Vox is a musical equipment manufacturer founded in 1957 by Thomas Walter Jennings in Dartford, Kent, England. The company is most famous for making the Vox AC30 guitar amplifier, used by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Queen, Dire Straits, U2 and Radiohead, the Vox Continental electric organ, the Vox wah-wah pedal used by Jimi Hendrix, and a series of innovative electric guitars and bass guitars. Since 1992, Vox has been owned by the Japanese electronics firm Korg.
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 using 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, Tom DeLonge, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Noel Gallagher, Matthew Bellamy, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Dustin Kensrue, Tame Impala, 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-coloured 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 transistorised 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 an AC100 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 Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Lennon favoured the larger 7120 amplifier, while Harrison preferred the 730 and McCartney had its sister 430 bass amplifier.
In the early 1960s the Brothers Grim became the first American group use Vox Amplifiers. Joe Benaron, CEO of Warwick Electronics Inc. / Thomas Organ Company, the United States distributor of Vox, along with Bernard Stockly (London), importer of Challenge pianos to the United States, arranged for the boys to have full use of the tall Super AC 100 Vox amps (4×12″ speakers). The solid-state version of this amp (known in the USA as the “Super Beatle”) was produced to cash in on the Beatles-Vox affiliation, but was not nearly as successful as the valve 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 and they used real Vox amps for the performances.
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 output jacks and were produced by a cabinet maker in Shoeburyness, Essex. Vox president Tom Jennings commissioned 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 EKO of Italy. The first Phantom guitars were given to The Echoes to trial and were used by them until 1970. They can be heard on many of their recordings and records they did with other artists such as Dusty Springfield. Aside from the unusual body and headstock shapes, Phantoms featured copies of the Fender Stratocaster neck and its attachment, the Strat’s three single-coil pick-ups and standard vibrato bridge that in this case copied a Bigsby unit. Aside from being a bit awkward to hold for seated playing, the Phantom guitars now approached professional quality, performance and price. Phil “Fang” Volk of Paul Revere & the Raiders played a Phantom IV bass (which was eventually retrofitted with a Fender neck). It was followed a year later by the teardrop-shaped Mark VI, the prototype of which had only two pick-ups (rather than three) and was made specifically for Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, again using a Bigsby-like “Hank Marvin” bridge. By the end of the decade, Stones bassist Bill Wyman was shown in Vox advertisements playing a teardrop hollow-bodied bass made for him by the company, subsequently marketed as the Wyman Bass. Many guitar gear authorities dispute that he ever actually used the instrument for recording or live performance. (See also Vox Bass Guitar.) Vox experimented with several built-in effects and electronics on guitars such as the Cheetah, Ultrasonic, and Invader. Ian Curtis of Joy Division is known to have owned two white Vox Phantom VI Special effects guitars which had push button switches on the scratch plate to activate the effects cicuits. Another innovation was the Guitar Organ, which featured miniaturised VOX organ circuitry activated by the contact of the strings on the frets, producing organ tones in key[clarification needed] with guitar chords. This instrument was heavy and cumbersome with a 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 was subsequently used by Tony Hicks of The Hollies, Captain Sensible of early English punk band The Damned and Greg Kihn; the Mark XII electric 12-string guitar and 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 pick-ups 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 pedals and other effects, including an early version of the wah-wah pedal used by Jimi Hendrix and the Tone Bender fuzzbox pedal, a Vox variation on the famous original Gary Hurst Tone Bender (used by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds as well as The Beatles, Spencer Davis and others), were also marketed by Vox and later on manufactured in 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 having their microphone connected to their amplifier or PA by a cable.
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. They were discontinued in 1985 when production was moved to Korea and they were replaced by the White Shadow models. 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 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 pick-up 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 featured CoAxe pick-ups which resembled the earlier Three-90 in functionality, but were claimed to be less noisy. The one-piece cast MaxConnect bridge of this series is aluminium and provides both a saddle and anchor for the 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 a New York auction for 408,000 USD.
Vox bass guitar is any of the bass guitars made by Vox, a British musical equipment company, in the 1960s. Vox made a number of bass guitars (along with six string electric guitars) during the 1960s, although they were not nearly as successful as their efforts in amplifiers.
