A scenario: You live near a busy highway. The noise outside your apartment/flat bugs you, but you get used to it. When your lease is up you move a few blocks away, and man, it seems a lot quieter.
Years later you move to the country, beyond the suburbs, and the first day there you think, wow, it’s so quiet. But then as the weeks pass and you get used to the quiet, you start hearing all these beautiful sounds that you never had a chance to hear before.
THAT is what it’s like to hear so-called “boutique” amps.
I wonder if we’re all so used to the Chinese-made crap these days that when we finally hear a China amp at a big box store that sounds halfway decent, we’re like: Wow! Nice amp! And for only $800….
But without “moving to the country” – in this case meaning hearing American-made (or country of your residence-made) amps – you have no freakin’ idea what you’re missing. Really. And that is the simple genius of the Amp Show.
At the Amp Show – the 5th Annual New York/New Jersey version of which will be this weekend – you go from room to room with your favorite axe strapped to your back, in anticipation of plugging in and hearing and feeling heretofore unheard sonic bliss.
Yes, bliss. It’s amazing!
I seriously can’t wait. I wish – oh do I wish – I had a budget in the mid- to high four figures to pick up a few choice examples of…well, I was going to say engineering, and I’m sure that’s true, but I’d prefer to call it craftsmanship because that’s what it is.
Even though I only write up a comparative few amp builders after each year’s Amp Show, I honestly can’t recall playing an amp at an Amp Show that sounded anything less than good. It’s more like hearing variations of great, just what floats your particular boat.
I’ll add that every year someone(s) has a new amp at the Amp Show. In fact, heard tell that one manufacturer this year will have handmade replicas (maybe not the right word) of a very rare Fender amp that a guy whose ears I respect said was “the best small amp ever made.”
Not going to take the shine off his announcement, so you’ll have to go or read about it here afterwards.
Amp Shows by their nature can’t happen everywhere. So unless you live in New York, Nashville or Los Angeles, you may be SOL. Sorta.
Here’s what I recommend instead:
> If you can find a local or semi-local small-production (hand-built) amp manufacturer, see if you can visit them. If you can, you’ll likely hear more great tone and learn more about amps than you could in 1,000 trips to any big-box music store.
> Network through friends or folks in local bands or at local guitar stores to find other gear-heads with good (usually older) mass-produced amps and/or boutique amps. Get folks and their amps together, order up some beer and have at it. Your mind and ears will be opened.
Hey, big box stores aren’t evil (not always, anyway), and Chinese amps aren’t either. But we’re talking about tone of the Woody variety here, and small-shop amps are where it’s at. If you don’t believe me, try it. You’ll dig it fo sho.
Check back next week for the full scoop on the NY/NJ Amp Show. Peace!
(Btw, no YouTube vid can do an amp 3D justice, so don’t rely on them.)
Category: Amp Show