As an artist you know that no matter what gear you use to create, big or small, expensive or cheap, numerous or few, it all comes down to what you do with what you have. So why settle for anything that is harder than it has to be?
There are a lot of steps between knowing how to play guitar and knowing how to get good tone. It’s a long journey that can even be physically grueling at times, lugging gear on and off stage, from venue to venue. But we still do it, over and over, for years and years, because it’s worth it. So when I was told I could make one of those steps drastically easier without sacrificing my hard-earned tone, and it caught my attention.
Weighing just over one pound, the Vox MV50 AC fits in the palm of my hand and packs up to 50 watts of power. It’s a micro-sized amp head with analog components and Nutube technology that is said to give you tube warmth, compression, and response. But you really can’t look at this little machine without it raising some questions: How does it work, what does it sound like, what is Nutube technology? Let’s take a look.
The features of the Vox MV50 AC are pretty straightforward. On the front panel there are 3 control knobs: gain, tone, and volume. Next to these knobs there’s a volume unit meter that gives off an old school amber glow (a very cool touch). This measures your output level. Last, we have the quarter-inch input/gateway to the magic.
The rear panel has a little more to offer. There are four switches, starting on the left with the Eco ‘off/on’ switch. This gives you the option of automatically powering down after 15 minutes of inactivity. Then we have the “standby/on” switch. Essentially this turns it off or on. Next is the EQ ‘flat/deep’ switch. You can set it to “deep” to get more low end when playing through a small cab. And finally we have the 4/8/16-ohm impedance selector. This is important because the output will change depending on the impedance of the speaker. Basically, impedance is how hard the amp has to push to drive the speaker(s). We measure impedance in ohms. The lower the number, the more power is required. The MV50 AC will give you 12.5 watts at 16 ohms, 25 watts at 8 ohms, and 50 watts at 4 ohms!
Last, we have a headphone/line quarter-inch input, and a quarter-inch speaker output. This makes the MV50 incredibly ideal for practicing with headphones or for a mobile studio setup. You can go into an interface or record straight into your computer. There is also a large metal handle on the top. Seeing as it almost doubles the height, for easier storage this handle is removable with a little surgery.
The Nutube technology is… significant. It is ceramic based and extremely durable. I’m talking 80,000 playable hours before it would have to be replaced. This thing lasts forever! At lower gain, the MV50 AC has a very nice jangly, clean tone. Gain it up a bit and it drives really well, you get a good range of crunch and that snarly, chime-y, British rock tone. And damn does it get loud!
If you’re going to crank this thing all the way up, make sure you have ear protection because it roars. I was very happy to find it works fantastically well with pedals, very effects friendly. Absolutely loud enough for rehearsals and gigging. It’s not a toy, it’s not a gimmick. It’s a real amp head and it packs a punch.
Because of its small size, you’ve got some options. You could place it on your cab like a traditional head. But what it really seems suited for is a pedalboard. It would be the perfect travel/fly rig.
This is an extremely versatile device. I think it’s the start of something new, maybe even the end of traditional tubes (Nutube technology uses 2% the power of what a conventional vacuum tube uses). Hopefully this means the end of carrying around heavy amps and at less than 200 bucks, the price point is hard to beat.
The one, and maybe only, challenge I faced with the MV50 was finding the right power supply. It takes a 19v DC power supply which is included when you buy it. I didn’t have the right one but I had a laptop charger that was the right voltage and size. Considering the sound quality and convenience this little machine offers, that effort is more than worth it.
More info on the Vox MV50 AC can be found here.