Vox (musical equipment)
Vox logo showing product categories
|Founder||Thomas Walter Jennings|
|Headquarters||Dartford, Kent, England|
Vox is a musical equipment manufacturer which is most famous for making the Korg since 1992.
- Beginnings 1.1
- The AC30 1.2
- Other amplifiers 1.3
- Guitars 1.4.1
- Bass guitars 1.4.2
- Organs 1.4.3
- GuitarOrgan 1.4.4
- Decline 1.5
Current products 2
- Renewal 2.1
- Night Train 2.2
- Valvetronix 2.3
- Valvetronix XL-Series 2.4
- Cooltron 2.5
- See also 3
- References 4
- External links 5
The Jennings Organ Company was founded by Thomas Walter Jennings in Dartford Kent, England after World War II. Jennings's first successful product was the Univox, an early self-powered electronic keyboard similar to the Clavioline.
In 1956 Jennings was shown a prototype guitar amplifier made by Dick Denney, a big band guitarist and workmate from World War II. The company was renamed Jennings Musical Industries, or JMI, and in 1958 the 15-watt Vox AC15 amplifier was launched. It was popularised by The Shadows and other British rock 'n' roll musicians and became a commercial success.
In 1959, with sales under pressure from the more powerful Fender Twin and from The Shadows, who requested amplifiers with more power, Vox produced what was essentially a double-powered AC15 and named it the AC30. The AC30, fitted with alnico magnet-equipped Celestion "blue" loudspeakers and later Vox's special "Top Boost" circuitry, and like the AC15 utilizing valves (known in the US as tubes), helped to produce the sound of the British Invasion, being used by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and the Yardbirds, among others. AC30s were later used by Brian May of Queen (who is known for having a wall of AC30s on stage), Paul Weller of The Jam (who also assembled a wall of AC30s), Rory Gallagher, The Edge of U2 and Radiohead guitarists Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien. The Vox AC30 has been used by many other artists including Mark Knopfler, Hank Marvin who was instrumental in getting the AC30 made, Pete Townshend, Ritchie Blackmore, John Scofield, Snowy White, Will Sergeant, Tom Petty, The Echoes, Mike Campbell, Peter Buck, Justin Hayward, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Noel Gallagher, Matthew Bellamy, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Dustin Kensrue, and many others.
Once Paul McCartney was provided with one of the first transistorized amplifiers, the infamous T60, which featured an unusual separate cabinet outfitted with a 12" and a 15" speaker. The T60 head had a tendency to overheat, and McCartney's was no exception, so he was then provided with an AC30 head which powered the T60's separate speaker cabinet.
As the crowds at Beatles shows got louder, they needed louder amps. Jennings provided Lennon and Harrison with the first AC50 piggyback units, and McCartney's AC30/T60 rig was replaced with an AC100 head and a customized T100 2×15" cabinet. Lennon and Harrison eventually got their own AC100 rigs, with 4×12"/2-horn configurations. In 1966 and 1967, The Beatles had several prototype or specially-built Vox amplifiers, including hybrid tube/solid-state units from the short-lived 4- and 7-series. Harrison in particular became fond of the 730 amp and 2×12 cabinet, using them to create many the guitar sounds found on Abbey Road in the 1960s confirmed that Harrison did have his amplifiers marked on the chassis with his name by roadies as he often lent them out to other musicians.
Lennon favored the larger 7120 amplifier, while Harrison preferred the 730 and McCartney had its sister 430 bass amplifier. Around six of each were delivered to The Beatles in 1966 and 1967. George is known to have kept the six 730s for some time afterwards and in 2004 Neil Aspinall confirmed in an interview that two of Harrison's 730s remained at Apple in the 1970s and that documentation detailing the amplifiers' serial numbers also survived.
In the early 1960s the Brothers Grim became the first American group use Vox Amplifiers. Joe Benaron, CEO of Super Beatle") was produced to cash in on the Beatles-Vox affiliation, but was not nearly as successful as the tube AC30 and AC15 models.
A modern popular rock artist known for use of the Super Beatle is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, although in the April 2008 issue of Premier Guitar, lead guitarist Mike Campbell revealed that the Super Beatle backline was, on their thirtieth anniversary tour at least, primarily used only as a stage prop, though Petty used his "on a couple of songs." In the group's early days, the Vox equipment was chosen because it was relatively inexpensive in 1976, yet had a handsome appearance. A photograph included in the article showed Campbell's guitar sound was coming from other amplifiers hidden behind the large Super Beatles, which Campbell stated were "a tweed Fender Deluxe and a blackface Fender Princeton together behind the Super Beatle, and an isolated Vox AC30 that I have backstage in a box."
