The History Of Univox
I guess about the best place to begin the history of Univox is in the early 60's, with
the company Unicord purchased the Amplifier Corporation of America (ACA) in Westbury,
NY and marketed a series of tube amps under the name Univox. Before that
Unicord was a manufacturer of electronic transformers.
In 1967 Unicord was purchased by Gulf + Western (the oil company). Around this time Unicord
merged with Merson, a guitar improter that made lines like "Tempo", "Giannini" and
"Hagstrom". This new company was called "Merson Musical Products, A Division of Unicord
Incorporated, A Gulf + Western Systems Company", at least until Merson and Unicord spilt
in 1975. In 1968 company this company was still making amps, though they were hybrid
amps with tubes and transistors.
Also around 1968, the famous Hi-Flyer line was started, which continued for several years.
Around this time Univox also started copying Les Pauls and the Ampeg Dan Armstrong.
In 1971, Univox introduced its "Badazz", a copy of a Guild S-100. Some of these copies
were actually made by Aria, which seems to have made a lot of copy guitars for other
companies. Around 70-71 was when Univox changed the logo on their guitars from
plastic ones to the decal under the finish.
Around 1975, Univox and Merson split, but Unicord kept marketing Univox equipment for a few
years after that, until about 1978. These included the old guitars and new ones, like a copy of a
Rickenbacker bass and a Fender Strat. Plus, new solid state and tube amps were offered. Also in 1975 Unicord
switched all its production from Westbury, NY to Japan. Apparently employees were only given a single days
noticed. After that only a small crew remained to test imported amps and ship them to retailers.
In 1971, Univox also had its full array of effects for sale. Plus, they began to offer
synths and computerized effects. It was at this time that Univox began its association
with Korg. As the compnay released more synths, rythm machines, keyboards and other
electronic equipment the Korg name showed up more and more on the products.
In 1978 Unicord stoped making the Univox line of guitars
and equipment. They switched to an original line called "Westbury", which lasted until aobut 1982.
Westbury amps were also made during this time.
Also in 1978 Unicord started selling the exact same amps under the Stage and Univox name. The only difference
between the amps was the label and color scheme. Unicord was trying to phase out the Univox name in
favor of Stage. these changes came about primarily because the Univox name was seen as being "cheap" not because
of the lawsuits going on over copying. Part of the image of cheapness came from the fact that Univox's designs, though
solid and reliable, were simply copies of other companies work. There were few original designs at this time from Univox
and no new development was being done. Even Univox's solid state amp designs were almopst 10 years old.
Finally, in 1985 due to the recession, Unicord was purchased completely by Korg, pretty much ending the story there.
Some other info about Univox equipment:
- Univox guitars were built by the Matsumoko guitar factory in
Japan, which were OEM suppliers to Aria, Westbury, Westone, Epiphone,
Fender Japan and several other brands at the time. In 1988, a
disastrous fire shut Matsumoko down for good, at which point, most of
the other brands went to Korea's Samick Musical Instruments to
continue production. Of course, Univox was already defunct.
- The "Blue" series of amps were designed in America by Kenny and
the late Tony Frank, the team of brothers who were in charge of
service and amp mods for Unicord's OTHER amp line.....Marshall.
- ALL of the early Univox keyboards were built by Crucianelli in Italy.
- After the G & W takeover, the person who pulled out was Bernie
Mersky (hence "MER-son"). The other owner, Ernie Briefel, remained as
a consultant, and later went on to form Music Technologies, Inc., and
later, Music Industries Corp.
- For many years Unicord was the US importer of Marshall Amps and Korg synth/keyboards.
- Unicord designed transformers were used in the imported Marshall amps, because the company didn't think the
could handle the full 100 watts from the 6550 tubes (British Marshalls at the time used KT-88s which were lower wattage).
Marshall of England eventually adopted Unicord's transformer design.
Originally from material Copyright Michael Wright, author of Guitar Stories Vol. 2, and Vintage
Guitar Magazine; used by permission
Click here to go back to the Univox Page