If music is meant to be shared, no means of sharing it has endured quite like the jukebox. In turn, no brand embodies the jukebox like Rock-Ola. The name implies rock music only by happy coincidence. It’s actually the name of the founder, David Cullen Rockola, who started by manufacturing coin-operated scales in 1927 and moved into amusement machines shortly thereafter. When Alexander Walder-Smith bought the company just over a year ago, he was as passionate about Rock-Ola’s history of American ingenuity as he was about sound quality. One of his first orders of business was to specify QSC GX Series power amplifiers as the heart of every new Rock-Ola jukebox.
“I had been a customer of Rock-Ola for about 20 years, supplying their jukeboxes to the market in the United Kingdom,” explains Walder-Smith. “I was very aware of their reputation as an American brand and American story. When I took ownership, I first and foremost wanted to ensure that as many components of our jukeboxes as possible told a similar story. QSC fit very well with that. They’re an American company that started out small with (founder) Pat Quilter’s vision, and have grown tremendously over the years because they remained committed to quality.”
Rock-Ola’s choice of the GX3 was just as influenced by its great performance and sound quality. Before making a final decision, the team at Rock-Ola put the GX Series through its paces and discovered benefits such as optimal power matching for their drivers and generous headroom under both 4-ohm and 8-ohm loads.
“When I wanted to upgrade our amplifiers, our senior vice president of engineering tested a lot of them over the summer,” recalls Walder-Smith. “He determined that the GX3 was the best fit. It’s well made and sounds absolutely brilliant with the drivers we use. It’s compact and light, fitting right into our cabinet with room to spare. It can play very loud but always sounds clean.” Given that a jukebox can see constant use for 12 or more hours a day in a commercial setting, the GX Series’ GuardRail™ protection maintains that clean sound, automatically reducing gain to counteract overdrive or excessive heat without causing the jukebox to shut down.
Walder-Smith and Vice President of Digital Bob Brinklow are especially proud of Rock-Ola’s new Vinyl 45 line, comprising three models that play 45rpm records in addition to digital sources. “Vinyl records have made a comeback, of course,” notes Brinklow, “so we think the Vinyl 45 puts us in the right space at the right time. We designed a custom tube preamp for it in-house, to deliver the signal from the tone arm to the GX3 amplifier. The pairing of the two works exceptionally well.”
“The new Vinyl 45 family includes a special edition named for John Papa,” adds Walder-Smith. “John is the proprietor of National Jukebox Exchange, and the guru when it comes to restoring vintage jukeboxes and other coin-op entertainment machines. He has a huge reputation among collectors and enthusiasts, and we wanted to do something with him. So, the “John Papa” edition has an upgraded phono cartridge, a coin slot and mechanism for historical authenticity, and we stepped up to the GX5 amplifier inside. That box retails for $10,000, and at that price, we’re not going to trust anything less than the highest quality brand of amplifier we can find. It also accepts Bluetooth audio streams, so you can send your Spotify or iTunes or whatever into it knowing you’ll be hearing the best amp and speakers on the market.”
Walder-Smith returns to the spirit shared by Rock-Ola and QSC. “Even our wood veneers are sourced in California, so we really want these jukeboxes to be all-American,” he reflects. “If you walk down the High Street in London and mention Harley-Davidson, even people there know it’s an iconic American brand. As we innovate and develop new products — I shouldn’t say more but we’re looking at a smart system for the home — that’s where we want to be in people’s consciousness. With their quality and durability, that’s what QSC is helping us do. They’re helping us be the Harley-Davidson of music listening machines.”