Carl Martins AC Tone – Vox in a Box!

I recently managed to get my hands on an AC-Tone by Carl Martin, but admittedly, turned it over pretty fast due to my slippery fingers not being able to hold anything for long. I must admit that I have always wanted to try the AC Tone by Carl Martin, a pedal regarded by some reviewers (such as Brett Kingman aka Burgerman 666) as one of the best Vox in a box pedals around.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a video review of my AC-Tone, so here’s a couple of Brett’s…

Sticking that pedal into a Fender or any other amp with ample clean headroom turns said amp into a great old Vox – instantly.- Brett Kingman

Carl Martin AC-Tone Single Channel

End Date: Saturday Sep-12-2020 23:18:02 PDT
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Carl Martin are based in Denmark under the name ‘East Sound Research‘ which started in 1990 as a PA company. They are generally known for quality pedals. Other classics from Carl Martin are the ‘Plexitone‘, ‘Hot Driven Boost‘ and some seriously good compressors, EQs, chorus and dirt boxes.

Carl Martin ACTone - Vox in a Box

Carl Martin ACTone – Vox in a Box


AU $165.00 (0 Bids)
End Date: Friday Aug-14-2020 20:55:10 EST
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Okay, so this pedal ain’t small, and is a 3 button box about 20cm long! It also comes with its own regulated power supply so it gets maximum headroom and constant 12volts, which it needs!

Now the 3 footswitches, with the first footswitch labelled ‘Drive‘  turns the overdrive circuit on and off, while the second ‘Select‘ selects between the two independent drive channels. The third footswitch ‘Boost’  turns the independent clean boost effect on and off. This can be used on its own or with either of the drive channels, which is a pretty cool feature.

Nice bright blue LEDs greet you once you engage an option, and really once you muck around with it a bit, the five controls are easy to figure out. Each drive channel has its own gain control, and a master volume control!. So Gain 1 control will control drive on Drive 1 channel and Gain 2 controls the Drive 2 channel and so on!

The boost control isn’t adjusted by the master volume, but it has a gain control too. Just like a real AC30, a ‘Cut‘ control is used to shape your tone. So not much in the way of tonal shaping, but luckily the ACTone has a wonderful mid range presence, lighter bass attack and sweet top end anyway.

Carl Martin AC-Tone Dual-Channel Overdrive Guitar Pedal

AU $439.00
End Date: Tuesday Sep-1-2020 22:36:25 EST
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So sounds???

As mentioned above, the pedal has a wonderful presence and chime (Vox has to be chimey!!). A sweet full mid range that cuts though, but not as much ‘oomph‘ in the bass as a Plexitone or a more Marshally flavored pedal.

One channel can be set for that wonderful AC30 hairy clean, with a bit of breakup and chime (gee I love that sound!!) and the next drive channel can be set up for a more a saturated gain, with singing mids and a Brian May sustain thing happening (well it reminds me of Brian May although not exactly like him of course!!).

By the way, I tested this pedal with 2 amps, one a generic Fendery tone, a BWM Kong Head and the other a BWM FG15 DC (which admittedly is more voiced to Vox…). The pedal produced similar results with both amps, but of course had more chime with the EF86 tube based amp. However I will say that this pedal is great and will work with any type of amp to really give it Vox like dynamics and chime.

For me it really shone on a lower OD setting, so the chime can still ring out, with just enough grit and breakup that allows for every note to be heard. The best example I can think of is U2’s ‘Like a Song’‘ (off their War album) which opens up with chimey, ringing picked chord notes, just breaking up that are, so, signature Vox!


End Date: Friday Sep-11-2020 23:59:52 BST
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Now another thing, both drive channels are voiced the same, they are both meant to be a Vox tone, not like some 2 channel drives that boost the mids and change the tone a bit. On the ACTone, only the range of gain changes, Well, if you want the Vox tone, you might as well get lots of it!!

Lastly, this pedal is pretty quiet, and it stacks with a compressor and other dirt boxes really well, so will work in with your rig and not pick fights with your other pedals!! Put some nice Gilmour delay on this and yummo… noodle for ages!

So is the pedal worth it?

I mean it costs over $300 new (I got mine second-hand at a nice price!). Other reviews did praise its tonal qualities, and said in a blind test the ACTone was very close to that warm mellow tone and chime of the old Top Boost amps.

The only criticism was that some felt the switch setups are a bit confusing, and knowing if it is on or off can be a bit deceptive. However, I think this issue would be resolved when you’ve become familiar with the set up by using it day in day out!

What about me, What did I think? (wow! as if my opinions change the world! LOL), as I said earlier, I didn’t hang onto this pedal for long as I sold it pretty soon after I bought it, Mainly because I could get a juicy profit on it.

But for me, the biggest issue I had was the size, only because I am preferring smaller pedals these days. I also didn’t want another power cord (yes pedantic I know) but I only want one daisy chain to power my 6 or so pedals.

I really loved the tone, seriously it had great tone and this pedal could be your tonal foundation easily. Combined with delay, some modulation and a heavier distortion pedal and your set (or combine with whatever you’re into).

So if size and having to use an extra power chord isn’t an issue for you, and you’re looking for an authentic Vox tone, then I totally recommend this pedal.


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About strataminor

Born in Brisbane I am a bedroom guitar player, although having played in front of churches (tough crowd!!) for quite a few years so some understanding of band dynamics, timing, gear (private use compared to public use) and melodic structure, instrumental breaks (okay leather pants solos....) and of course amps! Besides from my love of guitar and the G.A.S that goes with it (hey email me I am always offloading gear!! lol) I love languages, and can converse in basic Japanese, and study biblical Greek. I live in Logan with my young family (so not heaps of time at the moment) and will be contributing gear reviews based on a lot of gear I have or still currently have.

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