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When and why did you go from modding amps to building them?
In the early 2000s, Marshall had a pretty substantial price increase, and that turned some customers off. So, I started sourcing out parts and building my own amps from scratch. The first amps with my name on them came out in 2004.
Are all your amps all-tube?
They’re absolutely all-tube. Some other makers use diode-clipping distortion in their amps, but I find that all-tube distortion has a more organic feel, with greater harmonic content.
What components go into a Splawn amp?
When I first started modding amps, I went through a lot of different brands of capacitors and resistors to find the components that sounded best to my ear. I don’t want to give away our brands, but I use the same parts in my own amps. We’ve stuck with all the same components since we started to try to keep the amps as consistent as possible. We don’t cut any corners. It doesn’t matter if they go up in price, we just have to keep using what we know to be the best parts we can get our hands on, since they contribute so much to the sound. I also use Heyboer transformers. They’re the secret weapon—most of my tone comes from those transformers, and they’re also a great company to do business with.
Are your circuit boards point-to-point or printed?
Our amps feature both types of circuit board. From years of doing mods, I’ve learned that to get the sound I want, all of the critical gain stages have to be point-to-point. But for some of the switching circuits, power sections, etc., we use printed circuit boards, which don’t detract from the tone and are a lot more durable out there in the field. Printed circuit boards can also save a lot of time—something that’s crucial when your operation is as small as mine.
Electrical tech Josh Mauldin solders a PC board.
Brian Einsiger wires a 4x12 cab after having applied the Tolex covering.
How small is your shop?
Four people, including myself—the same crew since the beginning. I have one guy who helps me in the shop, stuffing and soldering the boards. I do the rest of the wiring, all by hand, and test the amp through the burn-in process—all of which takes me about six hours of work per amp. And I’ve got two guys in our shop’s cabinet section: one who does the woodworking and another who does the finishing work with Tolex.
How many total hours go into making a Splawn?
It’s difficult to say, since we’re four people working on different amps at the same time, but I would estimate that about 12 hours of work go into each amp, cabinet included. It takes us so long because we don’t use any amp kits. Everything’s done by hand, and all of the sockets and switches are chassis mounted—there’s nothing board mounted. It’s a time-honored technique that’s worked really well for us. We seldom hear about problems with our amps.