We were working with Pete Anderson, and we got an amp really dialed in to his exact taste. However, because he has used a Line 6 POD through a tube power amp for years, he wants some programmability. To get from one sound to another on his Brown Note amp requires tweaking it again and resetting the controls. So we came up with a way to make the amp programmable to the extent that you can change settings with a single foot stomp. It’s something we can use in other amps too.
Would you ever consider including digital technology in your amps?
My personal preference is to have an all-analog signal path, although I did use a digital delay on my last gig and it was fine [laughs]. My teenage son is an electronics and computer whiz, and he helps out with the amps. When he was a kid, he got the Radio Shack kit, too. He always has these cool ideas. I used to say, “Nah, too high tech.” But now I’m like, “Hey, let’s talk about some of this stuff.”
Will digital technology render tube amps obsolete?
I wonder about that myself. I don’t know.
What does the future hold for Brown Note?
I really want to grow the business organically. I don’t want to be the next Marshall or Fender or Vox. It’s hard to work on a business when you’re in a business. Right now, it would probably be good to go into survival products—dried fruits and crank radios.
A story on Brown Note would not be complete without giving props to Hudson’s teenage son—electronics genius Mick Lionheart—who helps at the Brown Note factory by, according to Lionheart himself, “mostly doing circuit changes and spec’ing out optimum values.” We checked in with Lionheart to see how a 17-year-old kid who cites Bob Moog as an influence views amp design.
Brown Note founder Moss Hudson’s son Mick Lionheart is helping develop the outboard BNMC12, which will bring programmability to the new tube amp the company is creating for blues-rock guitarist Pete Anderson.
You probably have a different sonic sense than your father. What are your references for good amp tone?
My dad’s probably more of a guitar player than me. I’m more of a synthesizer kind of guy. I’d like an amp to be as clean as possible so it makes a good audio platform, although it would definitely need a good gain channel. I place higher importance on the clean channel than the gain channel.
What’s an example of a good clean sound?
My ideal for a clean channel is a flat frequency response—perfectly linear amps. That’s a little difficult to achieve with vacuum tubes. I’ve considered solid-state designs, however the tube sound is noticeably warmer. I spend a lot of time getting the sound filtered correctly and in the right stages. The filtering before the preamp is what I find important. The filtering between the preamp and power amp is slightly less important, but still very significant.
Brown Note amps are associated with vintage design. If you implemented some of your designs that stray far from traditional circuits, would your amps be released as a Brown Note product?
If it were something fully solid-state, it might be part of a special line sold by Brown Note or even under a different name, but backed by Brown Note.
Will you make Brown Note amps your career?
I see myself contributing to it, although I also have a lot of my own projects that are mostly software based. Also, I’ve been working on building synthesizers and some borderline physics experiments.
Do you and your dad have any distinctly divergent views on audio?
I notice he’s more analog minded. I definitely like analog sound, but even in a fully analog amp, I find there are places for digital circuitry—more on the control side, less on the audio amplification side. I’m working on an amp now, and I have yet to see anything remotely similar to it. If it catches on it might change the amp market. I’m trying to find the balance between great sound and not having a ridiculous price tag.