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Author Topic: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread  (Read 110011 times)

silkysam

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2008, 09:29:10 AM »

Here are a couple of dinosauers that I keep as a tribute to my teen years:
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jsb

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2008, 11:42:39 AM »

1961
  • Standel releases first hybrid amplifiers. I know Bob Crooks found Standel, built and designed many of their early tube amplifier models but what about the solid-states? Did he get some design help?


I have a Standel 52J12 amp and am trying to find out some history about it.  Does anyone have any information about its history, etc.?

I took a very close look at the model/serial plate and it clearly says 52 J 12  (I put the spaces in there to clarify what the numbers/letters are).


And yes, the tone...  oh yessss, the tone...  it's auditory coitus.
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Jack1962

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2008, 06:16:30 AM »

Great info, great read , Thanks Teemuk


                                               Rock On
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Puretone

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2008, 03:59:49 PM »

One of my hobbies besides electronics and music has always been history so I decided to start a thread that would gather some of solid-state amplifiers. As you all likely know, there is a lot written about tube amplifiers and it’s a crying shame that so much of solid-state guitar amplifier history has been left undocumented or has been forgotten. Maybe this forum has gathered enough enthusiastic people to find the topic “sexy” enough.

In the future, I’ll be updating this post once in a while to summarize and add new information. I’m looking forward to your contributions as the timeline and details are still pretty much “lacking”.

The 50’s:
1953
  • (Likely) the first transistor radio is unveiled by Intermetall in Düsseldord Radio fair. First commercial transistor radio, the Regency TR-1, is put to sale the next year.

1956
  • Lin introduces quasi-complementary output stage topology (this is output transformerless).
  • Paul Penfield’s article “Transistorized Guitar Amplifier” appears in July issue of Radio & Television News magazine.

The 60’s:
1960

1961
  • Standel releases first hybrid amplifiers. I know Bob Crooks found Standel, built and designed many of their early tube amplifier models but what about the solid-states? Did he get some design help?

1962
  • Kay's "Vanguard" line-up: The first all-transistor guitar amplifiers? Any info on the designers?
  • First fuzz box, Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone, appears.

1963
  • Leak Stereo 30: First commercial output (and interstage) transformerless transistor (HiFi) amplifier.
  • Hagström introduces Model 1700 - also known as "GA-85". Some people think this is the first all-solid-state guitar amplifier, it's not. (And some sources state that this model was actually introduced as late as in 1965). Any info about the designers?
  • First Burns transistor amplifier. This is likely the "Orbit" model; Around this time it costed more than a new Vox AC-30.
  • Likely the first Gibson transistor amplifiers: "Starfire"-series including TR-1000RVT and TR-1000T. This information is based on to earliest catalog entry (from 1963) I've seen concerning Gibson SS amps.
  • Czechoslovakian company called Jolana introduces the "Big Beat"; a guitar with an integrated SS amplifier and a medium wave radio. The battery-powered circuit is the first reference to a completely transformerless SS guitar amp design I've seen so far.

1964
  • First Vox transistor amplifier (T-60). Any info about the designer? Tom Jennings, Dick Denney?
  • First WEM (Watkins Electric Music) transistor amplifiers emerge. The "Slave" PA system caughts a notable success but their lineup of transistor guitar amplifiers (introduced ca. 1966) can not compete with the new "rock" amplifiers.
  • First commercial digital amplifier (Sinclair’s X10 DIY kit).

