Other Amps

Vintage Vox!

1

I haven't owned a lot of amps over the years, but they've all been good ones. I do my diligence and pick my wheelhouse of tones, which are within the realm of classic.

My Marshall Silver Jubilee rig is all I need for any choice gain or overdrive. Playing some Aerosmith or AC-DC? I got that covered. My Fender Hot Rod is great for other tones and certain acoustic conditions.

But after buying a couple of Vox amps, I'm really sold on them.

I started with an AC-15CX, and it sounds amazing. The clarity and chime of the clean tones, and their reverb and tremolo are simply perfect (I'm sure the alnico blue speaker helps). Since then, I've found deals on an AC-30C2X, and an AC-10C1VS.
Depending on what room I'm in, they have all become my go-to amps.

As if that isn't enough (when is it ever?) my interest is now drifting into the vintage era Vox amps, especially the licensed USA models made by Thomas. Berkeleys, Viscounts, Buckinghams, etc. They are still out there, many of them in good to great condition.

..That being said, 'appearance' is one kind of condition, 'technical function' is another kind entirely. I imagine most amps pushing 50+ years in age start having sound issues. Capacitors and resistors dry out and lose efficacy, not just tubes.

Has anyone here on TGP gone down the vintage Vox rabbit hole, especially with the solid state models?
I'd like to know as much as I can about what I may be getting into prior to taking the 60s plunge.

Thanks in advance.

2

DCBirdman is your guy.

3

Thomas Vox (1966 to 70) amps were ahead of their time in many ways. Acoustic and Kustom were exploring solid state and doing ok. But the keyboard companies were ahead of the guitar amp companies when it came to solid state.

Of course www.voxshowroom.com has all the details

http://voxshowroom.com/us/a....

At first they just distrobuted a some UK models, but then made their own. There were a few lower power tube models for a year at the most, then over to solid state. Pretty sure they had the first built in fuzz, and dramatic mid range (Fender had middle control of course) and then repeat effect, something taken from organ circuits. Certainly had the the first wah pedal, and one of the first fuzz tones. They weren't as unreliable as the myth states. But big ones were notoriously hard to work on and only a few techs these days will touch them. But recapped and otherwise tweaked they do sound good. The Westminster is still my favorite bass head.

The tube Cambridge Reverb is the most sought after one, and tweaked up sounds every bit as good as a Fender PR.

But here 50+ years later, most are beat and not sounding optimal.

4

Thanks, DCBirdMan. The Vox Showroom site has been monumentally helpful reference.

I'm definitely leaning toward the trolley models, especially with the separate head on top of the swivel cab.
In that regard, I am liking the Berkeleys and Buckingham, both manageable sizes. Of course the advantage with those being, if I do need to have the amp serviced it won't involve a lot of heavy lifting, I can likely just bring in the head. (.. that being said, I wouldn't say 'no' to a minty Viscount).

Living in Chicago I feel pretty confident I could find a local amp tech to work on it, as long as I didn't find something too far gone.

Also encouraging, is to see a couple of sellers of period correct parts for vintage Vox amps (North Coast Music being one), invaluable for replacing broken or missing corner guards, carry handles, frayed binding, or torn grill cloth. I won't feel so locked in to a 'fixer upper' if I have options.

Meanwhile, the condition of the trolleys on many models out there is unfortunate, and those are no longer made.
Depending on the climate and storage conditions, the amount of pitting and rust after 50+ years has left them in rough shape.
It is certainly possible to have one sandblasted and re-chromed, probably for a few hundred dollars. I did something similar with the tube legs on an art deco kitchen table years ago, to great results.
But it is expensive, and part of the thrill here is in finding something as clean and original as possible.

5

I have many. My first big amp was a Vox Thomas Royal Guardsman, bought new, which I still have. I don't use it much since it will blow out my windows, but it has two silver Celestions, which are great speakers. I then got the bug a long time ago to get a small tube amp. I found an AC-4 at a guitar show in New York City (early 1990s), opened up the back a few weeks later, saw that there were surprisingly few components inside, and became obsessed with tube amps and their 1920s technology.