The Monkees concealed themselves in large empty Vox cabinet and emerged from them as a grand entrance to the opening of the shows on the 1967 tour, but they used real Vox amps for the performances.
|Vox Phantom VI||Vox Mark VI|
Vox's first electric guitars, the Apache, Stroller and Clubman were modelled after solid-body, bolt-neck Fenders, which at the time were not available in the UK. A four-string Clubman Bass followed shortly after. These first guitars were low-priced, had unusual TV connector input jacks and were produced by a cabinet maker in Shoeburyness, Essex. Vox president Tom Jennings commissioned the London Design Centre to create a unique new electric guitar, and in 1962 Vox introduced the pentagonal Phantom, originally made in England but soon after made by Guitar Organ, which featured miniaturised VOX organ circuitry activated by the contact of strings with fret contacts, producing organ tones in key with guitar chords. This instrument was heavy and cumbersome with its steel neck and external circuit boxes, and rarely worked correctly, but was a hallmark of the ingenuity of this company.
In the mid-1960s, as the sound of electric 12-string guitars became popular, Vox introduced the Phantom XII, which has been used by Tony Hicks of The Hollies, Captain Sensible of early English punk band The Damned and Greg Kihn, and Mark XII electric 12-string guitars as well as the Tempest XII, also made in Italy, which featured a more conventional body style. The Phantom XII and Mark XII both featured a unique Bigsby style 12-string vibrato tailpiece, which made them, along with Semie Moseley's "Ventures" model 12-string Mosrite, the only 12 string electric guitars to feature such a vibrato. The Stereo Phantom XII had split pickups resembling the Fender precision bass, each half of which could be sent to a separate amplifier using an onboard mix control. Vox produced a number of other models of 6 and 12 string electric guitars in both England and Italy.
In 1967 Vox introduced a series of guitars which featured built in effects such as Distortion (fuzz tone), Repeat Percussion (percussive tremolo), Treble/Bass Booster and a wah-wah operated by the heel of the picking hand pushing on a spring-loaded lever over the bridge. The Delta phantom style guitar and bass, the Starstream teardrop 6-string, and Constellation teardrop bass had such effects.
Vox also pioneered the first radio microphone system, which freed singers from being connected by a microphone cable to their amplifier or PA.
|Vox Standard 24||Vox Virage DC|
Vox had experimented with Japanese manufacturers at the end of the sixties with the Les Paul style VG2, and in 1982 all guitar production was moved to Japan, where the Standard & Custom 24 & 25 guitars and basses were built by Matsumoku, the makers of Aria guitars. These were generally regarded as the best quality guitars ever built under the Vox name. However, they were discontinued in '85 when production was moved to Korea and they were replaced by the White Shadow models, although a number of White Shadow M-Series guitars and basses are clearly marked as made in Japan, suggesting a phased production hand-over.
In 1998 Vox Amplification Ltd Korg reissued many of their classic Phantom and Teardrop guitars.
In March 2008, Vox unveiled the semi-hollow Vox Virage DC (double cutaway) and SC (single cutaway) at the NAMM show. Notable characteristics include a 3D contoured ergonomic design which not only had an arch top, but also bent back from the neck toward the base of the guitar hugging the player's body. The guitar body was milled from a single block of wood and had a fitted face in combinations of mahogany and ash. A new triple coil pickup system designed by DiMarzio called the Three-90 emulates a humbucker, P-90, or single-coil tone.
In 2009, Vox refined the Virage design with the Virage II series of guitars. This series repeated the double and single cutaway bodies of the earlier Virage series, but also included the Series 77 (with double horns emulating the Gibson SG series), the Series 55 (with resemblance to the Gibson Les Paul single cutaway), and the Series 33 (with lower cost fabrication than the 77 and 55 series). The Virage II series features a CoAxe pickups which resemble the earlier Three-90 features, but claimed to be lower noise. The one-piece cast MaxConnect bridge of this series is aluminium and provides both a saddle and anchor for the guitar strings.
