Ken Schaffer in his shop in the late 1970s.

The original Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (SVDS) was conceived by Ken Schaffer around 1975. It was the first reliably working and beautifully sounding wireless system for musicians or, in general, stage performers. Previous different sounding wireless microphone systems pre-dated the SVDS, but never became widely adopted because even the best of them reliably (fade-outs, police and taxi dispatch calls!) and their sound was nothing to cherish, especially at high decibel rock n’ roll sound levels. So Ken Schaffer added his own inventions and genius and the Schaffer-Vega was born.

The first prototypes saw light in 1976 and in 1977, full production was running. Many incredibly famous performers bought one (or two! Pink Floyd 20!) – at the time extremely expensive – including:

AC/DC, Aerosmith, America, Bay City Rollers, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, Black Sabbath, Blondie (Chris Stein), Bob Seger, Bob Weir, Bob Welch, Bootsy Collins, Boston, Chic, Clarence Clemons, Derringer, Earth Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra, Elvin Bishop, Fleetwood Mac, Foghat, Foreigner, Frank Zappa, Heart, Heatwave, Janis Ian, Johnny Guitar Watson, Kansas, Kiss, L.T.D., Mahogany Rush (Frank Marino), Mandre, Nektar, Pat Travers, Peter Frampton, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Randy Bachman, Rolling Stones, Rufus, Stephen Stills, Steve Miller, Steven Van Zandt, Styx, A Taste of Honey, Thin Lizzy, Tom Petty, Todd Rundgren, Van Halen (Eddie), Yes, ZZ Top, The 5th Dimension, The Grateful Dead.

There were way more than these names, yet only a total of about 1000 units were ever manufactured.

So, if one of your heroes is in this list, we recommend checking the period of time going between 1977 and 1981: likely, he/they were playing with an SVDS as well.

The SVDS was actually used well beyond 1981 (year of cessation of production), as it was a very well built unit. Suffice to say that the author has still three perfectly working units.

These are the units that were cloned – their audio circuitry only was – to recreate as faithfully as possible the original sound of the Schaffer-Vega Diversity System.

It may sort of sound strange that wireless units such as this one may be worthy of replication, and just an audio circuitry replication, too! Well, be aware of this, right here and now: the Schaffer-Vega Diversity System was successfully used by many artists of the magic era of the 1970s, and some of these artists even used the SVDS in the studio. It is really the case here with AC/DC lead guitar player Angus Young, who began using it from 1977 to at least 1984 (documented). Angus Young also used the Schaffer-Vega in the studio, recording with it all the solos and overdubbing some rhythm parts of the following AC/DC albums: Powerage, Highway To Hell, Back in Black, For Those About To Rock and Flick Of The Switch. (Watch the following video where Malcolm and Angus Young comment about the sound qualities of the original Schaffer-Vega Diversity System, “It sounded Great!”)

Keep in mind that as of the time of this writing, the album Back in Black is either the number 3 or 2 biggest selling albums of all time. I think this can be an interesting conversation subject! Much of the lead tone of Angus Young from that very era is due to the Schaffer-Vega. In fact, the SVDS sported a clean boost, a compressor and an expander (companding) in its audio circuitry, allowing it to further overdrive the amplifiers and add a unique signature to the sound. As with all guitar effects or sound effects in general in the known universe, some will like it and some won’t.  We have tested the original Schaffer-Vega and its Replica extensively for two years and published many videos with it. We love what we have and have done, and truly hope you – all of you – will, too.

Let us leave you with this epic image of Angus Young & Ken Schaffer
Thank you, Mr. Schaffer!

The picture on the left was taken at the NYC Palladium, 24th of August 1977, when Ken Schaffer delivered the first of several Schaffer-Vega Diversity Systems to Angus Young. This unit (we’ll say it here again, as this is what we honestly think) changed the way Angus Young sounded and played, both for the added freedom of being cordless on stage and for the added sound capabilities (compressor, clean boost). Some people will call it (and called it) a “squashed” sound. Some others made millions of dollars selling millions of records playing with it – not counting the hundreds of thousands that heard it in live shows for years to come.

On the right is a “retake of the friendly pose” nearly 37 years later, moments after Angus took possession of a new TSR GT (he used for rhythm and lead throughout much of Rock or Bust, AC/DC’s latest album, recorded in Vancouver).

Angus Young & Ken Schaffer at the NYC Palladium, 24th of August 1977, as the first Schaffer-Vega Diversity System was delivered to AC/DC.

Ladies & Gentlemen, 37 years later… the same two folks doing quite the same thing in a quite similar situation. History repeats itself?

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