Let There Be VEGAs: the Quest formally begins.

Schaffer_Vega_tower

16 Mar Let There Be VEGAs: the Quest formally begins.

So,

here they are to us (these three later Cetec-Vega Diversity units). “Us”, I would say, as I hope you’ll follow this one closely with me, as you have always.

These wireless, Cetec-Vega Diversity units here were intended mostly for microphone transmission (levalier), not guitar.  In order to try and match what I think is closer to the original Schaffer-Vega Diversity Units (which is the core of this project), they will have to be modified (mainly and hopefully, the input jack type – see pictures – and a few components on the transmitter only).

They have arrived just now, three complete units (One receiver and one transmitter per complete system). In short, the following are my facts and hypothesis (both of which took me years to put together) from which I am officially starting my quest:

1) Angus Young began using a wireless system back in 1977 (documented). This system was called the “Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (SVDS)” and it was a “bulky unit” (not my definition) made of a receiver and transmitter, very much alike the ones you’re looking at now.

Angus Young DID use said unit’s “Volume Boost” (to literally clean-boost the signal inside the amplifier’s input, thus overdriving his amplifiers) extensively from the very first moment he had the unit to probably the moment he quit using it (still unknown). He did mention this aspect of the SVDS system himself, in more than one occasion. He likely did use different boost settings on both live performances and in the studio. I am convinced that this boost type greatly altered Angus Young’s guitar tone and even influenced further his style of playing (my presumption), both for the unit’s sonic qualities and for its wireless capabilities.  A built in compressor is also in place because of wireless communication needs of the era (mid to late 1970s). The compressor was built in in the transmitter box. I say again, I am more and more convinced that Its sonic characteristics altered both Angus’ playing and sound. 

2) While an original Schaffer-Vega Diversity can’t be found at the moment of this writing (March 2011), it seems (to me) that CETEC bought Vega shortly thereafter, probably keeping the production of these units unaltered for a few more years (hope/personal hypothesis)

3) Given the scope of this project – reproduce Angus Young’s exact tone of those very years using the same gear, in order to create a definitive reference point for all interested rockers from now on – a proper boost and compressor have to be found.

While many of us including me are succesfully using several boost types, it may be possible to open one or more of such units and try to re-create the volume boost circuit and compressor specifications. This is also a core part of this experiment/project.

Experiments will in fact be made in several fields:

– transform the transmitters from mic to guitar input and

– use wirelessly at least one of these units – transmitter/receiver to study also the wireless component of the frequencies

– use the unit non-wirelessly

– reproduce (attempt) the unit’s volume boost and built in compressor to build a repro box available on the market sold by me (studies on copyrights will be needed again). SoloDallas.net members will be first.

 

Here’s all the truth, as always, from me.

You can now consider the quest for tone as realistic as ever. It’s started!

 

Fil :)

 

Please note: as you probably noticed, instead of choosing the path of keeping all of this hush hush, study everyting, make a product and come out with it to sell, I chose always to be very vocal about this, openly. These units – the Cetec-Vegas; the original Schaffer-Vegas are instead super rare and likely, more than collector items – can be found easily on eBay and other sources, they’re no rarity as the Schaffer-Vegas and they’re not expensive at all (I bought all the three for USD 199).

I want  to make it very clear that my scope here – as always – is almost scientific, and so it is in my chosen methodology, too: it’s open. You can purchase your own unit, study it, modify it and then choose to make something for us to purchase. There will be no competition from me. I don’t do it for the money, although financial benefit from this would be indeed pleasurable, as having money is always nicer than not having money. Money helps. But this is open. You can talk about it, do your own experiments, anything. Actually, I encourage you to do so, too: if anyone of you or anyone else came out with a replication boost to get Angus tone – the part related to gear, not the style bits – I would surely buy one immediately. Just to be extremely clear as always.

I love this place. Our solodallas.com. In a world that seems to have lost its ethics, solodallas.com is already different and MUST remain as such.

 

Further note: please notice that this study has progressed extensively over time; you can now reference a lot more information by clicking on the related posts tab below and by clicking . Thank you.

 

 

avatar
Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri
sd@solodallas.com

I like Geetars!

57 Comments
  • avatar
    OldSchoolRocker666
    Posted at 13:27h, 28 March

    Imagine if anyone of us would find the same unit Angus used from 77 laying in some box or something, perfect shape as last time he used it, and be able to buy it , what a dream scenario.

