VINTAGE & UPKEEP > TRASH OR TREASURE
THE MYSTERIOUS VOX PACEMAKER BY ZACHARY FJESTAD
I have a solid-state Vox Pacemaker amp. I’ve tried to learn more
about this model, but there doesn’t seem to be much information about it. This surprises me, as the Pacemaker appears to be a
common Vox amp and I see many of them for sale. Can you give
me a little history of the Pacemaker and tell me its current value?
Murray in South Carolina
In 1964, the Thomas Organ
Company (TOC) signed a distribution deal to import Vox amps
into the U.S. Demand was very
high in America and JMI tried
to keep up, but overseas shipping wasn’t what it is today, and
they found themselves falling
behind on fulfillment. By 1965,
JMI was shipping Vox parts to
the U.S., and Thomas had the
amps assembled in California.
This increased the production,
but a different team was building
the amplifiers and they began
using different parts. Naturally,
this resulted in different sounding Vox amps. Later, Thomas
acquired the North American
rights to Vox and began building
their own Vox-branded amplifiers for the U.S. Basically, this
divided Vox into two separate
trademarks: Vox JMI (England)
and Vox TOC (America).
This is why your ampli-
fier doesn’t appear in many Vox
books. Because the Pacemaker
was entirely designed and built in
the U.S., many enthusiasts don’t
consider it to be a true Vox. In
the mid 1960s, America became
obsessed with the transistor, and
many amp companies (including
Fender and Gibson) began build-
ing solid-state gear. Transistor
hype was through the roof, and
solid-state amps were being
advertised as lighter, running
cooler, and operating more effi-
ciently. However, the sonic differ-
ence between a tube and a solid-
state amplifier was largely ignored
by American engineers. Since
the U.S. got into transistors way
before England, Thomas began
supplying JMI in England with
solid-state designs. Thomas also
began developing its own ampli-
fiers with no JMI counterpart.
Because the Pacemaker
was entirely designed
and built in the US,
don’t consider it to
be a true Vox.
Sepulveda, California, under
license from Jennings Musical
Instruments LTD. in Dartford,
So, is this really a Vox amp?
It is an age-old question that
all depends on where the amp
was manufactured, who built it,
and how it sounds. Vox enthu-
siasts will likely discredit the
Pacemaker as a true Vox amp
because it sounds nothing like
the AC15s and AC30s of the
early 1960s. It’s up to you to
decide if this amp is a treasure,
not just for the brand name,
but also for how it sounds!
The Vox tale is a fascinating
one. You can learn more about
the AC30, AC15, and all things
Vox from Vox Amplifiers: The
JMI Years by Jim Elyea and The
Vox Story: A Complete History
of the Legend by David Petersen
and Dick Denney.
A mid-’60s Pacemaker: This amp
is a completely different beast
from the mighty little AC15 that
made Vox a favorite of British
The 17-watt 1x10 combo
includes tremolo, but no reverb.
Though this unit has a transistor power section, Vox made a
tube-equipped edition as well.
ZACHARY R. FJESTAD
is author of Blue Book of
Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book
of Electric Guitars, and Blue
Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
For more information, visit
bluebookinc.com or email
Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
58 PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2012