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The Schaffer Vega Diversity System – Update

Ken Schaffer Vintage Ad

01 Nov The Schaffer Vega Diversity System – Update

Update: Our Own NitroAngus23 has pointed out to us that a brief article has been published on the official AC/DC site. Without permission, I am reposting here:

AC/DC Trivia: Angus Goes Wireless!

In 1977 Angus was first introduced to the brand new technology of the wireless guitar system. The New York Palladium 1977 concert would be the very first time Angus would use the brand new wireless guitar transmitter. Before this, Angus was limited to the length of the guitar wire, so stage crew used to guide the guitar cable behind him during his audience walk about routine.

The very first system was a Schaffer-Vega diversity system, which was a bulky system, the transmitter was usually duct taped to Angus’ guitar to avoid any movement or disconnection from the guitar jack, at one point it possibly even being implanted into the cavity of his Gibson SG to help with stability of the unit during Angus’ wild stage antics. Angus would continue to use these systems for at least a decade or more. More recently, Angus (and Malcolm) have been using the Lectrosonics wireless guitar systems on stage.

Bon Scott told in an interview about his first encounter at the New York Palladium dressing room “I walked into the dressing room and there was Angus at one end playing his guitar and the amps at the other. No cords were connecting ’em! It was amazing to see. And Angus had this ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin all over his face and evil thoughts seemed to be going through his brain as to what havoc he could wreak with this evil little invention”….
Angus eagerly stated in an interview in 1977, “When we get back to Europe the first stop is gonna be London… No one will know what’s hit ’em!”

from: http://www.acdc.com/us/acdc-today/acdc-trivia-angus-goes-wireless

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Well folks, now’s the time talk in further detail about the (in)famous (the “in” is because it’s hard to find!) Schaffer Vega Diversity System.

The What??? This was Angus’ wireless system that he began using back in 1977 and continued to use for several years there-after.

This is what it looked like (bottom right of this publicity shot of the time):

Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (Early Ad)

and here’s another picture I cropped out of a larger (uninteresting) one:

David Gilmour's SVDS by Ken Schaffer

I know, it’s too small! however these are ALL I could find on the entire net! So, just to be able to see what they looked like, and hopefully discover which “features” they had.

Before I continue, a bit on the story of how it was invented:

Of all the things I admired about Kenny (Schaffer, SD) was his imagination…but he didn’t just dream, he turned his dreams into reality. He conceived, designed, built, and sold the first wireless guitar (system, SD) and wireless microphone that forever changed staging and the way music was performed.

Ken remembers, “The idea to make the first wireless guitar stemmed from Lynne Volkman being my girlfriend… Lynne was the first female tour manager in rock ‘n roll, doing everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Who, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Lynyrd Skynyrd… (For Peter Rudge and Nat Weiss)…. of course, up until then tour managers were always guys (who’d bring their girlfriends out for weekends). As I was Lynne’s boyfriend, roles were reversed., so instead of the tour manager’s girlfriend flying out to join the tour on weekends, it was me! If you go to http://www.nutcom.com/nyer and browse for “Rolling Stones,” it describes how Ace Frehley (Kiss) got electrocuted and I came to invent the wireless guitar/microphone.”

Kenny, I remember introducing you to Maurice and Verdene White of Earth, Wind, and Fire, as well as producer Tony Camillo (Gladys Knight and the Pips) who became a couple of your good customers. […]

So, why should this unit be so important? In the words of Tony Platt (Back in Black sound engineer) from several interviews regarding the Back in Black recording,

We ran his (Angus’) rig wireless (Schaffer-Vega Diversity System, SD), so I had different setups in different rooms. There was a live-ish room down at the end of the studio and another setup in the main room. We just kind of blended the sound together in different combinations. He always felt more natural using a wireless, but in NYC (some editing took place there) we didn’t have the wireless setup so we had to try to match a few sounds.

The wireless has filtering in it, and it added quite an edge in the middle area. We had to tweak it a little to try and match, but I was always aware that it wasn’t quite the same sound.

From this, it’s easy to understand why this may be an important component.

