Amplifiers consist of one or more circuit stages which have unique responsibilities in the modification of the input signal. The power amplifier or output stage produces a high current signal to drive a speaker to produce sound. This means that the signal does not really increase in amplitude, but it has a higher energy content. One or more preamplifier stages precede the power amplifier stage. The preamplifier is a voltage amplifier that amplifies the guitar signal to a level that can drive the power stage: the signal is made larger, but without significantly increasing its energy content.
There may be one or more tone stages which affect the character of the guitar signal: before the preamp stage (as in the case of guitar pedals), in between the preamp and power stages (as in the cases of effects loop or many dedicated amplifier tone circuits), in between multiple stacked preamp stages, or in feedback loops from a post-preamp signal to an earlier pre-preamp signal (as in the case of presence modifier circuits). The tone stages may also have electronic effects such as equalization, compression, distortion, chorus, or reverb. Amplifiers may use vacuum tubes (in Britain they are called valves), or solid-state (transistor) devices, or both.
There are two configurations of guitar amplifiers: combination ("combo") amplifiers, which include an amplifier and one or more speakers in a wooden cabinet; and the standalone amplifier (often called a "head" or "amp head"), which does not include a speaker, but rather passes the signal to a speaker cabinet or "cab". Guitar amplifiers range in price and quality from small, low-powered practice amplifiers, designed for students, which sell for less than $50 USD, to expensive amplifiers which are custom-made for professional musicians and can cost thousands of dollars.
The first electric instrument amplifiers were not designed for use with electric guitars. The earliest examples appeared in the early 1930s when the introduction of electrolytic capacitors and rectifier tubes allowed the production of economical built-in power supplies that could be plugged into wall sockets, instead of heavy multiple battery packs, since rechargeable batteries wouldn't be lightweight until later on. While guitar amplifiers from the beginning were used to amplify acoustic guitar, electronic amplification of guitar was first widely popularized by the 1930s and 1940s craze for Hawaiian music, which extensively employed the amplified lap steel Hawaiian guitar.
Tone controls on early guitar amplifiers were very simple and provided a great deal of treble boost, but the limited controls, the loudspeakers used, and the low power of the amplifiers (typically 15 watts or less prior to the mid-1950s) gave poor high treble and bass output. Some models also provided effects such as an electronic tremolo unit. Early Fender amps labeled tremolo as "vibrato" and labeled the vibrato arm of the Stratocaster guitar as a "tremolo bar" (see vibrato unit, electric guitar, and tremolo). Some later models included an onboard spring reverb effect, the first being the Ampeg Reverberocket amp.
In the 1950s, several guitarists experimented with distortion produced by deliberately overdriving their amplifiers, including Goree Carter, Joe Hill Louis, Ike Turner, Willie Johnson, Pat Hare, Guitar Slim, Chuck Berry, Johnny Burnette, and Link Wray. In the early 1960s, surf rock guitarist Dick Dale worked closely with Fender to produce custom made amplifiers, including the first 100-watt guitar amplifier. He pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping to develop new equipment that was capable of producing "thick, clearly defined tones" at "previously undreamed-of volumes."
Distortion became more popular from the mid-1960s, when The Kinks guitarist Dave Davies produced distortion effects by connecting the already distorted output of one amplifier into the input of another. Later, most guitar amps were provided with preamplifier distortion controls, and "fuzz boxes" and other effects units were engineered to safely and reliably produce these sounds. In the 2000s, overdrive and distortion has become an integral part of many styles of electric guitar playing, ranging from blues rock to heavy metal and hardcore punk.
Guitar amplifiers were at first used with bass guitars and electronic keyboards, but other instruments produce a wider frequency range and need a suitable amplifier and full-range speaker system. Much more amplifier power is required to reproduce low-frequency sound, especially at high volume. Reproducing low frequencies also requires a suitable woofer or subwoofer speaker and enclosure. Woofer enclosures need to be larger and more sturdily built than cabinets for mid-range or high-frequency (tweeter) speakers.
As said, guitar amplifiers are manufactured in two main forms. The "combination" (or "combo") amplifier contains the amplifier head and guitar speakers in a single unit which is typically housed in a rectangular wooden box. The amplifier head or "amp head" contains the electronic circuitry constituting the preamp, built-in effects processing, and the power amplifier. Combo amps have at least one 1/4" phone connector input jack where the patch cord from the electric guitar can be plugged in.
Other jacks may also be provided, such as an additional input jack, "send" and "return" jacks to create an effects loop (for connecting electronic effects such as compression, reverb, etc.), an extension speaker jack (for connecting an additional speaker cabinet). Some smaller practice amps have stereo RCA jacks for connecting a CD player, portable media player or other sound source and a 1/4" headphone jack so that the player can practice without disturbing neighbors or family members.
Some amplifiers have a line out jack for connecting the amplifier's signal to a PA system or recording console or to connect the amplifier to another guitar amp. Players use the line out to connect one guitar amplifier to another amplifier in order to create different tone colors or sound effects. However, in most styles of rock and blues guitar the line out is not used to connect the guitar amp to a PA system or recording console because the tonal coloration and overdrive from the amplifier and speaker is considered an important part of the amplifier's sound.
In the "amp head" form, the amplifier head is separate from the speakers, and joined to them by speaker cables. The separate amplifier is called an amplifier head, and is commonly placed on top of one or more loudspeaker enclosures. A separate amplifier head placed atop a guitar speaker enclosure or guitar speaker cabinet forms an amplifier "stack" or "amp stack". Amp heads may also have the different types of input and output jacks listed above in the combo section. In addition to a 1/4" input jack, acoustic guitar amplifiers typically have an additional input jack for a microphone, which is easily identified because it will use a three-pin XLR connector. Phantom power is not often provided on general-use amps, restricting the choice of microphones for use with these inputs. However, for high-end acoustic amplifiers, phantom power is often provided, so that musicians can use condenser microphones.
Amplifiers used with electric guitars may be solid-state, which are lighter in weight and less expensive than tube amplifiers. Most guitarists, particularly in the genres of blues and rock, prefer the sound of vacuum tube amplifiers despite their higher cost, heavier weight, the need to periodically replace tubes and need to re-bias the output tubes (every year or two with moderate use). Some companies design amplifiers that require no biasing as long as properly rated tubes are used. Some modern amplifiers use a mixture of tube and solid-state technologies.
Since the advent of microprocessors and digital signal processing, "modeling amps" have been developed in the late 1990s, these can simulate the sounds of a variety of well-known tube amplifiers without needing to use vacuum tubes. Amplifiers with processors and software can emulate the basic tone of a classic amp anywhere from poorly to well, but the full response of these amplifiers may not feel the same to a player as the digital modeling does not accurately reproduce all aspects of a tube amplifier.
A wide range of instrument amplifiers is available, some for general purposes and others designed for specific instruments or particular sounds. These include:
Vacuum tube amplifiers
Vacuum tubes (valves) were by far the dominant active electronic components in most instrument amplifier applications until the 1970s, when semiconductors (transistors) started taking over for performance and economic reasons, including heat and weight reduction, and improved reliability. High-end tube instrument amplifiers have survived as one of few exceptions, because of the sound quality. Typically, one or more dual triodes are used in the preamplifier section in order to provide sufficient voltage gain to offset losses by tone controls and to drive the power amplifier section.
The output tubes are often arranged in a class AB push-pull connection to improve efficiency; this requires another triode or dual triode to split the phase of the signal. The tubes of the power amplifier stage are almost always of the pentode or beam tetrode type (also known as "kinkless tetrodes", hence the KTxx nomenclature). Some high power models use paralleled pairs of output tubes (four or more in total) in push-pull. Except for the light negative feedback from the secondary end of the output transformer to the driver stage, most amplifying stages work in "raw" open-loop mode. Some designs employ current feedback via unbypassed cathode resistors.
