The Sunbury Music Festival stands proud as the big bang at the dawn of the Australian music industry. A swarthy troupe of young TV industry blokes took a long hard look at Woodstock and thought ‘We could bloody well do that!!’ And bloody well do that they did! Between ’72 and ’75 they blasted the likes of Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs and Skyhooks, as well as imports like Queen and Deep Purple, paving the way for Mushroom records to sprout into the juggernaut that we kneel before today. The unsung hero of the whole shebang was the pride and joy of a couple of Melbourne boys made good, John Woodhead & Gary Nessel, who’s built-like-a-brick-shithouse Strauss amps formed the majority of the backline keeping the whole thing louder than love.
For almost a decade Strauss was responsible for some of this country’s most relied upon, road-dog amplification with Thorpe being one of their loudest proponents. They made a name for themselves with heavy-duty builds, a hotter than hell signal path and more headroom than the back of a B-Double. The onset of what we now call the ‘lawsuit’ era of cheapened, offshore manufacture on behalf of some of the bigger international brands saw the hometown heroes sell the business sometime in the mid seventies. The Strauss badge never really went away though; their combos still sell like hotcakes and some of their classic rigs fetch a pretty penny amongst collectors.
Strauss has always been about delivering workhorse amps for working players so it stands to reason that they trot out the SPM-30 Personal Monitor. Think of it as a fold back wedge that you can plug straight into and take pretty much anywhere you find yourself playing. The 10” speaker is poised like a pit-bull behind a sturdy, metal grill on a 45-degree angle with 30 watts of grunt inside the nuggety, rock solid chassis. It’s low to the floor and ready to be knocked around, which makes it perfect for anything from shredding in the shed to busking up and down the main drag.
Tonally it’s an odd little beast. Essentially it’s designed to amplify just about any sound you can plug into it, anything from guitar to keys to electronic drums; as long as it has a 1/4” TRS jack, you’re good to go. What works for the goose doesn’t necessarily work for the gander though and knowing that, the engineers have given it almost no intrinsic tonal signature of it’s own. Now, usually that’d be the opposite of what you want out of an amp but in reality it’s this versatility that makes it so useful. You have treble and bass controls to dial in a sweet spot, an effects loop and two channels with individual volume knobs and that’s it; just the absolute necessities for raising Cain wherever you plonk the thing down. I did my other reviews for this issue through it and was suitably impressed by just how honest, clean and transparent it was. She handled pedals and bass alike with the steady ease of a freshly tuned Torana.
No nonsense, get the job done and get it done well is the name of the Strauss game. Whether you’re knocking out ‘Khe Sanh’ at the Irish or working on your Angus Young impression at home, the SPM-30 is the simplest tool you’ll find to make yourself heard. Just like a good laborer, whatever sound you throw its way will come back just the way you want it, no bullshit and no questions asked.
For more details on Struass products, head to musocity.com.au.
Hits and Misses
Sturdy and durable
Workhorse styled amp