Early basses were built between 1961–1967 by Jennings Musical Industries (JMI) in the UK, with Italian manufacturer EKO being brought in to help with the huge demand from the US market from 1965 until 1969.
Several models of Vox basses featured active electronics powered by a nine volt battery for Distortion (“Dance to the Music”) and Treble/Bass Boost (“Happy Jack”) effects and a 440 Hz LC controlled “E-Tuner” circuit which crossfades with the Volume Control knob.
The Apollo bass featured a single neck pickup and a single cutaway design similar to the Gibson ES-135 guitar, and the Vox Distortion and Boost active electronics. It was available in Sunburst or Cherry finishes. The Saturn bass is the identical but without the active electronics.
The Panther, Bassmaster and the Hawk were solid body instruments similar in style and neck scale to the Fender Precision Basses (respectively), featuring a rosewood fingerboard on a polished sycamore neck. The Panther was Vox’s lowest priced bass, available in black only, and had one single-pole pickup mounted at a 45° angle to the strings. The Bassmaster had two passive pickups and came in red, white or sunburst finishes. Both had the smaller “guitar”-sized machine heads. The Hawk had the active electronics, a thinner neck and the large-ratio “Fender Bass”-type machine heads on a very large ovoid headstock and four “Precision Bass Tuners” on the one up-side.
The Cougar bass was modeled in shape after the Gibson EB-2 hollow body bass guitar, which in turn was modeled on Gibson’s ES-335 guitar. It was used by Douggie Reece of The Echoes on many sessions with Dusty Springfield. The Cougar came in fireburst (rare), red and tobacco sunburst colors. The necks and scales varied between 1964 and 1967 with Gibson-like 2-on-a-side tuners. “Vox” was inlaid vertically on the large headstock. It had a metal nut and a zero fret. The two single coil pickups were passive, and each had a volume and tone control; on Crucianelli guitars the pickups are floating pickups with metal covers (toasters in 1964, the slots were replaced by holes in 1965) and on EKO made Cougars, the pickups have plastic covers. There was a selector switch to choose either or both pickups. The unsecured floating bridge could be raised or lowered by means of adjustments, similar to a Gibson ‘tune-o-matic’ bridge of the same era. The pickguard was floating, attached to the body by a metal rod. Some players removed the pickguard, as it served little purpose on an instrument usually played without a pick and almost never strummed, even if played with a pick. The Cougar was first made for VOX by Crucianelli in Italy in 1964 and 1965; the 1964 model has a batwing shaped pickguard and looks identical to the Panaramic brand bass guitar made by Crucianelli in 1963. In 1966, EKO took over the manufacture of the VOX Cougar and EKO Cougars can be easily identified by the white pickup mounts. The Crucianelli made VOX Cougars are extremely rare today as are Panaramic guitars made by Crucianelli.
The Constellation double-cutaway, hollow body bass guitar was slightly smaller than the Cougar, similar to the Hofner Violin Bass. It was used by Larry Graham with Sly and the Family Stone, and also by John Entwistle of The Who. It had a sunburst finish, a very thin, bound mahogany fingerboard, maple neck with “Tee-Bar” truss rod, and a very large ovoid-shaped headstock with raised metal “VOX” lettering. The bridge could be raised or lowered, and had individual, adjustable saddles.
The Constellation had a metal nut and a “zero fret”, a floating pickguard, two very aggressive sounding passive pickups, and the active electronics. There is 1 passive tone control for each pickup.
The tone was quite thunderous even though the pickups are single coil. The tailpiece bail was “Mosrite-Bigsby” type and used the “Fender Bass”-type machine heads.
The Violin Bass had two extended range pickups; polished neck with binding; adjustable master bridge channel; rotary pickup selector and precision machine heads, with no active electronics.
The Phantom IV and Delta IV Basses had the “trapezoidal” body of the Phantom VI guitar. The Delta IV had the same features as the Constellation IV, and the Phantom IV had no active electronics.
The Mark IV Bass had the hollow “teardrop”-shaped body like the Mark VI guitar, with two single pole pickups. The Constellation IV model bass guitar had the same neck, hardware and electronics as the Constellation, but with the teardrop-shaped body.