Since most[which?] tubes show "soft clipping" gain non-linearity, applying an input signal high enough to overdrive any stage tends to produce favorably natural distortion. Today, most[which?] vacuum tube amplifiers are based on the ECC83/12AX7/7025 (dual triode) tubes for the preamplifier and driver sections and the EL84/6BQ5 or EL34/6CA7/KT77 or 6L6/KT66 or 6V6 tubes for the power output section. Some use the KT88/6550 beam power tubes in the output stage. The differing codes for equivalent tubes generally reflect those used by the original European or U.S.A. based manufacturers[which?]. These tubes are now mainly manufactured in Russia, China and Eastern European countries. Some[which?] amplifiers use solid-state components in the preamp, most commonly diodes, to create distortion, a design feature known as diode clipping.
Tube instrument amplifiers are often[by whom?] equipped with lower-grade transformers and simpler power regulation circuits than those of hi-fi amplifiers. They are usually not only for cost-saving reasons, but also[by whom?] are considered as a factor in sound creation. For example, a simple power regulation circuit's output tends to sag when there is a heavy load (that is, high output power) and vacuum tubes usually lose gain factors with lower power voltages. This results in a somewhat compressed sound which could be criticized as a "poor dynamic range" in case of hi-fi amplifiers, but could be desirable as "long sustain" of sounds on a guitar amplifier. Some tube guitar amplifiers use a rectifier tube instead of solid-state diodes specifically for this reason.
Unfortunately, most[which?] amplifiers offer a fixed amount of sag, and this fixed amount can only be attained at full volumes. A small minority[which?] of amplifiers offer sag control via either multiple rectifiers or the Sag Circuit (a non-traditional power supply design patented by Maven Peal® Instruments). Amplifiers[which?] with multiple rectifiers can offer up to two sag settings (amounts), while the Sag Circuit provides a Sag control knob, which allows range of sag control at all volumes (by interacting with a wattage control knob).
Some models[which?] have a "spring reverb" unit that simulates the reverberation of an echoic ambient. A reverb unit usually consists of one or more coil springs driven by the preamplifier section using a transducer driver similar to a loudspeaker at one end and an electro-magnetic pickup and preamplifier stage at the other end that picks up the long sustaining spring vibration, which is then mixed with the original signal. Some guitar amplifiers[which?] have a tremolo control. An internal oscillator generates a low frequency continuous signal which can modulate the input signal's amplitude or the output tubes' bias, thereby producing a tremolo effect.
Tube amps have some technical disadvantages[according to whom?] in comparison to solid-state amps. They are bulky and heavy, primarily due to the iron in power and output transformers. Solid-state amplifiers still require power transformers, but are usually direct-coupled and do not need output transformers. Glass tubes are fragile, and require more care and consideration when equipment is moved repeatedly. Tube performance can deteriorate slightly over time before eventual catastrophic failure.
When a tube vacuum is maintained at a high level, though, excellent performance[according to whom?] and life is possible. They are prone to pick up mechanical noises (microphonic noise), although such electro-mechanical feedback from the loudspeaker to the tubes in combo amplifiers may contribute to sound creation. Tubes benefit from a heater warm-up period before the application of high tension anode voltages; this allows the tube cathodes to operate without damage and so prolongs tube life. This is of particular importance for amplifiers with solid-state rectifiers.
Tube amps also have some technical advantages[according to whom?] over solid-state amps. Compared to semiconductors, tubes have a very low "drift" (of specs) over a wide range of operating conditions, specifically high heat/high power. Semiconductors are very heat-sensitive by comparison and this fact usually leads to compromises in solid-state amplifier designs. When a tube fails, it is replaceable. While solid-state devices are also replaceable, it is usually a much more involved process (i.e. having the amplifier tested by a professional, removing the faulty component, and replacing it).
For working musicians[who?] this is usually a huge problem by comparison to looking in the back of a tube amp at the tubes and simply replacing the faulty tube. In addition, tubes can easily be removed and tested, while transistors cannot. Tube amplifiers respond differently from transistor amplifiers when signal levels approach and reach the point of clipping. In a tube-powered amplifier, the transition from linear amplification to limiting is less abrupt than in a solid-state unit, resulting in a less grating form of distortion at the onset of clipping. For this reason, some guitarists prefer the sound of an all-tube amplifier; the aesthetic properties of tube versus solid-state amps, though, are a topic of debate in the guitarist community.
Most inexpensive guitar amplifiers currently produced are based on semiconductor (solid-state) circuits, and some designs incorporate tubes in the preamp stage for their subjectively warmer overdrive sound. Tubes create warm overdrive sounds because instead of cutting the peaked signal off, they more or less pull the peaked audio information back (like natural compression) which creates a fuzzy overdrive sound. While this is a desirable attribute in many cases, the tube's characteristic will "color" all the sounds at any volume, unlike solid-state.
High-end solid-state amplifiers are less common, since many professional guitarists tend to favor vacuum tubes. Some jazz guitarists, however, tend to favor the "cleaner" sound of solid-state amplifiers, preferring not to color the sound of their guitar with the tube distortion and compression so popular with rock, blues, and metal musicians.. Solid-state amplifiers vary in output power, functionality, size, price, and sound quality in a wide range, from practice amplifiers to professional models. Some inexpensive amplifiers have only a single volume control and a one or two tone controls.
A tube power amp may be fed by a solid-state pre-amp circuit, as in most of the Original MusicMan Amps, Fender Super Champ XD and the Roland Bolt amplifier, which is thereby classed as a 'hybrid' amp. Randall Amplifier's current flagship models, the V2 and T2, use hybrid amp technology. Alternatively, a tube pre-amp can feed a solid-state output stage, as in models from Kustom, Hartke and Vox. This approach dispenses with the need for an output transformer and allow modern power levels to be easily achieved.
Zero-Hysteresis Transformerless tube amplification
In 2009, Milbert introduced a tube guitar amplifier which eliminates the traditional audio output transformer (and all traditional power supply magnetics) by using Berning's patented ZOTL circuit to almost perfectly (and bi-directionally) mate power tubes (in any combinations) and speaker load, resulting in transfer characteristics being accurately and fully conveyed between tubes and speaker(s).
Solid state and microprocessor technology can also allow the use of digital onboard effects to create numerous different sounds all within the same amplifier. These are known as modeling amplifiers, and can be programmed with simulated characteristic tones of different existing amplifier models, or dialed in to the user's taste. Many amps of this type are also programmable by way of USB connection to a home computer. Examples would include the Roland CUBE series, the Peavey Vypyr series, the Fender Mustang series and the Vox Valvetronix series, which uses both solid state and vacuum tube technology in tandem.
Acoustic guitar amplifiers
These amplifiers are designed to be used with acoustic guitars, especially for the way these instruments are used in relatively quiet genres such as folk and bluegrass. They are similar in many ways to keyboard amplifiers, in that they have a relatively flat frequency response, and they are usually designed so that neither the power amplifier nor the speakers will introduce additional coloration.
To produce this relatively "clean" sound, these amplifiers often have very powerful amplifiers (providing up to 800 watts RMS), to provide additional "headroom" and prevent unwanted distortion. Since an 800 watt amplifier built with standard Class AB technology would be very heavy, some acoustic amplifier manufacturers use lightweight Class D amplifiers, which are also called "switching amplifiers."
Acoustic amplifiers are designed to produce a "clean", transparent, "acoustic" sound when used with acoustic instruments with built-in transducer pickups and/or microphones. The amplifiers often come with a simple mixer, so that the signals from a pickup and microphone can be blended. Since the early 2000s, it has become increasingly common for acoustic amplifiers to be provided with a range of digital effects, such as reverb and compression. As well, these amplifiers often contain feedback-suppressing devices, such as notch filters or parametric equalizers.