I believe it can be simulated. We know from another interview (with Eddie Van Halen) that the unit had a built in compressor (probably to avoid a sudden increase in signal strength destroying the equipment) and also, we know from Angus himself that… (from a Steve Rosen Interview):

Yeah, I use the Schaffer-Vega. I’ve been using that since ’77. On the receiver you’ve got like a monitor switch you can boost the signal and in the transmitter you’ve got the same sort of thing. You can really give a guitar hell with ‘em. I have used the remote in the studio and it worked really good.

Right, so now the picture is clear: we need a sort of volume boost active in the midrange freqs, and also a compressor possibly, to try and simulate a Diversity System such as Angus’.

Well, searching deeper, I googled “changing” names of the manufacturing company that was only initially called Schaffer-Vega (by reading the story of Ken Schaffer, it is known that he hadn’t patented his invention and Vega started doing things independently). It later became just Vega or Cetec-Vega. Now, searching for Cetec-Vega Diversity System (“Diversity” relates to the fact that this transmitter/receiver used a Diversity model incorporating “different or diverse” antennas, from a concept developed in the ’30s), one can find quite a number of interesting pieces of equipment scattered around.

For example, I found this one (and others) on eBay:

Vega Wireless
Now, if you want my opinion, while this is definitely a later model, I don’t think much has changed “audio/sound” processing wise with these.

Noting Angus’ reference to the “monitor” volume, when looking above at the picture you will see… that “monitor” volume knob. Probably identical, or at least quite similar, to the one Angus used in sonic terms. Also he said that there was another one on the transmitter, this was probably used to boost the signal thereby compensating for loss of strength over distance . Interesting!

So I thought, why don’t I buy one of these – now cheap – pieces of crap (in at least working order) and try to use it? Or at the very minimum I could have an expert open one up and SEE what audio processing is done by them; this would allow “us” to replicate the audio circuitry and be 100% sure that we have found this “lost” portion.

So I am presently trying to buy two of these, making sure that both include the transmitter (most of these have only receivers now; still good, it’s probably the most significant component to examine; for 50 to 100 USD bucks it is an experiment that is worth trying, don’t you think?).

As of this moment I think this little study will be pretty useful, at least that is until I find a complete Schaffer Vega system (and I’d buy one immediately) it’s the only missing link I need to debunk the whole sound chain!

SD out 😉

avatar
Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri
sd@solodallas.com

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

31 Comments
  • avatar
    nitroangus23
    Posted at 15:51h, 02 November

    Just in case they are watching,

    “Play some Flick Of The Switch and Fly On The Wall stuff next tour!!!”

    Haha,I just had to say it :p

    • avatar
      LeroyKincaid
      Posted at 05:10h, 03 November

      Get Angus to sign up already!

      • avatar
        HagusYoung
        Posted at 12:26h, 03 November

        Not sure if Angus is such a Internet guy 😀

  • avatar
    ar2619Rob
    Posted at 15:26h, 02 November

    This appears to be an unofficial endorsement for this site :)

  • avatar
    LedSabbath
    Posted at 03:48h, 02 November

    It is official. AC/DC is stalking this site.

    • avatar
      headwhop26
      Posted at 05:57h, 02 November

      Thats what I was thinking. They must be watching to figure out what AC/DC fans want to see!

  • avatar
    nitroangus23
    Posted at 22:49h, 01 November

    Hey Fil,

    Check this out,from the band’s official site:

    http://www.acdc.com/us/acdc-today/acdc-trivia-angus-goes-wireless

    Has a bit of info on this,and what the boys use now.

    Don’t know if you’ve seen it,but I thought I’d show you anyways.

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 23:18h, 01 November

      Terrific: thank you! It basically confirms EVERY thing I had thought. But mine were only suppositions as for example, the transmitter in the control cavity: I think I mentioned it here in the comments a couple of days ago. It makes me really happy. I feel my thinking may be correct after all :) Thanks mate! Will post it here now with credit to you for pointing it to me. Fil :)

      • avatar
        nitroangus23
        Posted at 02:04h, 02 November

        No problem,just checked the site to see if any thing new was happening with the band,and saw the article and instantly thought:
        “Fil would totally be interested in this.”

        lol,I don’t contribute as much here as I should,but I try.I visit daily,just don’t comment as much I need to.Been a fan for many years,and I gotta say the site is getting better and better each time I visit.