A special edition of the Mark IV, the “Bill Wyman Bass” was designed by Vox for the Rolling Stones’s bass player, for which Wyman lent his name under endorsement. The guitar was an electro-acoustic tear drop model with two chromed pickups and pick plates.
The Vox brand was also applied to Jennings’s electronic organs, most notably the Vox Continental of 1962, whose distinctive trademark “wheedling” tone was immortalised by Alan Price on the Animals’ track “House of the Rising Sun”. In 1962 the Vox Continental was given to The Echoes to trial on stage and use on records they cut with Bert Weedon and Dusty Springfield as well being featured on their version of “Sticks & Stones” 1963 as well many other records, 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 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) 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, 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, 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 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 pick-ups, 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 it is very heavy, weighing, nearly 9 lbs.
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 quickly grew. In 1964 Tom Jennings, 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.
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 solid-state amplifiers in the United States that carried the Vox name and cosmetic stylings. With some assistance from Dick Denney, these amps effectively paralleled JMI’s own transistorised amplifiers but were different from the British and Italian made Voxes in sound and reliability. To promote their equipment, Thomas Organ built the Voxmobile, a Ford roadster dressed up to look like a Phantom guitar, complete with a Continental organ and several “Beatle” amplifiers. Despite the huge marketing effort, Thomas Organ’s Vox products did much to damage the reputation of Vox in the North American market for many years. By 1968, the company had also marketed a line of Vox drum sets (actually made by a German drum company, known as 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.
The AC10 was one of the first amplifiers to bear the VOX name and has long been adored for its ability to achieve rich, articulate tube tone at very manageable volumes. For this reason, the AC10 has become a highly coveted piece of VOX history since its discontinuation in 1965. It was re-introduced in 2015 as model AC10C1 and has proven to be very popular as a quality option to the Fender Blues Jr. and Fender Princeton.
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 amp is a 15W head with two 12AX7 preamp tubes, a pair of push-pull EL-84 valves in its power section, and a solid state rectifier. It uses a cathodyne splitter, and its power section is cathode biased. The amp 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.
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 coloured tube cage and black control knobs, and then covered its V110NT cab with a retro-traditional “Brown Diamond“ grille cloth and basket weave covering (since there was no “G2” version of the Lil Night Train, this limited edition NT2H seems to mark the end of the line for this model as Vox makes no further reference to it). 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.
As of Fall 2017, it appears the Night Train series has been completely discontinued and the Vox website no longer references any Night Train amplifiers in its online catalogue.
Vox, at least initially, emerged as a leader in the digital amp modelling 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 preamp stage and a solid state power amp. 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 modelled in the product manual. The eleven amplifier types as named on the dial are:
- Boutique CL
- Black 2×12 (based on 1965 Fender Twin Reverb)
- Tweed 4×10 (based on 1959 Fender Bassman)
- AC15 (original Vox amp)
- AC30TB (original Vox amp)
- UK ’70s
- UK ’80s
- UK Modern
- US NuMetal
- US HiGain
- US TweakGain
- Boutique O.D
As for the newer versions, which feature 22 models based upon, in order from green to red mode:
- 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
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.
Each amplifier has eleven inbuilt amp sounds:
- Glass / Funked / Buzzsaw / Crunched / Thrashed / Raged / Modern / Fluid / Molten / Black / Damaged
Hi-quality modern effects are also built in, giving more control over the output:
- Octave / Comp / Comp + Phaser / Comp + Chorus / Chorus + Delay / Chorus + Reverb / Flanger + Reverb / Tremolo + Reverb / Rotary + Reverb / Delay / Reverb
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 use 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:
- Bulldog Distortion
- Brit Boost
- Big Ben Overdrive
- Duel Overdrive
- Over the Top Boost
- Snake Charmer Compressor
In January 2017, Vox introduced the MV50 amp head and amp sets. Described by Vox as a hybrid amp, the amp heads are called the MV50 AC, the MV50 Clean, and the MV50 Rock. When paired with the BC108 cabinet, each is then described as the MV50 AC set, the MV50 Clean set, and the MV50 Rock set respectively. Vox states the MV50 AC is designed to provide the sound of a VOX AC30, and that the MV50 Clean is designed to provide clean tones with a lot of headroom as inspired by the sound of American amplifiers. Vox states the MV50 Rock is designed to provide the more aggressive high gain sound of vintage British amps. In January 2018, Vox announced two new MV50 amp heads: the MV50 Boutique and the MV50 High Gain.