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 14:04h, 28 March

      YOu make a very good point. Like for old Gibson “bursts” of the late ’50s, many were found in attics and/or “under the bed” of elder people. This is also part of the fascination here. I am absolutely certain that there ARE original Schaffer Vegas still in operating condition somewhere. It’s no secret that I would buy one immediately, IF anyone wanted to sell me one. Or otherwise, would try to collaborate with the owner. There is no copyright of mine in all of this, however, I do accept credit for finding out :) I am now rather certain that sooner or later, all of this will be completely debunked in a way or the other, and we “will have” Back in Black tone. Back in Black tone is my tone for the life; it’s got so many nuances that I would use it for anything and everything. I am so used to having in my ears, that I literally grew with that one in mind, ears and heart. It’s “IT” for me. “You can brush your teeth with it, eat with it, sleep with it” lol

  • avatar
    adam10603
    Posted at 21:33h, 21 March

    Once I bought a cheap (about $10) chinese wireless karaoke mic. Not for any serious purposes (I’m not even a singer though :) ) but to test out whether it’s wireless part works with a guitar or not. So I took the transmitter out of the mic, soldered a jack onto it, and guess what: it works perfectly! It only has a range of like 10 meters, but whatever 😀 It can be useful in my room if I don’t want to mess around with cables.

    So I’m pretty sure that your VEGAs will also work if you menage to connect them to your guitar :)

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 21:37h, 21 March

      Oh yes they will work, I spoke with the tech today, we’re making them work for sure. That’s the easy part, though it’s extremely important. My dream would be to take the relevant guts out and reproduce them to recreate a compact package to get Angus’ tone easily. Both the boost and the compressor must be set at a high output level, I was surprised. But this is also what causes a dramatic change in the amplifier’s sound. It’s incredible. The guitar is easier to play, probably because of the compressor.

      • avatar
        mrkrausman
        Posted at 01:30h, 24 March

        Fil I have the same model on the way. I am a little confused though about the mic vs. guitar use, it looks like the transmitters have 1/4 inch inputs. I would think this unit would have been designed to use both mic and instruments. I see the reciever has xlr balanced outputs though. I have very little info on these beasts. I am trying to locate an owners manual.

        Mike

        • avatar
          mrkrausman
          Posted at 05:27h, 28 March

          Well after recieving my Diversity, I see what I thought was a 1/4 inch input looks to be a miniature condenser mic input, identical to the one pictured in this blog.

          • avatar
            SoloDallas
            Posted at 13:59h, 28 March

            Yes, because these are microphone units; this is the main reason probably for which the were “saved”: they kept on being used (and produced). Mine, supposedly working, is being in fact modified to accept a 1/4 jack in input.

  • avatar
    Kirk2000
    Posted at 20:42h, 20 March

    Fil, here is an excerpt from Ken Schaffer’s bio about the Schaffer-Vega system.. The most important fact is that he never patented the wireless device, so reverse engineering it and making a clone wouldn’t violate any copyright laws.. KIRK

    Schaffer spent about two years experimenting with wireless devices, eventually building what he called the Schaffer-Vega Diversity System. (Vega was the name of the firm that manufactured the devices for a company that Schaffer had formed, the Ken Schaffer Group.) The wireless guitar wasn’t really a guitar; it was a small, highly sophisticated radio transmitter (about the size of a pack of cigarettes) that attached to the back of any amplified instrument or clipped to a musician’s belt and connected to the instrument by means of a short cord that plugged in in the usual way. The wireless microphone was the same device in a different package. Individual units could be set for different frequencies, making it transmissions, including those between possible for as many as a dozen instruments or microphones to operate on the same stage without interfering with one another.

    The first rock band to place an order, in 1977, was Kiss, whose members were attracted primarily by a secondary benefit of Schaffer’s invention: it protected a musician from electric shock, a significant occupational hazard in the rock world at that time. (Kiss’s bassist had received a severe shock while playing on the group’s metal stage set. ) Other early customers included the Electric Light Orchestra, Pink Floyd, Peter Frampton, and the Rolling Stones. Schaffer’s systems — which sold for thirty-three hundred dollars — untethered musicians from their amplifiers and dramatically changed the look of live rock performances. They also changed radio communication in general. Among Schaffer’s earliest customers were Bell Laboratories, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, whose engineers realized that Schaffer’s technology could be used to improve the quality of all sorts of radio transmissions, including those between Earth and outer space. (Schaffer’s company also sold other music-related gadgets, including a small number of electronically souped-up guitars. John Lennon bought one and loved it so much that he hung it on the wall over his bed when he wasn’t using it.)

