Finding a path to cool tones with little Vox

Living in town makes it kinda tough to wail on a 60-watt tube amp with 4×10 speakers — that’s why I recently sold my Fender HotRod Deville — nice amp, nice tone, but get it to “2” and the neighbors might get a bit touchy.

After that foray into big amp territory, my interest in little amps has returned — if you read below, you’ll get an idea of my Epiphone Valve Junior interest — and has led me to a couple of new options.

A couple of weeks ago, I got my hands on a Vox Pathfinder 15 ($45 used at my local GC).  For those of you unfamiliar with the Pathfinder, it’s a 15-watt solid state Vox with all the necessary trimmings — black tolex, diamond weave grill, chicken head knobs, gold VOX badge in front, white piping, the whole bit.  It has an 8″ Vox speaker, a gain boost and built-in tremolo (there’s another version of this amp with a reverb circuit).

On its own, this little amp sounds pretty good.  Clean, it’s crisp and chimey like a Vox should be.  Pushed a bit, it’s overdriven sound is definitely listenable — not tube amp quality, but pretty darn close.  With the boost switch engaged, it gets very crunchy very fast.

But the real joy of this amp comes when you plug it into an extension cabinet.  On the back panel is an output jack for an 8-ohm speaker cabinet.  When I plugged this into my Marshall 4×12 cabinet, this little monster took off — loud, full, toneful…very nice.

This little guy is light, too, so it travels very easily.  I know touring musicians who keep one of these with them wherever they go for their occasional electric songs; they can be mic’d or lined out for bigger venues, plugged into a cabinet for mid-sized ones and on their own for small, intimate places.  Not that this will replace a MesaBoogie or Vox AC30.  But then again, if you dropped a Pathfinder on your foot, your toes would live to tell the tale.