I like Vox amps. The Night Train, on the surface, looks like a dream come true for Vox fans – a $499 12 inch combo tube amp with 15 watts and clean, crunch, and overdrive. Most would agree that Vox amps sound nice when played clean – there’s a ton of sparkle in the high end, lots of clarity, and a nice overall tone. Players who find Fender amp cleans too full will often turn to Vox. In this price range, the Vox AC15 is what people normally reach for. So what the heck is the purpose of the Night Train G2?
In a way, it’s the Blues Junior of the Vox world. It’s smaller and lighter than the AC15, but it’s the same power. It gives you more drive. And it’s slightly cheaper. I’ve spent some time with it, and here are my opinions.
I think this amp looks fantastic. It has its own look, compared to the AC15/30. The cream binding against the black grill and cab look cool and classy. In general, I almost always like the way Vox amps look.
This amp shines when played clean. The sound is bright, similar to an AC15, but the tone stack feels like it gives you a wider range of shaping. Despite being only 15 watts, this amp will cut through a mix in the studio or in a live setting. Depending on your pickups and guitar, it might be too bright, but that’s why there’s EQ. It’s the Vox chime – that’s the best way to describe it. I think it sounds really good.
Uh… OK, the problem to me with Vox amps is that when you start to try to make it sound like a crunchy Marshall, you scrunch up your face at the results. To me, this has been an issue with both Vox and Fender for as long as I can remember. When you say “crunch,” I get a tone in my head – early AC/DC, early Aerosmith. I got my hopes up with the Night Train – could this amp do what the Fender Supersonic or the Fender Bassbreaker amps do? Could this amp have a great crunch sound? Hell, and no. At the verge of breakup this amp still sounds good. But take it into crunch territory and it sounds like a flappy wet fart.
I know, I know. Just because it doesn’t sound like a Marshall doesn’t mean it’s bad. Some blues players enjoy a farty dirt sound. But yuck. And then I tried the overdrive.
This amp sound great clean. The crunch sound is farty, and when you really jack up the gain, things just get worse. Farty and buzzy, the twins of awful dirt tone. Now I understand why these things didn’t fly off the shelf. I’m going to say this again, and long suffering site readers already know what I’m about to say – Fender FINALLY figured out the dirt sound people wanted and built the Bassbreaker. Vox is still trying to figure it out with their tube amps. Ironically, their modeling amps do a far better job of crunch and dirt. [Editor’s Note – The AC4C1-12 amp has a wonderful overdrive tone. But it’s very low wattage.]
This is difficult. I still think this is a good amp, as long as you plan on playing clean or using a pedal. But my philosophy on amps is that they need to be able to handle all three phases of the game – clean, crunch, and overdrive. And that’s where Vox always falls down for me. If you like the Vox clean sound, and you want a small tube amp that’s not too expensive, and has a 12 and 15 watts, this amp is perfect for you. I said it’s like the Blues Junior, but actually I think the clean sound is better. For those people, this is a good value. But if you want all three types of sounds, this isn’t a good value because you need to factor in another hundred or two for a good dirt pedal.