For 2012 the VOX Phantom and Teardrop guitars appeared again as the APACHE Series travel guitars with a host of built in features including a 2-channel guitar amplifier, speakers, dozens of rhythm patterns, even a convenient E-String tuner.
In May 2013, a Vox guitar used by George Harrison and John Lennon on the Magical Mystery Tour album sold at auction for US$408,000 in New York.
The Vox brand was also applied to Jennings's electronic organs, most notably the
- Vox Website
- The Vox Showroom , a Vox Amps online resource.
- The History of Vox Amplifiers by Jim Miller
- Vox Guitars.info The Vox Guitars Book
- "Blue Book of Electric Guitars". Blue Book Publications, Inc.
- "Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers". Blue Book Publications, Inc.
- Vox Wah Pedals - Reference, Reviews and Price Guide
- TV show "I've Got a Secret" featuring the V251 GuitarOrgan.
- The Guitar Collection features the earliest Vox Shadow and a 1980's White Shadow
- "Vox Pop: How Dartford Powered the British Beat Boom". 29 November 2011.
- Vintage Vox guitars
- "Beatles guitar smashes auction estimates". 3 News NZ. May 20, 2013.
- Hempsall, Alan. "A Day Out With Joy Division", Extro, Vol.2/No.5 1980.
- Guitar World magazine, September issue, 2005
- Hunter, Dave, "50 Years of Vox", Vintage Guitar magazine, February 16, 2010 (This article originally appeared in VG‘s November 2007 issue)
- Vintage musical equipment
- Jennings Musical Instruments
- Vox Bass Guitar
- Octave twelve (Vox Mando-Guitar)
- Bulldog Distortion
- Brit Boost
- Big Ben Overdrive
- Duel Overdrive
- Over the Top Boost
- Snake Charmer Compressor
In addition to the Valvetronix, Vox has developed a line of analogue effects pedals. Dubbed Cooltron, the line provides guitarists with vintage sounding overdrive, compression, boost, distortion and tremolo. The pedals utilise low-power 12AU7 tubes to create vintage soft-clipping preamplification. Two of the Cooltron pedals, the Big Ben Overdrive and the Bulldog Distortion, won the Guitar World magazine Platinum Award. Cooltron pedals:
- Octave / Comp / Comp + Phaser / Comp + Chorus / Chorus + Delay / Chorus + Reverb / Flanger + Reverb / Tremolo + Reverb / Rotary + Reverb / Delay / Reverb
Hi-quality modern effects are also built in, giving more control over the output:
- Glass / Funked / Buzzsaw / Crunched / Thrashed / Raged / Modern / Fluid / Molten / Black / Damaged
Each amplifier has eleven inbuilt amp sounds:
The valvetronix XL-series builds on the success of the original valvetronix digital amplifier. A range of tube-powered modelling amplifiers, with hi-gain sounds designed to span the entire range of heavy rock music. The XL-series uses VOX's patented Valve Reactor technology, producing the sound and feel of an all-tube amp. Models: AD15VT-XL 15-watt 1×10" speaker, AD30VT-XL 30-watt 1×12" speaker, AD50VT-XL 50-watt 2×12" speakers, AD100VT-XL 100-watt 2×12" speakers.
- Boutique CL / Modded CL: Dumble Overdrive (Clean)/Fender Showman (Dumble Modded)
- Deluxe Tweed / Tweed 2X12: Fender Tweed Deluxe/Fender '57 Twin Amp
- Super 4X10 / Tweed 4X10: Fender Super Reverb/Fender Tweed Bassman
- AC15 TB / AC15: Vox AC15 (1960s Top Boost)/VOX AC15 (1950s EF86)
- AC30HH / AC30TB: Vox AC30HH / VOX AC30 Top Boost
- Express Train / Boutique OD: Trainwreck Express/Dumble Overdrive (Overdrive)
- AC50CP2 / AC30BM: Vox AC50CP2/Vox AC30BM Brian May
- UK 25TH / UK '80S: Marshall 2555 Slash Jubilee / Marshall JCM800
- US '90S / Cali Metal: Peavey 6505 / Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
- UK Modern / UK '90S: Marshall JVM / Marshall JCM2000
- Boutique Metal / Metal Bull: Diezel VH4 / VHT Pittbull
As for the newer versions, which feature 22 models based upon, in order from green to red mode:
Recently Vox has emerged as a leader in the digital amp modeling market with the release of its Valvetronix line of digital amplifier modellers. Utilising Korg's REMS modelling software, the Valvetronix are driven via a low-power tube power amp stage. The latest line, the AD15VT / AD30VT / AD50VT / AD100VT, has received awards and praise for its recreation of eleven classic guitar amplifiers. The company did not reveal which non-Vox amplifiers were modeled in the product manual. The eleven amplifier types as named on the dial are:
In August 2014 Vox released two Night Train limited editions, both of which were cosmetic updates to the NT2H set and the NT15C1 combo respectively, that recall a more traditional Vox aesthetic. For the Lil' Night Train NT2H-GD-SET Vox supplied the NT2H head with a matte gold colored tube cage and black control knobs, and then covered its V110NT cab with a retro-traditional “Brown Diamond“ grille cloth and basket weave covering. For the NT15C1-CL (Classic) combo amp Vox applied a similar treatment with the installation of a gold logo badge and trim on the front of the NT15C1 combo as well as adding the “Brown Diamond“ grille cloth.
