The Vox AC15 and AC30 are two very iconic British amplifiers which are hugely popular, but which is the best option for you? Do you need the extra 15W of power provided by the AC30? Or are you best off saving some money and going with an AC30?
In this article I’ll compare these two classic amplifiers head-to-head, so you can figure out exactly which is the right version for you.
The Vox AC30 is a 30W amp with four EL84 power-amp valves and two 12″ speakers, whereas the Vox AC15 is a 15W amp with two EL84 power-amp valves and a single 12″ speaker. The AC30 also an FX loop and an additional reverb control. The AC30 is wider, taller and weighs 22 lbs more than the AC15.
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Before we dive into some in-depth comparisons, let’s take a look at the specifications of each amplifier so you can get to grips with what’s similar and what’s different.
There are a few different versions of both the AC15 and AC30, so to keep things simple we’ll just look at the Custom versions for now as these are the standard models. We’ll be addressing the other variants later on in this article.
|Feature||AC15 Custom||AC30 Custom|
|Speaker||1 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback||2 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback|
|Pre-Amp Valves||3 x 12AX7||3 x 12AX7|
|Power-Amp Valves||2 x EL84||4 x EL84|
|Master Channel Controls||Volume|
|Top Boost Channel Controls||Volume|
Tremolo (Depth and Speed)
|Reverb (Tone and Level)|
Tremolo (Depth and Speed)
|Inputs||1 x Normal Input Jack|
1 x Top Boost Input Jack
|1 x Normal High Input Jack|
1 x Normal Low Input Jack
1 x Top Boost High Input Jack
1 x Top Boost Low Input Jack
|Outputs||1 x External Speaker Jack|
1 x Extension Speaker Jack
|1 x External Speaker Jack|
1 x Extension Speaker Jack
|Dimensions (Imperial)||23.70” x 10.43” x 17.95”||27.64” x 10.43” x 21.89”|
|Dimensions (Metric)||60.2 x 26.5 x 45.6 cm||70.2 x 26.5 x 55.6 cm|
|Weight (Imperial)||48.5 lbs||70.5 lbs|
|Weight (Metric)||22 kg||32 kg|
Differences in Tone
The AC15 and AC30 use the same type of speaker (Greenback for the standard Custom models and Alnico Blue for the Custom X models) and the same type of pre-amp valves (12AX7) and power-amp valves (EL86).
However, there some notable specification differences which mean these amps don’t sound exactly the same.
The main differences between the AC15 and AC30 are the speaker size and number of power-amp valves. The AC15 has a single 12″ speaker, whereas the AC30 has two 12″ speakers. The AC30 also four EL84 power-amp valves which is double that of the AC15.
This means that the AC15 has less clean headroom and more compression compared to the AC30. The result is that the AC15 will sound more distorted at lower volumes, whereas the AC30 will need to be cranked up more to get it to break up more.
The tone of both amps is characteristically very similar though otherwise since the amps are using the same tubes and speakers.
Both these amplifiers are loud, however the Vox AC30 is significantly louder since it has double the power. However, it’s important to note that double the power DOES NOT equal double the volume.
You really need to consider how clean or distorted your tones need to be to decide which is “loud” enough. If you are using clean tones, then the AC30 with its larger headroom may be needed. But if you’re only using heavy overdrive, then the AC15 could still be fine for decent size venues.
The Vox AC15 is suitable for smaller venues or mid-size venues where you can mic the amp. If you are confident that you’ll always have access to a mic at your venues, then the AC15 will be loud enough for most situations unless you want cleaner tones.
However, if you don’t want to mic the amp up, then the AC30 is of course the better option. The AC30 is more suitable for larger venues as it packs more volume and will still sound loud when you are trying to get a clean tone.
Here are some rough guidelines:
- Less than 100 person venue without drummer: AC15 (no mic) will be loud enough
- 100 person venue with drummer: AC15 with mic will be loud enough if using distortion or an AC30 if using clean tones
- 100-300 person venue without drummer: AC15 with mic will be loud enough if using distortion or an AC30 if using clean tones
- 100-300 person venue with drummer: AC30 is best option
One thing that’s well worth noting is that neither of the combo amplifiers have built-in attenuators so if you want to make them playable at lower volumes then you’ll need to get a separate attenuator. This is more of a concern with the AC30 as it is very loud otherwise!
Controls and Additional Feautures
The AC15 and AC30 both have two channels (master and top boost) with the following controls:
- Master channel: volume and tone cut
- Top boost channel: volume, bass and treble
Both amps also have built-in reverb and tremolo effects, however only the AC30 has two controls for the reverb (tone and level), whilst the AC15 just has a single reverb control to adjust the level. Both amps have two controls for the tremolo effect (depth and speed).
Another notable difference is that the AC30 has an FX loop unlike the AC15.
An effects (FX) loop allows you to place your pedals after the pre-amp stage of the amp which is very useful if you are using overdriven tones and modulation or delay effects pedals which can sound muddy if they are placed in-front of the amp in the chain.
Check out this guide to FX loops to learn more about them.
The only other key difference to note here is that the AC30 has two inputs for each channel whereas the AC15 only has one input for each channel.
On the AC30 you’ll find a “low input” and a “high input” for each channel. Typically, the high input is the best option but for cleaner tones the low input channel can be useful.
Size and Weight
The Vox AC30 is 22 lbs (10 kg) heavier than the Vox AC15 amplifier. This is a big drawback of the AC30 if you plan on taking it to different venues because it’s really difficult to carry safely.
The AC30 has the same depth but is approximately 4″ taller and 5″ wider than the AC15 which can be a bit challenging if you want to tuck your amp away in a corner or store it when it’s not in-use.
|Specification||Vox AC15||Vox AC30|
|Width||23.70” (60.2 cm)||27.64” (70.2 cm)|
|Height||17.95″ (45.6 cm)||21.89″ (55.6 cm)|
|Depth||10.43″ (26.5 cm)||10.43″ (26.5 cm)|
|Weight (Imperial)||48.5 lbs (22 kg)||70.5 lbs (32 kg)|
Versions of the AC15 and AC30
There are a few variations of the AC15 and AC30 to consider. the main ones being:
- Hand-Wired: these amps use higher quality materials and are for the purists. They have a cream cabinet and do not have tremolo and reverb effects.
- “X”: these variants have Alnico Blue speakers (instead of Greenback) which sound more bright and chimey with less mid-range.
Here is a table to show the differences.
|Vox AC Model||Channels||Speakers||Tremolo||Reverb|
|AC15||2||12” Celestion G12M-65 Creamback||Yes||Yes|
|AC15C1||2||12″ Celestion G12M Greenback||Yes||Yes|
|AC15C1X||2||12″ Celestion Alnico Blue||Yes||Yes|
|AC15C2||2||12″ Celestion G12M Greenback||Yes||Yes|
|AC15HW1||2||12″ Celestion G12M Greenback||No||No|
|AC15HW1X||2||12″ Celestion Alnico Blue||No||No|
|AC30S1||1||12″ Celestion custom||No||Yes|
|AC30C2||2||2 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback||Yes||Yes|
|AC30C2X||2||2 x 12″ Celestion Alnico Blue||Yes||Yes|
|AC30HW2||2||2 x 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback||No||No|
|AC30HW2X||2||2 x 12″ Celestion Alnico Blue||No||No|
Here are links to Vox AC15 and AC30 amps on Guitar Center so you can check the current prices:
Check out my complete guide to the Vox amplifier range to learn more about each model.