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Vox DA20 Guitar Amp: A review

14 comments

Before I bought the Vox DA20, I found it harder find reviews about this amp around the web. With this review along with pictures, I hope to give some idea about the features of this amp and how it sounds to prospective buyers. If this was useful to you, please comment. Also, if you have any questions regarding this amp, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments. 🙂

I bought the Vox DA20 mainly to use for practising. This amp does not have valves/tubes in it and it is a digital modelling amp [wait! don’t write it off just yet]. At the shop, I did have the choice of the “AD15 Valvetronix” amp but since I’m a student, I didn’t want to bother with tube amps-mainly due to maintenance concerns.

front view

front view

I gather from reviews of the valvetronix line of amps that many don’t like the front “metal grill” style view. But its fine with me. Don’t mind the reflections in the metal grill in the above picture. The 2×8″ speakers you can see is the coolest bit of the amp IMO.

The controls section is divided into two–the ‘amp section’ and the ‘effects section’. Overview of the controls of the amp (with pictures) after the break…

Overall view of the controls

Overall view of the controls

The “amp” section consists of the input jack, the modelling amp selector, gain, tone, and master volume knobs. This section is enlarged below…

The "amp" section

The amp section

The blues amp models were excellent with the “Blues 3” model very SRV-like. I also liked the “HiGain 3” model; Playing in dropped tunings, it takes you to Metal heaven. The tone is unmistakable; It is also great for soloing. The overall sound of the amp models are organic in its character too.

A thing I loved about the amp models is that they were sensitive to picking dynamics and also to volume roll-off in the guitar. I was genuinely surprised by this because, from my previous experience with multi-effects pedals (like Zoom G2), I did not believe this was possible. In the blues and crunch models, you keep the Gain a bit past half-way to achieve this.

You must have noticed that there isn’t an EQ. Yep, there isn’t any; instead, it is replaced with the Tone knob which works exactly the same way as the one in your guitar. I don’t miss that feature very much at all since I’m using the amp only for practice. Now, on to the effects section…

the effects section

the effects section

It should be noted that there is no way to control or switch between the effects or the amp models by using a foot-switch. Other than that this is a very decent set of effects for practising. The auto-wah is quite cool, though again since there is no way to switch between different effects without taking your hands off the guitar, its use is very limited. You can bypass or turn off the effects altogether with the bypass button. The “tap” button is used to set the delay time and parameters like that in other effects. The unique features of this amp are at its back…

the cool bits

On the right you see an input for your mic with its own volume adjuster adjacent to it. The ‘Line/Phone’ and ‘Aux In’ are self-explanatory. By far the best feature is the Power Selector in the left. This is literally a life saver as you can basically practise at midnight through the amp speakers without disturbing a person in the same room. I know, ’cause I’ve done it! And I’m not a good guitarist by any means. So far, I’ve never felt the need to change from 0.5 watts while practising alone; its plenty loud already. I never actually realised how much power that puny 0.5w is until I played through this amp. It’ll be interesting to see if I’ll need to increase the power when practising with a drummer, a bass guitarist and a rhythm guitarist. I’ll have to wait till I get back to uni for that though.

Since, I really like this amp for practice I’m going to be using it in one gig at least. I’m constrained to use only one tone. I don’t need a gazillion different tones anyway (I play Lead). And I’ll pick “Blues 3” with a little delay or reverb for that. Rock On!

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Microbiologist, guitarist and motor sport aficionado.

14 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Thanks Samsen for this careful review. You are right, there is really nothing out there on this amp besides harmony-central and advertising hype. My question to you is how much bass do you get out of the 2×8 speakers? Ive been using the DA5 and found that it sounds better when I connect it to a 1×12 cabinet. I too use the 1/2 watt setting but it just sounds more present and full-range with the larger speaker.

    Reply

  2. Hi bassame,
    Thanks for your comment. This is a one man blog, so your comment might not have appeared immediately. Excuse me for that. You asked:

    My question to you is how much bass do you get out of the 2×8 speakers? Ive been using the DA5 and found that it sounds better when I connect it to a 1×12 cabinet.

