Univox

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Univox
Private
Industry Musical instruments
Founded 1960; 57 years ago (1960)
Founder Thomas Walter Jennings
Defunct 1987; 30 years ago (1987)
Headquarters Westbury, New York, United States
Area served
Global
Products Electric & acoustic guitars
Bass guitars
Amplifiers
Electronic Keyboards
Effects units
Parent Korg
Website VintageUnivox.com (archive site)

Univox was a musical instrument brand of Unicord Corporation since early-1960s when they purchased the Amplifier Corporation of America of Westbury, New York and began to market a line of guitar amplifiers. Univox also distributed guitars by Matsumoku (Hi-Flier, 'Lectra, etc.), effects units by Shin-Ei Companion (Super-Fuzz, Uni-Vibe, etc.), and synthesizers by Crumar (Stringman, etc.) and Korg (MiniKorg K1/K2, MaxiKorg K3, etc.).

In 1985, Unicord Corporation was purchased by Korg, and the Univox brand was phased out.

History[edit]

In the early 1960s the Unicord Corporation, a manufacturer of electric transformers, purchased the Amplifier Corporation of America of Westbury, New York. They began marketing a line of amplifiers under the name of "Univox". The company was purchased by Gulf+Western in 1967. Guitar making operations moved to Japan in 1975 where they continued making guitars until 1982. Production under the Univox name was halted after a fire at the Matsumoku factory. After this time instruments were made in Korea under the name "Westbury". The Unicord Corporation was purchased by Korg in 1985, effectively ending the line for good.

Univox was best known for making copies of instruments from better-known companies such as Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker, Ampeg/Dan Armstrong, Epiphone and others. The Univox Hi-Flier was based loosely on the distinctive Mosrite "reverse swept" shape; it was popularized in the early 1990s by Kurt Cobain, almost two decades after original production had ceased.

Change from "Univox" brand to "Stage" brand[edit]

The Univox name developed a market reputation as "cheap" because Unicord had copied amplifier designs from companies like Shure and Electro-Voice instead of doing major original research and development. However, Univox used time-proven electronic circuits and quality components. To avoid the negative market perception, Unicord developed the Stage brand, though the only difference between Univox and Stage equipment was the nameplate, attached prior to shipping.

Relationship to Korg and Marshall[edit]

Unicord was also the U.S. distributor for both Marshall amplifiers and Korg synthesizers.

The Marshalls used EL-34 output tubes, but those could barely reach the rated output wattage. Therefore, Unicord would replace them with KT-88 tubes before shipping to U.S. vendors.

Unicord had begun as a manufacturer of electrical transformers. When the original Marshalls came to the U.S., Unicord's engineers were concerned that the output transformers could not reliably handle the full output. Unicord redesigned the output transformers and told Marshall to use the Unicord design in all units shipped to the U.S., and Marshall could use the design outside the U.S. if they wanted to. Marshall did adopt the Unicord design for all their tube amps.

Also, Tony Frank, the design engineer at Unicord, created the dual-volume-control two-stage pre-amp that Marshall introduced with their 4140 and 2150 amplifiers, which allowed a "super-dirty" fuzz even at extremely low volumes.

Products[edit]

Univox Amplifiers[edit]

A Univox U45-B tube combo amplifier from the mid-1960s.
A Univox "B-Group" amp head from the early 1970s. Model: U-1011

A number of tube and solid state amplifiers were produced by Univox over the years. These ranged from small practice combo amps to powerful heads with separate cabinets. Some models had built-in spring reverb and tremolo effects. In 1971 Univox introduced the "B Group" amplifiers, covered in two-toned blue or gray Tolex with distinctive ovalesque cosmetics.[1] These amps were used by The Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin.[2]

Univox Guitars[edit]

Around 1967, Unicord merged with Merson, an importer of various headstock-brand guitars such as Tempo, Giannini and Hagström. This new company was called "Merson Musical Products, A Division of Unicord Incorporated, A Gulf + Western Systems Company." Around 1968 they started producing the Univox-brand guitars. In 1975, Unicord and Merson split. However, Unicord continued to make Univox guitars until around 1978, even adding some newer models.[3]

Electric guitars[edit]

Univox Hi Flier Phase 3 guitar
Univox Gimme guitar, natural finish
  • Badazz
  • Coily
  • Custom
  • Custom 335 (6 and 12 string versions)[4]
  • Deluxe
  • Eagle
  • Effie (6 and 12 string versions)[4]
  • Gimmie
  • HR-2
  • Hi-Flier
  • Limited Edition Series
  • Lucy
  • Mother/Rhythm and Blues
  • Pro (Jazzbix)
  • Ripper
  • UC-2
  • UC-3
  • Westbury Performer

Bass guitars[edit]

  • Badazz
  • Coily
  • Hi-Flier
  • Naked
  • Precisely
  • Professional
  • Stereo
  • UB-1
  • 'Lectra

Acoustic guitars[edit]

  • Auditorium
  • Artist Series
  • Dove
  • 'Grass

Univox Keyboards[edit]

Univox K4 (1976, Korg PE-1000)
  • Univox K4
  • Univox MaxiKorg K3
  • Univox MiniKorg K1/K2
  • Univox Stringman (see "link". . Archived from the original on 2010-12-19. )

Univox Effects[edit]

Uni-Vibe (ca.1968) formerly owned by Jimi Hendrix

Univox had many effects units, generally made by Shin-Ei, but perhaps their most well-known was the Super-Fuzz Pedal, used by Pete Townshend.[3] Univox also produced the Uni-Vibe, a Leslie speaker effect popularized by Jimi Hendrix.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Univox Amplifiers". VintageUnivox.com. 
  2. ^ "Whole Lotta Led". 
  3. ^ a b "The Univox Page". VintageUnivox.com. 
  4. ^ a b Wright, Michael. "Univox Guitars - Merson/Unicord Part 1". Vintage Guitar magazine (February 1998). 

External links[edit]