Vox Sound Limited

1970 - 1973

4th July 2017: page recast, further material to be added on Vox and Birch-Stolec in 1972.

OVERVIEW

In early 1970 "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" (VSEL) folded, to be replaced, a few months later by a new company -"Vox Sound Limited" (VSL). The purpose of this page is to gather together a body of material relating to the changes that took place.

For "Vox Sound Equipment Limited", which ran from summer 1968 to early 1970, .

In terms of sources, "Beat Instrumental" magazine, the only magazine in which Vox regularly advertised, is key, as is the "Vox Story", published by Dick Denney and Dave Petersen in 1993, and still available second hand.

The last we see of VSEL is in January 1970:

Beat Instrumental, mo. 81. January 1970 (advert repeated from November)

In February 1970, the magazine ran, on pages 21-36, a "Focus on Amplifiers". There are sections on Jennings Electronic Industries, Hiwatt, Park, Laney, WEM, Marshall, Selmer and so on and so forth, but no sign of Vox. Vox does not exist. It has completely disappeared.

The first we see of "Vox Sound Limited" is in July 1970:

Beat Instrumental, no. 87, July 1970. Notice on Vox from the "Guitar Guide". "The new company of Vox Sound Limited have reduced their range of guitars to three models."

The hiatus between the old and new companies may have lasted around three to four months.

Since the "London Gazette", which publishes notices of all company liquidations, has no notice of "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" folding, it may be that some legal or practical mechanism was found to help turn one company into the other.

To the outside world however, there will have been few indications of the changes to come. Indeed, Vox Sound Equipment Limited put on a mighty impressive display at the British Musical Instrument Trade Fair in August 1969, bringing new equipment and ideas into the range.

The Vox Sound Equipment Limited stand at the British Musical Instruments Trade Fair, 17th-21st August 1969. The advert in the foreground is the one that appeared in Beat Instrumental magazine in the same month.

By contrast, the show in August 1970 - the first for VSL - was apparently a dismal affair across the board. "Beat Instrumental", normally quick to find something to praise, more or less threw up its hands in defeat.

Corinthian Securities, George Stow and Stow Electronics

Why did "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" come to an end? The story, as related by Dick Denney and Dave Petersen in the "Vox Story" (1993), is that in late 1969, Royston Industries, the company that owned VSEL collapsed. The group had ventured too far and too deep into avionics, draining money for development from its subsiduaries, only to lose vital contracts to Decca.

Burndept Electronics, part of the Royston Group, had long made radios and receivers for the aerospace industry, the military, and the domestic market. What brought Royston to its knees was the unsuccessful Midas flight recorder. Perhaps the production in 1970, by Vox Sound Limited, of a Gyrotone amplifier called the "Vox Midas" - - was a play on this.

In Denney and Petersen's view, VSEL failed as a direct result of Royston's troubles, the Vox name and business being saved from oblivion by two executives - moneymen - from "Corinthian Securities".

The internet, by one of those strange quirks, is alive with "Corinthian Bank" - find a likely bank of that name if you can. The company was "Corinthian Securities" - incorporated as a company in 1966, and accused in court, in 1970, of being a business of "moneylenders", which very possibly they were, rather than "bankers".

In broad brush, the troubles at Royston must have played a considerable part in undermining Vox in late 1969. In October, The "London Gazette" gives notice of Royston's liquidation:

Above, notice of the liquidation of Royston Industries in the "London Gazette", October 1969.

However, this was not the first time the liquidator had been called in. Winding up had also been set in motion in June 1968.

Evidently nothing came of this first "liquidation", except perhaps worry and a plummeting share price. The conditions prompting the liquidation of 1969 were presumably more serious.

But Royston staggered on. The "London Gazette" records that the process of liquidation was still ongoing in 1971 (16th April) - meetings with further creditors. Final dissolution was signalled in Jan. 1973 (4th Jan.).

Reading between the lines, it looks as though Vox found its own way out of the situation as soon as it could, not that Royston was its only concern. 1969 was not a particularly good time to be selling, or hoping to sell at any rate, large numbers of solid state amps. The British market had strongly tipped towards valve. And added to that, European amplifier manufacturers were springing up at an alarming range. Competition was intense.

Safe to say, the American market had long been ruled out - from the moment that JMI threw in its lot with transistors, in other words, from 1967. The Thomas Organ company (Vox USA) already had its own line of solid state amps. The massive export successes of 1964, 1965 and 1966 became a thing of the past in 1967. Why would an American band pay over the odds for a Supreme when a Super Beatle could affordably be had?

"Vox Sound Equipment Limited" did not wholly "collapse" as such in 1969, but found a means of supporting and re-inventing itself first with the help first of "Corinthian Securities", then with the help of George Stow - the Birch-Stolec consortium, supported by the Schroeder Bank.

Indeed, George Stow, through "Stow Electronics" and "Twickenham Transformers", had been a supplier of VSEL since 1968. He evidently saw a future for Vox in 1970. For details of Stow's involvement, .

Given his prior involvement with the company, there's probably more to it than his simply seizing an opportunity.

In order to capitalise, George Stow put his existing businesses - "Stow Electronics", "Digitizer Techniques" and "Technical Encapsulations Limited" - into liquidation in March 1970 (recorded in the "London Gazette"). Birch-Stolec, the holding company for the new "Vox Sound Limited", will have come into being shortly thereafter.

VOX SOUND LIMITED - the new company

Adverts and notices in "Beat Instrumental" magazine show that VSL remained at the old works on West Street until July 1971:

Beat Instrumental, July 1971. The preamble to a short section on Vox, the Defiant strangely said to be "new". Note the address - still Erith. But the move may already have been in progress.

In August '71, however, office and showroom had been set up at 9 Gees Court, a small but smart alley off Oxford Street by Selfridges:

Full page advert, Beat Instrumental, August 1971. The disco scene. Note the new office.

In November, the new factory - the Birch-Stolec factory - at Hastings (really St Leonards-on-Sea, which Hastings had colonised) is mentioned:

Beat Instrumental, no. 103, November 1971. Notes on the new "Vox Sound Limited" office and personnel. £100,000 of export orders was no small feat. The last line is intriguing: "On their stand at the Canadian show, Vox will be exhibiting their latest range of educational and PA equipment."

And it's intriguing to see a music shop opening up not too far from the factory. Clearly an opportunity to grasped.

Beat Instrumental, September 1971.

58 Norman Road on Google Street (ie. photographed a couple of years ago), now a Gallery Shop.

The Birch-Stolec Factory

Vox Sound Limited at the Birch-Stolec factory, Ponswood Estate, St Leonards on Sea
Vox Sound Limited at the Birch-Stolec factory, Ponswood Estate, St Leonards on Sea
Vox Sound Limited at the Birch-Stolec factory, Ponswood Estate, St Leonards on Sea

Above, images of the factory from the late VSL catalogue - assembling organs, Defiants, testing a SS100PA, Defiant side stands, and finished units in their covers.

Birch-Stolec inspection stamp in Vox Supreme serial no. 2629

The Birch-Stolec inspection stamp on the chassis of Supreme serial no. 2629, one of the last to have been produced at St Leonards.

In 1973, trade journals record that "Birch-Stolec" had been taken over by "Cosmocord Limited". This was the end for the time being of "Vox Sound Limited", though no formal notice of the winding up either of "Birch-Stolec" or VSL appears in the "London Gazette".

4th July 2017 - further material to come.