Although more well known for their guitar amplifiers, particularly the AC30, Vox also made electric guitars. They have never been a great commercial success though which is probably due to the era in which they first hit the musical instrument stores. During the sixties both Rickenbacker and Fender both enjoyed a resurgence in guitar sales, and perhaps there simply wasn’t enough room on the market for another ‘rock guitar’.
The problem was that during the sixties big bands such as the Beatles were not seen playing Vox guitars as much as other brands, and when Hendrix hit the big time he had a Fender firmly glued to his hand for the duration. Other makes such as Gretsch survived as they had their ‘niche sound’, and were never really competing in the rock arena, although plenty of non-country bands also picked up on the Gretsch sound.
Vox didn’t initially do themselves any favours by copying other brand model guitars with cheaper parts and selling them at reduced prices, as this policy was only ever going to endure a short degree of success and was never going to gain Vox a decent guitar manufacturing reputation. Even Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones couldn’t rescue them from obscurity.
Despite the problems, Vox were highly innovative in guitar design, and introduced 12 string electric guitars, although they weren’t taken up by many notable guitarist and although captain Sensible of The Damned played one, he was more well known for his onstage and offstage buffoonery than any guitar virtuoso credentials.
Their innovative approach also took the form of producing a series of guitars with built in effects. Theirs wackiest invention though was probably the Guitar Organ which was released in 1966. Although the instrument preceded the modern guitar synthesiser, many people would also concur that that itself is not exactly one of the best musical developments of the last century (some would say the worst). The main problem with the guitar organ (aside from the entire concept), was that it quite simply didn’t work as a whole. It was also difficult to play, and although such outlandish developments should be applauded for their bravery, it hasn’t done any good to vox’s reputation to produce another white elephant.
Vox guitars’ history cannot be looked at without taking into account what was happening with the rest of their products. Their organ sales were declining in the late sixties due to stiff competition and a poor reputation for reliability. Ray Manzarek of the ‘Doors’ who was a very high profile keyboard player gave up on his Vox keyboard as he felt he could no longer rely on it. This and Vox’s refusal to take on board where the market was, and instead trying to create their own market with borderline ridiculous inventions has not fared well for them and their guitars. Despite this, they did make some good guitars, and that’s why they are on this website, as people still want to buy them.
Vox have survived as a company, although under the ownership of Korg, and have enjoyed a comeback, although it is due to sales of amplifiers, and their future as a producer of guitars is doubtful.