Before we get to our Vox Pathfinder Combo 10W Review, let’s look back at a little history…
Tom Jennings set up Vox in 1957 in a quiet corner of Kent just where it borders South East London. I doubt when he did, he knew what would happen to his company. He not only created a string of quality amps and other products, he possibly unknowingly created a brand. A brand image that is still with us today.
Just down the road from his first efforts, the Rolling Stones were going to school. They became famous users of Vox gear, as did the Beatles and the Shadows. The business became known as JMI Industries, and as they grew, The Kinks and the Yardbirds and others got the Vox sound.
…and it’s the likes of Queen, U2, Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Radiohead, and even Nirvana and Blink 182 who do and have used them. Vox didn’t only make great amps, they built the Vox Continental Organ and also the Wah pedal that Jimi Hendrix often used.
Tom left his JMI Industries in 1967 at about the same time as Marshall took over as the world’s dominant force in amplifiers. Not happy with the direction JMI was going, he became disillusioned. He set up another company to build amplifiers, but it was never quite the same.
Vox are still based in Dartford in Kent, and the amps are still made in the UK. These days though, they are owned by Japanese giants Korg.
And really it all started on the back of one iconic amp with a look that screamed quality that has not changed in 60 years. See the cabinet, the speaker cloth, and you know who it is and just what they are most famous for.
When someone mentions Vox, you immediately think first of one thing. The AC30. You can’t help it. We are sure Tom never dreamed it would still be here. They had the Vox 15 watt amp, not surprisingly named the AC15, but it wasn’t loud enough. Hank Marvin of the Shadows couldn’t hear himself over screaming girls at Cliff Richard concerts. He said to Tom, louder, please. A bit like Townshend did to Jim Marshall a few years later.
The AC30 was born and a legend with it. A sound that laid down the sound of Rock n Roll for a generation. And that look? The cabinet with the speaker cloth? We’ve still got it right here with this Vox creation, the Vox Pathfinder 10w combo amplifier. Known for their tube amp sound, they have a range of solid-state amps that have an army of fans. The Vox Pathfinder 10w is one of them.
Vox amps, tube or solid-state are a different animal. They give you powerful chimey clean-cut tomes with no effort and a sound that others have tried to copy without success. That applies even to these smaller practice amps.
They have always had a simple philosophy. Make it simple but make it do its job. This little practice amp is exactly that. No fancy frills or endless tech, just the basics with no bells and whistles. It’s a practice amp, pure and simple.
When looking at this Vox Pathfinder Combo 10W, you cannot help it. You can see the AC30 in your head. And the Vox Pathfinder Combo 10W is a mini version.
So, let’s have a closer look and find out if this is the right amp for you…
The first thing you think when you see the Vox Pathfinder is the AC30. How can you not? It’s a mini version. And that is one of the real highlights of this little practice amp. The great look. It can’t help it, it is not generic at all, it is Vox, and it looks like it.
It is quite small at 17 by 8 by 12 inches and weighs less than twelve pounds. Easy to carry around and takes up very little space. It must be one of the lightest amplifiers in its range.
A lot of the very small practice amps these days are made of plastic, but not this. It is constructed of a wood composite particleboard. And it feels good and substantial when you pick it up even though it is lightweight.
It is designed and built very simply with a single input and two channels. Oh, and it has some rather nice black vinyl covering and a rather nice speaker cloth. Did we mention the AC30 look?
It’s small. It doesn’t need to be huge. It’s only got to handle the ten watts output. It is a 6.5-inch, Vox Bulldog speaker. The Bulldog speaker has been around since the 60s. It has, of course, had its modifications, but it is still popular and extremely efficient. Made initially by Celestion, that says a lot about its ability to handle sound.
The Vox idea of keeping things nice and simple is clearly shown in the design of this little amp. There are a Volume control and a Gain knob, Treble, and Bass controls, which act as a form of EQ and a button to switch between overdrive and clean. Jack socket input and on/off switch plus a headphone LineOut socket. The Line Out socket is interesting. More on this later. All very simple but all very efficient and effective.
As you would expect with a Vox amp, the controls are placed in a line along the top. They are designed or ease of use, especially if you are a starter player. The sounds you can create are basic, but they are all included.
