Review of amPhones AC30 Headphones

VOX is a famous musical equipment manufacturer known for their guitar amplifiers most notably used by the Beatles, Tom Petty and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The VOX AC30 is their signature amplifier. Recently VOX released the amPhones AC30, a headphone that reproduces the sound of this famous guitar amp.

What differentiates this headphone from most others is that it allows the user to directly plug into a guitar or bass getting the effect of playing through a guitar amp; the amPhones AC30 offers effects such as chorus, delay or reverb.

The amplifier simulator is based on the VOX amPlug while the headphones are actually made by Audio Technica. To reproduce the circuit response of the AC30 these headphone are based upon VOX employs an analog design.

If you want to listen to your stereo, computer, iPod or other mp3 device, simply remove the ¼” adapter then plug into the standard headphone jack.

The amPhones AC30 come packaged in a cardboard box with the headphones visualized through a clear plastic window on the lower half on the package. The back lists the specifications in several foreign languages while the sides of the package list the same description in English. Inside the package we find the headphones, a ¼” jack adapter, two AA batteries and instruction booklet.

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The amPhones AC30 matches the color scheme of its namesake the AC30 amplifier with its silver and black coloring along with two brown end caps on the sides of the earcups.

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VOX offers four variations of the amPhones – AC30, Twin, Bass and Lead. Today we will look at the AC30 model.

The AmPhones AC30 are over the ear headphones with black cushioned padding over the speakers. The cushions are soft as opposed to the denser foam found on the Urban Ears Zinken that we looked at earlier this fall. The speakers feature 40mm dynamic drivers. These headphones measure – 7.68" x 6.30" x 1.97" and weigh 230 grams without batteries.

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The outside portion of the earcups houses the amPlug technology within a silver and brown colored section. The brown outer disc is designed to simulate a leather appearance; unfortunately it comes up short in this regard as it looks like brown textured plastic. Here we see the VOX logo along with the model name and “produced by audio-technica” markings.

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The outer brown disc of the right headphone cup twists off for two AA batteries, which power the active amPlug when AmPhones AC30 when used with a musical instrument. Listening to regular music playback is passive and does not require the use of batteries.

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The left side houses the built in amPlug and is surrounded by audio controls including – Gain, Tone, Volume, and Effect along with Aux In, a standby switch and power LED.

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Each ear cup swivels 90 degrees in one direction but do not fold inward; making the AmPhones AC30 more unwieldy to transport.

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The headband is padded and adjustable to accommodate most any head size. For the cable VOX chose to use a thin rubber covered cord that measures about 3 ½ feet and originates off the left ear cup. It’s a bit strange that a musical equipment manufacturer does not use a more substantial cord for these headphones. Other than this cable, the amPhones are solidly constructed.

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At the end of the cable is a 1/8” (3.5 mm) headphone jack with threads that fits the included ¼” adapter jack used for plugging into one’s guitar or bass.

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Specifications:

amPhones AC30

Plug in your guitar/bass into the amPhones and start playing!

Highlights

  • New concept – headphones with built-in amPlug technology that allows you to obtain full-fledged guitar/bass sounds immediately.
  • Headphones made by Audio-Technica, the trusted name in headphones.
  • The headphone amp uses a new reactor circuit that’s based on the Valve Reactor technology featured in VOX amps, delivering incredibly dynamic amp sounds.
  • Totally analog design that faithfully simulates the circuit response of the original amp .
  • Choose from a total of four different types of classic amp sounds, including:
    • The "AC30" version which faithfully reproduces the classic VOX AC30.
  • A full complement of effects are is provided: chorus/delay/reverb for the guitar versions, and a compressor for the bass version.
  • 1/4" connector allows easy connection to any guitar or bass.
  • When the power is off, the amPhones can be used as conventional headphones that offering the superb sound quality that you would expect from VOX.
  • AUX input jack lets you jam along with your CD/MP3 player.

The VOX amPlug Series of palm-sized headphone guitar amplifiers enables musicians to easily plug their amPlug into any guitar, and attach a pair of headphones to achieve high quality guitar sounds anywhere. Now, amPhones make it even easier for you. While the amPlug required the user to provide the headphones, the amPhones are headphones that have the amPlug technology already built in! Just plug in your instrument, and enjoy serious guitar/bass sound and superb comfort. amPhones are created using headphone technology from Audio-Technica, the name you trust for headphones. amPhones can also be used as conventional headphones when the amplifier simulator is switched off. You can connect your guitar/bass to these headphones, or use them for listening to music. amPhones are what you need, whether you’re practicing by yourself in your room, or listening to your portable audio player on the way to the studio. amPhones are a must-have item for any VOX enthusiast.