    For all practical purposes, the bass is more than enough for me. Though perceiving bass is a very subjective thing. I made up a video of me messing around on this amp at youtube. You can watch it here[link unavailable: see reply below]. It’ll give you some idea. Note that I took the output from the “Line/Phone” socket straight into my camera mic in. However, the sound/bass you can hear in the video is an accurate representation of what I hear from the speakers. Also FYI, I used the neck rail humbucker in my guitar for the whole video.

    I too use the 1/2 watt setting but it just sounds more present and full-range with the larger speaker.

    You are right. 8″ speakers and higher are the par (for me) to achieve good tone. That might be the reason. Lower than 8″, it starts to hurt your tone. I suspect the DA5 has 6″ speakers, right? But back to DA20: since it has got two 8 inchers, I don’t notice much difference in the tone between the Vox DA20 and my Laney LG35R (1 x 10″). Hope this helps.

    Reply

    • You can no longer see the video as I took it down mainly due to my awful playing. I have improved though and I put up a newer video with the amp mic’d up. You can see it here.

      Reply

  3. I am, I guess, a Vox guy. I used to have an actual Vox Super Beatle. Which I stupidly sold – too big to transport and the damn stand pinched my hand one time too many.

    Today… I’ve got a bunch of Vox amps. An AD120VTX “Beatles” from NorthCoast, an AD120VT Stock, two AD30VT XL , a DA5, the new DA20 (I got the Classic Livery model, with grill cloth but the same amp), and a ToneLab SE pedal.

    So the best sounding amp of all of them is the AD30VT XL – they’re discontinued and you can get them for like $190 now. Amazing tone, a huge sound. Insane tone, actually, the cleans are awesome, much snappier than the standard Valvetronix.

    BTW Of all the ones listed above, the Ad30VT XL is the only one that doesn’t like to be tube swapped to new old stock tubes – the output is greatly reduced if you do. (the DA amps do not have tubes, of course, and they sound a little less warm as a result but you DO get portability)

    So…. on to to the DA amps. My DA 5 is a workhorse, sounds beautiful. Small and light. The DA20 weighs what my AD30 weighs – or more – it isn’t an amp you can carry 6 blocks to the subway, ride 30 minutes on the train,and then walk 10 blocks with. And to my surprise I found that it doesn’t have much more bass than the DA5. Also the sounds are less “natural” than the DA5 – less ballsy – same electronics, mostly, so I assume it has to do with the speakers – they may be more accurate at reproducing what the amp is putting out, the 5.5″ speaker on the DA5 may lack some highs. So the DA20 sounds “fizzy” and has no more low end than the DA5. It IS loud when plugged into the wall.

    And the Classic Livery has a “Beatles” look. I got mine from Tom Lee music in Canada- wound up costing me like $229

    Overall – Pound for pound, $ for $, and decibel for decibel, the AD30VT XL is the BEST of them. But… if you MUST have battery power, get a DA5, or get two of them for the price of the DA20 – they’re more portable and they are going to be louder (the DA20 is only 5 watts unplugged, and the DA5 are as well, so if you got two of them you’d have 10 watts in stereo)

    Reply

  4. Interesting comment, Rick. You said:

    “So the best sounding amp of all of them is the AD30VT XL – they’re discontinued and you can get them for like $190 now. Amazing tone, a huge sound. Insane tone, actually, the cleans are awesome, much snappier than the standard Valvetronix.”

    At the shop, I noticed that the valvetronix AD15VT’s had 8″ speakers while the AD15VT XL’s had 10″ speakers. Similarly, the AD30VT XL’s might have 12″ speakers rather than the 10″ speakers in their AD30VT counterparts. I suggest this results in the significant difference in tone that you perceive.

    “So…. on to to the DA amps. My DA 5 is a workhorse, sounds beautiful. Small and light. The DA20 weighs what my AD30 weighs – or more – it isn’t an amp you can carry 6 blocks to the subway, ride 30 minutes on the train,and then walk 10 blocks with….”

