Triumph Electronics, contractors for Vox - makers of prototypes, AC50s, the 7 series,
and late AC100s
As Jim Elyea has indicated, Triumph Electronics, founded and managed by Geoff Johnson, did a good deal of prototyping and assembling for Vox/JMI in the 1960s. Indeed, Triumph probably prototyped the AC80/100, doubtless producing a number of trial units. Certainly there is a significant gap - three months, September to late December 1963 - between the dated schematic and the handing over of the first amp to Paul McCartney.
Quite how Dick Denney found Geoff Johnson is unrecorded, but it may be that names were known through mutual acquaintances and trade fairs. Johnson must have a fairly high profile in the late 50s. Trained in the Admiralty Signal and Radar Division during the war, he joined the Department of Electro-physiology (neurosurgery) at Hurstwood Hospital in 1948, remaining there until 1954, whereupon he joined Faraday Electronic Instruments in London. At some point around 1959, however, he left and set up Triumph Electronics at 118 and 122 Brighton Road, Purley, manufacturing and importing electronic instruments (medical and domestic). Johnson's credentials were therefore impeccable.
Above, an Oscillograph, developed and used at Hurstwood Hospital.
The numbering of the block (above) in which Triumph had premises was eccentric to say the least. Number 118 is now "VALE" to the left of "Dynamics" (the former Orchid Ballroom). This was mainly workrooms and stores.
No. 122 - principally Triumph offices and design rooms - was originally on the far left of the block (Vithu's Food). The current numbering of the shop units is eccentric to say the least.
Richard Cook, who worked for Triumph in the late 1960s, kindly wrote in with details:
"The production area was on the ground floor under the ballroom and was not very large perhaps enough room for half a dozen people to work in comfort. There was a door that led to a path at the rear of the building but I don't remember any storage area. That's not to say that it didn't exist, I just can't remember it."
"I do remember Andy Fairweather Low coming down in his Jensen Interceptor with the rest of his new group after the Split with Amen Corner to try out equipment that we had humped into the Orchid Ballroom. They stayed for about an hour during which time they made one hell of a noise. Not sure whether they ever bought anything as a result."
"As for the copy wiring We had a ready built chassis as a pattern and simply copied it! No drawings, and no circuit. I recently retired after 48 years of wiring and don't remember working anywhere else where I did not have at least a drawing but it seemed to work ok and that's how I managed to build my very own AC 100 from memory as after a while you don't need to look at the pattern any longer."
"I remember Dave Roffey [see below] who worked in an office next to Geoff and there was another lad that travelled up with Geoff and myself called Keith Thompson. Keith and I both lived in Haywards Heath at the time. I also remember an older guy working on production he may have been called Percy but not sure."
Dave Roffey, who also worked at Triumph in the late 1960s, designing among other things the Vamp range of amps, recounts:
"As far as I remember, units he (Geoff Johnson) had started from the end of the building structure next to the ramp down to an underground car park. I used to take amps down there to blast out. Also in the Orchid when it was convenient. Two shops side by side from the end when I was there. The first, or end shop, ground floor was Geoff Johnson's office, a room I used for designing amps and a third room with a drawing board etc in for layouts, pcb and chassis drawings, reference books etc. Stairs down to the basement led into the production and test area. Benches for about 8, bending press and guillotine. This might have been spread into next doors basement, but it wasn't a very large area."
"Out the back was a common path way behind the buildings. Triumph rented space underneath the Orchid for stock etc access via this walkway. The shop area next door (no. 118) was mainly a stock room for components. A Mrs Andrews, a French lady, was fiercely in charge I remember. Think there was a romantic link with Geoff J by all accounts! Les Avery, the designer of the transistor gear had an office in there, and there also was ECG machine equipment somehow involved with it all. Les designed a colour telivision, had strong links with RCA and semiconductors, finally going over to them, which is where I came in. I put the first distortion "bite" controls in valve pre amps, which was a hell of struggle considering it was a big no no for the "clean are us" brigade. And a proper middle control! There were some chassis made at Triumph, but quantities came from South Croydon, as did circuit boards when they started to be used. I did a design for the AC30 pcb at one stage I remember."
"I'm trying to think back again to how I started at Triumph. I was at Negretti and Sambra in Croydon doing aircraft electronics, but always wanted to get into the guitar electronics, since I was in bands and already making amps and effects for myself. I know I went to meet Dick Denny, and it was he who gave me the Triumph contact. He was just playing with effects, not to any really impressive levels, and I remember being a little disappointed at the time. I was never sure about the Jennings connection. It had certainly faded by the end of my time. Quite how the connection started is anybody's guess but I would have thought that Vox guys were concept guys (obviously good at marketing), and maybe started by finding an electronics firm that could do their production and development and then went into their own production as it expanded. They certainly wouldn't want anybody who would jump on their bandwagon and definitely teamed up with a company that was skilled enough to match the professional levels of electronic production."
"Geoff was a pretty shrewd guy who seemed to have all sorts of strange connections. Quite how long they were in the medical equipment world for, before getting into different markets is a mystery to me. It could be that they were chosen for the very reason that they were not in the same market, and therefore would appear not to present a threat. (Plenty of paranoia around in those days) So, all in all, I think you are right in that they were chosen because they were able to match the professionalism that was required, along with appearing to have no reason to wanting to get into the same market."
Triumph later produced amps for Jennings Electronic Industries (founded by Tom Jennings after JMI/Vox had folded), Vamp, and Sound City. Numbers of these amps were marketed under different brand names - Leo, Johnson, and of course under Triumph's own name - see this Plexi Palace thread and the wonderful Vamp site.
Left and centre left, original Triumph schematics. Centre right, page from a Triumph brochure. Right, The Klubs at the Cavern Club, Liverpool, in 1967 with a full complement of Triumph gear.
AC50s and AC100s - see also the Triumph-made amps page
Note that serial numbers of Triumph amps are/were not sequential. Chassis, boxes, and serial number plates were regularly brought together in an entirely random fashion.
Triumph's work for Vox in the mid sixties centred mainly on the production of the AC50, PA equipment, echo units, and later the 4 and 7-series amps. In 1965 and 1966, AC100s were made only sporadically by Triumph, presumably to help Burndept Electronics, Vox's main contractor, meet demand.
However, in the third quarter of 1967, ie. in the months before Vox folded, Triumph picked up production of the AC100 again, apparently using up any serviceable parts that came to hand.
Late Triumph-made AC100s can therefore be extremely eccentric in character - but they are still great amps.
An early two channel, grey panel AC50 - serial number 1524 - produced by Triumph. The "34" pencilled on the underchassis indicates that the bias voltage had been checked and set at 34v. "K" is the initial of the person who signed the amp off.
An AC100 in a box with serial plate no. 444. Probably produced late 1965. Note the similiarity of its transformers (and the twisty winding of the leads) to those of the AC50 above. The initials "DE" are those of Dave Earp, who worked at Triumph in the mid sixties. Dave signed off a fair number of AC50s too.
Below, two AC100s from 1967 assembled by Triumph:
The amp in the top row is the one that has a Triumph plaque. The amp below is signed off by Graham - perhaps Graham Huggett - who signed off several other AC100s. For further pictures of these amps, see (for the time being) the Triumph-made amps page.