A Chat With Peter Henriksen – Co-founder of Henriksen, Inc.

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A Chat With Peter Henriksen – Co-founder of Henriksen, Inc.

Henriksen amplification
Words by Mixdown staff

Mixdown was given the wonderful opportunity to chat with Peter Henriksen, the co founder of Henriksen amplifiers.

Within the contemporary amplification market, the name Henriksen is synonymous with in-house manufacturing, all analog designs which preserve tonal integrity, and a 100% commitment to providing customer service of the highest calibre.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here. 

Recently, Mixdown was given the wonderful opportunity to chat with Peter Henriksen, the son with whom the late Bud Henriksen started the company in 2006, about everything from the brand’s genesis and evolution, to his personal product stand-outs in their compelling range.

Tell us a little bit about your background in the audio world – where did you get your start? Do you have any formal training/qualifications under your belt?

Bud started playing guitar at a young age, and he discovered jazz while in the US Army in the 1960’s. He was stationed in Colorado Springs where the legendary Johnny Smith lived, and stumbled upon him at a gig and his life was forever changed. Bud mis-spent much of his 20’s playing music, being a booking agent, sales rep for Kustom amps, “record producer” and at one point in time was a music store manager in Berkeley, California in the late 60’s (Oh, the stories! He didn’t remember much of it, honestly. Who does?) He eventually got his act together and used his training in radio equipment from his time in the military to create a telecommunications manufacturing company in the 1980’s, Henriksen Data Systems, which was very successful and at its peak was a multi-million dollar enterprise with over 100 employees.

Is there a particular experience, or person, who inspired you to specialise in amplifiers? What is it about the tech that makes you tick? 

I always tell people that Henriksen Amplifiers is really all Roger Sadowsky’s fault. When Bud retired, he wanted to play a lot more guitar, and after focusing on this for a few years started looking for a better archtop, finally settling on the newly available Jim Hall model from Roger Sadowsky. Jim Hall was a hero of Bud’s and he ordered it sight-unseen telling me, “hey, good enough for Jim Hall is good enough for me”. He ordered the guitar, and instantly fell in love with it the moment he picked it up (as is a common experience with Roger’s instruments). The problem was, now that he had a guitar he loved playing, he had to plug it into something for gigs. The state of amplification was in a bad place at the time; Polytone wasn’t in business anymore, and you couldn’t find a working one if you wanted to (Bud had to buy one from Canada to ship to the US, and it was broken and unfixable when it finally arrived). There were a couple of other options, such as Phil Jones and Acoustic Image, but neither of them had the tone that Bud wanted to hear from his Sadowsky guitar, so he finally just had to build one himself. He sent a prototype amp to Jim Hall, who loved the sound, and so Bud called me and asked if I wanted to quit my software engineering job and build guitar amplifiers with him. How was I going to say no to that? 

In your opinion, what is it in particular that sets Henriksen Amplifiers apart? 

From a tech perspective, it’s all about the unmolested signal; we don’t use shunt circuits or traditional tone controls, and always choose the highest quality audio components in our signal chain. Our philosophy is that tone is in your hands and your instrument, and the amplifier’s only job is to make that louder. This approach is not universal, it’s fairly specific to jazz and acoustic instruments because the predominant styles of rock and blues utilise the amplifier as part of their sound, but our niche in the marketplace is clean, warm, high headroom amplification for artists who just want the sound of their instrument, but louder. This makes us the amplifier of choice for players using modelling devices and elaborate pedal boards as well, because as an FRFR, ours is designed with instrument amplification in mind and doesn’t have the cold, sterile feel of a PA system or powered monitor speaker.

Could you talk us through the process behind the creation of your amplifiers, from prototyping and design to construction? 

When we prototype something, it’s fairly ugly. I mean, REALLY ugly. We just do proof of concept here. After that, we try to stick to Bud’s original philosophy of “let’s build 100 of them, and if we can’t sell those, well, it was a dumb idea.” We create a short production batch to make sure we can build them economically, and to test the market waters. After that, it gets pretty boring; we are a mostly solder-less operation here in Denver, Colorado, almost all of what we do is mechanical assembly and testing, packaging and shipping, warranty service and repairs. Our PCB assemblies are done locally but not in our shop, as is our sheet metal, and our speakers and cabinets come from Eminence. We put it all together and play test every single amplifier before they ship.

What would you consider to be your hero, or stand-out products within the Henriksen range – are there certain models that certain types of performers/audio creatives have responded particularly well to? 

The Bud, named after Bud Henriksen, is clearly our stand-out product. It’s become the amplifier of choice for gigging musicians around the world, we’ve seen them everywhere from coffee shops to amphitheatres, with jazz legends, singer-songwriters, bluegrass and classical musicians alike. They’re small, but with 120 watts of power and all the features you need to professionally gig with and true to the tone of your hands and your guitar. It’s everything Bud ever wanted in an amplifier and, clearly, he wasn’t alone. 

What’s next for the company? Do you have a strong vision for the future, or does the team like to work more intuitively? 

We have quite a few designs already through the R&D process that we were going to launch… in 2020. As supply chains become more reliable, we intend on putting them out over the next couple of years, including an updated version of our 12ax7 Preamp Hybrid and a bass amp.

For local enquiries regarding the Henriksen range, head here.