1965
  • Hartley Peavey founds Peavey. Earliest amplifiers were designed by him and (ex RCA designer) Jack Sondermeyer.
  • Jennings looses control over Thomas Organ Company that switches from supplying imported UK Vox amplifiers to building their own. The transistor models are manufactured and designed at La Sepulvenda laboratories. Any info about the designers?
  • First Carvin solid-state amplifier: T-11. Carvin also introduces other transistor amplifiers such as T-12, T-4-102, T-2-101, T-151 and T-121. (http://www.carvinmuseum.com/decade/65-guitaramps.html)
  • First Standel transistor amplifiers.
  • First Selmer transistor amplifiers. (First one was likely the Taurus 60 that later changed its name and appearance becoming Saturn 60).
  • Likely the first all-solid-state Univox amplifier, BT505 bass, appears. The following years, Univox did produce a lot of hybrids but the all-solid-state guitar amplifier lineups were introduced as late as in 1971. http://www.univox.org/pics/catalogs/1965_amp_catalog4.jpg
  • First Baldwin transistor guitar amplifiers. Baldwin had just bought Burns so there were models under both Burns, Baldwin-Burns and Baldwin names. Since Baldwin originally had no expertice in making guitar amps it's needless to say that at first Burns practically just continued to manufacture its existing designs under the Baldwin name. (More information follows later in this thread).
  • Dallas transistor amplifiers appear.
  • Rolling Stones: "Satisfaction". This hit launches a craze for fuzz effects.

1966
  • Bud Ross founds Kustom. Ross was the head designer and founded Road Electronics when Kustom was sold. Road Electronics manufactured high quality transistor guitar amplifiers and later merged with Rickenbacker that produced a series of “Road” amplifiers. Ross has also manufactured police radars and (Ross) guitar pedals.
  • Fender releases their first solid-state amplifiers. These are designed by Bob Rissi and suffer from poor build-quality and field failures.
  • Gibson introduces the transistor GSS-series consisting of models: GSS50 (2x10" combo), GSS100 (head with two 2x10" cabinets) and Plus 50 ("slave"-style 2x10" combo amp). Daughter brand Epiphone introduces the "Maxima" amp, which is a GSS100 copy.
  • First Sears Silvertone transistor amplifiers appear (Models 1464, 1465 and 1466 Bass). These are manufactured by Danelectro. In 1968 the same line-up has inclusion of model 1463.
  • First Jordan transistor amplifiers.
  • Teneyck transistor amplifiers: The G-series. These are designed by Bob Teneyck who also worked for Ampeg (design of Gemini series plus patents for Ampeg's vibrato and tremolo) and designed for Sunn (see 1969 "Orion"). Next year (1967) the T-series of amplifiers is introduced.
  • Mosrite introduces their lineup of transistor amplifiers and fails commercially with the Award BG-500 “The Ventures” model..
  • First solid-state Triumph amplifiers appear.

1967
  • The Popular Electronics magazine introduces many popular and influential kits: i.e. M/M/M Instrument Amplifier.
  • Likely the first transistor Premier amplifiers are introduced. (i.e Model 5530)
  • First all-transistor Magnatone amplifiers appear.
  • Baldwin buys Gretsch.

1968
  • RCA releases application notes describing quasi-complementary and differential input stage topologies. These are highly influential and give a start for numerous small (and bigger) companies manufacturing transistor guitar amplifiers.
  • Transonic line-up from Rickenbacker: These were also designed by Bob Rissi (designer of first SS Fender amps). However, this time most mistakes of Fenders are corrected. Transonic amplifiers are high quality but fail to catch large success; they are endorsed by Steppenwolf and used by Led Zeppelin (US tour) and Jeff Beck. Rissi continues to design and build guitar amplifiers in Risson. Today Risson makes “boutique” tube gear but assumably the first amplifiers (in 70’s) were solid state.
  • First Acoustic Control Corporation transistor amplifiers are introduced. Acoustic’s designers, employees and founders are fairly well known: Steven Marks and Harvey Gerst, Russ Allee and Roger Smith (the duo later found Amplified Music Products or AMP), Steven Rabe (later found SWR), Gene Cerwinski (later founder of Cerwin-Vega) and Aspen Pittman (sales, later found Groove Tubes) are few of the most famous.
  • GMT 226A, designed by Bob Gallien, is the first instrument amplifier that uses a stacked power transistor configuration (“cascode” or “beanstalk”). The following year Carlos Santana uses the amplifier in Woodstock.
  • Tommy Gumina founds Polytone.

