Review: Vox Bruno TB18C1

UK/US sonic collision   07-Nov-12


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The Vox Bruno TB18C1 is the smallest offering in the series of amplifiers released by Vox and Tony Bruno.

The partnership between the two parties spans back a number of years, but rather than working with Vox in a research capacity, the ‘Bruno’ range sees Tony take creative control and ultimately lend his name to the product.

If you are already a fan of the boutique amp designer, the Vox Bruno TB18C1 is not dissimilar from the Bruno Tweedy Pie, which is a wonderful amp in its own right (and a darn site more expensive).

Features
Really not much to report on the features front! The top panel is simple, but simplicity can be beautiful... we’ll come onto the beauty part later. But you have a volume knob, which controls the pre-amp section, then a three band EQ (bass, mid, treble), reverb (though not spring reverb like on the larger models), and a master volume, which controls the power amp section.

In addition to this you have a ‘dark’ switch, which cuts out some of the highs and makes the amp less Vox-like (to use the most scientific terms possible)! Then there is a boost switch which, you guessed it, boosts some mid range frequencies and gives the pre-amp gain a slightly boost.

The back panel features a speaker out socket (8 ohms and 16 ohms), and a speaker link socket, which allows you to use another cab in conjunction with the amp’s speaker. There is also an effects loop.

The pre-amp tubes are two 12AX7s, and the power tubes are two 6V6s, it’s a pretty classic setup.

It’s light on features, there’s nothing that sets the world alight here, but that isn’t the point of the amp. It would make sense to have the boost and the dark settings on a footswitch, but you can’t always get what you want, the idea of this amp is that it’s a barebones workhorse.

Sounds
I’m giving this full marks for the actual tone of the amp. It’s really beautiful, it has that jangly and shimmering Vox sound, but with the bite and the aggression of a 60s American combo amp.

It’s impressive, sometimes you just plug into an amp and everything you play sounds... good. It just sounds right, and you don’t need to do anything particularly special to feel like you are playing well and creating something special.

It would be a great amp for a songwriter for this reason, it has character, and you can play the most tired riff in your library of licks and it will sound like you’ve never played it before.

The trouble is, to get any sound other than this, you pretty much need to start plugging pedals into the amp. It will handle being overloaded with distortion by a pedal, but you can’t really get anything too heavy out of the amp itself.

That said, the kind of people who would be likely to buy an 18 watt combo will know that this is not going to be a bastion of versatility. Instead, it is a bastion of quality and it chimes like the church bells on a Sunday morning.

It has character, and it breathes with you, it’s a good little steed and it will serve you well if you are in a blues band.

Build Quality
These are quality parts, from a quality partner, with a decent build quality. I should point out that despite the Vox and Bruno names both being stamped on the amp, the amp is not built in America or England, it is built in China.

The model we had was sturdy, with no discernable crackles or hums. We certainly couldn’t complain in that department. At higher volumes (and this amp is loud for an 18 watter), there are no rattles or hums, which if anything makes it slightly less authentic!

No amp is complete without it’s very own little rattle.

Round Up
Pros: It sounds great, and has a real authentic blues feel. It would be beautiful for recording, and it’s almost impossible to make it sound harsh. You’re getting a Tony Bruno design or a Vox price, which ain’t bad at all.

Cons: Single channel, so not massively versatile, and you almost wish you could get a bit more gain out of it at lower volumes.

Available now: £490 / $750 (Street prices)

More info - http://www.voxamps.com/tb35c/tb18c1/

 

Gear used in the review:

Taylor Solid Body Custom

Se Electronics Voodoo VR-1 Ribbon Mic

 

 

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