In 2013 Vox released updated "G2" versions of the 15 watt and 50 watt heads, and added a combo version of the NT15H-G2 called the NT15C1. Compared to the original NT15H, the NT15H-G2 adds a foot-switchable Girth channel (which first appeared on the original NT50H) with an additional 12AX7 in the preamp section, a "Dark" switch, a digital reverb, and an effects loop. However, Vox did not retain the pentode/triode output section modes from the "G1" version that allowed for full or half power operation as well as a broader tonal palette. The NT50H-G2 differs from the original NT50H with the additions of an XLR D.I. out and a digital reverb, and the deletions of one 12AX7 preamp tube and the "Tight" switch. It also appears the FX loop is no longer bypassable. Gone is the bright chrome look of the "G1" models as both heads received new cosmetics in the form of a black mirror finish on the tube cage and a new suitcase-type handle. Vox also released "G2" versions of their matching cabs: the V112NT-G2 (one Celestion G12M Greenback speaker), and the V212NT-G2 (two Celestion G12H 70th anniversary model speakers), each also sporting the suitcase-type handle. The new NT15C1 combo combines an NT15H-G2 chassis with a single 16Ω 12” Celestion G12M Greenback speaker in a black tolex cabinet with a suitcase-type handle.
Vox entered the "lunchbox" amp market in 2009 when it introduced the Night Train (NT15H) head. This compact, all valve, 15W head with two 12AX7 preamp tubes and a pair of EL-84 valves in its power section, is solidly constructed on a black steel chassis with a bright mirror chrome finish, diamond-perforated steel tube cage, giving it a physical appearance reminiscent of a lunchbox (some comparisons to a toaster have been made as well). The NT15H also set the cosmetic and operational template for two additional releases, also all valve heads, that book-ended its output power: the 2W Lil Night Train (NT2H) in 2010, which uses two 12AX7 preamp tubes and a 12AU7 dual triode as its power section, and the 50W Night Train 50 (NT50H) in 2011, a two channel head with four 12AX7 preamp tubes and a pair of EL-34 valves in its power section. All models feature the ability to choose between the familiar "chimey" Vox voice and a high gain voice that bypasses the EQ section, via the Bright/Thick switch. Note though that each Night Train model's feature set also provides some unique capability apart from its siblings. For example, the NT15H output power can be switched between 15W pentode and 7.5W triode modes. The NT2H provides a headphone/line out jack with on-board speaker emulation (for practice or direct recording use. Lastly, the NT50H offers two channels by adding a second,optionally foot-switchable, higher gain "Girth" channel, a "Tone Cut" control and a "Tight" switch in its master section, plus a bypassable, JFET-driven effects loop. All models were designed for use with most any 8 ohm or 16 ohm cabinet, although Vox also offers a matching cabinet (NT15H/V112NT, NT2H/V110NT, NT50H/V212NT) for each model.
Vox Amplification Ltd. has been owned by rectifier and alnico speakers for their version of the AC30 in what is considered the most faithful version of the amp produced for many years. Korg have also used the Vox name for a new range of digital modelling amps. In 2005 manufacturing was moved to Vietnam, including a yet-newer redesign of the venerable AC30, designated the AC30CC, which has now been superseded by the AC30C2. A hand-wired, heritage version, the AC30H2 (and the wooden cased AC30H2L) were also produced. The AC30CC and AC15CC were later replaced with the AC30C2 and AC15C1 which had solid state rectification and a revised chassis. In 2010 Vox released a Hand-Wired version of the AC30 and AC15 with turret board construction, valve rectification and a choice of Celestion Greenback or Alnico Blue speakers. In 2011 a Hand Wired version of the AC4 was also released. Less expensive consumer versions of the retro AC4 have been marketed in recent years as well: various sizes of AC4TV.
