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Aracom Amps VRX18 18 Watt Head

Aracom Amps VRX18 18 Watt Head

I’m falling in love again with my Aracom VRX18. This was the amp that first got me introduced to Aracom and my good friend Jeff Aragaki. My amp is actually a tweaked version of the stock VRX18 as it sports an EZ81 tube rectifier, plus a tweaked circuit that adds a bit more sag and sustain. The result is just a gorgeous overdriven tone that really brings out the best of the EL84 power tubes.

One thing about EL84 amps is that if they’re done right, they have a distinctive overdrive tone that creates a subtle top-end fizz when they’re overdriven. I’ve played others that drive the power tubes too much, and they sound very harsh and incredibly compressed. Jeff did this amp right, and while the power tubes do indeed compress a bit, the overdrive tone retains its open character, while adding that nice top-end fizziness that EL84 amp lovers have come to appreciate.

The clip below is an excerpt from a slow blues song I wrote. It features my beloved Goldie plugged straight into the Aracom VRX18, and it also features the insane Aracom PRX150-Pro attenuator! Believe it or not, the amp was recorded at just above loud conversation levels! We’re talking less than 1/10 of a Watt, and the amp still retains its tone and dynamics! Anyway, here’s the clip:

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Aracom Amps VRX18 18 Watt Head

This morning, the guy who’s painting my house came into my garage/studio to ask me a question, and being a guitar player himself said, “Dude… you have a great setup.” So the conversation turned to my favorite topic, and of course, that involves talking about guitar gear. 🙂 During the course of our discussion he talked about how he loves Vox amps, and so I demonstrated my Aracom VRX18, which is actually based upon a classic Marshall 18 Plexi, but it had EL84’s. I wanted to give him a reference tone. He just smiled and said, “That’s yummy.”

He had to get back to work, but after not playing that amp for awhile (probably a couple of months), I forgot how much I love its tone. My VRX18 is quite special in that it’s a custom VRX18 that has a tube rectifier, which is an option when you get one of the VRX series amps. Jeff has it tweaked quite nicely, and the amp has tons of sustain, and gorgeous sag without getting mushy and compressed when driven. That’s probably a reason why I haven’t really used EL84 amps that much. My experience has been that they compress a lot when they’re driven hard.

But not this one… Jeff also adjusted the extra gain channel so it wouldn’t compress the power tubes too much. You get lots of dirt, but you maintain the clarity of your notes. This is a great little amp! In any case, I recorded a clip where I have the Master at 3 o’clock, and the Volume at 2 o’clock. That produces some serious grind, but as you’ll hear in the clip, there’s very little compression.

The drive tone the VRX18 produces is absolutely magnificent! When I recorded the clip, I couldn’t believe all the overtones and subtle harmonics that the amp was producing! Jeff really got the tone nailed with this amp!

In addition to the amp, I played through Goldie, running her straight into the amp, then through the insanely transparent PRX150-Pro attenuator set at variable attenuation mode at about 3 o’clock, then into a custom Aracom 1 X 12. Output volume was just yelling level. 🙂

Here’s a list of the Aracom VRX18’s features as a review:

– Channel 1: Volume and Tone Controls
– Channel 2: Volume and Tone Controls
– Master Volume Control (PPIMV)
– On/Off Switch
– Indicator Lamp
– Hi/Low B+ voltage switch (18/9 watts)
– (2) EL84 Power Tubes
– (2) 12AX7 & (1) 12AT7 Preamp Tubes
– Cathode Biased Power Tubes
– S.S. Rectifier with “sag” circuit
* EZ81 Tube Rectifier – Optional
– Custom Heavy Duty Aluminum Chassis
– Custom “Black” Plexi Front and Back Panels
– ARACOM Power Transformer: hand-wound and interleaved
– ARACOM Output Transformer: hand-wound, interleaved on a paper bobbin
– 4, 8, 16 ohm Speaker Jacks
– Detachable Power Cord (IEC320-C13 Socket)
– External Fuse Holder
– Custom Turret Board (G-10/FR4 Flame Resistant)
– Handwired and Handcrafted in the USA.

This little tone beast is such a value as well! At $895 for the head, it’s an absolute steal, and a real hidden gem in the boutique market, as is the VRX22, which is based on 6V6’s.

For more information, go to the Aracom VRX18 page!

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