I picked more up over time, when the prices weren't so astronomical. And a few whose prices were. So now I have a number of Vox JMI and Vox Thomas amps. All are tube versions except for my original Guardsman and a solid state Berkeley given by high school friend. (Actually, rescued from his garage many years later when I realized he was neglecting it. Way back when we thought it was never a great sounding amp. After I rescued it I realized the speakers had been replaced with not-so-good ones, and worse, they were wired out-of-phase. Back then we never knew that was a thing to check.) Like just about every old tube amp they are very serviceable - I still have a few waiting for me to get to. Speakers make a big difference. I suspect that many in the 1960s were used at one point for keyboards, eventually blowing out some speakers.

For more chatter about them check the Facebook pages for "Thomas Vox Organ" and "Vox Amps." Not always full of tech information (and I rarely post anything there) but frequent discussions. There must be other Vox forums as well.

For rusted trolley frames, check YouTube for the wet aluminum foil technique, search "how to restore chrome". I personally never had a reason to try it, but heard from the Vox group that it works.

6

The clean ones are out there. I would got with a Buckingham whiich is the piggyback Viscount. Berkelely is the piggyback Cambridge with one extra speaker.

This guy RG Keen is sort of the King of the Thomas Vox Scene

http://www.geofex.com/

And there's a guy out around Sacramento who works on them.

Also Mel Waldorf here is Thomas Berkeley person, if I recall.

7

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8

Clean ones are indeed out there, which is encouraging. Some of my online research has brought up some really nice 60s Thomas Vox's, usually relatively recent sales on Reverb or other boutique amp sites.

This one (active, as of this writing) is a good example, and somewhat tempting.

It does come with the original cover and stock bulldog speakers.;

https://reverb.com/item/292...

Living where I am, it's within driving distance of a pick up. I'm just not sure I want something so unwieldy. Viscounts must weight upwards of 90 lbs, and it would be a beast to lug into the shop for any servicing.
Other than that it would likely never leave my home.

I think a Berkeley or Buckingham would be ideal, and they're also out there.

9

Best of luck on your hunt.

I was raised in Chicago during the '60's, and there were some pretty good pockets of Vox in the area.

A lot up the top upcoming bands, were given Vox equipment. So for several years, Vox was quite the amp to have.

I can't help but think that there's a lot of hidden Vox treasures to find.

10

Best of luck on your hunt.

I was raised in Chicago during the '60's, and there were some pretty good pockets of Vox in the area.

A lot up the top upcoming bands, were given Vox equipment. So for several years, Vox was quite the amp to have.

I can't help but think that there's a lot of hidden Vox treasures to find.

– J(ust an old Cowboy)D

Thanks! Yep, the Chicago area is ripe with the remnants of cultural pastimes, many very specifically regional. I used to troll a lot of weekend flea-markets and swap meets, and the stuff I'd find often ventured beyond the ordinary Americana.

Some more mundane examples; Bowling balls, accordions, and roller skates. They are everywhere here, vestiges of the generations of eastern Europeans (Polish, Slavic,) who settled and raised families in Buffalo, Chicago, Milwaukee, etc. It's what they did for entertainment, my family being just one of thousands.

A less ethnic example specific to Chicago; Stage & parlor magic. Chicago was once (arguably still is) a world class hub for that branch of entertainment, with a number of retail shops and themed taverns devoted to it. It was ubiquitous here for a while. One result of that over time has been treasure troves of personal gear and tools of the trade, trunks of the largely forgotten. Their practitioner long retired or passed, part of an estate sale, etc.

Pinball and Slot Machines (one-arm bandits); a couple of things that were manufactured here in Chicago.
Sure, you see those around everywhere. But you see way more of them here.

And of course Chicago (like Detroit) has some seriously great music gear, still floating around out there.
Old blues players, 60s and 70s bands no longer active, stuff that may have been on the road, but essentially ended up local.

