Founded in Dartford, Kent, England, Vox has been owned by the Japanese electronics firm Korg since 1992.
Vox is a British-based guitar amp manufacturer that was founded by Thomas Walter Jennings in Dartford, Kent in the late 1950s. They are most famous for the AC30 amp, which was used by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Let’s look at the history of Vox, what they do, and how they’ve changed the guitar world forever.
The History of VOX: From Jennings to Amplification
Beginnings with a Young Designer
The legendary history of VOX begins with a young designer named Tom Jennings, who started working for a corporation that made amplifiers in the 1950s. Jennings had his finger on the pulse of the rapidly evolving electric guitar market and worked tirelessly with his staff to design products that would offer more volume and sustain.
The Introduction of the VOX AC15
The result of their work was introduced in January 1958 and dubbed the VOX AC15. This marked the appearance of an institution that thrived for nearly six decades. The name “VOX” was shortened from “Vox Humana,” a Latin word for “human voice,” which was popularized by The Shadows, a British rock and roll band.
The VOX AC30 and the Rise of Rock and Roll
The VOX AC30 was released in 1959 and quickly became the choice of many musicians, including Vic Flick, the iconic guitarist who played the James Bond theme. The VOX organ was also founded by Thomas Walter Jennings in Dartford, England, and it was a successful product that was similar to the electronic keyboard.
The VOX AC30 Combo Amplifier
Originally named the “VOX AC30/4,” the combo amplifier features a simplified design that included a tremolo effect and shared the same tone as the larger AC30. The smaller output was discontinued due to sales pressure from more powerful Fender amplifiers.
The VOX AC30TB and the Rolling Stones
In 1960, The Rolling Stones requested a more powerful amplifier from VOX, and the result was the VOX AC30TB. Essentially a named-upgraded AC30, it was fitted with Alnico Celestion loudspeakers and special valves (vacuum tubes) that helped produce the signature “jangly” tone of The Rolling Stones and The Kinks.
Overall, the legendary history of VOX is a testament to the company’s commitment to innovation and quality. From its humble beginnings with Tom Jennings to its commercial success with the VOX AC30, VOX has played an important role in the evolution of rock and roll music.
The Evolution of Vox Guitar Manufacturers
JMI: The Famous Beginning
Jennings Musical Industries (JMI) was the original manufacturer of Vox guitars. They started making amplifiers in the late 1950s and introduced their first guitar in 1961. The Vox Continental was designed to meet the growing demand for louder musical equipment as rock and roll was rolling across the world. The Continental was a transistorised combo organ, but it was also designed to be played as a guitar. The Continental was an innovative alternative to the heavy Hammond organs that were difficult to place on stage.
Continental Vox: The Split
In the mid-1960s, Vox split into two different companies, Continental Vox and Vox Amplification Ltd. Continental Vox specialised in making guitars and other musical equipment designed for touring musicians. They were regarded as one of the best guitar manufacturers in the United Kingdom at the time.
Mick Bennett: The Designer
Mick Bennett was the designer behind many of Vox’s most famous guitars. He was responsible for the Vox Phantom, the Cougar, and the high-end Vox Invader and Thunderjet models. Bennett was an innovative designer who was always looking for ways to improve Vox’s guitars. He even drilled holes in the control plates of some guitars to make them lighter.
Crucianelli: The Second Manufacturer
In the late 1960s, Vox was unable to cope with the growing demand for their guitars worldwide. They opened a second factory nearby, but it was badly damaged in a fire in January 1969. As a result, Vox was forced to look for a new manufacturer to help them meet the demand for their guitars. They found a company called Crucianelli in Italy, who began assembling Vox guitars for export to the United States.
Phantom: The Most Significant Model
The Vox Phantom is possibly the best-known guitar from the Vox range. It was introduced in the early 1960s and was in production until the mid-1970s. The Phantom was a joint venture between Vox and a distributor of musical instruments called Eko. The Phantom was distinctive because of its electronic versions of existing pickups and its unique body shape. The double cutaway hollow body was shaped like a teardrop, with a pointed headstock and a distinctive V-shaped tailpiece.
Differing Construction and Phase
During the period of different manufacturers, Vox guitars were constructed in differing ways. The early JMI guitars had a set neck, while the later Italian-made guitars had bolt-on necks. The construction of the guitars also changed over time, with different phases of production using different materials and techniques.
Renewal and Current Products
VOX Amps and KORG Revival
In recent years, VOX has been revived by KORG, who acquired the brand in 1992. Since then, they have produced a range of high-quality amps and other products, including:
- The VOX AC30C2X, a redesign of the venerable AC30, featuring two 12-inch Celestion Alnico Blue speakers and a new turret board construction.
- The VOX AC15C1, a faithful recreation of the classic AC15, with a wooden-cased design reminiscent of the original.
- The VOX AC10C1, a later model that replaced the AC4 and AC10, revised with a greenback speaker and a new cosmetic template.
- The VOX Lil’ Night Train, a lunchbox-sized amp that uses a dual 12AX7 tube preamp and a 12AU7 tube power amp, with the ability to choose between pentode and triode modes.
- The VOX AC4C1-BL, a unique amp that sets itself apart with its ability to switch between pentode and triode modes and its high/low power switch that bypasses the EQ.
- The VOX AC30VR, a solid-state amp that emulates the sound of a tube amp, with two channels and a direct recording output.
- The VOX AC4TV, a low-wattage amp with a switchable output of 4, 1, or ¼ watts, designed for practice and recording.
VOX Effects Pedals
In addition to their amps, VOX also produces a range of effects pedals, including:
- The VOX V847A Wah Pedal, a faithful recreation of the original wah pedal, with a solidly constructed chassis and a physical appearance reminiscent of the original.
- The VOX V845 Wah Pedal, a more affordable version of the V847A, with a similar sound and cosmetic template.
- The VOX VBM1 Brian May Special, a pedal designed in collaboration with Queen guitarist Brian May, adding a treble boost and a master volume control to the classic VOX wah sound.
- The VOX VDL1 Dynamic Looper, a pedal that allows you to loop and layer your guitar parts, with up to 90 seconds of recording time.
- The VOX VDL1B Bass Dynamic Looper, a version of the VDL1 designed specifically for bass players.
- The VOX V845 Classic Wah, a pedal that adds a unique capability to your sound with its switched pentode and cathode emulation.
- The VOX V845 Classic Wah Plus, an updated version of the V845 that adds a bypass switch and a girth control to retain your sound’s character.
Comparison to Other Brands
Compared to other brands, VOX amps and effects pedals are largely based on their heritage and are considered notability encyclopedic. They have entered the market with routine news and press releases, but their products expand properly sourced and meet high-quality standards. In terms of physical appearance, VOX amps are often compared to toaster or lunchbox designs, while their effects pedals have a cosmetic and operational template that is familiar to many guitar players. The unique capability of their pedals, such as the pentode and cathode emulation, sets them apart from other brands.
So, that’s how Vox began and how they’ve influenced the guitar world. They’re known for their amps, but also for their guitars, and have been around for almost 70 years now.
They’re a British company and have been making quality products for musicians worldwide. So, if you’re looking for a new amp or guitar, you should definitely consider checking out what Vox has to offer!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:Subscribe