Alan Williams' (The Rubettes) 1975 Vox AC-30 Top Boost Amp
Hard to believe this one's been gigged around the world for 45 years or so. In fantastic physical and sonic condition, an absolute classic Vox AC-30. Built during the 70s Dallas Arbiter period, hand-wired to original 60s specs, it's a bona fide gem of a valve amp. Not just that, but the Top Boost version, with channels that give you a cutting edge brightness on top of that unbeatable valve warmth.
Owned from new by Alan Williams, lead singer/songwriter of The Rubettes, glam supergroup of the Seventies - most famous for guilty-pleasure floor-filler "Sugar Baby Love". He bought his first AC-30 in 1968, and has been a convert ever since. Pure gold.
And loved by: Just about everyone . . . Brian May, Keith Richards, The Edge, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Johnny Marr, Matt Bellamy, Johnny Greenwood . . . In fact, loved by nearly 300 guitarists according to the treasure that is Equipboard. I think they're onto something.
A perfect combination with our 1970 Gibson ES-355TD-SV.
See & Hear It In Action
You won't be short of choice if you tap "AC-30" into YouTube. But of all the great demos you can see, amp tests seem to me to come across the least effectively. It's probably all the other factors in the chain. Choice of guitar, choice of effects, choice of microphone. That, and not being in the room to be thrown across it. So, as an alternative, here's two things to make your day:
Sugar Baby Love (1974):: The Rubettes as I will always remember them. All that white, those syncopated moves, that falsetto. You may love it, you may hate it, but you will never escape it. Me, I love it! And a bloody lovely natural Gibson J-200 to boot. What's not to like?
Brian May, A Stack of AC-30s & Bohemian Rhapsody: It's the look of joy on the interviewer's face when Brian demos the lead solo from Bohemian Rhapsody. Magic!
AC-30 Top Boost
2 x 12" T1088 Celestion Silver Alnico
Vibrato/Tremolo speed selector
Volume (Vibrato, Normal, Bright)
Tone (Treble, Bass, Cut)
Vox "Egg" 1-Button Footswitch
Vox Amplification Ltd brown vinyl cover
Swan Flight wheeled flightcase, green
Perhaps no surprise, but with the multiple design and ownership changes, highs and lows, changes in serial numbering conventions, and the mystical adoration that goes with the AC-30, it's quite a task to pinpoint the year and spec of an early AC-30.
I say that because, although Alan Williams bought his first AC-30 in 1968, this one has a number of features that seem to date it a little later. I wouldn't know that except for the brilliantly researched history and compendium that is The Vox Showroom. If ever you want to date or find out more about a Vox amp, there's nowhere better to start.
Some things are true to the character of those original 60s models: the valve configuration, the hand-wiring, the pair of Celestion 12" Silver Alnico speakers. Basically, a design that had been there from the heady JMI days of the early 60s and reinstated in the leaner VSEL days of the late 60s.
But there are a few features that indicate a later build date, from the Dallas Arbiter period - a time of renaissance for Vox, with a return to the designs and hand-build that had characterised those hugely-prized JMI-era amps. Geek alert, I know, but I've done the hours, and I'm damned if I'm not going to share the results . . . the distinguishing characteristics include:
The company name "Vox Sound Limited", introduced by Dallas Arbiter when they bought Vox in 1972;
The "D" in the serial number, commonly applied across all Dallas Arbiter builds;
The gold VOX logo, with a single horizontal line, a restoration of the original JMI-era logo;
The configuration of 6 narrow air-vent grills, a design modification from the mid-70s - plus the specific voltage selector design, introduced in 1975;
And then the speakers, which are original and stamped with a date code for April 1975.
So, a 1975, built to the internal spec of those beloved JMI models. In other words, a pure gem.
And, of course, none of the geekery matters a jot when you plug in and play. This is the real deal - the British amp that led the 60s revolution and still holds the guitar gods rapt today. Pure valve warmth, crystal-clear sound fidelity, and cranked up, it absolutely cooks. 275 guitar gods (and counting) can't be wrong!
Sources & Links
The Vox Showroom: Everything you need to know about the chequered history, the models, the specs fantastically covered by the gloriously forensic and thorough Vox Showroom.
The Dallas Arbiter AC-30: And here the story and specifics for this 1975 AC-30.
How To Date Your Celestion Speaker: OK, you're not going to need this on a daily basis, but when you do, thank the Lord for Bygone Tone's dating guide.
Notable Users - A Starter List: Thanks to Paul Burns music for 1) a more condensed history and 2) a list of "Notable Users", or, as we call them, Guitar Gods.