Music Gear Central: VOX DA-5 not just a practice amp

Gear manufacturers continue to make it easy on musicians. My latest find came in a pinch when I literally needed to take my show on the road and perform in various locations at this year’s On the Waterfront festival.

The idea of leaving the full PA system at home and plugging my guitars and microphones into something mobile had me scratching my head. The original plan of setting up a makeshift stage, using electricity from a downtown business, was stressful enough. The only other option was to roam the festival with an acoustic guitar and play for passersby, much like a subway or street performer. I then began my search for a battery-powered solution, one that could accommodate my need to plug in a guitar and provide amplification for vocals.

To my surprise, there are scores of guitar amps on the market that run on batteries; however, most of them are strictly practice rigs designed for home use that generate minimal sound. Browsing online and burning up cell phone minutes, I spoke to a dealer who advised I check out the 5-watt digital amp made by industry leader VOX. As we spoke, I pulled up his company’s Web site to see the DA-5 model for myself.

After reading what this little guy packed in its 10.5-inch by 7.5-inch cabinet, I had to hear it for myself. I immediately raced to the store to hear if VOX could match its online claims.

Even with the nerve-wracking background noise of drums, guitars and screaming music in the showroom, the VOX DA-5 was able to cut through the chaos and deliver a clean and projecting tone. Amazingly, this was all coming from a little 7-pound box with a single 6.5-inch speaker. I then began playing with the effects, and was soon, as best as I know how, ripping out Jimi Hendrix-like “wah” riffs and pushing the little amp to the limit with ’70s rock power chords.

Still, I wasn’t completely sold. However, in the back of my mind, I was sure I was going to buy it.

After a salesman saw how much fun I was having, he handed me a microphone and cord to test the vocal feature, which I hadn’t even thought of. Soon, I was playing and singing through the rig with ease in my driveway to test the DA-5’s outdoor capability. I was shocked at how far the amp projected both my guitar and vocals. The effects are surprisingly cutting edge.

The VOX DA-5 boasts 11 guitar effects: features auto-wah, chorus + delay, chorus + reverb, compressor, compressor + chorus, compressor + phaser, delay, flanger + reverb, reverb, rotary + reverb, and tremolo + reverb. The 11 styles, from clean to drive, emulate enough sounds to play any genre of music, including the high gain crunches of metal. There’s also a “Tap” feature that makes it easy to set the delay time and modulation speed, which is coupled very well with the noise-reduction option.

The quarter-inch vocal input has its own volume control, and allows an even mix of guitar and vocals. The head phone jack allows for quiet practice, and the auxiliary input jack allows the amp to be plugged directly into a PA system or used in conjunction with other sound equipment, such as mp3 players or mixers.

When it was time to test the amp at show time, again, the little VOX came through again. Audiences from a few hundred feet could hear me clearly and were never forced to stand directly in front of me to enjoy the show.

The DA-5 can be powered by an AC adapter or by six “C” batteries. A built-in output power switch (5W, 1.5W, 0.5W) helps extend battery life, without losing sound or clarity.

The VOX DA-5 has five color options—including pink and camouflage—has everything a large stage amp would offer, and delivers almost as much sound.

Based in the United Kingdom, the VOX Amplification Company has been making guitar and bass amps for more than 50 years and has been endorsed by members of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Styx.

The DA-5 lists for $190; however, expect to pay between $130 and $160, which is a great buy. VOX also offers very strong extended warranty plans.

More information about VOX amplifiers can be found at

Jim Hagerty is a contributing writer for The Rock River Times.

from the Oct. 17-23, 2007, issue

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