In the case of electric guitars, an amplifier stack consisting of a head atop one cabinet is commonly called a half stack, while a head atop two cabinets is referred to as a full stack. The cabinet which the head sits on often has an angled top in front, while the lower cabinet of a full stack has a straight front. The first version of the Marshall stack was an amp head on an 8x12 cabinet, meaning a single speaker cabinet containing eight 12" guitar speakers. After six of these cabinets were made, the cabinet arrangement was changed to an amp head on two 4x12 cabinets, meaning four 12" speakers, to enable transporting the amp rig.
In heavy metal bands, the term "double stack" or "full stack" is sometimes used to refer to two stacks, with the main amplifier section of a second amplifier serving as a slave to the first and four speaker cabinets in total. Another name for the "Head & Cab" that comes from the 1960s and 1970s is "Piggyback". Vox amp stacks could be put on a tiltable frame with casters. Fender heads could be attached to the cab and had "Tilt-Back" legs, like those used on larger Fender combo amps. Typically, a guitar amp's preamplifier section (known as a 'pre') provides sufficient gain so that an instrument can be connected directly to its input, and its main amplification section (known as the 'power stage') sufficient power to connect loudspeakers directly to its output, both without requiring extra amplification.
Some touring bands have used the appearance of a large array of guitar amplifiers for aesthetic reasons. Some of these arrangements include only the fronts of amplifiers mounted on a large frame.
Another arrangement, often used for public address amplifier systems, is to provide two stages of amplification in separate units. First a preamplifier or mixer is used to boost the instrument output, normally to line level, and perhaps to mix signals from several instruments. The output from this preamplifier is then connected to the input of a power amplifier, which powers the loudspeakers.
Performing musicians that use the "two-stage" approach (as opposed to an amplifier with an integrated preamplifier and power amplifier) often want to custom-design a combination of equipment that best suits their musical or technical needs, and gives them more tonal and technical options. Some musicians require preamps that include specific features. Acoustic performers sometimes require preamps with "notch" filters (to prevent feedback), reverb, an XLR DI output, or parametric equalization. Hard rock, metal, or punk performers may desire a preamplifier with a range of distortion effects. As well, some musicians have specific power amplifier requirements, such as low-noise design, very high wattage, the inclusion of limiter features to prevent distortion and speaker damage, or biamp-capable operation.
With the "two-stage" approach, the preamplifier and power amplifier are often mounted together in a rack case. This case may be either free-standing or placed on top of a loudspeaker cabinet. If many rack-mounted effects are used, the rack may be a large unit on wheels. Some touring players need several racks of effects units to reproduce on stage the sounds they have produced in the studio. At the other extreme, if a small rack case containing both preamp and power amp is placed on top of a guitar speaker cabinet, the distinction between a rack and a traditional amp head begins to blur. Another variation is to combine the power amplifier into the speaker cabinet, an arrangement called a powered speaker, and use these with a separate preamp, sometimes combined into an effects pedal board or floor preamp/processor.
Preamplifiers are also used to connect very low-output or high-impedance instruments to instrument amplifiers. When piezoelectric transducers are used on upright bass or other acoustic instruments, the signal coming directly from the transducer is often too weak and it does not have the correct impedance for direct connection to an instrument amplifier. Small, battery-powered preamps are often used with acoustic instruments to resolve these problems.
Distortion, power, and volume
For electric guitar amplifiers, there is often a distinction between "practice" or "recording studio" guitar amps, which tend to have output power ratings of 20 watts down to a small fraction of a watt, and "performance" amps, which are generally 50 watts or higher. Traditionally, these have been fixed-power amplifiers, with a few models having a half-power switch to slightly reduce the listening volume while preserving power-tube distortion. The relationship between perceived volume and power output is not immediately obvious. A 5-watt amplifier is perceived to be half as loud as a 50-watt amplifier (a tenfold increase in power), and a half-watt amplifier is a quarter as loud as a 50-watt amp. Doubling the power of an amplifier results in a "just noticeable" increase in volume, so a 100-watt amplifier is held to be only just noticeably louder than a 50-watt amplifier. Such generalizations are also subject to the human ear's tendency to behave as a natural compressor at high volumes.
Power attenuation can be used with either low-power or high-power amplifiers, resulting in variable-power amplifiers. A high-power amplifier with power attenuation can produce power-tube distortion through a wide range of listening volumes. Speaker efficiency is also a major factor affecting a tube amplifier's maximum volume. For bass instruments, higher-power amplifiers are needed to reproduce low-frequency sounds. While an electric guitarist would be able to play at a small club with a 50-watt amplifier, a bass player performing in the same venue would probably need an amplifier with 200 or more watts.
Distortion is a feature available on many guitar amplifiers that is not typically found on keyboard or bass guitar amplifiers. Tube guitar amplifiers can produce distortion through pre-distortion equalization, preamp tube distortion, post-distortion EQ, power-tube distortion, tube rectifier compression, output transformer distortion, guitar speaker distortion, and guitar speaker and cabinet frequency response. Distortion sound or "texture" from guitar amplifiers is further shaped or processed through the frequency response and distortion factors in the microphones (their response, placement, and multi-microphone comb filtering effects), microphone preamps, mixer channel equalization, and compression. Additionally, the basic sound produced by the guitar amplifier can be changed and shaped by adding distortion and/or equalization effect pedals before the amp's input jack, in the effects loop just before the tube power amp, or after the power tubes.
Power-tube distortion is required for amp sounds in some genres. In a standard master-volume guitar amp, as the amp's final or master volume is increased beyond the full power of the amplifier, power tube distortion is produced. The "power soak" approach places the attenuation between the power tubes and the guitar speaker. In the re-amped or "dummy load" approach, the tube power amp drives a mostly resistive dummy load while an additional low power amp drives the guitar speaker. In the isolation box approach, the guitar amplifier is used with a guitar speaker in a separate cabinet. A soundproofed isolation cabinet, isolation box, isolation booth, or isolation room can be used.
A variety of labels are used for level attenuation potentiometers in a guitar amplifier and other guitar equipment. Electric guitars and basses have a volume control to attenuate whichever pickup is selected. There may be two volume controls in parallel to mix the signal levels from the neck and bridge pickups. Rolling back the guitar's volume control also changes the pickup's equalization or frequency response, which can provide pre-distortion equalization.
The simplest guitar amplifiers have only a volume control. Most have at least a gain control and a master volume control. The gain control is equivalent to the distortion control on a distortion pedal, and similarly may have a side-effect of changing the proportion of bass and treble sent to the next stage.
A simple amplifier's tone controls typically include passive bass and treble controls. In some cases, a midrange control is provided. The amplifier's master volume control restricts the amount of signal permitted through to the driver stage and the power amplifier. When using a power attenuator with a tube amplifier, the master volume no longer acts as the master volume control. Instead, the power attenuator's attenuation control controls the power delivered to the speaker, and the amplifier's master volume control determines the amount of power-tube distortion. Power-supply based power reduction is controlled by a knob on the tube power amp, variously labeled "Wattage", "Power", "Scale", "Power Scale", or "Power Dampening".
Use with other instruments
Musicians often run sound-sources other than guitars through guitar amps. For live performances, synthesizers and drum machines or keyboards are often put through guitar amps to create a richer sound than can be obtained by patching the direct-outs right into the PA system. Guitar amplifiers can add tonal coloration, roll off unwanted high frequencies, and add overdrive or distortion. Deep Purple's Jon Lord played his Hammond Organ through a distorted Marshall amp to create a sound more suitable for heavy rock. String instruments and vocals are also put through guitar amps to add distortion effects. Some blues harp players also use guitar or bass amps to create a warmer overdrive sound for their harmonica playing; 1950s-style "tweed" amps are often used for this purpose, such as Fender Bassman combo amps.
