In 1956 Jennings was shown a prototype guitar amplifier made by Dick Denney, a big band guitarist and an old workmate from World War II. The company was renamed Jennings Musical Instruments, or JMI, and in 1958 the 15-watt Vox AC15 amplifier was launched. It was successful, popularized by The Shadows and other British rock 'n' roll musicians.
In the early 1960’s the Brothers Grim became the first American group to be featured with Vox Amplifiers. Joe Banaron, CEO of Warwick Electronics Inc. / Thomas Organ, 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 (4x12" 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 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." A photograph included in the article showed Campbell's actual 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."
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 Hilton Valentine of The Animals; 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, the only 12 string electric guitar to feature such a vibrato. There was something called the Stereo Phantom XII, which 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 even introduced a series of guitars, among them the Delta phantom style guitar and bass, the Starstream teardrop 6-string, and Constellation teardrop bass, which featured built in effects such as fuzz tone, "repeater" tremolo, and even a wah-wah operated by the heel of the picking hand pushing on a spring loaded lever over the bridge.
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 are 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 are clearly marked as made in Japan, suggesting a phased production hand-over.
The Continental and other Vox organs (such as the Jaguar and 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 on the keyboards. 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 Bass Piano, which was the bass instrument for The Doors in concert.
The instrument never became popular, but 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 used a Phantom VII special with onboard effects.
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 basically paralleled JMI's own transistorized 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. Gimmicks like this certainly didn't help matters, at all. 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 2003 manufacturing was moved to China, including a yet-newer redesign of the venerable AC30, now designated the AC30CC.
Recently Vox has emerged as a leader in the digital amp modelling 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 faithful recreation of eleven classic guitar amplifiers at a price that most guitarists can easily afford. The company did not reveal in the product manual which non-Vox amplifiers were modeled, although experienced guitarists would be able to deduce these from their descriptions, and the full list of amplifiers has been posted on the unofficial Valvetronix users' forum The eleven amplifier types as named on the dial are:
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