Vox VT20X: Tube Tone At A Great Price
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Mules. Broccolini. The Toyota Prius. Let's face it: hybrids aren't always exciting. Thankfully, the Vox Valvetronix VT20X is here to rewrite the script. Combining both tube and solid-state technology, it gives you the best of both worlds: tube warmth and distortion along with solid-state reliability and versatility. 20 watts of power, 13 built-in effects, and 11 amp models combine to create a virtually limitless sonic palette. You'll get a lot of mileage out of this black beauty.
Note that, because the Vox VTX series of amplifiers are all extremely similar except for wattage rating and speaker size, we'll also mention the VT40X in the review. It's basically the same amp with more power and a larger speaker. We'll make mention of any notable differences in the course of the review.
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The VT20X is a fantastically versatile amp great for both beginner and intermediate guitarists. With a laundry list of features as long as your arm, including a built-in tuner, headphone jack, auxiliary input, USB connectivity, modeling presets, and onboard effects, you'll have everything you need and more. This amp will grow with you in your guitar journey. As you discover the genres you enjoy, you can select the right effects and even choose to model certain amps that embody the tone you're looking for - all without any extra equipment! You can even connect the amp to your computer and use the Vox Tone Studio software get even more tones, effects, and presets!
While 20 watts of power can be a little bit too much for the bedroom, the VT20X comes with a built-in attenuator, allowing you to cut the volume without sacrificing tone. At full tilt, this amp will be able to keep up with a drummer and play small gigs, so if you ever plan on joining a band or performing live, you'll be all set. For larger gigs, you'll need to mic the amp up or upgrade to a more powerful amp. If you love the idea of the VT20X but need more power, Vox sells a 40-watt version of this exact amp with the same features and a slightly bigger speaker. We'll point out any differences between the two in this review, so read on!
Standing at just over 13 inches tall, with its elegant all-black styling and golden-silver trappings, the VT20X is genuinely stunning. Drawing inspiration from its 1960s-era predecessors, the black diamond speaker grill cloth lends an air of class and uniqueness that betrays its budget price. If you opt for the 40-watt version, it's a bit taller due to a bigger speaker, standing at around 16 inches.
At the top of the amp, continuing the diamond pattern theme, you'll find a gorgeous carrying handle that is both functional and stylish. You'll also notice the fairly large control panel up top as well. Though it looks like something out of Star Trek, it's intuitive to understand. Handsome black plastic knobs with red markings indicate your settings and soft touch buttons are used for the more complex settings, like effects selection. We'll explore the control panel a bit more in the next section.
The VT20x is a hybrid modeling amplifier. Hybrid amps combine both tube and solid-state technology. The VT20X utilizes a multi-stage tube preamp with a single, genuine 12AX7 for classic tube distortion. It also features the Vox Virtual Element Technology (VET) digital modeling engine. VET technology accurately emulates 11 famous amps, including the legendary Vox AC30 and the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier. 33 presets - some inspired by the configurations of your favorite guitarists - allow you to quickly switch the tone and character of the amp with the press of a button. You can even set 8 of your own presets, allowing you to switch from one of your custom tones to another in milliseconds.
If you connect your amp to your computer or phone using the USB input, you can use the Vox Tone Room software to unlock 27 more presets and 9 more amp models. How's that for versatility?!
13 built-in effects are found on the VT20X, along with a useful noise reduction effect to keep your high-gain jam sessions free from hum and buzzing. You can use up to four effects at one time, including noise reduction.
The control panel of the VTX series of amps might seem complex, but don't worry - it's not that hard to understand. At the left, you'll find two inputs: the top one for your guitar, and the bottom one for an optional footswitch (sold separately) that allows you to change the channel of your amp when you're halfway across the room.
On the top row, there is a 'Preset Programs' button. It works in conjunction with the amp model selector knob to its right that allows you to choose an iconic amp to emulate. Pressing the Preset Programs button allows you to cycle between 3 different voicings of that amp model. Each voicing corresponds to iconic songs that have been recorded with that voice. A list of these is found in the amp's user manual. Also on the top row are familiar Gain, Treble/Mids/Bass, and Volume knobs. Next to the Volume is a Power Level knob which allows you to decrease the wattage of the amplifier while maintaining power amp distortion. This is great for practicing at any volume while still preserving your tone.