Recording engineers occasionally run pre-recorded parts through miked guitar amps, a process called re-amping. When a guitar part is recorded "dry" (e.g., without effects or distortion), straight into the mixing board for a recording, this gives the producer and mixing engineer much more flexibility to create new re-mixes or new tones from the recording. If a guitar player records an electric guitar part that is run through a chorus pedal and a distortion pedal, there is little that can be done at the "mix-down" stage to change the sound of this recording, beyond "tweaking" the equalization and modifying the level. Since re-mixing or mixdown can take place weeks, months, or even years after the original recording session, it may be impossible to have the guitarist come in to re-record a new part.
If the dry guitar sound is recorded, though, the mixing engineers can add any effects they want to the signal and then re-play it through a miked guitar amplifier which is being recorded. The effects, amplifiers, cabinets, and miking processes can be changed to any combination. When a dry guitar has been recorded, it can be a useful tool for "updating" an older recording. For example, if a band wants to re-release a 1980s-era album on which the guitar has a very dated 1980s sound, with heavy flanging and artificial-sounding electronic distortion, the band can update the guitar sound by re-amping the dry signal and using 2000s-era effects.
Mixing guitar amp signals with other signals is also done by some musicians. Chris Squire of Yes produced his bass guitar sound by playing through a guitar amplifier with its bass turned down, treble turned up, and volume turned up well into distortion; the miked guitar speaker signal was then mixed with a direct-input (DI) signal, a technique that has been used for processing synth keyboards as well. A bass guitar can also be played through a bass amp in parallel with a distorted guitar amp by using a DI box; the bass amp provides the low frequencies, while the guitar amp – which is not capable of reproducing the lowest frequencies of the bass guitar– emphasizes the upper harmonics of the instrument's tone.
In 1946, Everette Hull, an acomplished pianist and bass player, organized a partnership with Stanley Michaels under the name "Michaels-Hull Electronic Labs." Their mission was to produce a new microphone pickup that Hull designed. The pickup was fitted on the end of an upright bass and was dubbed the Amplified Peg or "Ampeg" for short.
In 1949, Hull became the sole proprietor and changed the name of the company to the Ampeg Bassamp Company. Since that time, Ampeg has produced some of the music industry's most innovative and memorable products, satisifying the needs of musicians all over the world. Many of these products feature incredibly unique features and performance capabilities resulting in six U.S. patents under the Ampeg brand name.
In 1960, a design engineer by the name of Jess Oliver created a combo amplifier with a chasis that could be inverted and tucked inside the speaker enclosure, protecting the inner workings and increasing the portability of the the amp. Nicknammed the "Portaflex," this amplifier became the standard in bass combos throughout the 60's and 70's.
Also in the early 60's, Ampeg was the first company to incorporate reverb in an amplifier. The Reverbrocket preceded Fender's Vibroverb (often thought of as the original) by nearly 2 years. In 1969, Ampeg set out to design the most powerful amplifier ever made. At that time, 50-watt amps were considered more than adequate. 100-watt amps were considered "plenty loud." Ampeg, however, not only harnessed 300 watts of pure tube power but actually created a new valve (tube) technology - Super Valve Technology, or the SVT. Now the most sought after stage amplifier, the SVT has proven its road worthiness on stages around the world.
In 1986, St. Louis Music, Inc purchased Ampeg and continues the tradition of making quality, musician-satisifying products. The current series of Ampeg Classic models, Pro Series products, "B" Series heads and combos as well as the updated re-issue Diamond Blue Series are among the latest in the evolution of the professional, innovative and feature laden amplifiers available.
AMPEG DATING AMPEG AMPLIFIERS In dating Ampeg Amplifiers, there are several different schemes to be used. The good thing about Ampeg is that when they changed their models, they all changed at the same time. This means that it is fairly easy to determine the range of year by just looking at the outside of the amp. Like all U.S.A. made amps, the speakers, transformers, and potentiometers have date codes on them. This along with the serial number on the amp can help narrow down the year of manufacture.
There are six distinctive periods in the Ampeg line. Each period has a different way of identifying the year made. Note that each different period is approximately during each different ownership. The chart here should be of some help.
Pre 1953 - These amps can only be dated by the EIA (Electronics Industries Association) codes on the speakers and other parts. No serial numbers were used during this time. Michael-Hull amplifiers were made between 1946-48. When Hull started on his own, the name was switched to Ampeg and were mostly wooden amps with Ampeg written across the grille.
1953-Mid 1965 - In 1953, the first Serialization system was introduced. This was a six-digit number like this: YMMNNN, which was the last digit of the year, month, and number of production. Since there is a possibility of overlap here, cosmetics are a huge factor in determining the year. The year 1953 could be 1963 since only the last digit was used. Ampeg changed their cosmetics several times in the late '50s and by determining whether the amp is black, blue, grey, or tan will identify the year.
1965-1969 - In early 1965 a new serialization system went into effect. The old one lasted on certain models for about six months. This system was also six digits. This system here was strictly numerical and started at 000001. It ran for about five years and ended with 092000. This chart is fairly accurate:
000001-020000 - 1965
020000-049000 - 1966
049000-075000 - 1967
075000-080000 - 1968
080000-090000 - 1969
1970-1979 - By 1970, Ampeg was in turmoil and in the process of selling to Magnavox. It was only fitting to introduce a third serialization system. At this point in time there isn't enough information about the serial numbers to accurately date with them. The best way to do that is by the cosmetics and when they were used over the decade. There is a small list of what Selmer and Ampeg changed during this time. The first feature is the control panel. From 1968-1972, a blue control panel was used. In 1972 until 1975, the control panel was changed to black with square corners.
In 1976, the panel was horizontally split with rounded corners (This was started in 1973 on solid-state models). The second feature is the addition of a distortion knob which occured in 1976. The third are the "white rocker switches," which replaced the "black rocker switches." These were changed on solid-state amps in 1973 and on tube amps in 1976. The final feature was the "a" logo. It was metal from 1968-1972, and plastic from 1973 on.
1985-2005 - These are the amps during the St. Louis Music period. A new serialization system was developed and it became a code used for many years. This is the best way to identify the date of manufacture during this period. A 10 digit number is used as a serial number, which contains lots of information. The number is set up like this: LLLCYMNNNN. LLL stands for the model, C stands for the country. (U is U.K., Y is Europe, W is Worldwide, and D stands for domestic or U.S.). The Y is a year code that is a letter. (A is 1988, B is 1989, C is 1990, and so on. What happened before 1987 for the year is unclear as very few amps were made because of bankruptcy for MTI). The M is a number code for January-October. (Jan is 1, Feb is 2, Oct is 10, fill in the blanks.) For November and December the letters A and B were used respectively. The last 4 numbers (N) are the actual serial number for the instrument. Example? Certainly. Serial number on a B-15R is AJYDB60626. This is a U.S. amp made in June of 1989 and its serial number 626.
History of Fender-
It all started in 1909 with the birth of Clarence Leo Fender. He grew up in the world of vacuum tube electronics and some of the first radio broadcasts to be a self taught electronics buff, eventually opening up his first repair in 1938 named Fender's Repair Service. This also included the rental and sale of home made P.A and musical instruments.
During WWII Leo teamed up with Clayton "Doc" Kauffman to design and manufacture amplifiers and electric lap steel guitars, which would use a pick-up that Leo had designed.
The market for Hawaiian and western swing music was taking off at the time so their company (known as K&F) was ripe to expand into a larger manufacturing facility. Kauffman got cold feet and pulled out and thus Fender Electrical Instrument Co. was born.
