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Theory Page

1. Your amplifier should sound the way the designer of the amp intended it to sound the day it was new (until you make up your mind it should sound differently).

        Amplifiers live hard lives and contain components which are compromised by dust, oxidization, vibration, heat, cold, and also by the innate instability of certain components over time. Even an amplifier delivered by the factory may have construction defects, or defective components, which usually manifest themselves in the first hundred hours of operation.
        Sadly, many amplifiers have been through the hands of technicians who implement poorly thought-out modifications, which certainly do change the sound of the amplifier --- usually for the worse. Modifications need to proceed, if at all, with the same or greater engineering rigor, than the original circuit design. Modifications that do not, will compromise elements of performance, even if they perform some handy trick. Modifications that result in any circuit component being asked to operate out of its design envelope, should be understood as dangerous and destructive, not "creative".
        A large percentage of the modifications we see in items brought to our atelier, are modifications of just this type. They need to be reversed, restoring the original circuit. Only then will the owner know what they really own. When we've done this, almost every client has liked his or her "stock" amplifier, restored to its original operating parameters, better than their former "hotrod" modified version.
        We also see amplifiers which are the victims of time, and wear and tear. These amplifiers can almost always be restored to the performance they delivered the day they were new. That would be our first objective.

 

2. If your style is well-developed, and if your related equipment is not changing, it may be time to "dial in" your amplification equipment to produce your signature sound.

        Your guitar, cabling, amplification and speakers, are a musical system, and changing any part of it changes the system's product: your sound.
        If you're changing your guitar every few months, getting new pickups next week, or trying every brand of strings there are, chances are you have not found your sound, your style, your niche. Or your range of sounds. More experienced and mature musicians (some young and some old) know what guitar(s) or bass(es) they will be playing, the moods they want to evoke, the stylistic influences they want to channel, or oppose. By the time that happens the musician will have developed a considerable technical talent, good ears for musical detail, and reliable equipment.
        It might be that the sound of a Marshall Plexi, a Fender Champ or Twin, or a Mesa Mark something, with your guitar plugged into it, is all that you would ever want or need. If so, that combination will certainly be best if the amp is just as the designer intended it (see 1, above).
        Even with those noble amps, or others less pedigreed, there will be nuances of tone that can be extracted through careful attention to (1) tubes and (2) other circuitry, primarily power supply related items. For instance, everyone can agree that any amplifier that has less hum and noise, is a better amplifier. We minimize noise in every amplifier we work on, within the budget allowed.
        Subtle issues of the character of an amplifier's attack, overdrive points, reverb quality, tone variations with volume level, and others, we can address through subtle circuit changes, within the rule we set of never doing anything what is unsound engineering.
        We inventory thousands of new old stock vacuum tubes, which we acquire constantly and at great cost. Chances are that your sound can be, and should be shaped in part by the tone characteristics of vacuum tubes made decades ago, though there are ones in current production that also lend colors and energy to some musical styles, with certain guitars and basses.

 

3. Who said I play guitar?

        We believe in hifi. If your guitar (if you have one) can make a good tone ---- can produce a good electronic signal, then we want you to hear it. We will help you shape it too, if that's what you want to do, within or without of the original design parameters of your amplifier. But if you are bringing us an amplifier from your home hifi, from sound reinforcement equipment, from your recording studio, or if you play organ, piano, electric violin --- you name it ---- we can do the same for you. Since we think great guitar amplification is, in the first instance, hifi, we can bring our same skills to all forms of amplification.

 

4. What about speakers?

        As we say above, the speakers are a part of the system. We could not get the results we do by treating only the amplifier. So we study speakers, have access to a variety of math models, computer models, and test equipment, are familiar with all design options, and can execute them as well as any manufacturer (and better than many)!
        Don't forget about the box. That's part of the "system" of the speaker. A good speaker can't sound good in a bad box. What's a good box? Talk to us.

 

5. How far can you go?

        Amplifier circuits, tubes, power supplies, wiring, speakers, their related systems ---- is there more? Yes. Powerline management; acoustical environment management, vibration control, to name a few. We can go with you to the most remote corners of music reinforcement and reproduction, and can offer useful guidance throughout.

 

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