Choose from four different versions
amPhones come in four models: the "AC30" faithfully reproduces the sound of the classic VOX AC30 amplifier, the "Twin" simulates the sound of a famous US-made clean combo amp, the "Lead" covers lead guitar sounds ranging from UK-made amps to US-made high-gain boutique amps, and the "Bass" models VOX’s classic AC100 bass amp with a wide-range design to meet the needs of today’s modern electric bass players. Each uses a completely analog design in order to faithfully model the circuit response of the original amp, and will satisfy even the most critical listener.

Numerous high-quality effects are built-in
The amPhones series contains numerous effects that add variety to the sound. The "AC30," "Twin," and "Lead" provide reverb/chorus/delay, and "Bass" provides a compressor. Each effect is adjustable; giving you sound with superb presence that will bring out your best performances.

VOX amPhones Specifications

< Headphones section >

· Type: Closed-air dynamic headphones

· Driver diameter: 40 mm

· Output sound pressure level: 97 dB

· Playback frequency range: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz

· Maximum input: 1,000 mV

· Impedance: 49 ?

· Cable length: 1.3 m

< Amp section >

· Output: 1.4 V (Maximum)

· Controls: Dials (Gain, Tone, Volume, Effect), Switch (Standby)

· Input Terminals:
*Guitar Input (for “amPhones AC30 / amPhones Lead / amPhones Twin”)
*Bass Input (for “amPhones Bass”)
*AUX Input

· Power supply: AAA battery x 2

· Battery life: *amPhones AC30, *amPhones Lead, *amPhones Twin
Approximately: 7 hours (Manganese) / 16 hours (Alkaline)
*amPhones Bass
Approximately: 8 hours (Manganese) / 20 hours (Alkaline)

< General section >

· Dimensions (W x D x H): 195x 160 x 50 mm / 7.68" x 6.30" x 1.97"

· Weight: 230 g / 8.11 oz. (Not Batteries included)

· Included items: AAA battery x 2 for trying product, a plug adapter “3.5mm <-> 6.3 mm”


For testing I used my trusty Fender guitar along with various Apple devices. Installation of the AA batteries is required if planning on using the headphones with a bass or guitar.

To start playing guitar, simply attach the ¼” adapter to the amPhones and then plug them into your instrument. Make sure the switch on the left earcup is switched off standby and the LED indicator light is on.

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Sound playback through these guitar monitors can be adjusted using the gain, tone and effect knobs. Listening to my guitar played through the amPhones was no different than actually hearing the guitar played through an amplifier. With slight adjustments of the control knobs different effects could be heard through the headphones. VOX has done an excellent job of re-creating the guitar amplifier experience within a pair of headphones.

An Aux In on the left side earcup allows the user to jam along with your stereo or mp3 player.

One problem with the controls knobs was they are fairly recessed making them hard to turn while wearing the headphones. Also it takes some time to memorize their location.

The amPhones AC30 did not disappoint when using them to listen to music via stereo or iPod. Sound reproduction was fairly accurate although the low-end was not as prominent. These VOX headphones stood out listening to rock, metal and acoustic.

Several of the current popular headsets tend to oversaturate the bass making the amPhones AC30 sound less punchy. This is not to say that the amPhones AC30 lack bass response, it’s just not as prominent as found on other cans. Personally I do not have a problem with this as I find too much bass distracting.

During long listening sessions the amPhones AC30 were comfortable and rested securely on my head. The biggest concern with the amPhones AC30 is the durability of the attached cable. VOX choice of a thin non-nylon braided cable means that it will most likely be the first component break on these headphones. Hopefully in the future VOX will use a plug in cable system like found on the Urbanears Zinken.

Another feature I would’ve liked to seen on these headphones is an in-line controller. Most recent higher end headsets include this for those using Apple, Android or Windows mobile devices.

If you decide to turn on the guitar effects while listening back to regular music, you’ll certainly experience your music in a new way – a reverby, trebly over saturated way. Try it once, you’ll never do it again after.



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Conclusion:

VOX has combined their amPlug technology with quality headphones to create musician ready cans. Musicians and music fans can all find something to like about the AmPhones AC30. As a guitar monitor the amPhones AC30 does an excellent job of mimicking its namesake amplifier. Functioning as regular headphones they hold their own compared to other moderately priced headsets

For their functionality the VOX amPhones would be a great deal at the $150 price range. Surprisingly they retail for $99 making them a must own for any musician whether a beginner or a professional. Having the ability to use them as regular headphones is almost an extra bonus. I know these headphones will be near my guitar at all times for quite a long time.

9recommended5

 

Pros:
+Built in VOX amPlug
+Dual-purpose headphones
+Sound great with regular music and guitar playback
+Well built other than the audio cable

Cons:
-Earcups only fold down in one direction
-Non-detachable audio cable
-Thin speaker cable
-Lack of inline controller

Grades:  
Overall score-9-10
Design score-9-10
Performance score-9-10

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