        -Cheers

      • avatar
        KyleSG
        Posted at 02:33h, 02 November

        Maybe that’s why he had some pots disconnected in the guitar to make room for it in the cavity?

  • avatar
    Kirk2000
    Posted at 08:59h, 27 October

    Fil, do you know what type of wireless system Angus and Makcom use today? KIRK

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 09:20h, 27 October

      I’m being told “Samson”, which is why I did buy one myself two or three years ago. Not sure of what model they have, and forgot (and lost) what I did have (with the studio move).

  • avatar
    Dave4433
    Posted at 20:00h, 26 October

    So, do You allready have something like this Vega thing-ie? Or are those just pictures from the internet?? 😀

  • avatar
    tjtristan
    Posted at 02:00h, 26 October

    I’m still wondering how they got that wireless device in his guitar back then…
    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKTSxbhPjMk
    You can only see an antenna comming out of there, but where did they hide the wireless device (not on his strap, that’s for sure)

    • avatar
      headwhop26
      Posted at 02:42h, 26 October

      Youre right, he uses that little skinny strap in this one. I can see the cable kinda looping up into his shirt at about 2:27 and 2:39, but I cant see anything in his shirt when it shows his back.

      Usually he has the wide leather strap with the pouch in the back, where they clearly housed the device.

      • avatar
        tjtristan
        Posted at 09:33h, 26 October

        Ok this is really weird, just found out the “antenna/cable” isn’t any of that but just the end of his strap, there is no cable in his guitar.
        And as you can see here: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyzcJB7ZTFQ There also isn’t going anything going in his shirt or whatever.
        How the hell did they pull that off? mayeb mounted half of it by the electronics and the other half under the vibrola or something? I seriously don’t know, and that in 1977 wow.

        • avatar
          SoloDallas
          Posted at 09:51h, 26 October

          Yes it is weird. always noted that myself.

        • avatar
          SoloDallas
          Posted at 10:03h, 26 October

          By the way, I think that at some given time, the Schaffer Vega Transmitter was fitted in the SG control cavity. I remember seeing a video where Angus had the jack coming out of the side of the body, not the front body anymore. A clear indication that for some time, they tried fitting the unit in the guitar.

          • avatar
            banane
            Posted at 10:47h, 26 October

            Maybe they just screwed a holder to the back of the guitar, put the transmitter in it and connected it to the output jack through the backside. Would be the simplest solution. The transmitter seems to have the size of a cigarette packet and it needs batteries, so I think it wouldnt fit in the guitar.

          • avatar
            whiskeyontherocks
            Posted at 01:41h, 27 October

            “Angus had the jack”. Just thought I’d point that out, hehe.

  • avatar
    SGACE
    Posted at 22:29h, 25 October

    I make a link of some things, for example if You read carefully the Schaffer ad it says that Kiss used it and especially Ace Frehley.
    Ok, if we run in the past we will see that Kiss and AC/DC played together in 1977, so I believe that Angus copied some things from ACE ( vega system, lighting bolds, maybe the Dimarzio Super Humbucker).

  • avatar
    OldSchoolRocker666
    Posted at 20:47h, 25 October

    Interresting article :)

    Keep it up, this is one step further, will be interresting to see what’s next, great work! :)

  • avatar
    Max
    Posted at 18:10h, 25 October

    Most FM wireless systems tend to change the sound a bit, in part because they are a bit ‘slow’ to respond, and that makes the attack a little softer..

    I wouldn’t worry too much about these things, but if you wish to dig one up on ebay make sure it’s still in working order and doesn’t need to be tuned-up (literally)

  • avatar
    banane
    Posted at 08:32h, 25 October

    Very interesting facts and a thrilling topic. The chance of discovering the type of the sound boosts in the schaffer-vega by having an expert looking into it is relative high, I think.

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 11:47h, 25 October

      My thoughts exactly 😀

  • avatar
    TheRazor'sEdge727
    Posted at 02:36h, 25 October

    Very interesting.

  • avatar
    Tyler
    Posted at 01:50h, 25 October

    These things must have been ridiculously expensive back then, I guess thats why theres none floating around now. It might take a connection to get one of these things.

    • avatar
      KyleSG
      Posted at 06:19h, 25 October

      Yes I am reading a book now where it states he payed 3000-3500 for the system.

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