THE ARRIVAL OF THE VOX SOLID STATE LINE
22nd May 2016: to be expanded....
From August 1966, "Beat Instrumental", a British monthly magazine aimed squarely at professional musicians, and the only publication in which Vox regularly advertised, began signalling the imminent arrival of a new line of amps - the solid state line - to replace the hybrid 700 series (which had solid state preamps, but valve power sections - see the 7-series website for more).
Eight models were envisaged: the "Beatle", Defiant, Conqueror, Supreme (later renamed the Virtuoso), and Traveller for guitar; and the Super Foundation, Foundation and Dynamic Basses for bass. All were to have effects built in, the guitar amps "fuzz", "middle-range boost", reverb and tremolo; the bass amps "Tone-X".
By October 1966 things were well advanced - see the pictures below of the pre-production Conqueror, and the amp in the advert featuring Mick Jagger. Although there are evident differences from standard production models, the form is instantly recognisable. Given the complexity of these amps, it is likely that the work of designing and setting up the supply lines for the range began pretty much simultaneously with the arrival of 700 series amps in the shops.
News snippets relating to the 700 series from "Beat Instrumental": March, April and May 1966 (nos 35-37)
Initially the plan was to release the fully solid state line in January 1967, but various revisions, mostly to the electronics (though there were some changes too to the outward appearance) pushed it back to April.
In the meantime a small number of pre-production and standard production units appear to have been issued - presumably for testing purposes (and the garnering of "feedback"). For surviving examples of pre-production amps, see this page, which also has material on the design process. Photos show that the Stones had two early production Supremes and a Super Foundation bass in March - pictures on this page. A news snippet, below, recording the band's visit to the works at Dartford admittedly only mentions "effects", but some connection to the new amps must have existed.
That JMI/Vox sold the 100 Charing Cross Road shop (its chief central London outlet and showroom) to the Macaris in January 1967 probably had little effect on promotions - Vox products continued to be displayed and sold there simply with a wider range of surrounding items.
(Beat Instrumental no. 41)
"NEW VOX AMPS. Jennings have given some indication of what they will be showing at this year's Musical Instrument Trade Fair. The major attraction should be a brand new range of amps which improves on the 700 models. There will also be additions to the range of Vox electric and acoustic guitars and the very latest model of the guitar organ will be demonstrated. Jennings say that they will also be showing some interesting accessories including a stereo lead and a brand new type of speaker. Meanwhile in Moscow..."
Click to enlarge
(Beat Instrumental no. 42)
"Vox have completely shunned previous concepts this year and introduced their revolutionary range of solid state amplification. These, they say, are lighter, sturdier and so not get so hot as the valve type. Daddy of the new wave big boys is the revised version of the Beatle amp at 259gns. This has built-in fuzz, treble boost, middle-range boost, reverb, volume and trem., all of which are controllable from buttons on a foot-plate. Each push-button has a red light to indicate when the effect it represents is in use. This amp now gives 200 watts. Next in line is the Defiant, which is 100 watts and costs 174gns. Then the Conqueror with 60 watts at 162gns., and the Supreme at 85gns. giving 40 watts. The baby amp is the Traveller, which gives out 20 watts and costs 59gns."
"On the bass side there is the 195gns. Super Foundation Bass with an output of 150 watts, and a range of effects to rival the Beatle amp. Then comes the Foundation Bass at 163gns. and the Dynamic Bass at 142gns. All these models have a facility called Tone X, which gives a wide selection of bass tone colours. Jennings also showed their metal-clad P.A. amp units."
Some notes to the above. "gns" = guineas, which in pre-decimal British currency were £1 and one shilling (ie. £1.05). What we know as the Virtuoso was originally called the Supreme. The wattages given must have come from Vox. In the advert from November, below, what we now know as the Supreme is said to have a 200 watt output. The idea of a footswitch with lights was borrowed from the Thomas Organ solid state amps.
Click to enlarge. Click again on the symbol that appears at lower right of the enlarged image to enlarge further.
Click to enlarge. Also from "Beat Instrumental", October 1966: the first advert for the solid state line, showing the footswitch socket in the pre-production position. See this page for surviving examples.
(Beat Instrumental no. 43)
The second advert for the line. Note the pre-production name of the "GyroVox" - marketed as the "GyroTone". A frequency tuner was later to be incorporated in the Thomas Organ Super Beatle. It is not clear how the "200 watt-output" specified above was measured (or achieved).
DECEMBER 1966 and JANUARY 1967
(Beat Instrumental nos 44 and 45)
Brian Jones advertising the Defiant and Tony Hicks what was to become the Supreme, now called a "120 watt Solid State amplifier" - no longer 200 watt.
Note the intention to put the solid state line on sale at the end of January 1967 and the statement that the topology was regarded as being impossible to short-circuit.
(Beat Instrumental no. 46)
The sale of the Jennings shop at 100 Charing Cross Road, London.
(Beat Instrumental no. 47)
As noted at the top of this page, the Stones used two Supremes and a Super Foundation Bass on their European tour, March-April 1967.