The Vox Conqueror Amplifier 1967 - 1969

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The Conqueror amplifier was one of a series of five new Vox
solid-state guitar amplifiers introduced by Jennings Musical Instruments (JMI) in the summer of 1967. Other models in this series of guitar amps included the Supreme, Defiant, Virtuoso and Traveller. The new range also included three solid-state bass amplifiers; the Dynamic Bass, Foundation Bass and the Super Foundation Bass.

Modular Design - This new range of JMI Vox solid-state guitar amps incorporated a new modular design philosophy developed by Thomas Organ for Vox amp production in America.

Thomas developed a three-channel solid state preamp module in 1966 for guitar and a second modular two-channel solid-state preamp module for bass guitar. Thomas also designed three solid-state power amp modules rated at 30, 60 or 120 watt RMS. Thomas Organ used combinations of these five modules to create much of the US Vox amp line, including the Super Beatle, Royal Guardsman, Buckingham, Viscount, Westminster and Sovereign.

JMI experienced many problems with their early attempts at building a dependable solid-state amp. Their first solid state model, the Vox T.60, was introduced in 1962. It's 30 watt amplifier stage was powered by germanium output transistors that were subject to repeated and costly failure, making JMI apprehensive to develop additional solid-state amp models. However, the success of the modular, solid-state Vox amps produced by Thomas Organ in 1966 proved to JMI that with proper engineering and by integrating silicon output transistors with large heat sinks, solid-state amps could be just as dependable as those with tubes.

With new found confidence and following the lead of Thomas Organ, JMI designed a two-channel modular solid-state preamp module in November 1966 that would be shared by four models of Vox guitar amplifiers. JMI also designed a similar two-channel modular preamp module for use in three models of bass guitar amps. JMI then designed four solid-state power amp modules rated at 15, 30, 50 and 100 watts RMS to be combined with these preamp modules, in turn creating seven new models of amps.

Printed Circuit Board Construction
Unlike the hand-wired solid-state T.60 amp and UL Series preamps that preceded them, the preamps of the solid-state JMI Vox amps introduced in 1967 utilized printed circuit board construction.

Conqueror Head Cabinet (9½" deep, 9½" tall )
Defiant/Supreme Head Cabinet (10⅞" deep, 9½" tall)
The Vox Conqueror
The Vox Conqueror amp head was the union of the guitar preamp and 30 watt amp modules designed by JMI in November 1966. The preamp features and power output of the Conqueror made it similar to the US made Vox Buckingham. While the original Conqueror speaker cabinet had two 12" G12 Celestion "Alnico Silver" speakers, later versions were equipped with Fane or Goodmans speakers with ceramic magnets to reduce costs. The Conqueror was featured in the 1967/68 and 1969 Vox catalogs.

Features and Effects
The Vox Conqueror, along with the Supreme, Defiant and Virtuoso amplifiers all shared the same preamp module and effects features. The features of the JMI modular preamp and control section were virtually identical to those found in the modular preamp in US Vox amps.

The Vox Conqueror control section had two channels, Normal and Brilliant. The Normal channel had two inputs, volume, bass, treble, tremolo depth and speed controls plus a "Top Boost" rocker switch. The Brilliant channel had two inputs, volume, bass, treble, a remotely footswitchable variable distortion effect plus MRB (mid-range boost) with a three-position frequency selector. A second three-position rotary selector allowed spring reverb to be assigned to either channel.

Control Panel
Unlike the costly anodized or etched and filled control panels included in earlier Vox amps, the two-sided control panel of the Vox Conqueror amp had simple white silk screened nomenclature on a black background, just like their Thomas Organ counterparts. The horizontal side of the control panel included all of the inputs, volume and tone controls. The effects controls (reverb, tremolo, three way MRB selector, distortion) plus the foot switch connector and pilot lamps were mounted on the vertical side of the panel. The placement of the reverb and distortion controls, three-position MRB selector, foot switch jack and pilot lights on the vertical side of the control panel varied over time for no obvious reason.

