Once upon a time, there was a set sequence of events for those brave and/or dumb enough to venture into Guitar Players’ Grotto. First, you struggled to maintain interest as you learned Nirvana and Beatles numbers on a laminate nylon string abomination. If you made it through that mire, you went one of two ways; either you upgraded to a steel stringed acoustic, or you wandered blindly into the dizzyingly wide world of electric guitar.
More often than not, this meant scooping up some beginner package that consisted of a Strat copy, a 10 watt squawk box, and something to link the two. The amp in question would be a cheaply made 10” speaker driven by capacitors on printed circuit board. It would sound boxy as hell, have little to no head room, a drive channel that sounded like a bag of angry bees, and by God you’d love the living hell out of it. Homework would be wilfully ignored for weeks on end as you learned every riff James Hetfield ever laid his hands on, and that honky MDF box would change your life - for better or worse. While these glorious little home bases still exist, the humble practice amp has in the meantime morphed into a much more powerful animal replete with effects and a sense of fidelity heretofore unimaginable.
To a point, Vox are not necessarily trying to fill the ‘My First Amp’ niche with the Adio Air range. These things are much more professional than I may have implied above. Homebound players these days are apparently looking for much more than just somewhere to send signal. Both the GT and its four-string friendly brother the BS are as much a tone-chaser’s dream as they are built for the acquisition of chops. They have a super flexible three stage EQ, input gain, output volume, and master volume on board, all of which react differently depending on which of the 11 in-built amp simulations you’re dialed in on. From there you have two effects knobs: one for modulations like tremolo and chorus, and another for ambient reverbs and delays. A particularly tasty sense of space caught my ear with the spring reverb set quite long on the GT’s British 1959 setting. Modern additions like Bluetooth and aux cord connectivity close the gap between instrument and stereo amplifier, and the four user-preset banks and integrated tuner make handy an understatement.
What really sets the Adio Air apart from its contemporaries is the quality of the amp models at play. While there are a number of other companies offering similar packages of classic and boutique voicings, few have bothered to dive as deep into the how and why of the sound of the amps in the hot seat. Vox have circumvented the limitations of any particular engineer’s hearing by modeling the componentry of classic head and cab units in order to ensure as close a representation as possible, and the results are super realistic. The clean tones are nuanced and roomy, while the gain stage in simulations like the Triple Rec and Texas Lead settings are searing in their own unique ways. With proprietary stereo field emulation at the push of a button, it was easy for me to get lost in all that headroom just like I would in front of the real thing. Add to this the fact that Vox’s Tone Room opens up a further list of models, 23 in total each, and the Adio becomes a veritable library of tonality, classic and otherwise.
I personally like the brave new world of smaller footprint home amps that we now live and practice in. With their distinctive, modern classic sense of design, ultimate flexibility, tasteful yet all encompassing voice library, and 50 watts of output power that belies the small stature, both the Adio Air GT and BS are just as welcome in recording studios or studio apartments alike.
Hits and Misses
Realistic and malleable tonality