Leo struck up a distribution deal for the amps and lap steels in 1946 with Radio and Television Equipment Co. (Radio-Tel). The initial years of this venture were pretty lean for Leo and he still worked days in his original radio shop. By the late 40's more artists were using Fender gear and word about them spread. Business picked up and their equipment was becoming available nationwide. In 1948 Leo sold the radio shop so he could concentrate full time on F.E.I.C. making guitars and amps. By this time Leo had three buildings and 15 people on the payroll (including George Fullerton who became a long time collaborator with Leo. He's the G in G&L).
Fender's tweed-covered, chrome chassis amps developed a solid reputation as being extremely reliable on the road and also having the most power available at the time. The Champion line was off and running. The close of the 1940's saw Fender as a major player in the market and they were highly visible all over the country.
The tweed amp alone wasn't changed much in the early fifties as Leo concentrated on new guitar designs such as the esquire, broadcaster and soon to be Telecaster. In 1951 Fender introduced the P-bass, one of the most important introductions of an instrument in rock n' roll history. He needed an amp designed for the bass, and so the Bassman was born. Ironically, the Bassman became one of the most classic guitar amplifiers in history.
In 1953 Leo had bought out control of distribution with two partners from Radio-Tel to create Fender Sales.
Not long after, a high power proto-type 2x12 combo called the Twin was unveiled. With a new design of guitar called the Stratocaster on the way, Fender was ready to take off even further. As the fifties were finishing, Fender had grown enormously with 10 times the floor-space in manufacturing from a decade ago and employee numbers in triple digits.
By 1964, even though Fender was still expanding, Leo wanted out. His health was poor and he'd been working almost non-stop since the beginning. Overwhelmed and ready for a break, he sold Fender to CBS for $13m. This was a big payout in 1964 but CBS saw even more potential for growth in the company.
In the mid 60's transistors were thought to be the future and CBS believed that transistor (solid state) amps would be the way to go. Luckily they still maintained the classic tube designs like the Super reverbs, Deluxe Reverbs, Twins, Bassmans, etc. But they tried to push to the forefront newer transistor designs. The idea was noble as Fender was based on innovation and constantly upgrading their designs. But, at the time solid state technology just couldn't transfer into a musical sounding guitar amplifier compared to the tubes. They pretty much gave up in the early 70's and introduced different variation of tube amps instead with the famous silver face look (transition from black face to silver face actually started in '68).
In regards to 60's pre and post CBS black face amps. Pre-CBS does have a few things different as far as a few ratings in the electronics which causes "tone differences." Basically anytime you change electronics whether you stick to the same parts or not, you "have" to do "everything" exactly as the model you are trying to emulate or the tone suffers. Now obviously it's only a slight difference and even the first year of the silver face in 1968 still has the basic structure of the black face. You can get a 1968 silver face for around $600 versus a black face for around $1500 and all you need do is have the specs set to pre-CBS black face from a good local "Fender" repair shop that loves old Fender amps.
By 1980 sales of the traditional 70's silver faces Fender amp had dwindled and stiff competition was being had from other manufacturers who also offered channel switching and different sounds from the Fender amps. Paul Rivera came on board in the early eighties and brought back a mid-60's cosmetic to the line and the silver-fced look was discontinued. Solid state amplifiers were introduced again at this time but notable better than earlier efforts.
In 1984 CBS decided to sell off its musical instrument divisions due to lack of profits. This included Fender even though it still made money for them. In early 1985 some head personal at Fender teamed up with a few international distributors and bought the Fender name for about $12.5m from CBS. Fender Musical Instrument Co. is born. Because Fender had to rebuild all manufacturing from the ground up, they relied heavily on old CBS stock and imported guitars and amps.
In late 1985 Fender bought Sunn. A big name in the late 60's and early 70's for guitar and bass amps but at that time known mainly for P.A.'s. After moving the Sunn factory from Tualatin, Oregon to nearby Lake Oswego they used it to start making new Fender amplifiers as well as still making Sunn equipment. The company grew throughout the late 80's and amplifiers such as the Dual Showman, the Twin and the Stage series were introduced. Fender was back.
In 1993 Fender opened up the custom amp shop and soon the modern custom classics such as the Vibro King and the Tonemaster were realized. Later on they opened a new plant in Corona, CA to make solid state amps. It has now become their primary location for all tube amp manufacturing. Fender's solid state amps now are made in a state of the art facility in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
Fender currently offers an amazing variety of amps in all stages of technology old and new, from jazz and clean country to stingin' blues and metal a-go-go, Fender has, more than ever, a selection to match the ever-broadening scope of music as we know it today. The vision and memory of an incredible music pioneer affectionately known and instantly recognized just by Leo lives on. We think he'd be proud.
There are several ways to determine when a Fender amp was produced. First use the cosmetic features to get a range of possible years. Next, (if applicable) look for the date code on the tube chart. If your amp dosen’t have a date code, flip the amp upside-down and check the transformers, and speakers for their manufacturer codes. If possible, open up the chassis and check a few of the pots’ and capacitors’ manufacturer codes. Remember, many components could have been changed over the years, speakers blow, caps dry out, transformers melt down, and pots wear out.
Here is a cool link to a Vintage Fender Amp price history chart that tracks sales data for specific amp models by the month.
|Date Code: Wide panel, narrow panel, brown, blonde, and black face amps have a date code hand-stamped on the tube chart. This code is made up of two letters. The first letter translates to the year and the second to the month. The reissue amps also made use of this code. |
Example: FG=July 1956, QA=January 1967, and a reissue CG=July 1992
|EIA Source-Date Codes: Electronic components such as transformers, potentiometers, speakers, and some capacitors are often stamped with a date code indicating who manufactured them and when. The code follows the format: XXXYY ZZ where:|
XXX = a two or three (possibly four on newer amps) digit number indicating the manufacturer. (see chart below)
YY = is a one or two digit code indicating the year. If it’s a one digit year you need to determine the correct decade of the amp some other way.
ZZ = a number from 1 – 52 indicating the week of the year.
Remember, your amp is newer than the newest component. So if you find pots from late 68 and transformers from early 69 you can be pretty sure your amp is a 1969.
Serial Number: There is no information readily available for dating Fender amps by serial number but there are people working on it.
Circuit Code: In 1963 Fender stopped using model numbers to identify schematics and began using the model name and an assigned circuit number. These circuit numbers which are located on the tube chart can be useful for getting a rough date on an amp. Fender often used the same circuit for many years so this is not a very accurate method for amp dating. The code is simple, the first two letters are the revision, where AA is the first revision, AB is the second, etc. The next one or two numbers are the month where January is 1 and December is 12. The last two numbers are the year.
Example: AB763 = second revision, July, 1963
AA1070 = First revision, October, 1970
Misc Dating Info:
Silver face amps with the aluminum trimmed grilles are from 67 or 69.
The fist Master volume controls were first installed in 72.
The raised “Fender” grille logo lost its tail around 76. There are exceptions to this rule like the Bronco.
Fender installed casters on some larger amps and cabs beginning in 72.
Robert Gallien started his company, then named GMT, from his garage in San Jose, California while working as an engineer for Hewlett-Packard. His first amps were the GMT 226A and 226B (named after their power output) and were unconventional in their design because they were built around transistors instead of tubes. Carlos Santana was one of the first to buy a GMT 226A (serial #6) and it can be clearly seen in the Woodstock movie.
In the early 70's Bob Gallien teamed up with fellow HP engineer Rich Krueger and the company was renamed Gallien-Krueger. Although Rich Krueger is no longer involved in the company it has retained his name.
In 1983 Gallien-Krueger launched the bass amplifier that would define the future of the company, namely the 800RB. The 800RB set the standard for modern bass amp design and construction, and this influence is still vital today. The GK sound is defined by a dry "growl" and a quick reaction from the class H power amplifier.