The bottom row of buttons deals with amp channels, allowing you to switch between your 8 of your own custom presets. You'll also notice a USB input here for connecting the amp to your computer. Directly to the right is the effects section. You'll see three groups of four effects. You can select one effect from each of these groups to run at the same time. The Tap button and the two knobs next to it allow you to further adjust the effects to your liking. What these knobs do change based on the effect, but suffice it to say that these knobs give you a lot of control.
On the far right of the amp is the 'Valvetronix' section. Here you can change the emulated bias and the class of the amplifier. If you don't know what 'class' and 'bias' are, check out our Become an Amp Expert guide. In short, the 'Bias' changes the character of the amp's distortion from more subdued and subtle to roaring and overdriven. The 'Class' button changes the power amp to add more dynamics and tonal nuance to your sound through compression and something called 'crossover distortion'. These buttons allow you to have even more tonal control.
With 20 watts of power at your disposal, you can get pretty loud. Thanks to the built-in attenuator, you'll be able to run the amp at any volume without sacrificing tone. For bedroom practice and small gigs, the VT20X is perfect. For larger gigs, you'll need to mic the amp up. The built-in 8" Vox-designed speaker is not large. But, thanks to the sealed cabinet, it projects pretty well. However, if you think you'll play larger gigs, you'll need an amp with a bigger speaker. Sadly, there's no external speaker out, so you're stuck with the stock speaker. Luckily, the 40-watt version of this amp, the VT40X, comes with double the power and an upgraded 10" speaker for even more volume.
Chances are that you will eventually want to record some covers or demos. To record with the Vox VT20X, you can connect the built-in headphone output to a recording console or audio interface and get pretty decent quality audio. Sadly, you can't use the built-in USB output to record. If you need the highest quality possible, you always have the option of recording with a microphone.
At a modest 16 pounds (7.3kg), this Vox amp is easy to take anywhere you want to go. Your back will thank you! If you opt for the 40-watt version, you'll find it's a bit heftier at just under 21 pounds (9.5kg).
Check out some sound clips below for examples of clean, distorted, and high-gain sounds, along with some effects examples. Because it's a modeling amp, the sheer number of sounds you can create is essentially limitless. These clips will give you an idea of the soul and character of the VT20X.
So what's the verdict? The VTX series sounds fantastic. The cleans have an authentic, natural overdrive thanks to the tube preamp. The effects sound great and the chorus especially sounds nice and shimmery. Distortion goes from clean crunch to heavy metal. You can dial it in anywhere from fuzzy to screaming for any style of music. Check out the 'Heavy Gain 2' sound clip for some super high gain riffing.
The VT20x and its big brother are both very highly reviewed on Amazon and Guitar Center. Even though it has 'only' 20 watts of power, the VT20X is consistently praised for being plenty loud enough to keep up with a drummer and cut through a mix. Built-in noise reduction was touted as an extremely useful feature and we have to agree - it really cleans up your playing, making your recording sound that much more professional. The Vox Tone Room software also received high marks for adding even more flexibility and control over your sound. On Reddit, users highly regard the Valvetronix series of amps, which consistently receive praise for their convincing modeling and versatility.
Some complaints we've seen include only being able to use 3 effects (4 if you include noise reduction) at one time. We don't see this as much of a drawback unless you're playing some really effects-heavy genres like post-rock or ambient, so this shouldn't be an issue for most beginner guitarists. Other than the odd review that mentioned quality control issues like loose jacks or rattling speakers, we didn't find any other real complaints against the VTX series of amps.
Overall, the VT20X and its big brother are fantastic values. For only $179, the VT20X gives you versatility, reliability, and customizability. With so many options and built-in effects, along with the power to perform at home, in the studio, and live, this amp will grow with you as you advance in your guitar journey.
If you're interested in the big brother of the VT20X, the VT40x, check it out over at Amazon.