Vox AC30s - 1974-1975
"Dallas Musical Limited" and "Dallas Arbiter"
Detail from the "Dallas Musical Limited" catalogue of 1974.
By early 1973, the original incarnation of "Vox Sound Limited" was finished and during the course of the year the business was wound down by George Stow, the managing director. Some of the stock that remained unsold was bought in by Stow for his new venture "Roxburgh Sound"; batches of components and unfinished items went to other former members of staff, who assembled them for sale - occasionally with mighty peculiar results.
For the first seven months of 1973 nothing of any note was said of Vox in the music trade or popular music press. The regular monthly pricelists published in "Beat Instrumental" simply indicated that the "Vox line was being rearranged, prices to be announced" - presumably to the puzzlement of readers.
Then in August 1973, the music trade press carried the report below. Dallas had come to the rescue:
Judging by the tone of the piece, Vox was still alive at the time, but only just. Bankruptcy at any rate had not been declared. Quite how long the negotiations took is not known at present.
Dallas's acquisition was in some senses well timed as certain items of Vox equipment could be shown at the Russell Hotel Trade Fair (late August '73). "Vox Sound Limited" had been in too poor a condition to go to the Frankfurt Fair in February.
Russell Hotel Trade Fair, late August 1973. A rough shot showing Vox in a sort of mix and match section of the Dallas display. One can make out a perspex AC30 in the foreground, and production amps further back, along with some pedals.
Behind the scenes, Reg Clark, former General Sales Manager of JMI, now the General Sales Manager of Dallas, had worked his magic. "Beat Instrumental" magazine published the news in October. This was the second time that Reg had saved Vox, the first being in 1968, following the collapse of JMI. 1973 might have been a third had Reg been successful in steering Dallas to take up the reins of "Vox Sound Equipment Limited", which had also gone to the wall, in early January 1970.
"Beat Instrumental" magazine, October 1973.
In late 1973, the company was still "Dallas Arbiter" - or just about. The comings and goings of CBS, Dallas, and Ivor Arbiter were incredibly complex in the first half of the 1970s. In January 1974 however, the business became (for a time at least) "Dallas Musical Limited" (John E. Dallas), sometimes known as "Dallas Musical Industries".
The company's main drive was to move production of all its lines to its factory at Shoeburyness in Essex. This was a new build, begun in April 1973 and complete by April 1974. Dallas began moving in in May 1974. Under the building's extensive roof "Sound City" and "Vox Sound Limited" amplifiers, "Hayman guitars", and numerous other brands were manufactured.
Assembly of new AC30s was evidently put in motion in the summer of '74 - in good time for the BMII Trade Fair in July 1974.
Dallas Musical Industries, Shoeburyness factory, Essex.
It is interesting to find that Tom Jennings, who had become dissatisfied with "Jennings Electronic Industries", the company he had created following his dismissal from JMI in 1967, joined Reg Clark at the new "Vox Sound Limited" as Managing Director in July 1974 - presumably at Reg's request.
July 1974. Note the last sentence.
November 1974. Advert placed by Reg.
Unfortunately Dallas collapsed in early 1975, having overspent on its new manufacturing facility at Shoeburyness. CBS Arbiter stepped in to save the company but Tom was out. He retired thereafter from the music business for good.
"British Musical Instrument Industries" Fair, Metropole Hotel, Brighton, July 1974 - no shot of the stand itself, simply the name - VOX - over the entrance. In 1975 the BMII Fair returned to the Russell Hotel in London, its traditional venue.
Insofar as the initial deal was concerned, unsold AC30s assembled by "Vox Sound Limited" in Hastings apparently formed part of the package as one might expect. At least one Hastings inspection tag survives later stamped "DMI" = "Dallas Musical Industries".
An inspection tag from the old VSL works on the Ponswood Road Industrial Estate in Hastings stamped "DMI" = Dallas Musical Industries.
In June 1974 a new circuit diagram for the AC30 Top Boost was drawn up, the principal change being the deletion of the GZ34 rectifier valve and introduction of silicon diodes to take its place. A little more volume was thereby gained.
Speakers for the most part are silver Celestion alnico T1088s, though some Celestion G12s with VOX labels are found early on. The T1088s have labels resembling the old JMI labels, but giving the company as "V.S.L." and the address: Elm Road, Vanguard Way, Shoeburyness, Essex.
Stories are reported of 50 sets of older speakers - from "Vox Sound Limited" days (1970-1973) or perhaps even earlier - being used in the first amps. This may be true, and it is possible that the date codes will bear the reports out. But the mere presence of T1088s in a Dallas-made amp does not mean it is one of the first fifty. Dallas produced hundreds of amps with T1088 speakers - examples can be seen below.
Quite how many AC30s "Dallas Musical Limited" sold is unknown - probably 300-400. In early 1975 the company folded, and was saved by CBS-Arbiter, becoming "Dallas Arbiter" again. That at least was how it was conventionally known. Reg Clark, again, was instrumental in saving the Vox line.
"International Musician and Recording World", May 1975.
Further material on Dallas Arbiter to come.
"Beat Instrumental" magazine, May 1974.
Detail from the "Bell Musical Instruments" (Surbiton) catalogue, 1974/1975.
In the advert above, note the long horizontal logo and vents - typical of the amps made in the Birch-Stolec factory in Hastings. See this page. It is likely that the first amps issued by Dallas were simply unsold old VSL stock.
Dallas serial number plates in 1974 begin "74". The significance of "10" is unknown. "D" presumably stands for "Dallas" as the main line of the plate gives "Vox Amplifier" and "Vox Sound Limited". The actual number of the amp is "299", the sequence having kicked off at 1000.
Generally all details on the serial number plate were typed onto sticky labels and the labels stuck onto the relevant panel. Now and again in 1975 (see below) one finds details scratched on or hand written.
Serial number unknown
Pictures from the early days of ebay. Note the horizontal VOX logo (as in the "Bell Musical Instruments" advert above); and the dome voltage selector. Speakers are Celestion "creambacks", as used, though not exclusively, in Marshall speaker cabinets in the 1970s. Due to the smallness of the images, the serial number is unreadable unfortunately.
Serial number 7410D1299 - currently in the UK
Note that the chassis has a dome voltage selector (as used by JMI, VSEL and VSL). The cabinet still has six metal vents.
"International Musician and Recording World", March 1975. The price shortly before "Dallas Musical Limited" went under.
Serial numbers beginning with "75". The silver Celestion T1088s also generally have 1975 date codes. Towards the end of the year a new system of serial numbers was adopted.
Serial number 75092003
Details on the serial plate scratched into the bare aluminium. One of the Mullard mustard capacitors has the date code "C4N" = third quarter of 1974. Both silver Celestions have the date code "LH7" = 7th November 1975.
Serial number 75102208
New-style voltage selector. The cabinet still has six metal vents. The Celestion T1088s have the date code "KH22" = 22nd October 1975.
Late 1975 / early 1976 - new serial number format and sequence
It may be the new sequence simply continued from where the old one left off, using only the last four digits.
Serial number 2511
A hand-written serial number plate. One of the Mullard mustard capacitors has the date code "B3S" = second quarter of 1973. The T1088s have "LH27" and "MH2" = 27th November and 2nd December 1975 respectively. The transformer set is 7957-7959 Thanks to Paul for the pictures.
Serial number 3366