The company has stopped producing guitar amplifiers but continues to make bass amplifiers and cabinets.
FOUNDER GENZ-BENZ AMPLIFICATION
Jeff Genzler and his wife founded their amplifier business over 25 years ago and, echoing the success of earlier amp kings including Leo Fender, Jim Marshall and Hartley Peavey, did so by catering for local players - working within a community of musicians (in Genzler’s case, a group of which he, as a player, was a part) who could feed back all the ideas that helped build the brand. It thrived, went nationwide and in 2001 came to the attention of US giant Kaman, which took Genz-Benz (and in case you were wondering, the ‘G’ is hard) under its wing, since when it has massively expanded its export sales and is now, courtesy of Sutherland, starting to create serious interest in the UK.
Talk to people about Genz-Benz and the word that comes back is solid, reliable - not the cheapest, but damn good. It was always the intention, which was why Genzler added the Benz bit to the name.
Gibson first began manufacturing amplifiers in the mid 1930s to complement its new line of electric guitars. The EH-150, one of Gibson's first amps, was a small model tube amplifier that featured a microphone input and two instrument inputs. The finish was a tweed fabric that covered all sides of the of the amp, topped by a leather handle.
Gibson boosted its amp production in the late 1940s. During this time the company moved manufacturing to Kalamazoo, Michigan. One of the more popular offerings of this era, the BR-9 amplifier was a power tube amp similar in design to the EH-150 and used primarily for lap steel guitar.
The 1950s and 1960s were a boom time for Gibson amp production. The company introduced its GA , which included a variety of sizes and models that sold well into the late 1960s. It also unveiled one of the first transistor amps during this time. Gibson's acquisition of Epiphone in 1957 added the latter's existing amplifier operations, greatly expanding Gibson's offerings.
Gibson revived its Lab series of solid-state amps in the 1990s, re-creating the line with a fresh, colorful look and making them available in both guitar and bass guitar configurations. It also began manufacturing tube amplifiers again, of which the Goldtone series is among the most popular models.
Today, Gibson manufactures amplifiers that combine both solid-state and power tube technology. Its brands include Gibson and Epiphone.
Marcus Ryle and Michel Doidic (two former Oberheim designers) co-founded Fast-Forward Designs, where they helped develop several notable pro audio products such as the Alesis ADAT, Quadraverbs and QuadraSynth, and Digidesign SampleCell. As digital signal processing became more and more powerful and affordable during the 1980s, they began developing DSP-based products for guitarists. As Ryle tells the story, the name "Line 6" came about because the phone system at Fast-Forward Designs only had 5 lines. Because the new guitar-related products were developed in secrecy, the receptionist used "Line 6" as a code word of sorts, and paging them for a call on Line 6 meant to stop any guitar or amp-related sounds so that they wouldn't be overheard by other Fast-Forward clients or callers.
Line 6 launched in 1996, with their first digital modeling guitar amplifier, the AxSys 212. ((This is disputable: even though Line6's 'about' page says the same, the first product they released was the original Flextone - a single 12, 60 watt, combo amp. Within six months or so, the AxSys 212 was released.)) The company underwent a rapid expansion in the early 2000s (decade) due to the success of their Pod product line, which isolated modeling circuitry from the AxSys amplifier.
Digital modeling attempts to recreate the unique characteristics of musical instruments and pro audio gear. Early Line 6 products used digital modeling to emulate the signature tone of a guitar amp/speaker combination. Further development of Line 6's modeling technology has extended the emulation to include numerous guitar amplifier / guitar cabinet combinations, guitar effects, microphones, and even different guitars and other fretted instruments themselves. Digital modeling offers countless virtual combinations of a variety of music gear, but only as emulations, however convincing as they may be.
Though Line 6 began with a modeling guitar amp, their breakthrough product line was arguably the POD guitar processor line and its later variants, but this modeling technology has been the foundation for most of Line 6's products, from guitar amps to software and computer audio interfaces. Line 6 has an active user community, and provides software that allows users to easily download and share patches or device settings for many of Line 6's products.
In early 2008, Line 6 acquired X2 Digital Wireless, who had introduced digital wireless systems for guitar. Further developing this technology, Line 6 developed and introduced a family of digital wireless microphone systems in 2010
After a successful career as a drummer and teacher of drum technique, Jim Marshall first went into business in 1962 with a small shop in Hanwell, London, selling drums, cymbals and drum-related accessories; Marshall himself also gave drum lessons. According to Jim, Ritchie Blackmore, Big Jim Sullivan, and Pete Townshend were the three main guitarists who often came into the shop and pushed Marshall to make guitar amplifiers and told him the sound and design they wanted. Marshall Ltd. then expanded, hired designers and started making guitar amplifiers to compete with existing amplifiers, the most notable of which at the time were the Fender amplifiers imported from America. These were very popular with guitarists and bass players, but were very expensive. The three guitarists were among the first customers of the first 23 Marshall Amplifiers made.History Marshall's guitar amplifiers are among the most recognised brands in amplification. They are known for their own specific sound (the Marshall "crunch"). This signature sound was due to a long period of time of guitarists coming into Marshall's drum shop, and complaining about the amps currently on the market not having the right sound. After gaining a lot of publicity, they were sought out by guitarists for this new sound, as well as the increased volume of Marshall amps compared to the amps that were being sold then. Many of the current (and reissue) models of guitar amplifier continue to use vacuum tubes, as is common in this market sector. Marshall also manufactures less expensive (and less effective) solid-state and hybrid equipment.
Marshall's guitar amplifiers are among the most recognised brands in amplification. They are known for their own specific sound (the Marshall "crunch"). This signature sound was due to a long period of time of guitarists coming into Marshall's drum shop, and complaining about the amps currently on the market not having the right sound. After gaining a lot of publicity, they were sought out by guitarists for this new sound, as well as the increased volume of Marshall amps compared to the amps that were being sold then. Many of the current (and reissue) models of guitar amplifier continue to use vacuum tubes, as is common in this market sector. Marshall also manufactures less expensive (and less effective) solid-state and hybrid equipment.
Hartley Peavey founded Peavey Electronics, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of musical and professional audio equipment, in 1965 after building his first amplifier in 1957. Since its foundation, Peavey Electronics has been privately owned, and has grown massively from their humble beginnings in Hartley's basement in the 1950s.
In 2011, Inc. Magazine profiled the global success story of music and audio innovator Hartley Peavey and Peavey Electronics Corporation. “Hartley Peavey dreamed of becoming a rock star,” wrote Inc. Magazine’s Kasey Wehrum. “Though he lacked the chops to become the next Chuck Berry, his name has been etched into the pantheon of rock 'n' roll history.”
Peavey currently owns 1.5 million square feet (140,000 m²) of manufacturing/assembly area over 33 facilities across North America, Europe and Asia, 18 of which are located in their home state of Mississippi. Products are manufactured mainly in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Far East, and are distributed to 136 different countries across the globe. They also hold 130 patents, and have a product range of around 2000 designs, with between 80 to 100 being added each year.
Peavey Electronics also owns eight major electronics brands, namely MediaMatrix, Architectural Acoustics, PVDJ, Crest Audio, Composite Acoustic, Sanctuary Series, Budda Amplification, and Trace Elliot.
Although Peavey Electronics produces a wide variety of equipment, a few notable designs stand out through their popularity and/or use by major professional musicians.
The earliest model Bandits had a power rating of 50 watts RMS into an 8 ohm speaker. The power rating has gradually increased over time, and current model Bandits are rated at 80 watts RMS into 8 ohms, and 100 watts RMS into 4 ohms. In the mid-nineties, the Bandit was used to introduce Peavey's proprietary TransTube circuitry, a solid-state technology aimed at emulating the sound of tube amplifiers.
