What kind of engineers make guitar amplifiers

Guitar amplifierWith the power of the tubes

Sweat, headlights, star cult: the electric guitar is an essential part of pop and rock music. She is the icon of the genre.

Jimi Hendrix is ​​considered the first iconographic electric guitarist, he developed playing techniques - and a tremendous volume. Hendrix turned up his 100-watt Marshall amplifier so that the tubes in the preamp and power amplifier reached their limits and distorted the guitar signal. The result: a completely new sound that is still valid today: "Distortion".

Rock guitarists 'fingers and rock guitar fans' ears itch at this keyword. What would rock music be without the sound of overdriven tube guitar amplifiers? And since guitar amplifiers only sound right with increasing volume, they have to be opened wide.

How it feels to be yelled at by 50 or 100 watts of a tube amplifier is difficult to describe - you have to experience the sound pressure that pumps large amounts of air to the diaphragm.

So that guitar freaks can enjoy distorting power amp tubes even at lower volumes without getting into trouble with the neighbors, manufacturers are now building guitar amplifiers with power amplifiers of 20 watts or less.

Stephan Schmitt from near Darmstadt recently strengthened himself with such a 15 watt device:

"My back doesn't get better with age, and when I drive to the test, I can basically put it around me like a handbag and don't have to carry so much around."

Large toaster and light in weight

The 42-year-old engineer has been playing guitar and other instruments in various bands for over 25 years, and he has and still has a lot of equipment. The more compact dimensions of his toaster-sized VOX amplifier and its low weight of seven kilograms were only one reason for his purchase decision.

"In the end, it was really the sound."

And Stephan Schmitt only has to make compromises in one respect with his small amplifier, he says:

"Yes, well, he can't do what I don't need either - namely, sound for entire stadiums or huge stages - he can't do that, it's no longer necessary today because: even if I perform, you would Anyway, remove the amplifier with a microphone and send it outside via the main system. "

Gregor Imbusch heads the guitar department of a large Cologne music store:

"The small amplifiers with low tube wattages are on the rise - on the one hand because the price is of course much cheaper than the large devices, on the other hand because they are more handy, although this relates more to the volume and less to the power, because even 5 or 10 or 15 watts can get pretty loud. "

The manufacturers are pursuing different concepts: Some supply 15 or 20 watt devices, such as the British manufacturers Orange, Blackstar or Vox with the "Nighttrain". Here the overall volume is set using the "master volume" control.

Others put just five watts on the stage right from the start. The company ENGL from Tittmoning in Upper Bavaria is represented on the world market with powerful bolides for the heavily distorted "high gain" sound of hard rock and heavy metal.

Dangerous for porcelain

But ENGL also has "small" amplifiers in its portfolio: The "Ironball" - like other devices of the latest generation - has a switch for power reduction on board, the so-called "Powersoak. 20 watts are for band rehearsals or appearances in a small club more than sufficient, but dangerous for porcelain in the living room. The power can now be reduced to 5 or even one watt using a switch. Gregor Imbusch:

"What they do is that the point of output stage compression can be reached sooner, that is, the subjective loudness is not necessarily lower, in contrast to a 50-watt amplifier or 100-watt amplifier, but it is more likely to bend its knees : the compression sets in, and with it the output stage overdrive, and the output stage overdrive in interaction with the work of the loudspeaker creates the actual character that one expects from a tube amplifier. "

A 20-watt tube amplifier costs around 500 euros, which is a third to a half of the big ones. Interesting for many amateur and semi-professional guitarists - like Stephan Schmitt.

"In my opinion, there are actually no more arguments in favor of a large amplifier. We have a very loud drummer who is the only one who plays unamplified and sets the volume, and with this amplifier I can play with the drummer in a relaxed manner and we can hear both of us."

Professional guitarists, however, will continue to use large amplifiers. Because in addition to the larger wallet, presentation is very important in the macho rock music industry - the choice of amplifier is a statement before a note has even been played. But whether professionals or hobby musicians: they just all want to: play. And distortion is a part of good form! Also at home.