Five lesser known amp brands
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17.02.2023

Five lesser known amp brands

Lesser-known-amp-brands
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Today we're diving into some lesser known amp brands sure to spruce up your rig.

Amplifiers play a big part in the tones associated with electric guitars and basses.

Read more features, listicles and how-to gear columns here.

While some players use pedals to shape, distort and effect their guitars, the sound is still filtered through an amplifier’s circuitry and ultimately through a speaker cabinet. While the sound imparted from speaker cones, cabinets and cables is a whole other conversation, amplifiers usually use a combination of tubes or resistors to distort, control and amplify their input. There’s some famous circuits that have shaped what we expect an electric guitar or bass to sound like today, but there’s a larger group of boutique-sized amplifier builders who are creating unique platforms for us to build our sounds from. While the larger companies like Marshall, Orange and Fender would have had humble beginnings as well, some contemporary smaller manufacturers are taking these ideas and pushing them to new fields, building amplifiers with more specific circuits for different tones and genres.

Egnater

Egnater are admittedly a reasonably big name in amplifiers, but their circuits are unique, as are the designs and enclosures that they‘ve built around them. Bruce Engater started by modding amps in Detroit, taking classic Gibson designs and super-charging them for an entirely new sound. Egnater have employed modular and customisable designs into their amps, as well as collaborating with Randall on their MTS series of modular amplifiers. Modular amplification was a forward thinking design before amp modellers became the rage, but allowed the user to swap out different cards for preamps and channels before these were amplified within the head. This design allowed users to customise their sound while retaining real tube sound. Today, Egnater are known for a vast range of amps, all filled with entirely usable channels. If there’s one complaint about the bigger amp manufacturers, it’s their versatility, i.e. if they’re a good dirty amp, the clean channel will suffer and vice versa, whereas Egnater manage to build 3-4 channel amps all with entirely useable sounds, onboard effects and MIDI and digital routing available. Egnater are a great match for a versatile (or indecisive) player.

Science

Equally versatile are Science amps, a Seattle based amp designer and builder. Science market themselves as ‘the most utilitarian and toneful high powered amplifiers made today’, providing a loud and reliable base for your sound. Science amps are designed to be trustworthy and roadworthy, consistent sounds as a base for pedals, unique guitars and other amps. Science are primarily custom ordered, with different options for power, routing, tolex and hardware, as well as being available with Science’s Ghost Effects Loop, a high voltage FET circuit to minimise the effects loop’s interference with your tone. Science amplifiers are massively over-engineered to keep them working gig after gig, and providing as much or little headroom as you need for them to perform to your exacting expectations.

Verellen

Verellen are another loud and solid base for your sound, producing amps to order, but unfortunately their small shop finished their last orders in 2021. Owned and run by Ben Verellen, brother of Dave Verellen of Botch and Narrows fame, Ben designed and built amps for approximately a decade in a small shop in Seattle. Used by the likes of Botch, Russian Circles, Integrity and Coliseum are a nod to Verellen’s metal roots, while the likes of Sunny Day Real Estate and Weezer have also been seen with Verellen backing them up. Verellen utilised very simple schematics and point-point wiring for his amps, offering huge amounts of headroom and massive amounts of power if needed. Their unique stained wood enclosures make them a sight to behold, and some more famous models like the Meatsmoke and Loucks are both eye and ear-catching.

Achilles

Australia has to get a special mention, thanks to Achilles amps operating out of Melbourne. Achilles takes their cues from classic designs, reformed for a modern day, inspired by classic circuits that have stood the test of time. Achilles offer custom tolex and finishes for customers, their Apollo and Zephyr amps nodding to Fender designs, while Argos is a particularly more British, Marshall-style design both sonically and aesthetically. What sets Achilles apart, however, is the unique components that subtly shape the sound to deviate from the classic circuits. Elements like vibrato, different tubes and more point-to-point wiring, Achilles amps clip, shape and augment your sound in a way that only a boutique amp can, offering top-tier quality no matter the model you choose.

Quilter

Quilter are the final brand we’ll discuss here and their methodology might be the most simple: lightweight amps without sacrificing tone. Their SuperBlock series are available in US and UK flavours, pack as much punch as any other amp, with as much as 24W right there on your pedalboard. Both the US and UK SuperBlocks have toggle-able voicings, and their 101 Reverb offers cleaner tones in an equally powerful little box. For those needing more push and pull on stage, Quilter also offer Tone Block, OverDrive and Mach 3 heads that take up a little more room but offer unmatched customisation on their chassis. There’s separate channels, voicings, independent EQ and controls and effects onboard. Quilter are designed and built for the working player, and their size, weight and function are a sheer marvel.

Amps take the clean signal from our guitars and distort, effect and shape them before it’s played out of a speaker cabinet. There’s some tried and true designs, and while effects pedals allow for some extra push, there’s nothing that compares to the full circuitry of a well-built amp. Different models offer different headroom, unconventional or unique routing, and there’s a handful of boutique designers building amps for more modern music. Whether you’re after the classic bite and crunch of an amp with more modular options like an Egnater, or loud, clear, clean headroom from a Science or Verellen amp, they won’t lead you astray. Achilles and Quilter take classic designs and pack them into an impossibly practical chassis, offering you everything you know and love from classic circuits, but with modern routing, size and practicality. A tone really is the sum of its parts, and all of these manufacturers will pull their weight in that equation.

Check out our feature on the amps of the Sharpie era down under here.