Peavey's line of guitar amplifiers made specifically for blues, jazz, and classic rock players. The original Classic series amplifiers were introduced in the 1970s (and were originally called the Peavey 'Vintage' series), and used solid state preamps and 6L6GC power tubes. The original Classic was a 50 watt amp and two 12" speakers and a spring reverb, with two preamps for "clean" and "distortion" channels. They could be used separately, or by plugging the instrument into the "parallel" connection which fed both preamps, allowing selection of one from the other using a foot switch. The instrument could also be plugged into the "series" connection, running first through the "clean" channel and feeding that into the "distortion" channel, providing a means of over driving the distortion preamp, creating a much more versatile method of producing distortion. The current line of Classic series amplifiers consist of three variations of the "Classic" model, the Classic 30 112, Classic 50 212 and 410. There are two variations of the "Delta Blues" model, the Delta Blues 115 and the Delta Blues 210. They use 12AX7 preamp tubes, EL84 power tubes, and have spring reverb tanks.
The CS series amplifiers (mainly the CS800) are some of the most used amplifiers in the world, and among Peavey's best selling products.
Like the 5150/6505 series, the JSX series was designed for a recording artist: Joe Satriani. Satriani was looking for an amplifier that was customized to his style, that had every feature he required, and would work in both live and studio applications. This was reissued as the Peavey XXX II.
The Radial Pro Series were Peavey's high end drum line. In production from 1994 until 2002, it consisted of the RBS-1 prototypes, radial pro 1000, 750/751, and 500/501 models. The flagship 1000 model consisted of a radial bridge that took all the mounting stresses, and a 3-ply thin maple shell to enhance the resonance. The 750/751 series had composite bridges and stained maple shells. The 500/501 series had composite bridges and wrapped maple shells.
The basis on which the JSX series was created, the XXX series provides a tonal range from what can be described as "glassy" cleans to "full body" hi-gain tones using its 3 channel interface. The 3120 series came later.
All-tube amps for rock musicians. Higher gain than the Classic series. A notable member of this lineup is the Royal 8 5 watt combo, similar to a Fender Champ. However, the Royal 8 has been discontinued from the lineup.
The Vypyr series of amps are highly powerful modeling amplifiers. They generate different amp sounds depending on which desired amp is chosen. Some amps that are included are the Fender twin and deluxe, Mesa/Boogie Rectifier, Diezel Boutique, Krank Krankenstein, Vox AC30 and a large collection of Peavey amps like the 6505, XXX, JSX, classic. In addition to these amp models, these amps feature 11 editable pre-amp effects (All But Vypyr 15), 11 editable rack effects, on-board looper (Vypyr 30, 60, 75, 100, 120), MIDI input (Vypyr 30, 60, 75, 100, 120), and USB 2.0 connectivity (Vypyr 60, 75, 100, 120). The battery powered "Nano Vypyr" was introduced in 2012 as a competitor against other small portable modeling amps like the Roland Micro Cube and Fender Mini-Mustang. The Vypyr 60 and Vypyr 120 amps as well as the Vypyr 120 head feature 12AX7 and 6L6GC tubes. In 2013, an enhanced line of Vypyr amps was released. Called the "Vypyr VIP" series (VIP being short for Variable Instrument Input), the VIP 1, VIP 2, and VIP 3 retain all the programmed models of the original Vypyrs, but also possess the ability to serve as acoustic guitar amps, as well as bass guitar amps. They are also programmable by way of computer software link. 
The TNT Series bass amplifier first entered the market in the late 1970s as a 45-Watt combo with one 15" speaker. The high-power TNT bass amplifier series was introduced as a 150-200 watt bass combo primarily equipped with a Scorpion or Black Widow 15-inch woofer. The TNT series was recently updated to 600 watts, under the title Peavey Tour TNT 115. It is currently the most powerful bass combo sold by Peavey.
The 400 BH power amp module was used in a range of bass amps during the early 1980s, commencing with the MKIII Bass Head in 1979.
The MKIV Bass Amp head unit, introduced in 1981, is one of the best commercial bass amps ever produced by anyone, offering a range of versatile functions second to none. It is natural air cooled, built with industrial quality components, features full protection circuitry and is capable of around 300/350 watts rms safely into 2 ohms. The 2 ohm load rating is very stable (this amp will actually operate at less than 2 ohms), enabling the use of multiple mix and match speaker systems to improve acoustic efficiency and soundstage options. In contrast, typical modern musical instrument amps are limited to 4 ohms speaker systems. Circuit board layout is conservative, easy to access, repair or modify. Dynamics and reliability are excellent. Its only weak point is that the preamp and power amp modules are installed in the chipboard cabinet with lack of electromagnetic shielding, resulting in a need to physically separate the amp head from bass pickups and speakers. That can be easily fixed by installing earthed aluminium foil or sheet inside the cabinet.
Introduced as a low-cost clone of the vaunted Marshall JCM800 2203 Master Volume. The internal design is essentially identical to the vintage Marshall, with the exception of using a plate-fed tone stack instead of the Marshall-trademarked cathode follower.
These were a result of a collaboration with Eddie Van Halen to produce his "ideal" guitar. The design was relatively successful, but did not gain the reputation or popscontinued in 2004.
Roland Corporation (ローランド株式会社, Rōrando Kabushiki Kaisha?) is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, electronic equipment and software. It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka on April 18, 1972, with ¥33 million in capital. In 2005, Roland's headquarters relocated to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. Today it has factories in Italy, Taiwan, Japan, and the USA. As of March 31, 2010, it employed 2,699 employees. It has existed in different forms since 1960, making it relatively old among still-operating manufacturers of musical electronics. Known for hundreds of popular synthesizers, drum machines, and other instruments, Roland was one of the top names in professional music equipment in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Bio of Ikutaro Kakehashi and true heart of Roland Corporation.
Ikutaro Kakehashi was born in 1930 and was just two years old when both his parents died from tuberculosis. He spent most of his childhood living in Osaka, Japan and when he got older, he studied mechanical engineering whilst working in the Hitachi shipyards, where Japan's Midget suicide submarines were built.
Following World War II, Kakehashi failed to get into university on health grounds and so he moved to the Japanese island of Kyushu, where he became a geographical survey assistant. At the time he was just 16 years old, but as a natural entrepreneur, he noticed that there was great demand for repairing existing timepieces as there was no watch or clock industry in Japan following the war.
Interestingly enough, many now-famous musical companies were once related to clocks in some way! Torakusu Yamaha was also working as a watch repairer around the same time (no prizes for guessing what he went on to do) and the Hammond Organ Company was originally a small part of the Hammond Clock Company! Also, what do you think of when someone says Casio? Clocks and keyboards? Crazy!
Anyway, Kakehashi soon managed to get a part-time job with a watch repair business, but was soon asked to leave when he demanded to be taught the trade within the space of a few months rather than going through the usual seven-year apprenticeship! Despite the set-back Kakehashi was not put off so he went out and bought a book on watch repair and taught himself the skills that he needed before setting up his own business, the Kakehashi Watch Shop.
His business soon became very successful but Kakehashi was always keen to push himself and further his knowledge, so having taught himself the basics of how a radio works, he branched out and began to repair broken radios as well as watches and clocks, all-the-while working as an agricultural worker for extra income!!!
After four years of living in this way, Kakehashi liquidated the business to fund his entry into university back in Osaka. Having already achieved all of this, it's easy to forget that he was still only 20 years old!
Unfortunately, before his plans took full shape, Kakehashi contracted tuberculosis in both lungs and so was quickly admitted to hospital, where his ill health stranded him for a number of years. As treatment cost money, he soon found that the wealth that he had built-up was depleted and he no longer had the funds to enter university.
