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December 2014
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Builder Profile: Mercury Magnetics

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Builder Profile: Mercury Magnetics

What about Axiom transformers? Where do they fit in?

The Axiom transformer line takes over where the limitations of vintage transformer design ended. No bean counters here—simply the sincere pursuit of answering the age-old question: What if there were no constraints on budget, time, or material quality to achieve the best possible performance? That’s our objective with the Axiom line.


Mercury's Axiom MAR100-P transformer compared to the original Marshall iron

Axiom transformer designs represent many new approaches—new tone with the best materials and designs money can buy, so they’re not intended for the timid or the low-budget crowd. Check out our FatStacks and SuperStacks for the Marshall DSL and TSL families for interesting comparisons.

Mercury’s vintage transformer restoration service has been gaining a reputation for quality work. Why would someone want to restore a transformer instead of replacing it? And vise-versa?

Some vintage amp owners prefer to pay the extra cost of our restoration services, because it’s very important to them that their amps retain authenticity. Collectables or rarities are valuable. They’re of the “why take chances” mind. The high road. But on the flip side, we have pro musicians who insist on touring with their vintage gear. To play it safe, and not sacrifice the tone of their original transformers, they have their techs replace the stock transformers with Mercurys. By doing this, they preserve the original transformers from road abuse while taking advantage of our reputation for tone, durability, and warranty. Restoration of vintage transformers is a tricky and highly specialized art. Sadly, too many of the great originals have been lost forever due to technically inept and musically disinterested people. We see attempts at “rewinds” here all the time.

Occasionally, it appears some people confuse “demolition” with “restoration,” and the preservation of the original tone is lost forever. There’s no shortcut to doing a proper restoration.

I understand you’re doing all of your labor and get all of your materials in the USA. How does that impact your business aside from just the straight costs?

Well, we figured that someone has to do it—and we really do make everything here with 100 percent American materials. There are plenty of products out there stamped with “Made in the USA,” but are actually assembled with non-USA, low-price materials. But yeah, we’re the real deal and proud of it.

Building transformers that make an amp sound good requires highly specialized technologies, highly skilled labor, and the right kind of materials. We love music and owe it to the players out there to do all the work “in-house,” so we can keep tight control over every aspect of our transformer designs. It’s really old-school military spec style, so our transformers don’t vary at all from batch to batch. If you need a replacement transformer 10 years from now, it’ll sound exactly the same as the one it’s replacing.

We’re hard-liners when it comes to not playing shell games with a musician’s hard earned dough and quest for better tone. Perhaps I’m a fool for doing it this way, but I was brought up in a musically minded family. From a very early age, I was taught that music is as important and necessary as food. If there is a day our services are no longer needed or appreciated, I’ll pursue my dream of owning a car wash in the valley, and get into the business of making money.

Any new or exciting projects in the works at Mercury?

Yes, but we’re planning on releasing the news sometime around summer. For quite some time, we’ve been fielding requests for accessories to accompany our transformer line. We’re being asked to apply our know-how to other aspects of guitar amps.

Do you have any advice for guitar players and techs in their quest for tone?

Don’t let anybody fool you—every player has the ability to discern the difference between good or bad tone. Unfortunately, there are a few too many self-styled “experts” who irresponsibly dispense advice without having a clue. As a result, we’ve all seen amps completely lose their tone by being modded to death.

There’s no excuse for the old “damn, I’ve done it this way for many years so it must be right” mentality. More than ever, it’s so easy to seek opinion, advice, and help online and elsewhere. I highly recommend the old textbooks from the 1950s and 1960s as a good place to start on vacuum tube audio circuits.

Do your homework and follow what the smart players are doing—improving your tone isn’t that elusive. If what you have sounds good to you, leave it alone. But if you know your amp’s tone could use some improvement, then start where it begins … the transformers.
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