    Schaffer made a great deal of money from his wireless systems. He would have made a great deal more, except that he NEVER PATENTED his invention, and after a couple of years other manufacturers began to copy it. Schaffer had several reasons for not seeking a patent. One is that he takes a rather cosmic view of the ownership of ideas. Another is that he thought of his wireless system more as an engineering challenge than as a source of income. Another is that filling out forms and meeting with lawyers are not two of his favorite activities. Still, his not bothering to patent SchafferVega struck me as being pretty dumb, and I told him so.

    “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “If I had patented it, I’d be a fat old goat right now, watching my stocks go up and down, and what fun would that be? People tell me I blew it, and that I’m just trying to justify my mistake, but I really think I didn’t make a mistake. If you let yourself get too comfortable, you start converting creative energy into defensive energy, and you spend all your time just protecting what you’ve got. Ken Schaffer

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 22:47h, 20 March

      Thanks Kirk bro’, I had read that one several times. It’s actually the ONLY thing that you can find about the Schaffer Vega online.

  • avatar
    RiffRaff
    Posted at 23:28h, 16 March

    Sorry for a little offtopic, but I’ve got a question.
    I need a amp since I want to start play in a band. I’ve played through Guitar Rig 4 until now.
    I love the AC/DC sound, but since I really cannot afford these amps that Solodallas tries out on this website, I wonder what amp could be good at a price-level around 700 euro. Any tip?

    • avatar
      06AngusSG
      Posted at 23:40h, 16 March

      I don’t know what things go for in europe but that would just about afford you a JMP over here in the US. It is kinda rare but I have seen plenty of 1987’s – 2204’s here for around $1000 USD. (not much more than 700euro) 😉

    • avatar
      svh366
      Posted at 12:59h, 18 March

      used JCM900’s are also pretty good and versatile!

  • avatar
    frankjoss
    Posted at 23:11h, 16 March

    First post for me and a HUGE “Hi” to everyone here at SoloDallas. I’ve been following the site for a while now after seeing Fil digging in on that B string on Youtube. Didn’t dare participate, felt out of my depth (43 years old and only a year and a half of the with a guitar, mediocre run of the mill equipement …). I mean I’m just drooling when you all talk tech but way over my head for the time being. But since I’ve been dropping in on SoloDallas almost everday scine last August something has stirred within, a sort of feeling that things have become possible, you guys seem to send out something good, something strong, something true, somthing honest. This is the only forum I’ve seen with no bickering, no insults…
    So thanks to you all, cos now I’m picking away till all hours, I’ve taken a guitar and ampli to work for the lunch break and I’m putting away a bit of cash (looking for that sound as we all are) .
    Life’s good and when you’ve got a guitar it’s sweet.
    cheers to all and mòran taing

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 23:23h, 16 March

      Thanks for your comment and welcome :) Nice to have another beginner at my level here. Yeah, this site here ist simple one of the best places in the whole net. Just some friends having a nice time together.
      Rock on! :)

      • avatar
        frankjoss
        Posted at 13:37h, 17 March

        Yep for sure. Here we can only get better with our music and ourselves. I mean just look at these last two threads, it’s all about sharing stuff just so that everyone can get that little shiver when they play. How good does it get?

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 23:52h, 16 March

      Frank (may I call you Frank?),
      a HUGE welcome here, right here and now.
      I feel to tell you that I think this is exactly the place for you. I have no particular consideration about my playing, and I think no one has either. This is the plain truth: I realize constantly, as for example yesterday during band rehearsals with much older guys than me and professional session players, musicians for and in life, that is. I was giving it all, but I realized again that there is no such thing as a self assured musician. I think even the big stars need continuous reassurance (that is when love from fans is welcome, as well as their money). This is place where I personally feel we’re all on the same level as human beings first; then, come the instrument players. Be welcome. Here as in real life, I search peace and quality. A strong welcome on my behalf and thanks for your terrific first comment, yours, Fil :)

      • avatar
        frankjoss
        Posted at 13:53h, 17 March

        Of course you can Fil, beats great big hairy scotsman anytime (although that suits me as well 😉 )
        Thanks for the welcome and I’ll try and add my grain of salt as often as possible. Quite new to the whole playing guitar buisiness, but I grew up with a Dad that listened to Hendrix, The Troggs The Kinks and that one night when I was a kid let me stay up late to watch a concert on TV. For years I didn’t know who it was, just remembered this half-naked guitar player who just ran around while playing this GREAT music (remind you of anyone?). I couldn’t understand (and still don’t) how he did all this stuff with his head endlessly and I mean endlessly banging away as if he was tring to hammer in nails with his forehead.
        I was hooked for life.
        Seems as if SoloDallas.net is full of fishes like me.

