Vox Starstream XII 12 String Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1968)

Vox  Starstream XII 12 String Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar  (1968)

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Item # 8207
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Vox Starstream XII Model 12 String Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar (1968), made in Recanati, Italy, serial # 403698, cherry sunburst finish, laminated maple body and neck, ebony fingerboard, original grey hard shell case.

One of the all-time great "posing" guitars, the Vox "Teardrop" is an instantly recognizable 1960s classic. Like most Vox guitars sold in the US, this late model hollow-body teardrop Starstream XII was built at the Eko factory in Recanti, Italy -- not in England. By 1965, Vox brand owner JMI in Dartford, Kent was already fully overtaxed supplying Vox amplifiers to the UK and world markets. Instead of expanding their guitar-making facilities to meet the world-wide demand, JMI outsourced the bulk of instrument production to the Italian firm.

Eko-made Vox guitars are more consistent, both in style and quality, than their English cousins -- even, in some ways, somewhat better made. By 1965 Thomas Organ in California secured the rights to US distribution of JMI's products; nearly all the Vox guitars they handled would be of Italian parentage. These late models from the 1968 period are almost entirely Italian creations for the American market; only the basic concept remained English, although they bore a small sticker on the neck plate proclaiming "VOX -- the British sound"!

The teardrop-shaped Mark series was originally a stylistic outgrowth of the trapezoidal-bodied Phantom line; indeed, the earliest model was called the Phantom Mk.III. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones got one of the first hand-built prototypes, and the exposure the model received in his hands in 1964-5 was quite enough to quickly make it the most sought-after Vox guitar. The solid-body "Mark" series quickly expanded to include 6, 12, and 9-string guitars as well as a bass, all offered in several different finishes. The Mark series hollow-bodied "Acoustic" line followed in 1966, using the body originally developed for the teardrop shape "Wyman Bass." By 1968 all those models were gone, but the teardrop shape was maintained in a 6 and 12-string guitar and bass all with a hollowed-out maple body and slash sound hole built by Eko.

This Starstream XII is the top-line model, with all onboard effects on a bright red-yellow sunburst finish body. Unlike most of the thin plywood Vox guitars of this era, the Starstream's The guitar features two single-coil "Ferro Sonic" Vox pickups with a master volume, two tone controls, and a three-way switch. There is, fortunately, no vibrato!

This model proudly sports the most over the top feature specific to Vox in 1967-8: the elaborate onboard transistorized effects pioneered by the company. The "distortion" circuit is particularly interesting, an onboard fuzzbox adjustable from a sizzly buzz to a white noise maelstrom, and every bit as gnarly sounding as many floor-pedal fuzz units from this golden age of Fuzz. The rotary active Treble-Bass boost is also quite effective, giving a wide range of tones. There is also a "repeater" effect, sort of a primitive electronic trem/percussion overlay, and the most amazing -- a built-in Wah-Wah pedal.

This unique and surprisingly effective feature is controlled via a palm pedal mounted over the bridge and, once you get used to the technique, is more effective than one might expect. Plus, it leaves the feet free to dance! The only non-functional piece on this guitar is an "E" tuner, which was more important in the pre-electronic tuner days of 1967 anyway!

These third generation 1967-68 Eko-made models are some of the nicest of all Vox instruments in terms of build quality and fretwork, and this is a good playing and sounding, if rather eccentrically styled, 12 string from the company's later '60s line. This is not a perfect example, but if you've always wanted onboard fuzz and wah with your 12-string stylings, it sure fits the bill!
Overall length is 41 1/2 in. (105.4 cm.), 13 in. (33 cm.) across at the widest point, and 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

We'd call this a "player grade" example of this rare and colorful Vox creation, with some old repairs and minor alterations. The most important thing is the onboard effects are all working with the exception of the least useful -- the "E" tuner, which has given up the ghost (as many have). The fuzz circuit roars with a fully saturated snarl, the treble/bass boost does its thing perfectly, and most amazingly, the onboard wah is fully functional both mechanically and electronically. The "Repeater" is working but seems a bit weak; nevertheless, it is a treat to find one of these guitars with all these early solid-state fittings in functional condition.

The guitar itself has had some knocks but still is a fully playable and quite attractive instrument. There are dings and dents overall, although the top is fairly clean. There is a chunk of binding about 3/4" long missing from the lower body edge, a few other deep dings to the back edge, and some heavy scratching in the upper treble area of the side. The top and neck are remarkably free of the standard heavy checking common to the thick polyester finishes on these Vox instruments, but the back has some heavy checking. The center of the back above the pad has an area of plywood pushed in somewhat and re-inforced with glue, with a small piece of the top ply missing -- this is solid but visible.

The neck has none of the common stress cracks, and has actually survived in quite playable condition. The face of the headstock has several large chips to the edges filled in with paint, and one of the 12 tuning pegs is a period Japanese unit; the rest are original. The frets have a slightly flattened crown, but still play well.

The small slider switches turning the onboard effects on and off are fairly fragile -- two of them have been replaced on this guitar with mini-toggles that look to be '70s or '80s vintage. Nearly all the knobs are missing their capped inserts, and a couple have chips to the edge but all are present. The tailpiece cover (with a large embossed "V") is still intact. The guitar plays very well and makes for a good gigging example of this visually imposing and sonically fabulous 12-string. Very Good Condition.