After talking with Trevor Byers about the process of creating his two new amps, I was lucky enough to get some time to play on them. Since the Model 10 that was available was the first one off the line, and the K&F Reproduction amp was a prototype, I did not attempt a full testing of them. However, I did bring my 1987 hardtail Tom Anderson over and got a preliminary listen to the sounds available from these two models.
To start, it must be stated that the Model 10 is a beautiful amplifier – if your favorite custom guitar builder built an amp, it would look like this. The fit and finish are worthy of BMW from top to bottom; the finish in particular is so deep and pretty that the first thing I would buy for one of these is a good case! The design of the cabinet is graceful and stylish, managing to look both jet age and a bit art deco at the same time. Byers avoided every cliché of how amps traditionally look, and the result is something that would look good even in your living room. The amp is the result of good aesthetic design applied to musical gear – something I don’t see very often.
The Model 10 is clear and detailed in the way that only minimal circuit paths can be. Set clean, with the tone controls engaged and the feedback loop in, the amp is almost more blackface than an original blackface – think of a blackface Fender built by a top pro-audio company. The highs and lows are well-balanced, the tone circuits do what you wish they would, and the result is a sound that makes you want to play more. Turn off the feedback loop and things get woollier and more tweed-like. Switch off the tone controls and the amp gets a more aggressive, throaty attitude going. Add a bit of boost or a good pedal and you will find the secret behind many classic recordings: a small amp, when cranked, sounds huge and no one goes deaf.
Trevor Byers pays equal attention to every part of the amp. He clearly understands that there is more to a great amp than just component selection, circuit design and layout, or just speakers and wiring. A great amp is made through every single decision and design choice.
Byers has an ear for amp building, and that is why the amp sounds great. Great sounding gear only comes from companies with great ears – it can happen no other way. It is getting harder and harder to stand out from the crowd when building guitar amps because there are many great amps being built. To stand out today takes vision, skill, and dedication; Trevor Byers and the Byers Model 10 have these qualities.
The K&F reproduction amp is totally different from the Model 10 and totally different from almost anything I have ever heard. It has a rare, unique tone that reminded me of one of my first amps – a Hammond organ amp with heavy modifications that had a charming sort of sound. The K&F is a bit like that. It is very big and a bit wooly-sounding, yet not muffled or dull at all – I can almost hear Charlie Christian playing one. Surprisingly, the K&F sounds pretty powerful when you push it hard.
I suspect that today’s players will find musical uses for this tone in the same way that new songs seem to come flying out of the first National Tricone you spend an hour with. The dedication and research that went into reproducing this amp is impressive, and it should become an instant collectible.