1969
  • First solid-state Sunn amplifier “Orion” is designed by Bob Teneyck. This amplifier is endorsed by Jimi Hendrix but proves to be a commercial disappointment due to many field failures. The following Sunn transistor amplifiers are designed by Dick MacCloud from Tektronics.
  • Fender SS Super Showman. Interesting is the fact that this was designed by Seth Lover, the inventor of humbucking pickup (and the P.A.F.-type as well). The former employee of Gibson was hired by Fender in 1967.
  • Ovation and Lawrence transistor amplifiers appear.
  • Anthony Leo's article in Electronics Australia introduces Playmaster 125 (PM125), another SS guitar amplifier kit. http://ozvalveamps.elands.com/playmaster/pm125-1pcase.jpg

The 70’s:
1970
  • (possibly?) Sears Silvertone "slant control panel" SS guitar amplifier models 1422 (originally tube), 1423, 1425, 1426, 1428 and 1431 are introduced. These are last Sears Silvertone guitar amplifiers, basically bargain bin quality and not manufactured by Danelectro. The Silvertone brand name eventually died after 1972.
  • Kustom establishes a daughter brand of amplifiers called Kasino. Daughter brands such as Krossroad or Woodson are established later. While Plush/Earth Sound Research amplifiers bear cosmetic resemblance to Kustom's products they were actually clones of Fender or Peavey tube amplifiers.

1971

1973
  • First transistor Marshall amplifiers. These are JMP-series: 1994 Slave, 2077 Bass 100 and 2078 Lead 100 Combo. They are followed by more JMP-series amplifiers in 1975/6: 2098 Master Lead, 2099 Bass, 2195 Lead & Bass, 2196 Lead & Bass, 2199 Master Lead Combo, 2200 Lead Combo, 2201 Lead & Bass and 2299 Master Lead Reverb. Any information on who were the designers?

1974
  • GMT 200G is the first channel-switching amplifier
  • Unicord (Univox) introduces "Mobile Ohm" series that are equipped with load impedance selector and E.S.P (Electric Short Proof) short-circuit protection. Models: U-130 Bass, U-130L Lead, U-130PA, U-200L Lead, U-200B Bass and U-600PA. http://www.univox.org/pics/amps/u130pa.jpg

1975
  • Roland’s Jazz Chorus line-up is introduced. During the years, Roland has released at least eight or nine new versions of this amplifier - some completely different from another. Their website hints that the real model name is depicted as JC-120-xxx, where xxx is an obscure letter code not explained anywhere (i.e. JT, U, UT). Anyone has more info?
  • Marshall releases first transistor heads.

1976
  • The concept of rail-switching amplifier (class G) is introduced and used next year by Hitachi.

1977
  • Sunn Beta series is the first commercial product utilizing overdriven Logic IC stages. (Fairchild app notes discussed the concept already in 1973). The amplifier also uses IC switching circuitry instead of FETs. Any info on the designers? The "logic inverter distortion" circuit is later (1978) popularized by an article written by Craig Anderton (before his book) and used in Electro-Harmonix "Hot Tubes" pedal.
  • Unicord (Univox) introduces "Stage" amplifiers (1977 - 1980): Models 25 Lead, 65, 65B, 252 Bass, 450, 400/112, 400/210, 720/115, 720/212, 720/410, 720K (keyboard), 750B (Bass) and 740P (PA). In some cases the second number marked the speaker configuration. http://www.univox.org/pics/amps/stage_720.jpg
  • Norlin launches a line-up of Lab Series amplifiers and the next year (1980) Lab 2 Series. These are designed by a small group of people from Moog (a division of Norlin). Norlin also releases entry level line-up named "Genesis". One of the co-designers in "Lab Series" team is Dan Pearce who later starts his own company "Pearce Amplifier Systems" that builds high quality transistor amplifiers (i.e. G1 and G2R). See later section of this thread for further details. http://www.moogce.com/images/lab1.gif

