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Builder Profile: Epifani Amplifiers

Builder Profile: Epifani Amplifiers

A close-up view of the new Piccolo 600 head, which has Active/Passive, Mid-Cut,
Mute, and Vintage pushbuttons, as well as Gain, Mid-Cut, Bass, Mid, and Treble knobs.

He was the inventor of the 6-string bass. Did you see a future in this instrument, and how did it change your thinking?

At the time, any 2x10 had a hard time keeping up with a low B. With my cabinets, you can slap the low B without it farting out. Again, it goes back to tuning. Other manufacturers weren’t tuning cabs for that. Because of this, a lot of players were trained not to play the low B string so hard. Now you can play with continuity because of the developments we changed early on. If you have ever seen Anthony play, then you know how hard he can play. Right away, I knew I would have to change the suspension, make a bigger voice coil, etc. When you work with players, perfecting according to styles and needs, you learn so much about your craft, while pushing new innovation.

I am constantly talking with working musicians about development and needs. It’s the guys who are the weekend players that I listen to. Honestly, professionals don’t spend much money on gear—it’s the working players who do. For example, at the time, nobody was really making a 1x10 or 1x12 cab. People needed a cabinet to take on the subway and taxis, and that’s where the idea for the UL (Ultra Light) lines was born.

NYC obviously influenced your product development. Could you have done this in another town?

Chicago comes to mind, but I design my cabs and amps around the players. So being in touch with them throughout the years has helped, and New York has a lot of great players in a relatively small space. In visiting all the underground clubs over the years, I would bring a cabinet or two by the club and get input from the best players anywhere, while spreading my name throughout the community of musicians. The biggest stars would frequent the tiny clubs to pick touring musicians, and it would end up being this crazy jam session of historic proportions. It was good to be a part of that.

When did you start feeling less like a boutique company and more mainstream?

When we started selling more gear [laughs]! Seriously, we had the NYC line of cabinets, which was the 115, 215, 112, 110, 210, 310, 410, and 610. Working with Eminence yet again, over the course of two years we developed an efficient neodymium speaker. This put the speaker weight down to 4.6 pounds each, and we used Italian poplar rather than plywood, which cut cabinet weight in half. The UL series was the result, with the UL 410 cab weighing 56 pounds. This was the next big step in our company’s growth. Once the UL was reviewed in a national publication, it took on a new meaning for our company. Our innovations— bracing, 80-ounce magnets, and speaker designs—were being noticed by the big boys, and they started having to redesign and play catch-up. At NAMM, the other builders would visit and talk about my innovations—which was a big compliment. As we have grown through the years, I have noticed more and more backline companies coming to me with requests for gear. That is a huge step forward as the word spreads around the globe.

Speaking of innovation, you have a new development in your D.I.S.T. cabinets.

Yes! The Dual Impedance Speaker Technology is something we are very proud of. Every speaker in the world has a single voice coil. We are the first to develop a dual voice coil, with a user-selectable 8Ω or 4Ω impedance, which allows single or multiple cabinet use. We can put them in series or in parallel. Nobody else has been able to perfect this feature.

Romano Ferretti, who teamed with Epifani to create a line of rock-focused bass amps,
shows off the new Epifunky 300 (left) and Piccolo 600—both of which weigh just 4.5 pounds.

Let’s talk amps.

I had three tube preamps early on that never made it to production. The cabinets were selling well, and we were quite busy with those. And, honestly, lack of manpower and capital kept amps out of our lines—but not off our radar. This was in 1999. We had a design for a digital amplifier at the time, years before bass amps started shrinking. We could have made very small, powerful amps, but listened to the suits who advised against such a move. We pushed ahead at a later date, and the PS 400 and PS 1000 were born. Our flagship amp, the UL 902C, utilizes an amplifier about the size of two packs of cigarettes to produce 1800 watts. We chose to put it in a 19" rack, but easily could have made it fit in the palm of your hand.

What sets your amps apart from others?

Well, first of all, when we started all other amps used to have some type of sound—the manufacturers decided what sort of sound you would get. You know when you hear this brand or that brand. We decided early on to give the tools back to the player to achieve whatever sound they want without limitation. We let you make your own sound. We constructed the preamps to be as flat as possible, with the opportunity to create any type of sound you have in mind. Also, we have fewer components in our amps. When you run the signal through too many components, the sound is washed out. So we try to keep circuitry down and keep the signal as straight as possible. This allows a cleaner, more powerful tone.

Also, our amp circuitry isn’t dependent on the components. You can use the best components possible, but if the amp doesn’t work, then it doesn’t matter. We wanted it all to work. The UL 502 and 902C are true 2-channel amps. If you plug in one bass, you can use a footswitch to jump between them, or you can plug into each channel and control two instruments—such as an electric and an upright, or a fretted and fretless—with simple, independent EQs.

That design seems inspired by the jazz world. Do you feel you cater more to jazz players?

It is where we started, but the interaction also led to many innovations—because jazz players are more demanding in their sound. Last year, we started catering to the rock world. The new rock line we have planned is going to be a new era in bass. I have noticed a lot of builders with “rock lines,” but they are just repackaged copies of old products. Where is the innovation in that? We have a new designer and rock player named Romano Ferretti, and we’re designing a new look and new features in the Epifani line.

Which leads us to the future of Epifani. What’s next?

The UL 501 is a single-channel version of the 502, but this amp has another innovation built in. We use a class-AB power amplifier, and instead of using bulk transformers, we designed a switching power supply made specifically for audio. It comes in at 7 pounds, with 850 watts of continuous power. It rivals any power amp that claims 1200 or 1500 watts. We have also been working on the new Piccolo amp for the past three years. In the rush to make smaller amps, I didn’t want to get something out just for the sake of being small. It had to sound like I wanted it to sound. It comes in at 4.5 pounds and 600 watts, and it has a big, round, tone. We are very proud of this achievement. We are also reintroducing our combo amps, which will probably be based around the Piccolo.

What are bass players asking for now, as opposed to 20 years ago?

Styles have changed, and it seems we are hearing frequencies in bass that we didn’t hear 20 years ago. It seems that everyone wants the new technology of smaller and lighter cabinets and amps, but they want the same thing—good sound. At the gig, at the end of the night, you want to know that you rattled the back of the room. You want to know that you came with power, clarity, and a big, fat tone.

What would you like to tell bassists who have never played your amps or cabs?

Plug in, listen, and trust your ears!

The new, single-channel UL 501 rocks 800 watts at 4Ω (1400 at 2 Ω) and weighs only 8 pounds.
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