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Vox Amplug Acoustic

Acoustic-modelling Guitar Headphone Amp By Paul White
Published January 2010

Each of Vox's Amplug range of guitar headphone amps is designed to emulate a single amplifier type, and to provide basic control over tone and level — but other than that there are no added effects, other than overdrive on some models. You can use the output for recording, or even to connect to a clean guitar amp, but the mini‑jack output means you'll need an adaptor cable to do this.

Above is the first Vox Amplug to offer a more acoustic sound from electric guitars.The latest model is the Amplug Acoustic, which is designed to approximate the sound of an acoustic guitar from an electric guitar source. It works best on instruments with single‑coil pickups, but gives usable results with humbuckers. Powered by two AAA alkaline batteries that should last up to 27 hours, the device will fit into a Strat's recessed jack or into a straight front‑ or edge‑mounted socket. A three‑position slide‑switch on the side powers up the unit, and offers a choice of two basic acoustic sounds, one bright and the other warm. There's an Aux input jack (3.5mm), for MP3 players and the like, and three thumbwheel pots on the top edge allow adjustment of Blend, Tone and Volume. Blend balances the contribution of the acoustic simulation circuitry and the guitar's natural sound, while Tone allows the sound to be made brighter or darker. Volume adjusts the headphone output, and with most guitar amps it seems to work best when set somewhere near the middle of its range.

Used with headphones, the sound gets quite bright and hissy with the Blend control turned towards maximum, although careful setting of the tone control helps smooth things out, and with a Strat or Tele neck pickup, the resulting acoustic guitar tone is pretty convincing: it's certainly no less real‑sounding than some acoustic guitars fitted with pickups that I've heard. The low end hints at body resonance, while the top end has the required zing. To be fair, it's difficult to design an acoustic emulator to be electrically quiet, because a lot of radical EQ is needed to bring out those high‑up harmonics and overtones.

Plugged into a clean guitar amp, the hiss tends to disappear, due to the limited high‑end response of a typical guitar speaker, but that also robs the sound of some of its acoustic sparkle, so you need to crank up the Tone wheel to get an acceptable sound. A full‑range amp or PA system might work better, but you may need to use some EQ to keep the noise under control. For recording, a little EQ at the mixing stage helps reach a good compromise between tone and an acceptable level of hiss.

Given its low cost (£45$49.99), the Vox Amplug Acoustic is an impressive‑sounding little gadget, but the lack of a quarter‑inch output makes it less than ideal for connection to a guitar amp when playing live, as does the lack of a bypass switch. Paul White


Intended for private practise, the Vox Amplug Acoustic can also be used for recording or live performance, subject to the issues mentioned here. Its acoustic emulations compare well with those offered by typical pedals.

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