It has no onboard effects like Reverb or delay. Vox may have thought to themselves, why include them? This is not a modeling amp; it is a practice amp. Most guitar players these days have their own pedals. What is the point in adding effects to the Pathfinder when they can just plug in their own effects pedals? Quite right.
We have made an important issue about how this is not loaded down with effects and is easy to use. But there is one addition that is quite useful we mentioned earlier we would return to. There is a headphone/ Line out jack socket. When used as a headphone socket, the speaker disengages to give you the freedom to practice without disturbing others. Nothing unusual there.
It is when it is used a Line out it gets interesting. The Line out gives you a filtered signal which is suitable for direct recording. Just connect to a soundboard, interface, or other recording device — a useful little addition.
What Does It Sound Like?
It sounds like you might expect it to sound. The Vox sound. Vox is best known for their tube amps, as we have said, but this solid-state amp performs well. It has two basic sounds. The clean option is bright and crisp, with lots of sparkling definition. It is a sound steeped in the history of Vox. It cannot replicate it exactly, of course. No digital amp can, but it sounds remarkably similar as we all remember it.
If you want to add a bit of ‘extras’ to your nice clean sound, then hit the button. Instantly you go into that classic Vox overdrive sound, which some of us have forgotten about. As soon as you hear it, you remind yourself, oh yes. For a 10 watt amplifier, this puts out quite a bit of noise, and the Bulldog speaker won’t let you overload it. Just pure overdrive if there is such a thing.
One thing we should mention about this change in sounds. The overdrive, when engaged, has a lot more gain than the clean channel, so you will experience a large surge in volume. It can be a problem if you are not expecting it. When you know it will happen, you can adjust the volume to compensate.
We are big fans of Vox here, owning original AC30’s, re-issue AC30’s and a re-issue AC15, so we like the Pathfinder a lot. It’s not an AC30, but it’s nowhere near AC30 money, so you wouldn’t expect it to be. But it is of the same family, and you get the ‘taste’ of an AC30 with it.
But it may not be right for you? If you’re not convinced, it’s well worth checking out our reviews of the Best Guitar Amplifiers under 200 dollars, and the Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers currently available.
Vox Pathfinder Combo 10W Pros & Cons
- Classic styling and look of a musical legend.
- Great sounds.
- Stunning Vox Bulldog speaker.
- Compact and portable making it great for practice.
- Headphone out and Direct Recording out.
- No modeling functions, but you don’t need them!
- Lacks built-in effects, but you probably have pedals anyway.
- No Aux-in to play along with songs.
The Vox name inherently means you are going to get a quality product. The Vox Pathfinder 10w combo amplifier. For those that crave simplicity, you are going to love this. And for those that like a little nostalgia, it might find a very visual place in your home. While, for those that want a great little practice amp, here it is.
It is well-thought-out and designed to be simplistic. No effects just a plain and simple practice amp. But it’s a bit more than that. It is a practice amp with that pristine Vox sound.
Mainly about a lack of sound options. But by doing so, they miss the point. It was never designed to be like that. Even the exclusion of simple effects like reverb and delay tell you that.
The fact is, though, that for a remarkably affordable price, you can have a Vox practice amp. That is something that is worth considering. It isn’t a tube amp, of course, it is a solid-state amp. But nevertheless, it comes with a sound that goes a long way towards those crisp, bright tones of yesteryear. It goes a step further, of course, with its overdrive facility.
For the sake of balance, we ought to try and find something that we think is not right. It is quite hard to do that. We cannot say it lacks in special effects because it is designed not to have them. You know that when you buy it, so it’s not something that might have been included.
One thing we can see that might have been included would have been an Aux-In. That could have been a useful addition to allow you to play along with your own playlists. Also, we have mentioned the increase in volume when the overdrive is switched in. But once you know it is coming, you just make the necessary adjustments. Hardly things that would prevent you from buying this amp.
The Vox Pathfinder 10w combo amplifier is a super little practice amp. Very well made with good materials and a simple design. But perhaps most importantly, it sounds great. Plus of course, the look and style of a piece of musical history.
We said earlier, when we look at this Vox Pathfinder Combo 10W, we see the AC30 in our mind’s eye. You can have the look of that little bit of irreplaceable musical heritage to practice with. And of course, it is a great little practice amp at a very affordable price. How good is that!