EARLY VOX SUPREMES
Jennings Musical Industries: March - late 1967
The picture above is from the Vox solid state catalogue of July 1967. The amp ilustrated is actually a pre-production model - note the position of the footswitch socket. For more on prototypes and pre-production amps, see this page.
Produced at the Burndept / Vox factory in Erith, the Vox Supreme was the flagship of the new solid state range, its smaller kin being the Virtuoso, Conqueror and Defiant. For an overview of the early advertising, see this page.
Its general format: a "Super Twin" guitar amp, that is to say separate amp and speaker cabinet, 100W output, twin channel, with distortion, reverb and tremolo operated by a three-button footswitch. The Normal channel had the tremolo along with switchable top boost. The Brilliant (treble) channel had the distortion and a mid range boost effects network. Reverb could be switched between the two.
The speaker cab took the same form as an AC100 cab, but with new ceramic drivers - Celestion T1279s, 15 ohm and rated at 20-25 watts. Total power handling, the two Midax horns included, was probably in the region of 120W, which some Supremes could certainly kick out if their output stages had been set up to run hot.
An extract from the Vox pricelist of July 1967. The Supreme cost £271 and 19 shillings. In today's money, that would be around £4,500 according to the Bank of England's inflation calculator. see this page.
The first band to be issued with new Supremes was The Rolling Stones (in March 1967) - see this page. Alan Harding, chief engineer at Vox, accompanied the band on their European tour in Spring 1967 to monitor the performance of the new amps and the ceramic speakers, about which there was some concern (comm. from AH), needless as it turned out.
At some point in the second third of 1967, JMI introduced the tilt-back stand. As in the case of the Conqueror and Defiant, the amp was attached to the cab with removable brackets - a really bad idea, as Supremes are surprisingly heavy. The top section of the chrome frame often left circular grooves on the sides of the cabs - see serial no. 1094 below. See the Supreme cabs page for further examples.
General characteristics of the earliest (first generation) amps - serial numbers 1001-1160:
- The numbering sequence began at 1001.
- Serial number plates of known early amps give the number in the form: ST--xxxx.
- Control panels are brownish in colour.
- The jack sockets have chromed metal tops and white surrounds (also used on the pre-production amps). Internally the jacks are metal and of open construction, rather than the closed black plastic units of second generation JMI amps (and later).
- Preamp and power sections have stamped serial numbers. As in the case of all Burndept-made amps, these are not sequential from amp to amp. The chassis were stacked randomly and gathered up for production in no particular order.
- External screw fixings are provided for the preamp - tell-tale screw holes on top of the amp - next to the front corner protectors. These were dropped in second generation amps.
- The back boards, which are covered in grille cloth, have angled corners. This style of board carried through to second generation Supremes.
- Logos are in silver, and say VOX only.
- The paired indicator lamps and standby switch arrangement continued through to second generation amps; it was dropped later on.
- Perforated metal grilles on top of the amp and at the top of the back board also continued through to second generation amps; later replaced by plastic and solid back board.
- Early Supremes were in several instances issued with 7120 / 4120 cabs to the keyboardists of notable bands.
- Supreme cabs have at first ceramic Celestion T1279 drivers and Goodmans midax horns. Amps were generally produced before the cabs they were paired with.
- Later in 1967, cabs had Goodmans speakers, code "241H 1236 15" - "241H" being the style of frame, "H" for heavy magnet, "1236" being the cone, and "15" the impedance. Celestion rather than Goodmans horns were sometimes fitted - see serial number 1121 for instance.
- The schematic for the preamp is OS/136, and for the power amp OS/135
Below, a register of surviving amps. If anyone knows of early Supremes that have not yet been included, do let me know.
Serial number 1058 - currently in the UK
Power amp chassis 1045. Preamp chassis 1782. Required some bringing back to life, but everything now in working order. The handle is new, as is the MRB selector switch. Some of the knobs, acquired separately, are from something like a Vox Echo unit, or perhaps effects units. The original Belling Lee mains input survives, as does the original mains cable. The main CCL filter caps have date codes "K6" and "L6" = November and December 1966.
Serial number 1065 - currently in the UK
Bought in Southampton in the mid 1990s and taken to Portugal. Returned to the UK in 2015. One of the main filter caps has the date code "K6" = Nov. 1966. Inspection of other components to follow.
