December 26, 2017 chris

A hazy history of the Acoustic Control Corporation

1967 was kind of a magical year in music. A ton of records, nowadays considered milestones have been released within 12 months. The Doors’ selftitled debut and it’s followup “Strange Days“, „Are you experienced“ and „ Axis: bold as love“ by Jimi Hendrix, „The piper at the gates of dawn“ by Pink Floyd, „Sgt. Peppers lonely heart club“ by the Beatles, the selftitled debut by Velvet Underground and the list goes on…

1967 saw the six-day war, the release of the first issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, the shooting of Che Guevara, the marriage of Elvis Presley and Priscilla, the fatal failure of Apollo 1, the ongoing Vietnam War and in result the Summer of Love in the neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, California.

 

Also in California in this very year Steven Marks founded the Acoustic Control Corporation, manufacturing high end amplifiers and cabinets for guitars and bass-guitars introducing features like front mounting of speakers, removeable grilles, separate preamp and powered speaker enclosures. Also a lifetime warranty has been offered to the original purchaser.

The first models ever to be produced were the 260 Head (with 125 watts RMS at 4 Ohm) and the 261 Cabinet (2 x 15″ speakers) of which Robby Krieger (of the above mentioned The Doors) became a frequent user before switching to Fender. Though ACC never gave away endorsement deals the bands rise to fame gave an substantial boost to the company.

In fact The Doors became such an important outlet that they made it on the cover of the catalogue in 1968.

Krieger found himself in good company with guitarists like Albert King and Chuck Berry having the 260 accompany them on stage while folks like Pete Townsend and Frank Zappa felt more drawn to the successor Model 270 / 271 in the early 70s.


But let’s move from six to four strings. To create a counterpart to the Model 260 / 261 that was supposed to suit the guitar (even though it is nowadays also found in in the hands of bass players) ACC released an amp that should become “the most heard, least acknowledged amp in music history“.

The Acoustic 360 was pure in tone, very musically and with 200 watt RMS / 440 watts PEAK astonishingly loud. Its cabinet, the Acoustic 361 featured a single 18” speaker and a large folded horn. Gene Czerwinski of Cerwin-Vega played the key part in the back then revolutionary design.

It was made not so much for the club but for the big stages which became a huge advantage as in the late 60s more and more concerts for massive audiences started to emerge.

John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) used a pair of it, John McVie (Fleetwood Mac) used it in the early days, Jaco Pastorius loved it, Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone) used it and Dave Brown played one at Woodstock with Santana.


In the mid 70s the Acoustic Control Corporation started their own series of instruments with the “Black Widow” which among other users was owned by a gentleman by the name of Jimi Hendrix. Also the portfolio has been expanded by a range of PA systems. Later in that century the company deviated from their all solid state amplifier line by introducing three tube amplifier models (Model 160, 164, 165) which almost lead to a lawsuit with their competitors Mesa Boogie due to patent violation.
What led to the final curtain for the amp manufacturer remains unknown. At least for us…

It’s kind of safe to say that Steve Marks young company became a success with its uncompromising early models. But somehow they seemingly got lost over time…
To set the record straight:
Acoustic Control Corporation or just „Acoustic“ is a brand which history is quite hard to figure out as you only find occasional hints of what happened when. We’ve tried our best to map the course the company took but the dates should be taken with a large grain of salt as there are no such thing as „confirmed“ sources.


TIMELINE

 

1965
  • on Tuesday, September 28, the name Acoustic Control Corporation was filed in Van Nuys, California
1967
  • Steve Marks & his father Robert Marks founded the Acoustic Control Corporation
  • production of the 260 head / 261 cabinet starts
  • production of the 360 head / 361 cabinet starts
1970
  • introduction of the 150 series
1971
  • introduction of the 270 series
  • introduction of the 130 series
1972
  • production of the “Black Widow” electric guitar and electric bass starts
  • production of the PA systems MF IV, MF VI, and MF VIII starts
  • introduction of the Acoustic 370
1974
  • introduction of the 470 and 450 series
1975
  • production of the “Black Widow” electric guitar and electric bass ends
1978
  • production of the Model 160, Model 164 and Model 165 starts
1981
  • production of the “Acoustic G series“ starts
1983
  • ACC went out of business
1984
  • Latter-day employee and designer Steve Rabe went on to establish specialist bass amplifier manufacturer SWR
2007
  • Comeback under the name Acoustic Amplification
2011
  • another branch of Acoustic, G.P.G. Co a.k.a. Acoustic USA launched its website

NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR

To clarify once again: what got us into this was the purchase of an Acoustic Model 164 Combo which you can read about HERE. It’s always nice to dig into the history of, well, historical amp manufacturers but to get behind Acoustic was just weird as there’s almost nothing.
An “official” homepage that’s lacking a logo, a Wikipedia entry ending with some sort of diary note, the website www.acousticbassusa.com is down, no confirmed sources about the dating of the amps / cabinets / etc. at all, there are no traces about what happened to Steve Marks / Steven L. Marks…

At the end of the day the great instruments remain even though the information behind it is quite hard to achive.

Please, if anyone has any more insights, information, resources etc., write a comment, drop us an email, call us. It’ll be exciting to gather all the pieces to make this history a brief one.

RESOURCES AND USEFUL LINKS

Official homepage of Acoustic Amplification
Unofficial homepage including manuals and schematics
The Wikipedia entry
Interview with Harvey Gerst and Russ Allee by Bassplayer Magazine giving some insight
The 1968 catalogue as a PDF
Our article about the Acoustic Model 164

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Comments (14)

  1. Thanks for the info. I’ve found myself searching for more history on ACC. I acquired a pair of Acoustic Control Corp 626 Stereo Speakers that are AMAZING. Possibly my favorite speakers I’ve ever owned. Info on them is sparce but I’d love to know as much as I can about them as I can see myself collecting further products from them.