Meanwhile in Sepulveda, Thomas Organ, after importing JMI's British-made amps for a short period in 1964–65, began to produce a line of mostly Trixon), which included a kit that featured a conical-shaped bass (kick) drum, that looked more like a wastepaper basket left on its side, and another with a bass (kick) drum, that looked like a flat tire. Such gimmicks did not help sales, and by the early 1970s Vox's American presence was virtually nonexistent.
Meanwhile Royston, due to the loss of a lucrative government contract in one of its other companies, went into liquidation in 1969. As a result, Vox went through a series of owners including a British bank and Dallas-Arbiter. The AC30 continued to be built alongside newer solid-state amps, but in a series of cost-cutting moves different loudspeakers with ceramic magnets began to be used, as were printed circuit boards and solid-state rectification. Particleboard replaced some plywood parts in cabinet construction, and at one point an all-solid-state version was introduced alongside the classic tube-powered model. Rose-Morris, Marshall Amplification's British distributor, bought Vox in the 1980s when their deal with Marshall ended. They tried to reinvigorate the Vox brand, continuing to build the AC30 along with a few other decent modern designs. In 1990 they sold the company to Korg.
Vox quickly grew. In 1964 Tom Jennings, in order to raise capital for JMI's expansion, sold controlling interest in JMI to the Royston Group, a British holding company, and sold American rights to the California-based Thomas Organ Company. Displeased with the direction his old company was taking, he left the company in 1967, which was around the same time that Marshall overtook Vox as the dominant force in the British guitar amplifier market. While Royston's Vox Sound Equipment division set up new operations in the Kent town of Erith, Tom Jennings set up a new company in his old Dartford location, joined later by Dick Denney. Jennings Electronic Industries operated for several years, making an updated and rebadged version of the AC30 along with other amplifiers, as well as a new range of organs.
 The instrument never became popular though it was a precursor to the modern guitar synthesizer.
The V251 is somewhat awkward to play as the neck is wider at the nut end than at the body, and a player's natural tendency to bend a string results in it slipping off the divided fret. Additionally it is very heavy, weighing, nearly 9 lbs.
The guitar section is equipped with two Vox pickups, a three-way selector, and conventional volume and tone controls. In common with Phantom models, it has a Bigsby-style tremolo unit, a fixed-intonation bridge and individual Vox-branded tuners.
Organ tones are sounded in one of three ways; in 'normal' mode, by pressing any string onto a fret; in 'percussion' mode, by fretting any string and touching the included brass plectrum (connected to a short wire plugged into a socket on the scratchplate) onto any metal part of the guitar; or by pressing one of the six 'open string' buttons. There is an option to silence the lowest two strings, and the organ section, as a whole, can also be switched off. There is a four-position octave selector, a six-position effect selector, a four-way selector for the percussion and a flute selector.
The V251 connects to a mains power-supply unit via DIN plugs and a four-conductor cable (power, guitar output, organ output and common). The PSU in turn has individual amplifier outputs for guitar and organ.
In 1966, Vox introduced the problematic V251 John Lennon was given one in a bid to secure an endorsement, although this never happened. According to Up-Tight: the Velvet Underground Story, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones also tried one; when asked by the Velvets if it "worked", his answer was negative.
The Continental and other Vox organs such as the Jaguar, the Continental II, Super Continental, and the Continental 300 share characteristic visual features including orange and black vinyl coverings, stands made of chromed steel tubing, and reversed black and white keys. The English wood key single manual Continental (V301J) is increasingly collectable, although the wood key American-built (V301H) and plastic key Italian-built models (V301E, V301E/2 and V302E) also command premium prices. Jennings sold production rights for the Vox Continental organ to an Italian subsidiary of Thomas Organ in 1967. Under the new production agreement, the Continental was gradually and subtly altered in quality and sound, and reliability became questionable. For example, Gibson Kalamazoo, because it had a flat top like the Vox Continental, so it could accommodate the physical requirements of the Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, which was the bass instrument for The Doors in concert.