Wurlitzer made organs here, and for a long period of time, well into the 1970s, Ludwig drums were pouring out of their headquarters and plant on N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park.
That's akin to Gretsches coming out of Brooklyn.

Yeah, Chicago was rockin' it.

11

And Valco. A lot of different Valco amps are referred to as model "Chicago 51" - when "Chicago 51" is actually just the US Post Office's "pre-zip code" postal code for the section of Chicago in which Valco was located. That address was printed on the control panels.

12

And Valco. A lot of different Valco amps are referred to as model "Chicago 51" - when "Chicago 51" is actually just the US Post Office's "pre-zip code" postal code for the section of Chicago in which Valco was located. That address was printed on the control panels.

– nielDa

Yes, thanks! I never knew that name's origin, very cool.

Back in the day, CMI and Harmony were based here as well, and later; Dean guitars.

13

Over to keyboards, Hammond organs came outta Chicago, and out in DeKalb Il was where righteous Wurlitzer electric pianos were made.

14

I grew up in the Eastern outpost of Chicago---South Bend IN. We were connected by the South Shore interurban. The city had the same ethnic mix as Chicago---certainly wasn't typically Hoosier. It's interesting to note that many immigrants to the US settled inn areas that had the same lousy climate that they'd left behind. Chicago has more Poles than Warsaw. There are more Irish in the US than in Ireland.

Can't forget one of the largest purveyor of musical instruments of the last century or so---Sears, Roebuck & Co.. East Coast folks got Gretsch and Guild, West Coast got Fender, the South had Alamo, and we in the Midwest had Gibson, Kalamazoo, Harmony and Silvertone. Chicago has the advantage of being near the center of the country's population---easy to ship anywhere in the country. The Midwest had tons of manufacturing, much of it gone to Rust. JBL/Altec, Shure, and others from Chicago, EV from Michigan, Crown from Indiana---all moved offshore now.

I've had a couple of Hammonds, and am still banging away on my Wurly 140B. Chicago provided all that music, and the best pizza as well!

15

Thanks! Yep, the Chicago area is ripe with the remnants of cultural pastimes, many very specifically regional. I used to troll a lot of weekend flea-markets and swap meets, and the stuff I'd find often ventured beyond the ordinary Americana.

Some more mundane examples; Bowling balls, accordions, and roller skates. They are everywhere here, vestiges of the generations of eastern Europeans (Polish, Slavic,) who settled and raised families in Buffalo, Chicago, Milwaukee, etc. It's what they did for entertainment, my family being just one of thousands.

A less ethnic example specific to Chicago; Stage & parlor magic. Chicago was once (arguably still is) a world class hub for that branch of entertainment, with a number of retail shops and themed taverns devoted to it. It was ubiquitous here for a while. One result of that over time has been treasure troves of personal gear and tools of the trade, trunks of the largely forgotten. Their practitioner long retired or passed, part of an estate sale, etc.

Pinball and Slot Machines (one-arm bandits); a couple of things that were manufactured here in Chicago.
Sure, you see those around everywhere. But you see way more of them here.

And of course Chicago (like Detroit) has some seriously great music gear, still floating around out there.
Old blues players, 60s and 70s bands no longer active, stuff that may have been on the road, but essentially ended up local.

Wurlitzer made organs here, and for a long period of time, well into the 1970s, Ludwig drums were pouring out of their headquarters and plant on N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park.
That's akin to Gretsches coming out of Brooklyn.

Yeah, Chicago was rockin' it.

– Edison

Slingerland was also in Chicago.

At that time they, along with Ludwig and Gretsch, made up the Big 3 in the drum world.

16

I conflated Wurlitzer with Hammond earlier, both being regional.

I got my art degree at NIU, attending there and living in Dekalb when the old Wurlitzer factory was still there. It was closed and virtually abandoned, empty but not derelict, and access to the inside was easy. It was eerie as hell walking around in there, but equally romantic imagining the bustle and activity that once went on there daily.


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