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May 2014
more... GuitarsBuilder ProfileGearAmpsEffectsMay 2012Chase Tone

Builder Profile: Chase Tone

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Builder Profile: Chase Tone

Builder Kyle Chase with a replica 1966 Marshall stack and a late-1960s-era Fender Stratocaster repro with reverse neck, reverse pickups, and reverse-angle bridge pickup. Notice the replica gold slim vents on top of the amplifier head. Photo-by-Andy.com

There’s certainly no shortage of boutique manufacturers and DIYers offering their take on the iconic gear of guitardom. Marshall plexis from the ’60s, vintage Fender Bassmans and Strats, old Electro-Harmonix Big Muffs, and finicky Echoplexes, among many others, have served as inspiration for countless new builds and reissues. However, exact replicas are virtually impossible to produce because most of the parts that went into these instruments are now virtually impossible to source in reliably replenishable quantities. Sure, you could cannibalize a vintage workhorse if you had one lying around—and, of course, there’s the burgeoning new-oldstock (NOS) tube market for your glass fix—but generally speaking, you’re out of luck if you’re after 100 percent authenticity. That’s why you have to be prepared to shell out the big bucks when you seek out vintage classics on eBay or Craigslist. And even if you do manage to snag a vintage gem, unless it’s an über-rare, kept-in-the-attic-for-decades prize, it will likely have or need replacement components.

Enter Kyle Chase of Chase Audio, an ultra-obsessive tone freak who builds replica amps, effects, and even guitars using only NOS parts—or, when those are impossible to come by, using custom parts made to period-correct specs. Yes, NOS is Chase’s MO. In fact, he’s so intent on building authentic, museum-quality replicas that he spends exorbitant amounts of time sourcing parts that are seemingly mundane and interchangeable—like wire and fuse holders—from around the world. He’s so fastidious that it took nearly eight years to complete his first Marshall JTM45/100 replica. His other builds include replicas of Fender Champs and Strats, Vox Clyde McCoy and Grey wahs, vintage Cry Baby wahs, Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Faces, and Echoplex preamps, among many others. Because of the difficulty of finding the stuff Chase works with, he’s an underground phenomenon—you’re not likely to find information about him on forums, because only the absolute geekiest of gear freaks know of him … well, until now. His creations are finally starting to circulate. For example, his McCoy wah replica will be featured in an upcoming guitar-tone instructional DVD by Favored Nations artist Doug Doppler.

For the most part, Chase’s outfit is a one-man operation. His shop is located on his family’s property, 13 acres of isolated forest on the highest part of a mountain near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The advantage of this remote locale is that Chase can crank his creations to Madison Square Garden levels without getting visits from the cops. Although he’s already quite accomplished as a builder, Chase continues to channel his energies into the pursuit of sonic nirvana, and to that end he’s currently pursuing a bachelor’s in electrical engineering with an emphasis in electronics.

Before we get to what led you to your remarkable commitment to authentic vintage tone, which guitarists inspired you as a player?
Some of my favorite guitarists are Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, and Neil Young, although the list could go on and on.

Did those players also shape your concept of tone and what you’re trying to achieve sonically with your period-correct replicas?
Yes and no. Each one of those artists has a tone that represents them, and some have many different tones. Jimi Hendrix’s tone was always evolving. Eddie Van Halen was a big influence on me, but I was more a fan of what he had to say on the guitar—his voice. Thinking about some of his great tones came later.

What was your first tube amp?
The first real tube amp I had was a Marshall JCM2000 TSL602 2x12 combo, and my first quality electric guitar was a custom shop Peavey Wolfgang. Both were purchased as gifts for me from my mother during my senior year in high school. This setup made it effortless to play in the style of Van Halen, Vai, and Satriani. To this day, I favor it for certain tones.

The TSL602 and TSL601 1x12 are nice amps, but they don’t seem to get that much love from gearheads. Did you mod yours at all?
No, I like it the way it is. People get caught up in modifying things. I modified my Tube Screamer every possible way you can, but for my personal taste, I like it stock—the way it was originally made.

I actually almost got rid of my TSL602 at one point. I traded it in at Guitar Center in Philadelphia but after a couple of weeks I thought to myself, “Man, I think I want that back.” I went back and went through all these different TSL602s, but none of them sounded like the one I had. I did end up getting my original back, though—I had it sourced back through Guitar Center. That amp has sentimental value, too.

What are your benchmarks for good tone?
The recent JTM45/100-inspired amp I created from scratch gives me the tone of Jimi Hendrix’s first album, Are You Experienced? I think the tweaked setups of Hendrix’s wah pedals on his recordings are benchmarks. I also like Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps concert. His Fender Tweed Deluxe has a varied distortion character, and then there’s that Firebird pickup in his Les Paul.

What prompted you to start making your own amps, pedals, and guitars?
I was unhappy with the sound from my equipment compared to the music I was listening to. I began to tear apart and modify numerous Fuzz Faces, guitars, and amps. Through countless years of research and studying old tube electronics college textbooks, I gained knowledge. I knew if I wanted the sound to be right, I had to build it myself—and I did it without a computer or the internet. I used the classic tones of studio and live recordings by Hendrix, Cream, and others as benchmarks. It was done through trial and error, just using my ears—just playing the guitar and comparing it to classic tones.


Left: Authentic replica JTM45/100 amplifier, angled pinstripe cabinet and tall pinstripe cabinet to exact dimension and radius of the originals. Featuring EC Collins’ True “Bluesbreaker-Pinstripe” grille cloth, essential for the authentic look and most importantly the tone. High grade quality Baltic birch wood and vintage pine internal bracing and sound post. Photo-by-Andy.com. Top: Authentic JTM45 gold plexi panel with proper font and layout. NOS gold Marshall-style knobs. Photo-by-Andy.com. Bottom: Authentic white polystyrene rear panel with proper gold script “Super Amplifier” & MK III font. NOS Bulgin power socket. NOS Radiospares dime-slot bakelite panel-mount fuse holder. Photo-by-Andy.com.

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