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Vox is a musical equipment manufacturer which is most famous for making the Vox AC30 guitar amplifier, the Vox Continental electric organ, and a series of innovative but commercially unsuccessful electric guitars and bass guitars. Founded in Dartford, Kent, England, Vox has been owned by the Japanese electronics firm Korg since 1992.
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 an old workmate from The Shadows and other British rock 'n' roll musicians.
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, Paul Collins, 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, Mike Campbell, Peter Buck, Justin Hayward, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Noel Gallagher, Matthew Bellamy, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Dustin Kensrue, and many others.
Once The Beatles became tied to Vox amplifiers (a deal was struck early in their recording career whereby they would be provided Vox equipment for exclusive stage use), the quest for more power began. John Lennon's first Vox was a fawn-colored twin-speaker AC15, while George Harrison's was a fawn AC30 with a top boost unit installed in the rear panel. They were later provided with twin black-covered AC30s with the rear panel top boost units. 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 an unnerving 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 to keep up. 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 2x15" cabinet. Lennon and Harrison eventually got their own AC100 rigs, with 4x12"/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 becoming fond of the 730 amp and 2 x 12 cabinet using it to get most of the guitar sounds on Revolver and Sergeant Pepper. A 730 amplifier and cabinet that had George Harrison's name inscribed on the metal amp chassis was listed in a December 2011 Bonhams auction but was withdrawn and apparently placed in a private collection, it was expected to achieve at least 100,000 US dollars at auction. The amp was discovered when the owner took it in for repair by one of Manchester's top valve amp repairers and the repairer spotted the Harrison inscription on the chassis.People who worked with The Beatles at Abbey Road in the 60's confirmed George did have his amplifiers marked on the chassis by his roadies with his name as he did lend items out to other musicians. The amp and cabinet created a wealth of interest around the world. John liked the bigger 7120 amplifier, George stuck with his 730, and Paul had its sister 430 bass amp. Around six of each 7120's,730's and 430's were delivered to The Beatles in 66 and 67. George is known to have kept hold of the six 730's for a while in the 60's and in 2004 Neil Aspinall confirmed in an interview that he remembered two of George's 730's with his name scratched on the side of the chassis were still around Apple in the 1970s and he thought documentation detailing the serial numbers of those two was noted down at Apple somewhere. The search is now on to see if more than the one of George's 730 amps and matching cabinets survived as it is thought only 25 or 26 ever survived the total Vox production run of 730's according to the Vox 1960's factory build records..
In the early 1960s the Brothers Grim became the first American group to be featured with Vox Amplifiers. Joe Benaron, CEO of Fender Princeton together behind the Super Beatle, and an isolated Vox AC30 that I have backstage in a box."
The Monkees obtained large empty Vox cabinets they would conceal themselves in prior to the live shows on the 1967 tour. They would be onstage with the real Vox amps they used in the performance and they would emerge from them for a grand entrance at the opening of the show.
|Vox Phantom VI||Vox Mark VI|
Vox's first electric guitars, the Apache, Stroller and Clubman were modeled after solid-body, bolt-neck Fenders, which at the time were not available in the U.K. 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 miniaturized 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.
Guitar effects pedals, including an early version of the wah-wah pedal used by Jimi Hendrix and the Tone Bender fuzzbox pedal used by Jimmy Page of the Yardbirds were also manufactured. In 1967 Vox introduced a series of guitars which featured built in effects such as fuzz tone, "repeater" tremolo, 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 a continuing effort to provide a line of finely crafted USA manufactured instruments to the world market.
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 aluminum and provides both a saddle and anchor for the guitar strings.
For 2012 the iconic VOX Phantom and Teardrop guitars appear 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.
The Vox brand was also applied to Jennings's electronic organs, most notably the Vox Continental of 1962, whose distinctive trademark "wheedling" tone was immortalized by Alan Price on the Animals' track "House of the Rising Sun", and later used by Paul Revere of Paul Revere & the Raiders, as well as Ray Manzarek on most songs recorded by The Doors and by John Lennon on The Beatles' track "I'm Down", both in the studio and live at their 1965 Shea Stadium concert. Doug Ingle of Iron Butterfly used it on "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and other songs of the group. Mike Smith of The Dave Clark Five and Rod Argent of The Zombies were also made frequent use of the instrument. Peter Tork of the Monkees can be seen playing the unusual looking Vox organs several times during the Monkees TV series (1966–1968). In newer popular music, the organist Spider Webb of the UK garage band The Horrors can be seen using a Vox Continental. A famous Vox organ riff can be heard on "96 Tears" by Question Mark & the Mysterians. Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers has frequently used his vintage 1965 single Continental in the studio with the band since 1976 and still uses the instrument today. Another famous signature Vox organ sound was created by Augie Meyers when playing with the Sir Douglas Quintet, as heard in the songs Mendocino and She's About a Mover.
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) has become increasingly collectible, although the wood key American-built (V301H) and plastic key Italian-built models (V301E, V301E/2 and V302E) are also commanding 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, Ray Manzarek of The Doors had been using a Vox since 1966, but could no longer trust it during performances because of the problems in quality after 1967, and thus was forced to look elsewhere for an organ. He settled on the 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.
In 1966, Vox introduced the problematic V251 GuitarOrgan, a Phantom VI guitar with internal organ electronics. John Lennon was given one in a bid to secure an endorsement, though this never panned out. 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 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.
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 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.
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, at nearly 9 lbs, it is very heavy, as might be expected.
The instrument never became popular though it was a precursor to the modern guitar synthesizer. Ian Curtis of Joy Division is sometimes believed to have used a GuitarOrgan, but he actually owned two white Phantom VI special with onboard effects.
Vox grew big fast. 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, roughly 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.
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.
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. Gimmicks like this didn't help sales and by the early 1970s Vox's American presence was virtually nonexistent.
Vox Amplification Ltd. has been owned by Korg since 1992. Korg revived the tube 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.
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.
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.
|This section is outdated. (September 2013)|
Recently Vox has emerged as a leader in the digital amp modeling market with the release of its Valvetronix line of digital amplifier modelers. Utilizing Korg's REMS modeling software, the Valvetronix are driven via a low-power tube power amp stage. The latest line, the AD15VT / AD30VT / AD50VT / AD100VT, has received many awards and much praise for its recreation of eleven classic guitar amplifiers at a price considered affordable. 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
As for the newer versions, which feature 22 models based upon, in order from green to red mode:
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 1x10" speaker, AD30VT-XL 30-watt 1x12" speaker, AD50VT-XL 50-watt 2x12" speakers, AD100VT-XL 100-watt 2x12" speakers. Each amplifier has eleven inbuilt amp sounds:
Hi-quality modern effects are also built in, giving more control over the output:
In addition to the Valvetronix, Vox has developed a line of analog effects pedals. Dubbed Cooltron, the line provides guitarists with vintage sounding overdrive, compression, boost, distortion, and tremolo. The pedals utilize 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:
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