    I would agree with your assessment of the weight/portablility of the DA20. However,…

    “…And to my surprise I found that it doesn’t have much more bass than the DA5. Also the sounds are less “natural” than the DA5 – less ballsy – same electronics, mostly, so I assume it has to do with the speakers – they may be more accurate at reproducing what the amp is putting out, the 5.5″ speaker on the DA5 may lack some highs. So the DA20 sounds “fizzy” and has no more low end than the DA5. It IS loud when plugged into the wall.”

    I would suggest, the main reason for lack of bass than the DA5 is when the DA20 is battery operated. I rarely play it on batteries. That is why I have not noticed a lack of bass. Still, it is perfect for practice. Thanks for commenting, Rick. 🙂

    Reply

  5. i also own the Vox DA 20 and think it’s probably one of the best SS amps out there. Unlike the other poster. I went with money in hand to purchase the Vox AD30Vt after reading all the rave reviews.Well needless to say i didn’t care for it that much. Tried the 15 watt versions and an 30Xl. Almost settled for roland cube 30 when i saw the DA 20 with it’s 2×8 stereo and gave it try. Didn’t take 10 minutes to decide. Very nice tones to be had in that box. I’ve since moved on to tubes, but i still keep a guitar plugged into it and it gets play a few times a week.

    Reply

  6. I bought my DA20 in a similar situation to Scott. I had asked the shopkeeper to pack a Roland Cube 30X. If it wasn’t for the fact that they didn’t have it in stock, I probably would not own the DA20 now. And I probably wouldn’t have made up riffs that came into existence purely due to the inspiring tone of this amp during late night jam sessions.

    Reply

  7. Hi man 😀
    I was wondering, do the effects also work for the mic when you connect it? Will the reverb also be in your voice :DDD?

    Reply

  8. Hey Mark!

    No, As far as I can see the amp effects can’t be applied to the mic input. But, it may be possible to add reverb to your voice by running your mic output through a seperate FX pedal through to the mic input of the amp. Hope this helps. 🙂

    Reply

  9. Hi Samsen.. I have recently bought this amp and mainly using it to learn my guitar on.

    I just wanted to ask, since you have one.. What settings did you use in your video? I am trying to achieve a clean sound so that when i practice my chord work and notes, I can hear when I am making a mistake..

    I hope this doesn’t sound stupid either, bu what volume setting do you have your guitar on while you play too?

    Great review by the way! Hope to hear your comments soon..

    Eddie

    Reply

    • Hi Eddie, for a good clean tone that is less prone to distortion (as you up the gain) I find the “Clean 1” model to be good. I believe I had the gain slightly past half-way mark (12 O’ Clock) and tone knob to full in the video. As for the volume (No it is not stupid! 😀 ) in the guitar, I keep it full. I only try to vary the volume when I’m the drive models (Blues, Crunch etc) to ‘clean up’ the tone. However, you can have a lower volume if you have high output pickups that easily distort your tone.

      Oh also, owning this amp for all this time, I find that the 20W setting sounds more “fuller” to my ears while the 0.5W sounds a bit flat. So play around with it too!

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

      Reply

  10. Hey people:
    Love my DA20. Live off grid. Use mostly .5 on battery. I Do notice low bass notes collapsing when I play my Eb (de-tuned 1/2 step) Strat on the lowest notes on the Eb (E) string. May start gigging and I want add a 12″ on stage with this amp. Any suggestions about choosing and connecting any particular speaker for this amp?
    Also, is there a way to rig up a footswitch, instead of that tap button?

    Reply

  11. I quite like this amp. Tone’s not as good as the AD30VT but then again, it runs on batteries if necessary. I’ve used it (on batteries) to go busking with a friend. He used the top part, I plugged my acoustic bass guitar into the microphone jack and it worked fine. Amazing sound for just 5W.

    I’ve never noticed the weight issue, but if you’re going to go busking and weight is really a problem for you, get a small luggage trolley.

    Reply

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