I think I found amplifier design and building fairly simple to pick up on because of my mechanical engineering background. Attention to detail in both design and execution is critical to making a beautiful sounding, long lasting instrument; I believe I had this skill before I decided to become an engineer and honed this, my problem solving skills and my analytical thinking through my schooling and my profession – something I bring to my amplifiers as well. An amplifier is every bit as much as the instrument as is the guitar and the speaker – a good amp should run you almost as much as you paid for your guitar, if not more in some cases – a good speaker and cab should cost you probably half or more of what you paid for your amp. A great guitar through a cheap amp and speaker will always sound cheap. A cheap guitar through a great amp and speaker will always leave something left to be desired. The proper setup of guitar, amplifier, and speaker along with your playing style will define your tone, and finding that can be a challenge – that is why I offer different amps and not just one model that is supposed to “do-it-all.” Although I use a totally different philosophy when engineering my amplifiers than I would for my day job, the design methodology is still the same:
Revise & Re-test until it is to my liking
I do not let cost enter my mind until I have found what I want – cost is a huge constraint in most engineering disciplines but my goal is performance. Value, however, is something I try to incorporate into my designs, for example: given two parts with similar performance and reliability but different costs– what is the benefit of the added cost? Is there any? The old adage is “you get what you pay for.” Well to a certain degree that is true… there is a certain degree of hype in the amplifier world. All my prices are based on the cost of the parts, materials and the labor involved (amplifier building is EXTREMELY labor intensive – it takes over 40hrs from start to finish to complete most amps, not to mention debugging, testing, and custom voicing if necessary). That is why I consider value as well. I want my amps to have the very best boutique quality performance and looks but also be on the affordable end of the price spectrum. I refuse to build my amps with inferior parts to save money and cut corners. Also there is no point in me working for free… so my pricing is what it is… and I guarantee you get what you pay for and more!
So does that mean I use all the same parts on all my amps? NO! That would just be buying into the hype– I try to use the strengths of the components I test and incorporate those into the amplifiers for which they will benefit. It is not simple enough to say well I use all such and such a component that claim to be the best, so my amps are the best – some may be, but some may not be. I think I do a good job at matching the components to the vintage of the specific amp to acquire the desired tone and dynamic characteristics. All these little details are what make a good amp a great amp in most cases – sometimes it is just dumb luck but either way it takes A LOT of time and effort and of course knowing what you are looking for as the end result.