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The Sommatone showroom is well stocked with a variety of combos and half-stacks in varying wattage and covering options. Photo by Michael Ross
I can’t understand the mentality where a guy will drop crazy money on a goldtop or a ’59 Les Paul reissue and then play it through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. The amp is a bigger part of the equation. A ’59 Les Paul through a transistor amp is going to sound like a Les Paul through a transistor amp. But put an Epiphone through an amazing tube amp, and that guitar will sound really good.
What is the essential difference between your amps and the other custom amps out there?
The layout and the construction. A lot of manufacturers are doing a massaged kit. They’ll use a chassis from a kit supplier and basically make a Marshall or Fender. In the process of doing repairs, we’ll often open up “custom” amps and see another Fender or Vox clone with a different logo on it. We design our own chassis and a sheet metal company manufactures them for us. Most of our amps have true point-to-point wiring, as opposed to using a tag board. It is all about the purity of the signal path and having as little as possible in the circuit that is going to denigrate the tone and the sensitivity. When you have lengths of wire running close to one another you get interaction, even though there’s no contact. Your signal is not pure. So, where the components are located, how the wires are run, and keeping the links as short as possible are all important.
Does this affect the sound or the feel?
Both. A lot of times when you play through an old amp and push it hard, you’ll hear buzziness on top of the note—a shrillness. You can dial that out, but it shouldn’t be there to begin with. That’s parasitic oscillation. You don’t hear it as amp noise, but when you’re playing, it’s present as an impurity. A well-designed amp takes out those impurities and gives you this perfect sonic character. That’s the difference between a mass-produced amp with a PC board and someone who is paying attention to detail and designing the amp for perfection.
Do you have dealers where people can check out your amps?
Yes. You can find a list of dealers at sommatone.com. We’re actively expanding our dealer base because, ultimately, for people to hear the difference in our amps, they need to be able to play through them.