So how many amps do you average
Around five or so.
Would you ever consider selling Splawn
amp kits to those who’re electronically
No, because of the liability involved and
also, to do it right, I’d want to be available
to answer any questions that customers
might have about assembling their kits.
Between designing and building the amps
and all of my other responsibilities, like
paying bills and ordering parts, unfortunately
I don’t have the time for that.
What’s it been like to work in North
Carolina, a great distance from any major
It feels good, since it’s where I grew up
and where I got started playing music and
working on amps. The cost of living is
pretty low, so I don’t have to worry about
overhead like some makers do. But it is
hard being away from the big scene—I
don’t have the advantages I might in a
place like LA, where there’d be big-name
players dropping in all the time. And,
being such a small company, it’s not feasible
at this point for me to go to a trade
show like NAMM. I can’t afford the time
away from the shop, because we’re constantly
Speaking of the Carolinas, home to so
many auto sports, your amps all have
names evocative of cars.
Yes, all my amp model names come from
drag racing. I’ve always been into that
sport. My older brother did it for a long
time and that left quite an impression on
me. I also see a connection between hot-rodded
amps and drag cars: both are very
loud and powerful machines.
The 40-watt Street Rod is a combo version of the Quick Rod
that features a 12" Eminence Small Block speaker.
Tell us more about the whole product line.
All of our amps are based on the same
Marshall head-and-cabinet platform that
got me noticed in the first place. Our first
amp was called the Quick Rod, and it’s our
most popular model to this day. It’s a 100-
watt, 2-channel, hot-rodded ’80s-sounding
amp. The overdrive channel has three positions,
which I call Gears, to go along with
the automotive theme. There’s first gear,
Hot Rod Plexi; second gear, Hot Rod 800;
and third gear, Super Hot Rod 800. On all
the amps, there are footswitchable lead and
rhythm sounds, and a solo boost with its
own Volume control.
A newer amp of ours is called the Nitro.
It’s basically set up the same way as the
Quick Rod, but voiced to have more low
end, more gain, and less midrange to suit
the modern metal player. A lot of guitarists
have been asking for smaller versions
of our amps, so we recently came out with
the Street Rod—basically, a 40-watt combo
version of the Quick Rod with a single 12"
speaker. It has been really well received.
Our other amps, such as the Competition
and the Pro Stock, are basically just
stripped-down, single-channel versions of
the Quick Rod and the Street Rod.
What types of new amps do you envision
adding to the line?
We’re currently working on a new type
of multi-channel head, as well as some
combo versions of various amps.
I noticed that none of your amps have
We don’t do any effects. We just make
straight-up amps and aim to get the best
raw sound we can. We don’t want players
to be stuck with whatever effects we put in
an amp. But since so many guitarists these
days use outboard processing for electronic
sounds, we put effects loops in our amps.
How would you describe that “best raw
It’s got a lot of midrange. It cuts through
the mix really well. It’s very dynamic, and
it reacts sensitively to different pickups,
guitars, and speakers. What you put into a
Splawn amp is what you get out. If you play
hard, it’ll growl at you. If you lighten up,
it’ll obey you. When you roll your guitar’s
volume knob back on the overdrive channel,
the sound cleans up really well. Splawn amps
have definitely got their own thing going
on—they don’t sound like anything else.
This incarnation of the Splawn Quick Rod
features classic plexi styling.
What sorts of players are Splawn amps
While we’ve got guitarists of all styles using
our amps, they’re designed with the heavier
player in mind. The Quick Rod, for instance,
is ideal for copping the sort of sound that
someone like Eddie Van Halen, George
Lynch, or Warren DeMartini had in the
1980s. But any of our amps will work for a
more modern sound as well. Tony Rombola
of Godsmack, for instance, has recorded
with both a Nitro and a Quick Rod.
Have you redesigned your amps at all
based on player input?
Yes. Once our amps caught on, we learned
that a lot of players didn’t actually get to use
them for what they were designed for—loud
music in big spaces. So we’ve made the
amps more manageable at lower volumes
for guitarists who play in smaller clubs or
even just at home. To do that, we’ve made a
very small adjustment—we added a volume
control on the effects loop.
How do you feel about amp modeling?
It has come a long way in the last few years,
but to my ear there’s still nothing out there
that comes close to replicating the responsiveness
and harmonic content of a real tube
amplifier. I’m not saying there won’t be,
there just hasn’t been anything yet. There’s
still nothing like a tube amp, and I hope for
our sake it stays that way.