    • avatar
      rjofig
      Posted at 03:06h, 17 March

      Hi back at you, Frank. I’m glad to see your comments. Myself, I don’t think I have ever been an active member on any forum myself till now, but here – it’s different, like you say. The positive vibe Fil brought in from the get go and the community that is forming, bickering and insults just don’t resonate here.
      Hey, I know the feeling, I’m tempted to bring my guitar to work as well :) Cheers!

  • avatar
    Angusrocks
    Posted at 22:36h, 16 March

    mmhhh……your plans fill my heart with big big joy !!! If you can build this box one day, i will directly order two of these !!

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 23:55h, 16 March

      Hehehhe… I am extremely excited too. I was touching and looking at those Vegas moments ago. I really hope something can be done with these. If not a custom box, we can always buy these for cheap on ebay and follow a sort of tutorial that I and someone else will end up making to transform these into “Schaffer Vegas”, still using them wirelessly, maybe. So, whatever comes out of this, I hope it will be “something” worth. :)

      • avatar
        Angusrocks
        Posted at 06:16h, 17 March

        yes mate, and i wish you all the best to find out if it will be something worth.
        Perhaps Mr. Schaffer will give you the secrets of his unit. That would be very nice !! Otherwise it will be fun to find out ourselves, anyway we will find it out someday, i`m absolutely sure !!!

  • avatar
    rpatzelt
    Posted at 21:09h, 16 March

    Hi Fil. Now we are connected in LinkedIn :)
    The funny thing is this is the second time I accessed this website … LoL

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 21:11h, 16 March

      LOL I have no idea how to use it. However, it won’t let me get in touch with Mr. Schaffer.

      • avatar
        rpatzelt
        Posted at 21:22h, 16 March

        Why :( ? … not directly but you can contact him through linkedin on “internal mail”. Sorry, I’m not a linkedin user and my expertise stops here :) Maybe one of us knows better. Anyway he’s
        – Partner at exText Holdings LLC
        – President at TV2Me (K2B Inc.) http://tv2me.com/
        and his webpage: http://home.nutscape.org/top_page.html
        and so on..

        Hint: Call at TV2Me with an angry voice (because your “TV2Me PRO 640SD” stops working this morning) and ask for the president! :)

        …well, don’t do this eventually…

        • avatar
          rpatzelt
          Posted at 21:30h, 16 March

          North American Sales and Customer Support
          New York, NY 10019

          Tel: +1-212-371-2344

          huh..??!

          • avatar
            SoloDallas
            Posted at 23:57h, 16 March

            Heh I may try and call. “Hello, is there Mr. Schaffer, please?”
            – WHo is this?
            – SoloDallas.
            – Huh
            – Yep. Oh and is he there, Pulleese?
            – Yeah
            – Mr. Schaffer?
            – Yes?
            – HalloOOOooooo!!!! ^_^ It’s Fil here 😀
            – Who the heck are you?
            – Oh I am an interwebz guitar player who wants to be Angus Young you know

            – (noise of hanging up)

            End.

            • avatar
              jakesg61
              Posted at 10:44h, 17 March

              Maybe its worth a try Fil, the frase comes to mind ‘you never know untill you find out’ 😀
              Its like you were saying, if you can just find out how the original circuit produced the boost system then you can reproduce the circuit in your own custom case, it will be kinda like the’ Schaffer Vega Reissue’ hehe
              Maybe if you open up the case an, if the maye a code or model number on the circuit itself, you could find circuit diagrams?

            • avatar
              Ant
              Posted at 14:03h, 17 March

              lol

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 21:33h, 16 March

          LOL

  • avatar
    06AngusSG
    Posted at 19:12h, 16 March

    I know this should go on the “watch post”

    I wish I wasn’t layed-off otherwise I’d buy this one. VERY CHEAP Vega unit. Don’t know if the transmitter is there though.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=400197791690

  • avatar
    headwhop26
    Posted at 18:47h, 16 March

    And now I just sit here and wait for you to post again to blow my mind.

