When I think of a Vox amp, I think of two things: jangly cleans and chimey dirty tones with rich upper midrange and ringing harmonics. I’m happy to say that the Wampler Ace Thirty delivers the latter in spades. Achieving the former takes some patience and practice.
If you’re new to the Vox Top Boost circuit, it might take you a while to get the hang of the Ace Thirty. Because the Bass and Treble controls are active, they push those frequencies as you turn them up. In other words, the cleaner sounds on the Ace Thirty come when the Bass and Treble controls are dialed back. Additionally, the two controls are extremely interactive. Where you set one, has an impact on the available frequencies governed by the other. The fastest way to get a handle on this is to play a chord progression into a looper and then turn the Bass and Treble simultaneously to get a feel for how they work.
Also somewhat counterintuitive is the “Top Cut” control which removes Treble the higher you turn it rather than boosting treble. This format is perfect though for dialing back the abundant treble available in the Top Boost circuit.
The other controls to consider in the Ace Thirty are the “30” and “15” settings which refer to headroom. The Ace Thirty breaks up instantaneously in 15 mode. In 30 mode, you stay clean until about half way up. Finally you have a Boost which governs the amount of gain in the independently switchable pre-gain boost circuit.
Running the Ace Thirty into the normal channel of a Vox AC15HW created tones that were surprisingly similar to the tones coming from the real Top Boost channel on that amp. Running it into a blackface Fender still created convincing Vox character, but not quite as authentic.
I found my favorite tones with the Ace Thirty set to 30 mode and Bass at 11:00, Treble at 3:00, Top Cut at 10:00, Gain at 3:00, Volume at 10:00, and with Boost set around 11:00. With these settings you get instant Matthew Sweet 100% Fun tones – everything I ever wanted out of a Vox. Without the Boost engaged and picking lightly generates perfect edge of breakup tones. Digging in creates chimey, complex grit. Then activate the Boost for crunchy sustain. Cranking the Boost up to 3:00 and beyond gets sweet, syrupy Brian May tones.
By dialing back the Gain all of the way in the 30 mode, you can get some great twangy country tones using a Tele. Switching things up and placing the Gain, Bass, and Treble at around 1:00 or 2:00 and the Top Cut at 9:00 gives you some excellent U2 tones.
The Ace Thirty also stacks well with the usual suspects of Vox-friendly ODs. And it sounds simply amazing when hit hard with a Treble Booster - creating an even more authentic version of the Brian May tone mentioned above.
But the Ace Thirty isn’t perfect. Volume clean up is just ok. Rolling off the volume on your guitar cleans the Ace Thirty up, but it loses a lot of volume in the process. Oddly, when stacked with other ODs, the Ace Thirty cleans up much better. Also pushing the Bass beyond 11:00 generated a fizzy note decay.
But if you’re looking to add Voxy chime to your rig, the Ace Thirty does a pretty outstanding job in a small footprint.
What We Like: Amp like tones that respond like the real thing.
Concerns: Cranking the bass can result in fizzy mid-gain tones.
Tone (out of 5 stars): 4
Build Quality (out of 5 stars): 5
Value (out of 5 stars): 4
Overall Rating (out of 5 stars): 4