A very nice review. I've got one of these amps, and actually love it. And, yes, it IS loud enough to play in a band situation, but...
I was going to change the speaker in it. I found the stock driver a little harsh, lacking in bass, and not very loud. I talked to a guy at VOX, and he advised me to wait a while, really give the stock one ample time to break in. I'm glad I waited. After a few weeks of exercise, the thing changed its character dramatically, all for the better. The low end became more distinct, the strident highs smoothed out, and though I did not measure the SPL, the apparent
increase in loudness was pretty obvious, both to me and to my mate, who, at the same amp settings, started yelling at me to turn it down. (In the meanwhile, the kid was yelling at me to turn it up. Who to believe? Right. We all know the answer...)
I do agree that the OD2 channel is just out of character for a VOX labeled amplifier. It puts diode clipping into the circuit, and definitely reaches into that "modern metal" territory, which sounds silly coming out of such a classic box. It's useful for those who like such things, but being more of a purist (I've got other amps for that noise), I find that I only ever engage the setting to make sure the button still works.
The channel switching lag is only a nuisance for me sometimes, as I don't tend to change channels often. Instead, I tend to mostly be in OD1 and use the volume control on the guitar to clean things up, as the amp is beautifully sensitive to it.
All that said, if you need a ton of clean headroom, you'd be better off with something else, and I'm not even sure the AC30VR
would be sufficient, though it's twin 12s
would certainly help. Plugging this one into a big cabinet helps, but it sort of goes against the principles of having a compact, light, portable package. I love the fact that I can carry this in one hand, a guitar in the other, a folding amp stand in the third, and I'm ready to go. No pedals necessary.
And, yes, an amp stand really helps. By focusing the speaker towards you, you can compete with even a loud drummer (ours is), and mic the thing for the mains. Works like a charm. I still miss my Marshall full stacks, but my back is a lot happier, and I can drive a smaller car, now...