What is a "Boutique" amp?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by tjauernig, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. tjauernig

    tjauernig Member

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    A question I get asked a lot is "what is a boutique amp?" Is it USA made, handwired, over priced, etc?

    What's your opinion?
     
  2. joel98z

    joel98z Member

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    I see at as small production, hand made with the best parts available, and can be tailored to your needs when you order it from the builder. Along with that comes the price.. They are not one size fits all like you get from the Fenders and Peaveys of the world..
     
  3. kurtsstuff

    kurtsstuff Member

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    Anything you can't afford is booteek..... :):stir
     
  4. bard2dbone

    bard2dbone Member

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    I see any really custom amp as a boutique model.

    If it's a regular production model from one of the major manufacturers, then it's what makes a boutique amp possible by comparison.

    Okay that sounded more smartass than I meant it to. I think my Bedrock was a boutique amp because there weren't many around and it was a pretty sepcial piece of gear that did things you couldn't find from any one amp.

    But nowadays, boutique gear is much more common. There are about a bazillion builders that put out small amounts of totally custom gear consistently and charge accordingly.

    You can get pretty much anything nowadays if you have enough money and the internet to find it.

    So you want a Bluesbreaker combo but don't want to look for one of the originals? There's a whole crop of people who'll make you a very nice one that is totally the same down to the exact wire, or maybe just pretty similar, if that's what you want.

    How about if you want a '57 Deluxe and can't find an original? Well hey! There're about a jillion of those too! And again in varying levels or authenticity.

    Or how about if you want something totally different from anything out there? Well not to be too ironic, but it's out there.

    So I guess I define a boutique amp as anything custom, and more expensive than I can afford.
     
  5. tjauernig

    tjauernig Member

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    So, is that to say then that a Fender 5E3 reissue is not boutique because it's mass manufactured, but on the flip side is because it has a price tag of $1700. And is a Z Ghia boutique because it's a small batch handmade affair, yet not because at $1000 is in the range of dozens of mass produced models on price?

    Is a vintage blackface amp boutique? Or, what about a Plexi......you can get the real deal at a guitar show, often times for less than a clone.

    For me it's a much broader definition. The major manufactures basically seem to chase each other around as far as products go. Everytime something new comes out, they all jump on board and build their version, and mass market it for $20 less.

    It's a bit like fast food. A cheese burger is a cheese burger.

    In comes "boutique" man. They build the amp that is sometimes like the amps of "the good old days", and sometimes something unique and different. Some are very affordable, and some aren't. But, they are made by individuals, or small groups of individuals that actually care what their product sounds like................and THAT is the difference for me.
     
  6. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Nah. Definitely not a boutique amps trait, IMO. You don't often see boutique amps made from mostly junk, but it is not accurate to say they're made with the best parts available. IME, they're usually made with the parts that a) sound good and b) fall within the builder's budget, based on the pricepoint of the amp. Also, part availability plays a very big role.

    And note that sometimes, a builder may choose some cheaper parts because of how they sound. The price=quality thing may apply more to hi-fi amps...but the best guitar amps are typically not very hi-fi, IMO, of course.
     
  7. mockoman

    mockoman Member

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    Made in a little shop that smells of incense.
     
  8. kodecar

    kodecar Member

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    Something that you can't find new at Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, or Sam Ash.
     
  9. indravayu

    indravayu Senior Member

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    It's not as if boutique is hard to define - I should hope that we all know what the term means.
     
  10. Nolatone Ampworks

    Nolatone Ampworks Supporting Member

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    I guess it's kind of a vague term.

    You COULD rate it based on the small number produced per year, but some of the larger players wouldn't quality, though they are still considered boutique.

    It's not necessarily that they have the absolute best quality parts throughout. I use Carling switches in mine. I'm sure there is some switch out there that costs 4x as much, but Carling is the norm in high end amps, they last, and they do the same job and have no impact on tone, so that's acceptable to me. I don't want to have to charge more for something like that (unless a customer asks for it!)

    But, I never choose a part based on cost alone, and mass produced products often do. I could use cheaper transformers, but I feel that's too large of a part of a good amp to compromise on. I use Sozo caps. A mass production mfg would see that they are double the price of a similar Mallory 150. They look at it as costing several dollars more than it needs to. I look at it as, it's only a few bucks more, and I like the amp better with the Sozos.

    I think boutique is as much a builder's philosopy as anything, and that philosophy tends to create higher priced (and higher quality) amps, so that translates to how we refer to that market.
     
  11. mister-e

    mister-e Member

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    Isnt it a bunch of of things DOH thats bouquet muwhahahahahahahaaa :jo
     
  12. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    Both sides of this a bit general. There are makers who use very very good parts...Carr and Victoria come to mind.
    But I agree with Leon, high end parts are not necessarily an absolute in the "boutique" business.
     
  13. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    it's an amp you can't afford
     
  14. Millo 3.1

    Millo 3.1 Member

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    sounds like a logical answer :AOK

    I think SMALL PRODUCTION is the key, along w/ HAND-WIRED
     
  15. wahfreak

    wahfreak Silver Supporting Member

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    Sounds like you answered your own question but why would a boutique pedal builder (at least I assume you are, I apologize if you are not) ask what a boutique amp is....
     
  16. tjauernig

    tjauernig Member

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    Yeah, I'm the pedal builder. The question was asked to settle an argument with some who doesn't read or contribute to forums, but believes that there is no difference, or reason to buy a "boutique" amp.

    It is truly a difficult questin to answer because personal opinion definately plays a major role when it comes to tone. But, there are several common elements in the answers here that prove my point.

    Thanks to all those that contributed.

    Now, back to the quest! TONE!
     
  17. John Coloccia

    John Coloccia Cold Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

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    IMHO, if I can call the company and talk to the guy who designed the item, as well as the guy who built it and/or the guy who's going to mod it/fix it, it's boutique no matter how big or mass produced they are.

    Can I get customized service? Will I get personal treatment? If the answer is no, you can make one $5000 pedal a year and you still aren't boutique....you're just SLOW and overpriced.

    Suhr is boutique. The Fender custom shop is not. Hermida is boutique. I don't know about Zvex.

    To me, it has nothing to do with price, production volume, or anything else having to do with the product. As usual, it's all about me :D
     
  18. darth_vader

    darth_vader Member

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    An expensive amp for lawyers and doctors that have too much money and like to spend 30 minutes every week pretending to be musical superstars.
     
  19. Doug's Tubes

    Doug's Tubes Member

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    Here's what the Webster says:

    a small company that offers highly specialized services or products
     
  20. Ken Ho

    Ken Ho Member

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    How about "sold in a small shop where you are offered a seat and a cup of tea, while exclusive products without price tags are shown off by scurrying minions" ??
     

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