    *waiting*

  • avatar
    06AngusSG
    Posted at 18:43h, 16 March

    I can’t wait for the de-bunk stage to be done so I can get to work on one!! :) It’s like waiting for christmas.

    It would be interesting, for those of us that are capeable, to use the “final” schematic and build our own and see what all of the different results look like. Being identical in circuit design only. 😉

  • avatar
    Guitarjosii
    Posted at 18:23h, 16 March

    Have you seen AC/DC – Live in Paris ’79? Angus used a normal cable instead of the wireless system on that concert. However, I can’t notice any difference concerning sound, style of playing or something like that. We should search in the internet for Angus heart, mind and fingers, not his equipment in my opinion! :-)

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 18:43h, 16 March

      Of course I have, I have seen it even at the movie theater when it first came out.
      I would like to disagree. I found his tone extremely different. Muffled, also. I think he was using 2203s there or that sort of amp. Very different sound anyway from other concerts, studio albums etc. I agree with you naturally, that the core style (not sound!) lies in his hear, mind and hands; but contrary to common thinking, I don’t think tone is in the hands. Tone is in the gear. Style is in the hands!

      • avatar
        jubaluba
        Posted at 20:19h, 16 March

        I remember well what I tought the first time I heard/saw this concert: Wow, Angus sounds different.
        I know very little about “tone” and how to describe it (so bare with me). But the first thing that hit me when I first heard it (as a naive 14 year old) is that I thought the “drive” sounded very different. Kind of “angrier”.

  • avatar
    Tyler
    Posted at 17:26h, 16 March

    Good luck Fil, i’m very confident you will succeed with this and when you do, think about the doors that it will open!

  • avatar
    Thundersnook
    Posted at 16:50h, 16 March

    Damn thats cool vintage stuff! =) I think even if there is no noticeable difference in the sound (wich is not of course), at least it would sound different in our ears because of the mojo of this nice Vegas! xD

    Greetings Fil! Cant wait to hear some samples! =)
    all the best!

  • avatar
    rpatzelt
    Posted at 16:38h, 16 March

    This a great find Fil. I hope you’ll get with this Cetec what you want. I’ve just found this http://nutcom.com/nyer/ and Mr. Schaffer’s linkedin.com page http://www.linkedin.com/in/kenschaffer . You can contact him there and ask for help. I’m almost sure he’s a nice guy and since he’s no longer involved in developing this device will provide useful information. You can show him sd.net and your quest for tone while asking him for the missing link – The Schaffer Vega Diversity :)

  • avatar
    rjofig
    Posted at 16:10h, 16 March

    Neat, looking forward to the results, Fil!
    By the way, a google search on “vega diversity system” returns this site as the top link, and the next is Ken Schaffer’s linkedin page; maybe you can ask the man directly about how to navigate the copyright waters :)

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 16:43h, 16 March

      Rena, thanks :) I had noticed that we now come up on google for searches about the Schaffer Vega. As I told Radu just now, great minds think alike? Not a member of linkedin, but will sign up and try and contact him. Obrigado :)

      • avatar
        rjofig
        Posted at 18:39h, 16 March

        hah :) Linkedin is quite useful for professional networking; not sure how popular it is outside the US though. cheers!

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 19:17h, 16 March

          Barely, most people here use Xing. But I’m also an Linkedin :)

  • avatar
    banane
    Posted at 15:44h, 16 March

    Hm, let’s hope they have the same technology inside. Looking forward for first test sounds.
    And yes, ethics are very important to me too. That’s half of the reasons why I’m here at all.

  • avatar
    Dries
    Posted at 15:22h, 16 March

    If you need ANY help or advice on the electronics, I’m in !
    Dries

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 15:37h, 16 March

      I will most certainly. I have your email, as soon as I have matters to show, discuss, debunk.
      All the units are being sent to my tech tonight.

  • avatar
    ar2619Rob
    Posted at 15:04h, 16 March

    I’m so excited! Can’t wait for my ‘SoloTone Boost Box’ to arrive :)
    VIVA LOS VEGA’s!

    • avatar
      svh366
      Posted at 15:11h, 16 March

      haha =)

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 15:38h, 16 March

      You and Franz would be first in the list! You were the two to ask first. First come, first served :)

  • avatar
    jubaluba
    Posted at 14:39h, 16 March

    This is great news!
    Can’t wait to see/hear the results!

  • avatar
    svh366
    Posted at 14:36h, 16 March

    great news, Fil! can’t wait to see (and HEAR) the results!!! =)

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