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Author Topic: Boutique Solid State Amp?  (Read 9908 times)

elwood

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Boutique Solid State Amp?
« on: February 25, 2008, 01:16:06 PM »

I'm very happy to have stumbled upon this forum. Having grown up in the 80s and learned about electronics long after tubes were in museums, it's great to find others who are interested in solid state amps! I've been working in the electronics business for a few years now mostly doing designs of non-music stuff. Due to sheer boredom and the desire to make musical instruments I've started working on some designs for guitar electronics. My main project is a highly portable 1x12" combo amp with a number of interesting features. I hope to make this into a "boutique" product as a side business to support my hobby.

Strangely enough as much as I love modern electronics, I got roped into the tube craze when I bought my current guitar amplifier. (a Fender Hotrod Deluxe) It really isn't all the great as a practical amplifier. It's too loud for practising, (which I've mostly solved with an attenuator in the effect loop... the speaker attenuator I built doesn't seem to sound as good) doesn't have a headphone jack, has a spring reverb (which I hate the sound of) and generally has a very small range of usable tones. (not good for an eclectic musician) Also, I can't ignore the fact that it weighs 45 lbs and is terribly inefficient.

So when starting to design my amp I pretty much ruled out a tube power amp due to weight and size. And then that left the choice of a tube vs. solid state preamp. I built a little tube test system for quickly (and safely) setting up circuits with a pair of 12AX7s. My ear tells me after a lot of experiments that I don't necessarily like the tube sound better. I've got some fairly good sounding preamp circuits working with opamps, and a nice small hardwood ply open-back box with an Eminence Lil' Texas (neodymium magnet) speaker inside.

My question for you all is this:

Can a solid state amp work as a boutique, high-end product? Would you pay $1000-1500 for a low-run, great solid state combo amp that has exceptional sound and features?

Since I've designed a lot of commercial stuff, I can't think of a hobby project as a one-off anymore. Instead I want to build stuff that other people will want to purchase and enjoy. It all seems more worthwhile that way.

All comments are greatly appreciated!
« Last Edit: February 25, 2008, 01:22:47 PM by elwood »
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teemuk

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Re: Boutique Solid State Amp?
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2008, 02:13:16 PM »

Well, for example, the list prices of Pritchard's boutique solid-state amps are approximately in the range of 2000$ and they have been received well and get many rave reviews so it's not a totally crazy idea. Personally, I wouldn't have the guts to take the risk at boutique market but yes, it can work if your business instincts are good, as well as your products. You also need an excellent marketing plan and a lot of "visibility" and reputation. People don't buy boutique amps at a high price unless they feel that they are buying something special.

Anyway, I regard good guitar amp as a good guitar amp whether it's based on tubes, solid-state or switching solid-state and I'm not the only one who thinks this way. But I also do feel that chances in the boutique market are better if you sell tube amps because they have their undeniable reputation that appeals to greater amount of potential customers.

I wouldn't buy your amp but that's mainly because I prefer building my own. ;D

Welcome to the forum.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2008, 02:17:14 PM by teemuk »
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elwood

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Re: Boutique Solid State Amp?
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2008, 05:48:13 PM »

Hey teemuk,

Thanks for your comments. BTW, I've been looking through your amplifier book and it's fantastic! A lot of hard work putting that together I'm sure, but it certainly does have a lot of great stuff. Judging by your understanding of audio circuits I wouldn't expect you to buy my amp. :)

Maybe it's a foolish dream to want to make a living building musical equipment, but I figure I'll start by making the kind of amp that I wish I could buy, and then see who else is interested. My approach in designing technology (which I do in non-musical areas as a job) has always tended to focus on the end user, features (or lack thereof), and how it solves problems or offers capabilities that haven't been possible before or weren't easy. Which is why I'm sorry that so many guitarists choose to prefer one type of technology over another instead of looking at what a piece of equipment will *do* for them as a tool for making better/new sounds.

Marketing.... now that's something I have to work on....
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GaryM

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Re: Boutique Solid State Amp?
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2008, 08:26:30 PM »

If you had an amp design that would win in a "blindfold test" with other amps, I believe you could sell that boutique solid state amp. "Build a better mouse trap and the world will run to your door." Leo Fender and Les Paul both did it. Boutique pedal builders are doing business selling tweaked classic designs and originals models. With YouTube, you could share demos with the world.

Aim high & best of luck.

Gary
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noobiePT

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Re: Boutique Solid State Amp?
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2008, 08:08:33 PM »

take in mind that it isnt just about making a good amp, other aspects are such as importance(well, at least for selling porposes) like the looks of the amp, your homesite, your costumer service... alot of stuff actually  ;)
but anyway, go for it! theres nothing like going after a dream and achieving it  :tu:
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mad hatter

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Re: Boutique Solid State Amp?
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2008, 12:10:28 AM »

http://www.redstoneaudio.com/products.html#AcousticImage

Acoustic Image amps are a fav. among jazz musicians and people wanting a pristine clean sound.
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darwindeathcat

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Re: Boutique Solid State Amp?
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2008, 01:30:10 PM »

Hey, search out 'blue tone" amplifiers... they are successfully doing what you want to do...
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metalhead

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Re: Boutique Solid State Amp?
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2008, 03:05:40 AM »

How to target your perfect customer:
I often ask from myself why some manufacturers are trying to sell and design SS amps evenly to all styles and level of players (Jack of all trades, master of none) instead of targeting to a better end result by focusing their efforts to a more specific customer group and a design to suit that groups demands(excluding obvious beginners market:-cheaply made practise amps xP).Certain type of players with specific style, attitude and opinions wouldn't touch a solid state amp with a stick.So..who is going to buy the amp? a beginner or a semipro or Professional player.Boutique SS amps are used by professionals, they can afford them.Do country or Jazz player need a high gain distortion? What are the design parameters?

It is obvious that the main (!!!)target users are Jazz, Extreme Metal and Country players.Among those are the volume users.Some potential in acoustic amps , even amps intented to STICK players (even more specific group/less customers) and alike. 
Jazz amps like : JazzCat, Polytone, Henrikson,AER, AI,Evans etc. are targeted to that customer group and designed to meet their demands. Same with metal amps(Randall,Madison,B 52 etc..) and Peavey Nashville is THE Steel guitar amp; just check Steel Guitar Forum. The amp must have a certain image to identify it with the customer.
You need some name players(!!) to use your amp to make it marketable, many examples of this in the real world, if Pro's arent using it, its not a PRO level amp.
In design stages it would be good to have feedback from pro players, if they dont like it nobody else will.What are the features they dont like? Could those be improved?Check Pritchard interviews (Al Dimeola and Santana comments).
It takes about a minute to form an opinion of the amp when trying it out. If it makes an impression; OK.... if not ; no sale.
And it wouldnt hurt to A/B test it with the competition including popular tube amps.

Tough competion; Pritchard and Blue Tone(Boutique amps)and Peavey transtube, Crate(VTX series, GT 3500), all those jazz amps,.....
if you dont offer something better(!) or different and innovative that is allready there, and remember they have a NAME (and reputation) and experience behind them,you are fighting a losing battle.
On the other hand; if you really have something unique; wellcome! make it happen !!
« Last Edit: September 30, 2008, 02:51:16 AM by metalhead »
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