    Thanks for the article!

    -Michael

  2. chris

    Hey Michael, thanks for getting in touch. There’s actually a lot to love about the ACC products. Especially when you are into this rougher tone / 70s aesthetics anyway. Collecting seems a good idea in this regard as for now you’ll get most gear relatively cheap.

    Cheers
    Chris

  3. Harry Berk

    I was the accounting manager for Acoustic from 1971 to 1973. One of the nicest places I have ever worked at. Steve Marks and upper management were incredible for creating a productive/fun working atmosphere.

  4. chris

    Sounds like good times. But, if you allow the question: How did you find this article?

  5. Frank

    If you wanna see the dead giveaway between the relationship of Acoustic and SWR just look at an Acoustic 320B Head. It is the exact layout of the SM220 Head. Same graphic eq, DI out in the back. Aside from a tube in the Preamp section SRW had you can see where the design came from. Now we know for a while Acoustic used Serwin Vega speakers but later when the had the white dust covers on the cones it’s said Eminence designed those other say CTS did, I’ve also seen an Acoustic cabinet with Utah speakers? The same series speaker you would’ve purchased from Radio Shack even up till around 1984/85? Those were Utah speakers.

  6. chris

    The SWR history is something I’d want to look into as well… as we’re searching for a Redhead in mint condition anyway.
    Thanks Frank for the insight!

  7. Frankie

    No problem, Chris. I love this stuff. I still use my 220 Head. I’m going to replace the first 3 Inductors because those graphic sliders are not working and it’s always those little inductors. What I need to find is if anyone at all has a schematic or manual for a 320B Head? Mine turns on and I get speaker feed but no signal. I’m suspecting that big inductor on the back black heat sink board or a transistor? Hopefully and from years of tech work I’m not suspecting the big caps or transformer. Although my 220 head is very noisy I think that’s the way they were. The 320B was the single channel that looked like the SWR heads. If anyone has a schematic or has had issues please let me know. Those Inductors can be purchased at Mousner just have to strap another resistor in parallel with 390 ohm and make sure to use the lower output sides of the ones then send. They’re double sided with 3 legs. Snip the middle leg.

    Thanks,
    Frank.

  8. Frankie

    Well plugged the bass into the power amp in and full sound. Gonna check for blown input resistor plus I found a bad 400 ohm resistor behind the 2 big black filter caps by the on/off switch. The 1 resistor reads 405 and the other reads 213 ohms. Wanna find the value of those big filters as well and that inductor on back heat sink board?

    Thanks,Guys,
    Frankie O.

  9. Frankie

    Well found the problem after replacing a resistor, then finding a broken wire it turns out the Gain pot and Bass Pot are both broken inside. If you dime the gain pot and pull on it the volume kicks in. The wipers inside are either shot of broke away? But that’s the issue. Anyone know what values these are or have any let me know.

    Thanks,
    Frankie.

  10. Jim

    Chris,
    Thanks for the great article.

    I bought my 626 speakers at the Acoustic Controls Corp factory on Lankershim Lankershim Blvd in 1973. I had an office right next door and got to know Don, the production manager, as neighbors will do.

    He took me on a tour one weekend and I told him I needed speakers for my newly acquired Marantz 4400 and Garrard 100c turntable.

    He hooked up a pair of 626s … I asked what a pair would cost. Keep in mind that a pair of 626s were $690 ($345 ea.) In today’s dollars that’s $3,950+!

    I’d just got the Marantz 4400 that was selling for $1,400 at that time… and the Garrard 100c was $198… so I didn’t have much left for speakers but Don felt that my equipment deserved the 626s and he gave me an unbelievable deal. I’ve never forgotten.

    That whole system was about $16,500+ in today’s dollars.

    It was worth every penny to crank up a Stones album and blow the doors off!

    I still have that entire original system. Over the last two years I had everything refurbished by excellent specialists here in San Diego. With the exception of the turntable, nothing required much work.

    I personally refinished the 626 cabinets. They look brand new… with one exception… I need one Acoustic emblem for one of the speakers… and of course I had to replace the foam grill covers… so they are just plain flat black

    I had the woofers re-foamed 25 years ago and they are still great.

    I’ve got framed and matted original ads for everything and I just found a copy of an Acoutic brochure showing the entire line two days ago after days of searching.

    Thought you like to hear the story.

  11. chris

    Dear Jim,

    thanks for sharing this story. It really gives context to how it all went back in 70s California. Especially this “He took me on a tour one weekend and I told him I needed speakers…” could be the start of a novel or so.
    Hopefully your neighbours were into the Stones as you were.

    Cheers
    Chris

  12. Jim

    Chris,
    Thanks for the kind reply.

    You’ll notice I didn’t get the other two rear speakers to complete the Quadraphonic part of my system. There weren’t many quadraphonic recordings available at that time (and I was pretty well tapped out!) and I liked pumping the full 250RMS watts through the two 626s.
    I did blow that circuit breaker on the speaker once in a while but just push the little red button and you were back in business.

    I found a decoder (a Marantz option) two years ago and added the two rear speakers (not 626s). I may try and find a proper set of 626s to finish out the set. Like you said, they are a real deal in today’s market.

    It was a pleasure to share my story with someone who really appreciates Acoustic.

    Looking forward to reading more on your blog.

  13. Clare Snyder

    I have an Acoustic Control Model 840 built Sept 19, 1972 Serial number LA-1062. It is a 200 watt 6 channel head – VERY loud and clear when connected to a pair of AudioLogic dR-122 100 watt 8 ohm speaker cabinets. Anyone out there have more info on the 840? What is this “unicorn” worth???

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