The 80’s and 90’s:

  • This is the real dawn of tube pre - SS power amp -style hybrids. Products like "Legend" amplifiers or Lab Gruppen's "AXE Amp" are preferred by artists such Johnny Winter or ZZ Top.
  • Westbury amplifiers (ca. 1980 - 1982): Westbury was the company that manufactured the late Univox SS amplifier models for the Unicord company. Essentially, Westbury amplifiers just "replaced" the Unicord "Stage" amplifier line-up of the late 70's. Models were W250 Lead, W255/110, W250/115, W550 Lead, W555 Bass, W1000 Lead, W1000-M “Mini-Lead”, W1000-MF “Mini-Lead” with Fane speaker, W1005, W1005 Bass and Model 1000 Dual-Voiced Reverb Twin. http://www.univox.org/pics/amps/westbury_amp.jpg
  • TUSC "programmable tube amplifiers" (ca. 1981): These were hybrids that had a tube-based power amplifier stage. The interesting thing is that these were likely the first guitar amplifiers with DSP-based preamplifier that was able to store knob positions to switchable patches.
  • Rivera amplifiers: During his career Paul Rivera has done design work for Fender - and not only with tube gear: Transistor amplifiers like Yale, Montreaux and Studio Lead are some of his designs. Rivera has also designed amplifiers for Yamaha (G-100) and Pignose.
  • The dawn of various “tube emulation” circuits introduced by designers such as John Murphy (Carvin), Eric Pritchard (PRS & Pritchard), Sondermeyer (Peavey).
  • Early modelling and DSP amplifiers. Information?
  • Tom Scholz introduces the Walk-man inspired "Rockman" headphone guitar amplifier in 1982.
  • Tech21 introduces SansAmp in 189.


Note: Plenty of the stuff presented above is based on hearsay or to history presented by companies so its accuracy is highly questioned. For example, many companies like to claim they did or invented something first. In most cases this is far from the truth. Please doublecheck all the contributed information (oe at least try to).

I have tried to keep up a detailed list of amp manufacturers up to early 1970's. I consider these companies as sort of "pioneers". In circa 1968 many application notes describing efficient and moderately inexpensive amplifier circuits were released to boost up sales of new transistor models. This caused the amount of SS amplifier manufacturers to skyrocket. Past this point it is pretty difficult to keep any track of the various companies.

October 2002 - Blue Tone Amplifiers intorduce the PRO 30M - the best sounding solid state amp ever produced, used by Pete Townshend, Uli Jon Roth etc etc - most Guitar mags rated it the best they'd heard.  nO LONGER IN PRODUCTION....SHAME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgGA6qx2NzQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN2To3CSuGE&feature=related

What do you think!?
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steve1564

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2009, 02:46:35 AM »

you wouldn't know who would have a schematic for a univox model 65??? mine has three input jacks, 5 knobs (volume, CLIPPING, bass, treble, and reverb). 2 footswitch jacks in back. board has 12 transistors while  what looks to be 2 power transistors(or mosfets?) off board???? some people call them  model U65RD, but it only says model 65 on back! the mother board has model S-65! thank you ! AXE

while i dont have the schematic i am playing the amp right now (between keystrokes) it was the first amp i ever got. i bought it brand new at about 1977/78 at Mathew Music at roosevelt field mall. i crank up the clipping and the reverb and it still sounds so good. i plug in my guitar,mic, and drum machine and im good to go. i have written 100`s of songs on this amp. its the Model 65 50 watts 117volts. do you have this amp as well.i wish i still had the STAGE sign that was on the fron of the amp  how can you tell which 65 it is? mine just says model 65 on the back.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2009, 02:53:02 AM by steve1564 »
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J M Fahey

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2010, 10:03:40 PM »

Blue tones are great.
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drobinson9

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #21 on: March 14, 2011, 03:56:29 PM »

Does anyone think that if the Blue Tone Pro 30M was available again, it would achieve greater success? I hear Santana uses one for recording?  Check out his interview in Guitar Player, November 2010!

