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Many of your customers are influenced by Robben Ford and Larry Carlton. Is that where you’re coming from as a guitarist?
In the ’80s, I was in a punk band and wanted to be a rock star like everyone else. We did a record with Alternative Tentacles, who were on the Dead Kennedys’ label. That’s a far cry from Larry Carlton. But I always dug Carlton and guys like Al Di Meola—fiery guitar players. Many guitarists who use our amps play rock or blues. They just don’t have that many clips up on our website.
It starts with the low-wattage offerings like the Lite 18, which only has a volume and tone control, and its juiced-up sibling, the Dirty 18. Then there’s the Foxy 18—which is like an AC15, but with more power and tonal control—and the higher-gain Wreck Lite, which has Treble, Mid, and Bass controls.
In the 30-watt range, we have the Foxy 33, Lite 33, Foxy 2+2, and Space Cadet. The Foxy 2+2 is unique: It has a single set of controls, but two separate preamp stages driven by either a 12AX7 or an EF86 tube, and two power stages driven by a pair of EL84s or a pair of EL34s that you can switch between or combine. The Space Cadet runs a pair of EL34s at about 35 watts and has reverb. They’re all single-channel amps that you crank up and control with your picking dynamics and guitar’s volume knob.
Then there’s the D’Lite 22/33, which can switch between a pair of 6V6s at 22 watts or a pair of 6L6s at 33 watts, the D’Lite 44 GTO, which has more power and can run 6V6, 6L6, or EL34s. The D’Lite Blue Monkey 44 is a nod to the Overdrive Special Bluesmaster. It has a bouncy, low-headroom American clean tone, and an overdrive tone that can go from a Texas purr to a Brit-like screaming lead. At the New York Amp Show, we introduced the ODR 100, a 100-watt reverb head. These amps have footswitchable Clean, Overdrive, and Boost controls. They also include a passive effects loop with no send and return level controls. If you want to add active controls, our tube-buffered Little Dummy effects-loop unit has send and return levels, as well as a bright control that can be useful for shaping EQ and overdrive character. It can also drive the effects loop signal down long cable runs to and from a pedalboard. We can also build the tube effects loop into an amp.
If money and resale value were not issues and someone wanted that sound, should they choose a Dumble or a Brown Note D-style amp?
That’s a valid question. Several of my customers own Dumbles and also have Brown Note amps because they like them and because they can leave their Dumbles at home. What makes this amp better than that amp? With any amp, we’re all working with the same tools. You’re either going to be influenced by the marketing, the website, the clips, or you have a friend that recommends it. Besides all that, people are pretty intuitive. If you can call and talk to somebody and have a custom-made amp tailored to your specific needs, that might be a factor in your decision. I remember reading about Dumbles in the early ’80s and thinking, “What is that all about?” Then I had the opportunity to hear one, and I thought, “Man, that doesn’t sound anything like I thought it would.” I had my 1971 Marshall Super Bass 100 and, to me, that was it. There’s no doubt that Dumbles are awesome, but it could also be the case that you don’t dig that sound. Maybe you’re more of a 50-watt Marshall guy.
A Brown Note D’Lite Blue Monkey 88 Reverb head and Celestion G12-65-loaded 1x12 AdLib cab, Lite 18 head with a Vintage Compact 1x12 cab loaded with a Celestion G12M, a D’Lite44 ODE with a Compact cab featuring a Celestion G12-65, and a Foxy 33 head and Compact cab with a Tone Tubby Alnico speaker.
I know there are a lot of amps that should probably be on this list that I haven’t played, but based on personal experience, some great amps are the Ampeg G12, Bogen CHB- 10A, Burman Pro 502, Dumble Overdrive Deluxe, Fender Super Champ, Fender 6G9 Tremolux, Fender 6G11 Vibrolux, Magnatone 421, Magnatone 460, Marshall Super Bass 100, Masco MA-25, Selmer Zodiac Twin 30, and the Trainwreck Rocket.
Where do you stand on the point-to-point versus printed circuit board debate?
I’m not a real Nazi about that stuff. If you do it right, straight point-to-point can be really awesome, but I have nothing against printed circuit boards. We use everything—point-to-point, tag board layout, turret boards, eyelet boards, and PCB boards. What we do with the PCB board—and this makes all the difference— is use a board that is 1/8" thick. It’s completely rigid and has the tracers and circuitry basically embedded in it. And on top of that, it has the eyelet, so you have a really solid anchor for the components to attach to. That’s just bulletproof.