A tailored approach to amplifier building: a chat with Amplified Nation’s Taylor Cox

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A tailored approach to amplifier building: a chat with Amplified Nation’s Taylor Cox

Amplified Nation
Words by Chris Hockey

We had the chance to chat to Taylor Cox, CEO of Amplified Nation, about what makes him tick, and continues to inspire him to continue work on some otherwise unobtainable amplifier circuitry.

Amplified Nation produce some world-class amplifiers, all by hand, and based out of Massachusetts. While some historic amplifier designs now fetch eye-watering prices on the used and vintage market, companies like Amplified Nation reimagine these at a much more accessible price point, and all with modern build technology and reliability.

When did you first fall in love with Dumble style amplifiers and what inspired you to start building your own?

I stumbled upon Dumble style amps back in 2010 after I had started to do repair and restoration work for musicians in the Boston area. A customer had asked me if I could recover an amp in suede, and if I could pick the headshell up at his house. When I arrived, it happened to be for Dumble #084!!  The amp was like nothing I had ever heard before; I was blown away. The mystique and folklore surrounding these legendary amps piqued my curiosity and I soon began my quest to build my own.

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What do you think makes a Dumble style circuit so special? What sets them apart from all other amps that has made them so sought after?

I believe it’s a combination of many things, but it’s the organic ‘connection’ between the guitar and amp that sets the Dumble style amp apart. Smooth singing overdrive, infinite sustain, and the way notes effortlessly flip into feedback aren’t qualities you get from other amps. The Dumble style amps are so musical you can play with less gain but still feel a similar response.

What is the most important thing you learned when working on vintage Dumbles that informed your own products? Did you make any surprising discoveries? 

I was shocked to see the way the amps were constructed, meticulously built to withstand almost anything. He [Alexander “Howard” Dumble] made tight physical connections of components before soldering and construction techniques like “PEM” inserts made these amps bulletproof. Of course they weren’t all constructed the same way, but some of the examples I had were very impressive and thought through.

What achievement in terms of your journey with Amplified Nation are you most proud of? 

Creating a brand of amplifiers from absolutely nothing but hard work and experience was incredibly challenging. So many late nights in the garage putting things together, hundreds of days of woodworking; I had to work two jobs for over 10 years! My wife and I just kept at it, we took the risks and made the sacrifices even when we didn’t want to. She has been incredibly helpful in keeping us on track, developing a marketing plan, and riding the ups and downs of owning a small business.

If you had to choose one of your Amplified Nation amplifiers to use exclusively, which would you choose and why?

Tough to answer this question…how big is my practice space? Do I also get to choose my guitars? Haha…  I love the 100w Overdrive Reverb. It fills the room out and sounds huge. I am a sucker for on-board reverb and I love the control that amp has to dial down the volume.  A close second would be the Ampliphonix and Gain, that amp I did play exclusively for a couple years and the amount of sounds to choose from are limitless.

Having established vintage Dumbles as being your core inspiration, what modern features did you feel were important to introduce to your products for a new generation of guitarists?

Most of my customers want the ability to play low volume, so they always ask for a half power switch. I think having reverb and effects loop access is important, and the ability to do some switching by footswitch. Most of the Dumble style amps have the effects loop, but only a few models have reverb and I’m not sure I’ve seen any with half power.

Do you have any plans to expand the Amplified Nation catalogue to include other circuit styles or do you see yourself as having found your niche?

I’ve thought about doing some modded Marshall style builds, but we are so busy right now with our amp line it’s tough to add new models. The higher gain amps are a completely different game and customer base, but I think it would be fun to have more fire breathing monsters in the lineup.

What part of the process of designing and building your amps do you find most exciting? Have there been any challenges along the way that you didn’t expect? 

The amps have become the easiest “part” of running Amplified Nation. We know how to put them together and the designs are rock solid. We don’t really have any warranty issues other than the occasional tube failure. The exciting part these days is growing the team and expanding distribution. We have been working on streamlining operations and bringing in new team members. While it’s so exciting to pass on knowledge and develop new builders, it is not without its challenges.

Amplified Nation 2

What are your aspirations for the future of Amplified Nation? What do you see for yourself and the brand in the coming years?

This year our plan should add a lot of visibility to the brand and make our amps quite accessible to customers in the US. We are excited to see Amplified Nation grow and become the leader in the Dumble style amp space. We will continue to work with influencers and would love to develop our own content and YouTube channel. It would be great to expand our offerings, so looking forward to the years ahead.

Having now become so renowned in your field for perfecting your craft, what piece of advice would you give to somebody interested in starting to build their own amplifiers? 

Read up on how electricity works, understanding the basics of how it moves and the science behind it. Get some books from the library that will help you understand the general laws of energy. Read up on vacuum tubes and study some amp layouts (easily found online) and learn to read schematics. I would find a community online of tube amp builders and build something simple like a champ or a simple kit so you can familiarise yourself with soldering.   The best part about tube amps is the technology isn’t evolving, so there is a finite amount of knowledge and lots of people that can help you learn. Good luck!

For local enquiries, visit Gladesville Guitar Factory.