The original idea came from a conversation I had with Bruce Collins about building a small Champ clone that would sound great and sell for a very modest price. His excellent Delta Sonic amps start at under $800, so the new amp had to be less than that. After working the numbers Bruce decided to not produce the Champ clone and concentrate instead on the DS amps. I asked his permission to produce the amp and to adopt the name we had talked about: The Memphis Mini.
I had been impressed with the quality and sound of the VHT Special 6 amp, which is made in China. The tone was not what I was looking for but the amp blew away all my preconceived notions about Chinese amps being necessarily inferior. I contacted several Chinese vendors and factories to see what was possible, ordered a few examples, and eventually settled on what is now the best-selling custom harp amp I know of, The Memphis Mini.
The MM amp begins its life in a factory in Shenzhen, a very modern and prosperous city that is part of the Hong Kong mega metro. The chassis and cab are assembled there, along with some of the basic circuitry built to our specs. The amps are shipped to Denver where we add the speaker, tubes, a line-out circuit, and much of the tone stack circuit. I play every amp before it ships.
There are several things going on in the tone of the Memphis Mini amp: First, there is a bit of grit around the edges of the note. This is what some players call "a little hair on the notes." It is the first thing you notice when you first play the amp. The second thing is a nice crunch on the overtones when you play chords or octaves or multiple holes. Just opening your playing aperture a bit on draw notes to get a little of the adjacent notes will excite the tubes.
And finally the amp has a big punchy sound with a nice low end. All those things together make up the tone of the Mini amp. That is the sound I was going for when I first worked with this amp. I'm pretty excited about the way it turned out.
Changing your playing technique and the pressure on the microphone will change how these tonal parts interact with each other. You can get a lot of expression out of the amp that way. The line out circuit is designed so it carries these effects in its signal to the PA, so you always sound great.
Almost all of the buyers of the Memphis Mini amp say they plan to use it for gigging. That was my goal; to produce a moderately priced amp that had great tone and would be a tool for working players. I am very proud of it.
There is much I would like to tell about the whole experience, and I will over time here on this blog. Thanks for reading this.