Vox Guitar? The “AC30” amp guys, right?

Right! Nothing is obscure about the opening riff to “Smoke on the Water.” So far, the “smoke riff” may be the closest thing the rock ‘n roll world has to the opening 4 notes to Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

It was brought to the world’s ears courtesy of Deep Purple, their guitarist Richie Blackmore, and the venerable AC30.

Vox, as a company, is a lot more than just the guys that made amps for the Beatles, Deep Purple, U2, Radio Head, Queen, The Stones, and just a few more colossal bands, players and hit records. Vox gave us the wah wah pedal, the electric “Mando” guitar, the impossibly cool tone bender fuzz, the Vox continental organ (“Light My Fire,” anyone?), and so much more, including a line of electric guitars and basses.

A long and bumpy road led to this nearly forgotten, but truly fantastic, guitar. Many miles of this “road of guitars” were unpaved. Early Vox classics include the unforgettable Teardrop models. Vox (JMI) was exclusively a British company in the beginning. Truth be told, Vox sold guitars, but were primarily focused on the amps and effects side of manufacturing.

The first guitars were sourced out to local UK builders and were fairly primitive offerings surely (“P.O.S” for short). Then Vox owner and President Tom Jennings (Jennings Musical Instruments or JMI, as above) got some well needed assistance. A few early models were made in the UK, but most were sourced out to EKO in Italy. The most memorable models of the era are the many versions of the 5-sided Phantom, and the many versions of the teardrop shaped Mark VI. As guitars they were cool looking, if not a dream guitar for the pro player. Many like Brian Jones, and American rockers Paul Revere, and Bill Wyman, enjoyed being seen with them—though there is no evidence Bill Wyman used his namesake Wyman MK VI shaped bass outside the photo studio.

Vox changed hands multiple times and their guitar production halted at a very out-of-step with the times Vox company, in 1971.

That brings us to the Vox comeback. After a ten year hiatus on guitars, distributor Rose Morris bought the American rights to the Vox name from the Thomas Organ Company (yes, that’s why they’re called Vox wah wahs in the UK, and the same pedal in the USA is called a Cry Baby). Now all one big happy family, the Rose Morris Vox co. introduced some fresh, up to date models, contracted to the masterful Matsumoko builders in Japan, who built for many private USA labels.

The Custom 25 featured on our used site is in tip-top shape, especially considering it was built in the early Regan administration. It has cool, up to the minute, early 80’s style. She’s a cross between a Gibson, an Alembic, and a super Strat. An offset waist body with maple/walnut neck-through construction. The outer “wings” are nicely grained walnut.

The Custom 25 also sports a full, two octave 24 fret fingerboard and classic, Fender-style synchronized tremolo, made of brass (a feature Alembic helped pioneer). Pickups are super high output DiMarzio X2N humbuckers (anything with an X in it is bad ass, but you already knew that). The 25.5″ scale helps larger fingers play the upper 4 frets. Electronics are right in step, if not ahead of the times. A traditional Les Paul style layout is complemented by a toggle that allows coil tapping and parallel or series switching. That’s a lot of sonic combinations. It does have the somewhat awkward paddle style headstock working against its otherwise sleek sexiness (unless you are into paddles, man its cool).

The Vox Custom 25 only lasted 4 short years—or it may well have been quite a bit less obscure. The guitar’s features, playability, tone, versatility, and good looks, make this sleeper a great value today. Think about it a minute and you’ll realize all the future models (anything newer than this that is) that borrowed features from this nearly forgotten classic. Better yet, forget I said anything. I think I just talked myself into this bad boy.

Oh yea, forget this also—aside from the Vox Custom 25’s great condition, it’s also 100% original and comes with the case it left the factory in.


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Mike Rock
A fixture in the Rock and Roll guitar community since 1978, Mike Rock is the “Go-To” source for Sam Ash's most intricate questions involving Guitars and related gear. A collector whose true passion is playing, Mike has performed over 2,500 gigs around the world. Mike began his musical journey studying the trumpet. While buying sheet music for a recital, Mike first heard an electric guitar through a fuzz box. Forty years later, he still maintains that the fuzz WAS germanium based (he is a bit crazy). This encounter drove Mike to his first guitar and a tube amp. Soon his guitar was heavily modified and the amp was on its 3rd replacement speaker. Mike was hunting for tone and blowing guitar speakers before there was a “boutique” or “vintage” market. It wasn’t long before Mike was buying, and validating vintage guitars and gear for some of the biggest companies in the world, finally finding a home assisting mentor and friend Sammy Ash, at the place where he heard that first Fuzz Guitar, so many years ago. Mike still performs regularly and recognizes the history and beauty of vintage and modern gear. Mike is aware not everyone is a collector and most players need a set up that works for the sound they chase, regardless of its pedigree, or vintage or status.