Serial number 1081 - currently in the USA
A good early Supreme with extra sockets for footpedals to control only the Reverb, and only the Distortion. Two different fonts used for the legends. The work is nicely done, and early. A similar arrangement is to be found on a later amp (Vox Sound Ltd), below, though one of the DIN sockets is on the top panel. On the back panel of 1081, a hole for a second jack speaker output has been stopped up. The original footpedal that operates all three effects (reverb, tremolo and distortion) still survives. Thanks to Gene for the pictures.
Serial number 1087 - currently in the UK
Power amp chassis 1160. Preamp chassis 1613. In reasonable condition. Full working order. The original Belling Lee mains input has been replaced with a modern IE connection. At some point the bias boards went up in smoke (the originals are pictured above) - one can see the scorch marks on the preamp umbilical and on the inside top of the wooden box. Filter capacitor date code "D6" = April 1966, clearly older stock when used.
Serial number unknown - currently in the UK
Preamp chassis T1706. Power amp chassis C1028. In full working order, reverb, tremelo and distortion all operable via the footswitch. A huge sounding amp. Cosmetic condition is fair. Minor repairs to the bias boards some time ago to judge from the tarnishing. The preamp has been recapped. The original bias caps are still in place - date code "K6" = November 1966. Other date codes to be provided.
BLACK CONTROL PANELS
Note that black panels make their appearance at around serial no. 1090 also in Super Foundation Bass amps. See this page.
Serial number 1094 - formerly in Berlin, now in the UK
Formerly in Berlin, now in the UK. Amp no. 1094, with a JMI speaker cab designed for a tilt-back stand (the hole for pivot mounting high on its sides), possibly from another source. The amp lacks the relevant fixings on its underside, so may have been issued originally with a cab in a full trolley. The original Goodmans drivers remain, but have been reconed as 8ohm units. The Midax horns and most of the original wiring have gone. Both cab and amp have been well used, but are in fine working order. Further pictures of tidying up to follow.
Lemco capacitors in the preamp have date codes "YB" = February 1967. CCL caps in the preamp "B7" = also Feb. '67.
Serial number 1110 - currently in the USA
Sold on ebay.uk in 2006. A single image. Had been used for years with a keyboard.
New pictures (July 2015), thanks to Tom. The amp at one time belonged to the band "The Rats" - guitarist: a certain Mick Ronson, from 1966-1969. The main CCL filter caps have the date code "G7" = July 1967. The RCA 2N3055 transistor has "7E" = May 1967.
Serial number unknown - currently in Spain
Advertised on a Spanish site some time ago, now gone. No further details known.
Serial number unknown - currently in California
Sold in California around 18 months. Perhaps originally with its cab (last picture), which was sold separately.
Boxes now without holes on top for securing the preamp; logo in gold (From late July 1967).
At this point, black plastic jack sockets enter the picture too - see ST.1112 and ST.1121. Note however, that ST.1155, which was sold by Music Ground in 2014, has old-style metal jack sockets. Perhaps the preamp in this last comes from an older amp.
Serial number 1112 - currently in the USA
Fantastic condition, complete with original cover. The speaker cab - a rare bird in being a Jennings (JMI) unit - has its original Goodmans drivers, horns and wiring. "Solid State" in the logo. For other Jennings cabs, see here.
Serial number 1121 - currently in Denmark
A superb rig in fantastic condition. Full working order. Bought by the present owner in 1970. Celestion drivers as some of the cabs on this page. The Celestion horns have date codes: 11GM = 11th July 1967. See further on this page. Thanks to Stephen for the pictures.
Lemco capacitors in the preamp have "YE" = April 1967. The Welwyn resistor on the output board in power amp has "YE" = April '67 too. CCL bias caps however have "G7" = July '67.
Serial number 1155 - currently in the USA
Refurbished by Music Ground. Apparently lacks mounting holes / screws for the preamp on top of the amp.
Serial number unknown - currently in the UK
Belonged to the late Rory Gallagher - presented on the page of the site devoted to his amps.
Serial number unknown - currently in the USA
A later Vox Sound Ltd preamp and power section (from 1968 - the MRB is three-position only) in an early box. Note the fixings for the preamp on top by the corner protectors. Perhaps issued from the factory, or rescued in later decades - the Vox Sound box may have disintegrated. The carrying handle is a replacement. Thanks to Gene for the pictures.
Serial number unknown
Preamp fixings on top of the box, but black plastic input jacks.