I think it would be more successful now that everyone has become so used to dealing via the internet. There is still, I think, a demand for a superior sounding SS amp, and the Blue Tone was the best of the lot
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drobinson9

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #22 on: March 14, 2011, 03:57:24 PM »

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J M Fahey

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #23 on: March 14, 2011, 07:29:56 PM »

No, I don't, but I like what I hear online, plus I "buy" his approach.
I'm a minimalist myself.
I'd rather have *one* good sound rather than 256 poor ones.
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drobinson9

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #24 on: March 15, 2011, 03:37:47 PM »

Hi,

That's me playing on the Blue Tone amps youtube clips with my old ESP strat. I sold and marketed the PRO30M. The amp was designed by Alex (who plays guitar in the same band as me. Me thinks you would've loved the new design he had before we folded it - a head that could switch between the Plexi, a vintage Vox AC30, and a Fender. Tone heaven. Ah, well.....maybe one day!
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J M Fahey

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #25 on: March 15, 2011, 03:50:55 PM »

Sounds good, but, why doesn't he just make a fresh batch of Pro30Ms and offers it to the general public?
If he had everything for them (PCBs, transformers, chassis designs, silkscreen, suppliers) which is the big initial investment, making "a few extra ones" carries a much lower individual cost, called "the marginal cost", which is very competitive.
He might even sell them just through EBay and maybe a personal page, no murky dealer and bank deals involved.
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drobinson9

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #26 on: March 15, 2011, 07:24:36 PM »

Well, getting them made became the problem! The company we used to assemble the amp decided to up sticks to China, and it was impossible, due to costs, to find a replacement. Very difficult, back then, to interest a Chinese manufacturer in 'small numbers', if you catch my drfit.

Manufacturing anything at all in the UK is a problem, as you are no doubt aware.

Anyway, years later, we both still gig our Blue Tones. Incidentally, the combo also included a line out which has to be heard to be believed. We've run our amps out of the line out straight into the PA on large stages and the sound that comes out of the PA has to be heard to be believed. Alex designed a great simulation for the line out. I'll post some examples of us playing live using the line out asap, if you're interested.
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drobinson9

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #27 on: March 15, 2011, 07:38:57 PM »

Here's a clip of the Blue Tone PRO30M live, with the line out through the PA. I'm on the strat and Alex, who designed the amp, is on the Gibson and lead vocals

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6CQ2XQ9ZZM&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL



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joecool85

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #28 on: March 16, 2011, 08:08:55 AM »

Wow, those Blue Tone amps do sound great!  Too bad they aren't made anymore...heck, even though I've been getting into building my own I'd still consider buying one of these.

What did they sell for new?
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Life is what you make it.
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J M Fahey

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Re: Solid-state guitar amplifier history -thread
« Reply #29 on: March 16, 2011, 10:08:41 AM »

Quote
Well, getting them made became the problem! The company we used to assemble the amp decided to up sticks to China, and it was impossible, due to costs, to find a replacement. Very difficult, back then, to interest a Chinese manufacturer in 'small numbers', if you catch my drfit.

Manufacturing anything at all in the UK is a problem, as you are no doubt aware.
I am well aware of that.
*There is* still some Electronics going on, strong and healthy, in UK, US, most of Europe, but on specialized niches not interesting (Industrial or Medical Electronics, etc.) or off limits (Defence) for the Oriental makers, but on consumer products, forget it !!!
Last year I checked Minimum Wages worldwide, I'm from Argentina and trying to set up shop in Brazil.
While I was at it, I checked many Countries.
China? ..... "NO minimum wage" ...  xP :loco :grr
Just like that.
*BUT* on Guangdong province, to avoid abuse by foreign companies, they set a higher, guaranteed rate:
Regular workers: 39U$ cents an hour
Specialized workers: 69U$ cents an hour
Can anybody fairly compete with that?
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