Vox and Fender crossed paths over the Viscount amp. Here's the story.
© 1998 - 2013 The Vox Showroom, rights reserved. No use in online auctions.
Shortly after World War II, an electronics manufacturing firm, Pacific Mercury, was founded in California. Pacific Mercury manufactured "Mercury" brand radios, record players, and televisions. Pacific Mercury also built "private label" products for retailers such as Sears and Wards. If you remember the Sears "Silvertone" brand of guitar amplifiers, TVs and radios, these were all built by Pacific Mercury.
A company like Pacific Mercury needed talented electronics engineers to design their products. After World War II ended, many such engineers were based in California and were looking for post war job opportunties. One of these engineers was Sava Jacobson. Sava was hired by Pacific Mercury and worked there through the 1950's.
Sava Jacobson was a creative electronics engineer. Jacobson designed and held the patents for the original cassette tape telephone answering machine.
In 1962, Jacobson left Pacific Mercury to start his own company. Always eager to find new opportunties, he heard that a guitar amp manufacturer in Santa Ana, California, Fender Musical Instruments, was looking for an engineer to convert their line of tube guitar amps to solid state. Jacobson interviewed for the position and was hired. Jacobson was aware that Leo Fender was highly suspicious of transistors and their ability to duplicate the vacuum tube sound. Leo Fender wanted to maintain the tone and response of his tube amps in the new solid state designs. Jacobson aimed to make that happen.
Jacobson set up a lab at Fender in Santa Ana. He used electrical instruments to measure every aspect of Fender amplifier tone: power output, distortion at various frequencies and output levels, input impedance, head end noise, tone control frequencies and range, etc.
After several transistorized prototypes and subsequent design changes, Leo Fender was convinced that the final version produced by Jacobson was an exact tube circuit replacement in terms of tone, overload and reliability. Jacobson started development of the tag strip layouts that would be used by Fender to prepare the new designs for production.
In 1964, just as Sava was finishing up his work at Fender, Leo Fender took Jacobson out to lunch. Fender told Jacobson that he had just sold Fender Musical Instruments to CBS for $13 million. The new owners of Fender decided to leave the amps as they were, so the transistorized designs of Fender amps were dumped.
Stan Cutler, an engineer at Thomas Organ, was aware of Jacobson's work at Fender. After Thomas Organ inked a US distribution and manufacturing deal with Vox, Thomas Organ approached Sava Jacobson. They hoped that Sava could develop circuits to transistorize the Vox tube amps.
The first amp that needed to be completed was the AC-30. Just as when he worked for Fender, Jacobson applied the same detailed analysis of the tone and response of a JMI Vox AC-30 Top Boost amp. Transistorized circuits were developed and tested.
The result of this work was the Vox Viscount. These same circuits were also offered in a separate head/cab/trolley version of the amp called the Buckingham.
You can read a 1994 letter sent by Sava Jacobson to North Coast Music detailing this history by clicking here.
The design of the the Viscount went through three stages of evolution at Thomas Organ. The V-15 and V115 were the first generation Viscount models. A few months later, Thomas eliminated the V-15 and V115, replacing them with new models they identified as the V1151 and V1152. The final version of the Viscount was the V1154. You can read all about the features of these models by clicking here.