only select the amp I want to use and maybe add some reverb or something in the effects area. In manual mode, all of the physical dials on the amp control the settings, not some settings stored in a preset that you may not be able to see. That said, I've saved some of my own presets that I really like from that manual mode, and when I pull those up, I'm subject to the same disconnect as when I pull up a factory preset. I pretty much never use the factory presets - I explored a lot of them when I first got the amp and used a couple as starting points in creating my own, but I basically don't use the ones from the factory. Too bad you can't over-write them... But I honestly find eight slots to be more than enough for my own presets.

    Just get in the habit of turning down the power level before you switch presets, though, and you'll be golden...

    -Ray
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2017

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