The Vox Mark IX guitar was a nine string instrument. While never very successful commercially, the Mark IX guitar is an excellent example of the innovative spirit of Vox in the 1960's. Vox was not afraid to take risks in the pursuit of developing imaginative products. Here is the history.
Vox entered the guitar business in 1961 with a line of low to medium cost student grade guitars. These solid body guitars had traditional double cut away body shapes and were comparable in quality to instruments from Watkins in the UK or Kay in the United States.
Vox also wished to develop professional grade instruments. Vox determined that "copy cat" guitar designs for their professional models would be unacceptable. Their new professional guitar models would need to have body designs that were unique and iconic, rendering them immediately recognizable as a Vox instrument. To help accomplish this styling goal, Vox entered into a contract with the London Design Centre in 1962 to propose unconventional yet attractive guitar body shapes for the new Vox professional series guitars. The result of this initial effort was the "coffin" shaped Phantom VI guitar.
On the heels of the introduction of the Phantom VI, a new solid body "teardrop" shaped guitar was developed that also used the "Stratocaster" inspired triple single coil pickup arrangement from the Phantom VI.
Vox originally named this new "teardrop" model the "Phantom Mark VI" guitar when it was introduced in 1963. Before long, the name was shortened to simply "Mark VI." A twelve string version, the Mark XII, was also introduced.
Someone in the guitar development department at Vox must have determined that the octave string pairs for the D, A and low E strings on a twelve string guitar were not essential. This conclusion led to the development of a modifiied Mark XII twelve string guitar with nine strings. The treble side of the fret board had three unison pairs of strings, the bass side had three single strings.
The Vox Mark IX guitar was first offered to the US market in the 1966 "Vox, It's Whats Happening - Beatles Cover" catalog. A black and white reprint of this catalog is available from North Coast Music.
The 1966 US Vox catalog described the V231 Mark IX guitar as follows: "Nine strings for startling new sounds; padded cushion on back; exclusive 2-way string damper; quick-flick 3 position pick up switch; vibrato, sunburst and popular colors."
The 1966 US Vox price list indicated that the retail price of the Mark IX guitar was $369.90 USD. Adjusting the 1966 price for inflation, the Mark IX would retail today for about $2550 USD.
My thanks to Roger Tessier for not only allowing me to take photographs of his Vox Mark IX, but also for sharing his great wealth of knowledge about Vox guitars with the Vox Showroom.