The Vox Berkeley Super Reverb Tube Amp Head - Model V-8

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Vox Berkeley Super Reverb Amplifier Head - V-8 ..The all tube V-8 Vox Berkeley Super Reverb amplifier somehow escaped mention in any Thomas Organ/Vox catalog or price list. The
tube powered V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb Amplifier had a very brief production run spanning from late 1965 through mid 1966.

From Dartford Kent to Sepulveda CA
The commercial success of the Beatles in 1964 caused a flood of demand for Vox products in the US market. Rather than set up shop in the states, Jennings Musical Industries (JMI), the Dartford, Kent UK manufacturer of Vox, decided that it would be best to choose an established US firm to distribute their amplifiers in America. The Thomas Organ Company, based in Sepulveda CA, was chosen to be this American distributor in September, 1964.

One of the amp models Thomas imported to the US from JMI was the AC-10 Super Reverb Twin, or "SRT". The AC-10 SRT was an all tube 10 watt, single channel amp head combined with a 2x10" speaker cabinet mounted to a tubular swivel trolley. Thomas Organ changed the name of the amp for the US market from "AC-10 SRT" to simply "Berkeley." This JMI version of the Berkeley amp was featured in the Thomas 1965 "Vox - King of the Beat" catalog, shown at right.

For about a year, Thomas Organ continued to import Vox amplifiers from JMI in the UK. The high costs of shipping, import duties and delays in production at JMI became a constant source of irritation to the management of Thomas. These problems caused Joe Benaron, president of Thomas Organ, to approach JMI with a new proposal. Benaron offered a significant one-time royalty to JMI in exchange for a license that would allow Thomas to manufacture Vox products in their own facilities in California. JMI granted this manufacturing license to Thomas the latter part of 1965. From that point forward, Thomas designed and produced their own Vox amp designs in the U.S. and shipments from JMI to Thomas Organ all but ceased.

Thomas Organ decided to not use the original JMI circuit designs for their new US Vox amp line. Rather, they incorporated core design aspects of the British amps while adding improvements from the engineering department at Thomas. Their initial goal for 1966 included the production of five tube powered Vox models in California. They would include the V-1 Pathfinder, V-2 Pacemaker, V-3 Cambridge Reverb, V-5 Student and the V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb . These amps were hurried to market by early 1966 to replace some of the Vox amps Thomas Organ had been importing from JMI in the UK.

Thomas Organ Buys Time for Solid State Amp Development
The V-1 Pathfinder, V-2 Pacemaker, V-3 Cambridge Reverb, V-5 Student and V-8 Berkeley tube powered amps introduced by Thomas in late 1965 would only be produced until mid 1966. Thomas Organ believed that the future of guitar amplification was in transistorization. The tube amps introduced by Thomas Organ in late 1965 were nothing more than interrim products that would provide time for Thomas to design and develop comparable solid state amps.

The tube powered V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb was replaced by the solid state V1081 Berkeley II in the June 1966 US Vox price list, only six to nine months after the V-8 was introduced. Thomas Organ offered both the V-8 "Tube" Berkeley and the V1081 "Solid State" Berkeley simultaneously in the latter part of 1966 as they sold off their stock of the V-8 tube model.

The V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb Cabinet and Cosmetics
The trapezoid V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb amp head cabinet was constructed from fir plywood covered with levant grain vinyl. Earlier production included a small strap handle with gold end caps. Later production used a traditional Vox logo handle. Four one-pin corners were installed on the lower corners on the amp head in early production (as in photo above), later models included eight one-pin corners.

Both the V-8 Vox Berkeley Super Reverb amplifier head and matching speaker enclosure featured a new, Thomas designed rectangular Vox nameplate. It featured gold hot stamped letters and was fastened by two molded plastic pins.

A "Super Reverb Twin" model plate was fastened to the lower right corner of the grill.

A solid aluminum "Berkeley Super Reverb" model escutcheon was bolted to the rear of the control panel.

Later Chrome Plated Brass Control Knobs
Alumimum Control Knobs, Natural Finish
The skirted control knobs installed on the Berkeley V-8 were machined from aluminum and included a knurled grip. No plating was applied to the natural aluminum finish of the knob. A indicator dot was drilled on the skirt and filled with red paint. The knobs were fastened to the control shaft with a set screw.

Later Thomas Berkeley II and III amps featured a skirted brass knob of similar design to those on the tube Berkeley Super Reverb. These were were machined, polished and then plated in bright nickel chrome. These also featured a drilled and filled red indicator dot.

A seven tube amplifier such as the V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb will generate a significant amount of heat. The V-8 Berkeley head cabinet provided three sources of ventilation to keep internal temperatures in check. The bottom of the head cabinet had two rectangular holes covered with an expanded steel grill. The open back of the cabinet included a oval shaped vent. Lastly, the top of the cabinet included two injection plastic vents with a Vox logo.

Speaker Jacks
A "round top" Amphenol three pin XLR jack was mounted to the vinyl covered back panel of the V-8 head While using what would normally be considered to be a microphone jack in this application might seem a bit unusual, Thomas Organ was simply following the English Vox tradition of providing locking XLR speaker cables to interconnect their heads and speaker cabs.

Thomas also provided a conventional 1/4" Auxiliary Speaker jack on the rear panel.

The V-8 Berkeley is designed for a single 8 ohm total load only.

The V-8 Vox Berkeley Super Reverb amp head was sort of a cross between the JMI AC-10SRT and AC-15. It upped the power output to 17 watts RMS and included an improved reverb circuit with a two spring Accutronics delay line.

The point-to-point, hand wired V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb chassis included seven tubes. Preamp functions were handled by three 12AX7 and one 12AU7 dual triode tubes. The 17 watt RMS power amp was powered by two cathode biased EL84 tubes in a "no negative feedback" circuit. The power supply included an EZ81 rectifier tube. You can read more about the circuitry of this amp at the V-8 Berkeley "Under the Hood" web page.

Standby Switch and Pilot Lamps
The primary purpose of the "Standby" function in a guitar amplifier is to allow the filament heaters to warm the tubes prior to applying operating voltages. The unconventional power switch in the V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb also controlled the "Standby" function.

The DPDT Berkeley power switch was designed to be off in the center position. Adjusting the switch to the "Standby" position warmed the tubes prior to operation.

After twenty seconds in the "Standby" position, the tubes
were warm and the amp was ready to be powered up. The power switch was flipped from "Standby" to the "On" position, momentarily crossing over the center "Off" position.

The green jeweled "Standby" indicator required a #45 replacement lamp, the red jeweled "On" indicator required a #1490 replacement lamp.

Serial Number
The serial number for the V-8 Berkeley Super Reverb Twin amp head was printed on a small strip of paper that was glued to the bottom of the chassis pan.

V-8 Berkeley Speaker Cabinet
The 2x10" V-8 Berkeley speaker enclosure included a swivel trolley with casters. The cabinet was equipped with a pair of British manufactured Celestion 10" 7442 speakers rated at 16 ohms each, wired in parallel to an 8 ohm total load. The cabinet measured 27" wide, 17" tall and 9" deep less trolley.

The Berkeley V-8 amplifier head retailed for $225 separately or $430 with the matching speaker cabinet and trolley. Adjusted for inflation, the Berkeley V-8 head would cost about $1635 today, the complete amp would be $3050.

North Coast Music manufactures many replacement and restoration

parts for the Berkeley under license from Vox. These parts are
available exclusively at North Coast Music. Some are shown below.


The VOX Showroom!

Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music

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