The design goal of these hybrid micro heads was to provide usable power from a compact digital power amp section combined with a real analogue preamplifier in a very small and light metal chassis. The amps each weigh about 1.1 lbs, and fit in one hand (Dimensions (W x D x H): 135mm x 100mm x 75mm/5.31” x 3.94” x 2.95”). These amps are advertised as 50 watt heads, so the power section is a special Class D design as might be expected. What is unexpected is the preamp design that includes a new type of vacuum tube (valve) called the Nutube 6P1, which is the result of Korg working with Japanese vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) company Noritake Itron Corp.(Ise Electronics Corp). As such, the Nutube is a dual-triode vacuum tube packaged similarly to a VFD “chip” which makes it mountable on a circuit board using holes and pads not unlike a DIP. The miniaturised flat package topography, low power consumption, and low heat, long life attributes of the Nutube are key contributors to deploying an analogue tube preamp in such a small, lightweight footprint. Power consumption is only 3.43 Amps which is provided by a DC19VAC adapter, but Vox rates the MV50 power output at 50 Watts. However, note the 50W rating is for a 4Ω load; power output specs are as follows: Max 50W RMS at 4 Ohms, 25W RMS at 8 Ohms, 12.5W RMS at 16 Ohms.
The amps have a simple control set on the front panel: all versions have Gain, Tone and Volume controls except for MV50 Clean, which has Treble, Bass, and Volume. Also on the front panel is a small “VU” meter, and a 1/4″ input jack. On the rear panel are a 1/4″ speaker output jack, and a 1/4″ headphones/line out jack. The amp includes cabinet simulation at the line out jack, and can thus be used as a DI to go straight into a mixer or recorder. There is also an EQ switch to select between “Deep” and “Flat.” The Deep setting is intended for use with smaller cabinets where mids and highs tend to overwhelm the low frequencies, and Flat is designed to allow the amp to work with larger cabinets where the lower frequencies are more naturally present. Also present on the rear panel is the DC19V in jack, and the ECO on-off, standby-on, and Impedance switches with the following two exceptions: MV50 Clean has no Impedance Switch but instead has an Attenuator switch allowing the choice of either full power out, 1/10th power out, or 1/100th power out, and MV50 High Gain, which has no Impedance Switch but instead has a Mid Ctrl “minus/Norm/plus” switch allowing boost or cut of the amp’s mid range.
Since there is some variation in the control sets among the versions, below are the MV50 controls listed by amp version (three of the rear panel controls, ECO on/off, Standby/On, and EQ Flat/Deep, are common to all models):
Clean – Front Panel controls: Treble, Bass, Volume; Rear Panel controls: Attenuator
AC – Front Panel controls: Gain, Tone, Volume; Rear Panel controls: Impedance
Rock – Front Panel controls: Gain, Tone, Volume; Rear Panel controls: Impedance
Boutique – Front Panel controls: Gain, Tone, Volume; Rear Panel controls: Impedance
High Gain – Front Panel controls: Gain, Tone, Volume; Rear Panel controls: Mid Ctrl
The sets, as mentioned above, are paired with Vox’s BC108, which is a compact, portable, semi open-back cabinet that is front loaded with a single “8” VOX Original 8 Ohm Speaker” rated at 25W input (Dimensions W x D x H: 260 x 200 x 285 mm/10.24″ x 7.87″ x 11.2″). The BC108 also comes with two 1/4″ jacks, wired in parallel, for adding another cabinet. Vox has also suggested the compact BC112, a semi-open back, oval port cabinet containing a single 70W, 12″ Celestion G12 V-type speaker, to pair with the MV50.
Hunter, Dave, “50 Years of Vox”, Vintage Guitar magazine, 16 February 2010 (This article originally appeared in VG’s November 2007 issue)
“Beatles guitar smashes auction estimates”. 3 News NZ. 20 May 2013.
Hempsall, Alan. “A Day Out With Joy Division”, Extro, Vol.2/No.5 1980.
Guitar World magazine, September issue, 2005