Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cost vs Tone

Two years ago when I first began researching the idea of producing a small harp amp I considered importing a finished amp from China using all Chinese parts  and selling it as a low priced bargain amp.  I talked to several vendors in Hong Kong and Shenzhen and tried some examples they sent me.  But I gave up on that strategy over time because the tone just was not there.  Yeah, there are ways to save money and build a less expensive amp, but at some point you just have to face the cost vs. tone conflict.  Which do you want more?  Low cost or killer tone?

To get to that low cost you have to make some pretty serious sacrifices.  Printed circuit boards are WAY cheaper than hand wired circuits on a turret board.  But, the PCBs are built with the cheapest components possible which are soldered by robots.  Cracked solders and noisy connections are an issue.

Chinese counterfeit power and preamp tubes are notorious for poor tone.  And Chinese speakers lack the warmth and character of more familiar brands.  All the bargain amps I tried had a common sound I didn’t like – a kind of metallic tone lacking in warmth and overtones.  I hear that today in harp amps imported by other companies.   I just didn’t want to put my name behind an amp that sounded like that.

The MM amps are all hand wired and soldered, using turret boards.  No printed circuit boards.  The power tube is an Electro Harmonix 6V6.  The preamp tube is a JJ 12AU7.  The speaker is a Weber Signature smooth cone ceramic.  The tone is warm and colorful, rich with overtones.  The breakup sounds natural.  No gimmicks, just pure vintage tone.

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