Royal Guardsman: V-13, V113, V1131, V1132, V1133

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The solid-state Vox Royal Guardsman guitar amplifier was produced by Thomas Organ in the US from 1966 through 1970. It's arrival forced the tube UK made JMI Vox AC-50 out of the US market. The history of the Royal Guardsman follows.

The JMI Vox AC-50 "Super Twin" - The Original Royal Guardsman Amp
Jennings Musical Industries (JMI), the company that founded Vox in Dartford, Kent, UK, started to investigate the development of high powered tube amplifier circuits in early 1963. Prior to 1963, the most powerful amplifier made by JMI was the 30 watt AC-30. Most of the major British rock groups, including the Beatles, were using them.

JMI was aware that the maximum audio output of the Beatles' Vox AC-30 amplifiers had become no match to the level of their screaming fans. In response, JMI started development of 50 and 100 watt tube amplifier circuits.

Vox decided that the major selling feature of these new amps should be their abundance of power, not the inclusion of effects or (at least at first) multiple channels. These new amps would have only three controls: volume, treble and bass. The new amps were designed to be simple and loud.

The first 100 watt AC-100 and 50 watt AC-50 heads were produced by JMI in late 1963. The Beatles were provided early versions of these new amps. Prior to leaving for Paris and the US in early 1964, Paul McCartney was supplied an AC-100 head with a 2x15" enclosure. John Lennon and George Harrison were each supplied an AC-50 Mk I head and an enclosure with two 12" Celestion G12 Alnico speakers and a Goodmans Midax horn. The speaker cabinets rested on a chrome plated tubular rigid stand. The amplifier head was placed on the floor, under the speaker cabinet. The Beatles used these AC-50 Mk I amps for their February 1964 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and during the filming of "A Hard Day's Night."

Later that spring , JMI issued a pair of new AC-50 Mk I amps to John Lennon and George Harrison. These amps featured a new tubular trolley stand that allowed the speaker cabinet to tilt and swivel. The amp head rested in a tray at the top of the trolley. These amps were used in the Beatles' 1964 tour to Australia and Hong Kong.
JMI Vox AC-50 Mk II "Super Twin"
as depicted in a 1966 US Vox Catalog
(by this time a dual channel amp)

JMI Appoints Thomas Organ as the US Vox Distributor
Despite the success Vox products were enjoying throughout the world, JMI had not developed a channel for US retail distribution through the first half-year of Beatlemania in America. JMI published a full page advertisement in a number of music trade magazines in the summer of 1964, hoping to establish a US distribution relationship for Vox.
After meetings with a number of suitors, JMI appointed the Thomas Organ Company to be the US distributor of Vox in the last week of August 1964. The first shipments of Vox amps, organs and guitars arrived in US retail showrooms in November 1964.

Thomas Organ did not like the alphanumeric model numbers that JMI had assigned to their amplifiers. The marketing department at Thomas Organ prefered "British" sounding names for their Vox amplifiers.
Thomas renamed the AC-10 Twin amp the "Pacemaker." The AC-10 Super Twin became the "Berkeley." The AC-15 Twin became the "Kent." The AC-30 Twin became the "Viscount" while the AC-30 Super Twin became the "Buckingham."

An advertisement in a UK trade magazine entitled "A closely guarded secret" may have suggested the product name that Thomas Organ would adopt for the AC-50. The ad showed a row of toy British Royal Guardmen encircling an AC-50 Super Twin. Thomas renamed the AC-50 the "Royal Guardsman" for the US market.

The US Distribution Deal with JMI is Renegotiated
Before long, problems with the distribution agreement between JMI and Thomas Organ surfaced. JMI constantly struggled to produce an adequate supply of goods to satisfy the US market. Additionally, the high costs of importing Vox amps from the UK severely affected profitability.

In mid 1965, Thomas Organ approached JMI with a new proposal. A significant one time payment was offered to JMI in exchange for the licensing rights to manufacture Vox gear in California for the US and Canada markets. After the licensing agreement between JMI and Thomas Organ was finalized, the importation of Vox gear from the UK to the US all but ceased.

The US Royal Guardsman Replaces the AC-50 Super Twin
Introduced in 1966, the Thomas Organ produced Royal Guardsman replaced the JMI AC-50 Super Twin in the US and Canadian markets. The Royal Guardsman featured a trapezoid head cabinet, three channels of 60 watt RMS solid state circuitry, thirteen control knobs and a plethora of foot switchable effects. The Thomas Royal Guardsman speaker enclosure was vertically oriented and included two Celestion G12 Alnico speakers plus a Goodmans Midax horn.

Designing the Solid-State Circuit
Thomas Organ developed a few all tube Vox models for the US and Canadian markets, but Thomas felt that the future of guitar amplification was in transistorization. To that end, Thomas Organ hired a brilliant solid state electronics engineer, Sava Jacobsen,
to analyze "what made a Vox sound amp like a Vox amp" and then create solid state circuits that could recreate Vox tone.

Jacobsen started his tone analysis with the AC-30. After his tone analysis was completed, Jacobsen developed a modular three channel solid state preamp for his new Thomas Organ AC-30 clone. This new preamp section included tremolo, reverb, a top boost switch and an MRB (mid range boost) circuit. Jacobsen also developed a 35 watt modular solid state power amp to interconnect with the new preamp. The resultant amp was the Thomas Organ answer to the AC-30TB, the Vox Viscount.

Thomas Organ next developed 60 and 120 watt RMS modular power amp sections that could be combined with the three channel modular preamp from the Viscount. When this three channel modular preamp was merged with the 60 watt RMS power amp section and mounted into a trapezoid head cabinet resembling the JMI AC30SRT, the V-13 Royal Guardsman head was born.

In 1966 and 1967 the V-13 head went through a number of incremental design revisions, evolving into the V113, the V1131, the V1132, and finally the V1133 Royal Guardsman amp in 1968.

Links to Additional Royal Guardsman Amp Topics in the Vox Showroom
  • The V-13, V113, V1131, V1132 and V1133 Royal Guardsman Amp Head - Details
  • The Royal Guardsman V-13, V113, V1131 & V1132 Preamp Module - A Look "Under the Hood"
  • The Royal Guardsman V1133 Preamp Module - A Look "Under the Hood"
  • The Royal Guardsman 60 Watt Power Amp Module - A Look "Under the Hood"
  • The Royal Guardsman Owner's Manual

  • North Coast Music manufactures many replacement and restoration

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

    Output Power 60 watts RMS, 120 watts peak @ 4 ohms
    Channel One Two Inputs,
    Volume Control,
    Bass control,
    Treble control

    Tremolo spred
    Tremolo depth
    Reverb (selectable to Ch 1 or Ch 2)
    Top Boost switch
    Channel Two Two Inputs,
    Volume control,
    Bass control,
    Treble control

    MRB rocker switch
    Three position MRB selector
    Reverb (selectable to Ch 1 or Ch 2)
    Channel Three Two Inputs,
    Volume Control,
    Tone-X control.
    Speaker(s) Two Vox Bulldog 12" Heavy Duty speakers
    + one 25w high frequency horn
    Head Dimensions 9" H x 27" W x 10.5" D
    Speaker Cabinet Dimensions
    (less trolley)
    31" H x 27" W x 11.5" D
    Accessories cover, chrome roller stand, foot pedal.


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    Photos and editorial content courtesy Gary Hahlbeck, North Coast Music

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