Again, this latest set-back would have put a temporary stop to most people's ambitions, but not Kakehashi's! Whilst in hospital he started up a mini-business by repairing watches and radios for staff and other patients.
Such was his health that Kakehashi had now been in hospital for 3 years and despite keeping himself busy with small personal inventions, his condition was becoming worse. Due to these circumstances, Kakehashi was selected as a guinea-pig to test a new drug, Streptomycin. This proved a stroke of luck, as within a year, his health had improved so much that he was able to leave the hospital! Had he not been selected and with deteriorating health, it is highly likely that the 'Roland' company would never have existed as the drug was very expensive and out of reach for most people, including Kakehashi.
In 1954 and struggling to find a job, Kakehashi opened his own electrical goods and repair shop, which quickly became very successful. However, in 1955 he decided that he also wanted to begin developing electronic musical instruments that could produce simple monophonic melodies.
Kakehashi originally attempted built his own Theremin, but soon found that it was extremely difficult to master (try playing the one on demo in our store and you're likely to agree with him)! Noting that the Theremin was probably not going to have huge commercial success, Kakehashi now became interested in creating an instrument with playable notes, so he set his inventive mind to it and created a four-octave organ using bits of telephones and transistor oscillators amongst other things! However, this original prototype did not sound quite as he had envisaged and so it was never mass produced.
Despite dabbling in other areas such as guitar amplification, Kakehashi ploughed on with his interest in organs and in 1960 (a year that he rebranded his company as Ace Electronic Industries or 'Ace Tone'), he designed an organ that became the Technics SX-601, having been recommended to the owner of Technics via a friend of a friend. Ace Electronic Industries was now up and running and in 1963, they added guitar amps to their product range, but Kakehashi was quickly becoming interested in electro-mechanical percussion instruments.
In 1964, Kakehashi built the Ace Electronics R1 Rhythm Ace and decided to take it along to the NAMM show in Chicago, along with a monophonic instrument called the Canary. Unfortunately for Kakehashi, despite receiving interest, he did not receive any distribution deals.
He had been knocked back again, but once again, he just got right back up, improving the R1 by adding pre-programmed patterns with the addition of a diode matrix that determined the position of each instrument in the pattern. This upgrade was released with the FR-1 Rhythm Ace, which was introduced in 1967 and the technology was snapped up by the Hammond Organ Company and featured on their latest organs.
Over the next few years, Ace grew and grew, working closely with Hammond and the company, under Kakehashi's guidance, designed a number of new guitar amps, effects units, rhythm machines and combo organs, which included their TOP range and the dual-manual GT-7.
In 1971 Kakehashi helped develop the Piper Organ, which was the world's first single-manual organ to incorporate a rhythm accompaniment unit and it went on to become one of Hammond's most popular products EVER!
As Ace grew, so it became more and more attractive to investors and as such, Kakehashi eventually became a minority shareholder in his own company! However, for many years this was not a problem as the majority shareholder, Kazuo Sakata of Sakata Shokaim, also shared an interest in organs and the two got on well. However, things did not stay so rosey forever...
When an industrial company, Sumitomo Chemical, bought Sakata Shokai, they also acquired Ace, but having no understanding or interest in Kakehashi's work, he soon decided to resign from his own company having found working together intolerable. And so it was, in 1972 he walked out on the business that he built up and that was now turning over nearly $40 million per year. Another set-back... or was it?
One month after leaving Ace, on 18th April 1972, Kakehashi set up another business and one that you may have heard of - it was called 'Roland Corporation'. Knowing his quality, having worked alongside him for years, the Hammond Organ Company immediately put in an offer for a 60% shareholding stake, but Kakehashi had learned his lesson and had no plans to be a minority shareholder in his own business again, so he decided to go on on his own, using his own money to fund the business.
Kakehashi rented a shed and employed seven staff that had also left Ace Electronics. Using his reputation, Kakehashi manage to convince parts suppliers to offer 90-day payment terms and then aimed to design, build and export a rhythm unit before the bills were due and the 'money-people' came knocking on his door! So there you have it - Roland actually began life in a shed!!!
The decision to export was a clever move by Kakehashi. Yamaha and Kawai had built up huge reputations and were now dominating the Japanese music market. With such competition Roland would have found it nigh-on impossible to earn enough money to survive, despite Kakehashi's drive and ambition.
Kakehashi set out on his travels, firstly to Canada, then to New York and also to Denmark (where he spoke to a company with subsidiaries in the UK, Switzerland and Germany). His intention was to get orders for a rhythm machine based on his reputation and ideas because as of yet, no Roland product existed! In the end he managed to obtain a small number of orders from each company and so he now had the money to fund the design and build processes.
Roland's first ever product was the TR-77, a rhythm-box that allowed you to merge patterns, had independent volume controls for each instrument, plus two- and four-beat patterns and a fade-out feature. Also in this range (and released a little later) were the TR-55, which had a tabletop design, and the TR-33, which had a cut-out body shape for mounting underneath a piano or organ.
Along with the TR- rhythm boxes, Roland also developed a number of effect units, the first being the AF-100 Bee Baa (a fuzz box with four knobs on the rear panel) and the AS-1 Sustainer.
Over the next few years, Roland grew and grew, expanding their range as they went. They produced Japan's first synthesiser, the SH-1000 and are now known as one of the world's leading music companies, having designed and manufactured a number of instruments that have rightly earned the status of 'legendary' - think of the amazing Jupiter-8 analogue synthesiser, which is still considered by many to be one of the best synths ever made and has been immortalised by Arturia as a software instrument, the TB-303, which helped kick start Rave music with that famous Acid sound, the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, samples of which you will still hear in many chart tracks today, and their amazing modern TD electronic drum kits, plus loads more.
In 1979, a music shop in Romford, Essex, UK, called Soundwave was building and hiring out PA systems to local musicians. It soon became apparent that some of this equipment was not being used simply as PA but instead was being used by bass players, who for so long had to put up with under-powered amplification that was often merely a guitar amplifier with a modified tone circuit.
The Soundwave owner and staff realised the potential market and developed a range of products that incorporated MOSFET output stages driving large cabinets, including 15” drivers, and also the world's first bass-dedicated 4 x 10” cabinet, now an industry standard for all bass amp lines.
Trace Elliot, as the brand came to be called, gained a reputation for themselves; rumor has it that early users were John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Brian Helicopter of punk band The Shapes. Mark King of Level 42 was also an early adopter of the brand. The company, now dedicated to manufacturing, moved to new premises in Witham, Essex, in 1985 to satisfy the growing demand. In that same year Fred Friedlein (then sole owner of Trace Elliot) employed the services of freelance electronics designer Clive Button.
In 1989, Trace Elliot introduced the Trace Acoustic range of acoustic amplifiers (also designed by Clive Button), and the company moved again, this time to Maldon, Essex. In 1992 the company was bought by Kaman, which had previously handled the brand's US distribution.
Kaman downsized their music division in 1997 and sold the company to a trio of Trace Elliot directors, who took ownership of a brand with nearly 200 staff on a 110,000-square-foot (10,000 m2) site; they focused on exploiting the North American market, and in 1998 sold the company to the Gibson Guitar Corporation.
However, in January 2002, the factory was closed and all staff were made redundant. Gibson then moved the production of a few particular products they wanted to continue with to various locations in the United States.
In April 2005 it was announced that Peavey Electronics already employing previous Trace Elliot director Clive Roberts, acquired the brand name and were involving previous Trace Elliot designer Paul Stevens as electronics designer.
Dating your Trace Elliott: Check the serial #. If it is handwritten it is pre Gibson . A serial number typed is after Gibson took over Trace Elliott.