Three Button Footswitch
Originally designed by Vox for the UL Series guitar amplifiers, the cast aluminum three button foot switch shown at right was included with the Conqueror amplifier. It provided remote operation of the tremolo, reverb, and distortion circuits. While many Conquerors utilized the same chassis mount six-pin DIN foot switch connector installed on solid-state Vox amps built in America, some Conquerors, such as the one pictured above, used a smaller five-pin foot switch connector.

Head Cabinet
Although the width and height of the Conqueror, Defiant and Supreme heads were identical, the Conqueror head cabinet was 1⅜" less deep than the Defiant or Supreme (see photo above). The slender Conqueror head cabinet was designed to barely contain the reduced depth of it's power amp chassis. While Vox installed two cooling vents on the top of the Conqueror head, the deeper cabinet of the Defiant and Supreme allowed Vox to include an additional pair of cooling vents. In a break with traditional Vox design, the control panel faced forward rather than toward the rear. Vox grill and name plates were displayed on both the front and rear panels of the amp head.

Name Plates
The name plates on the earliest versions of the JMI Conqueror amplifier were nearly identical to the horizontal and vertical logos designed by Thomas Organ for use on their US produced amps (see photo, far left). A "Conqueror" model flag (shown at lower left) was installed on the lower right front corner of the head.

Later versions of the Conqueror added the words "Solid State" to both the horizontal and vertical Vox name plates. The horizontal logo was also modified to have rounded corners.

Side Swivel Stands
Vox abandoned the traditional AC-30 Super Twin style swivel trolley in favor of a pair of swivel side stands for the Conqueror speaker enclosure. The upper loop of these new side stands angled away from the enclosure to create a hand hold for transport. As the head would no longer rest on the trolley, JMI designed a set of restraining clips to secure the head to the speaker cabinet. This allowed the Conqueror head and speaker cabinet to swivel together as a unit.

These side stands had a serious engineering flaw. The speaker enclosure, less the head, could be safely tilted as desired. However, once the head was secured to the speaker enclosure, the weight of the head shifted the center of gravity of the amp above the swivel point of the trolley. This created an unstable condition that could cause the Conqueror enclosure to flip over backwards, slamming the amp head onto the floor. For this reason, most people removed the side swivel stands from their Conqueror speaker cabinets.

In later production, a plastic bumper was installed on the sides of the speaker cabinet between the upper vertical tubes of the side stands. This bumper limited the range of cabinet swivel to about thirty degrees, preventing the amp from inverting.

Use by the Beatles
The Beatles occasionally used a Vox Conqueror amp in the studio and in music videos from 1967 through 1969. Perhaps the earliest Conqueror sighting with the Beatles was in the "All You Need Is Love" sessions in June 1967. A Vox Conqueror is shown briefly at the 2:35 minute mark of the Beatles "Hey Bulldog" video. The shifting frequencies of the final chord of "Birthday" were created by toggling between the 1, 2 and 3 settings of the Conqueror MRB circuit. However, the Conqueror was most famously featured in the Beatles "Hello Goodbye" video from November, 1967.

The Hello Goodbye Video
More than fifty years later, a debate rages on regarding the three amps standing behind the Beatles at the Saville Theater for the Hello, Goodbye video. I'd like to offer my opinion about these amps.

Paul is standing in front of a UL series bass head. The UL Series amp heads had a row of controls at the bottom of the face plate, just as shown in the picture below and at left. All three speaker cabs have vertical "pie-shaped" Vox nameplates with white letters and traditional Vox trolleys. The combination of Vox logos with white letters and traditional swivel trolleys suggest that these are probably either UL730 or UL430 cabinets. Conqueror or Defiant cabs would have Vox logos with gold letters and swivel side stands.

It is really quite difficult to ascertain if the heads behind George and John are Conquerors or Defiants but the picture below and at right offers the best clues. As explained earlier, a Vox Defiant head cabinet is deeper than it is tall while the height and depth of the Conqueror head cabinet are identical. From my perspective, the view from side stage establishes that the solid state amp heads behind Paul and John have the shallower head cabinet of the Conqueror.


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Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music

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