I want to build amps....for a living.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by scanlory, Feb 21, 2008.

  1. scanlory

    scanlory Member

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    So, I'm currently a electrical engineering major at PSU (sophomore), and all I've really wanted to do since I started playing guitar (about 6 or so years ago, I've played instruments sine 1st grade), is design and build guitar/audio amps for a living. I really don't want to end up in a normal cubicle job when I get out of school. I am really enjoying engineering, so I wondering if anyone has any tips or advice for me? :BEER
     
  2. hogy

    hogy Member

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    The best advice I've ever read related to the subject was by Randall Aiken:

    Q: "How do you make a million dollars?"

    A: "Take two million dollars and start an amp company."
     
  3. pcutt

    pcutt Member

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    Here's my opinion, from someone with an MS in engineering who has started companies.

    - Choose your career based on doing something you love, but be sure you're well prepared.
    - Finish your degree.
    - Treat the message from people like Hogy and Aiken about there not being much money in amp designing/building seriously. Tube amps are a mature technology that is labor intensive and digital amp technology will only get better as time progresses, so figuring out how to monetize this is difficult.
    - Learn engineering "best practices". This is usually gained by working with others and is hard to pick up in isolation.
    - Learn how to run a business since you may want to call your own shots rather than designing as an employee for someone else.
    - Network with others. Get a reputation as someone who others want to have around. The old saying about "It's not what you know but who you know" carries a lot of weight.

    I'm sure others will have more suggestions, but let me be the first to offer to beta-test your amps. :)
     
  4. KCWM

    KCWM Member

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    send your prototypes my way, and I will spread the word of mouth to all of my 3 musician friends!!!

    I've always though tit'd be really cool to be able to say, "You know, I've been using this brand of guitar/amp/etc since they originally came out" or something. I just don't want to spend thousands to do that.
     
  5. mild

    mild Member

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    Just my opinion - amps are cool, and all that, but pcutt made the correct point - digital is taking over.

    Seems to me that Analog Pedals are still a pretty lucrative market, if you can create something truly good, and stick at it. Overheads would probably be lower too. :)
     
  6. VacuumVoodoo

    VacuumVoodoo Member

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    FWIW: Get a few years industrial experience after you graduate. You'll be getting paid to learn before you fly solo.
     
  7. Red Suede

    Red Suede Member

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    If you want a happy life, try your hardest to do what you want to do. I got laid off in the tech world in 2003 after 20 years of being a sourpuss, and have been working as a musician since. Not rich, but happy.
     
  8. PolyMorf

    PolyMorf Member

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    Crowded field already. Most physics and EE engineering majors can design a tube amp on a napkin. Now, getting a digital design to sound exactly like a tube amp will make you rich.
     
  9. Doodad

    Doodad Member

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    I have had this advice from several successful business people in varied fields. And as VV said, work in the industry first to guage your interest and get OTJT. Then make the leap.
     
  10. HeeHaw

    HeeHaw Member

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    be prepared to take a pay cut.
     
  11. mude

    mude Supporting Member

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    I would add that running an amp business is well.............running...........a........business. So, it is a lot more than designing and building amps. It is marketing, selling, customer support, acounting, management, etc. Running you own business means that you are a jack-of-all-trades at times.

    You might consider taking a "normal" job and doing your early amp building in the evenings/weekends. I think some of the favorites around have done that (Tim pedals, Glaswerks, Pure 64, etc.).

    You also will need to think about your place in the market. The cost of parts/building/quality is probably not dramatically different, but the prices for boutique amps are dramatically different. Are you going after the super high end market with fewer buyers like Two Rock, or a mid-priced line like Dr. Z, or some sort of lower priced amps, etc.? How will you position your company and get your first 100 customers?

    Again, it is more than just designing and building. You should have a plan if possible for not just the amp, but the business.

    Enjoy school. It is great to be thinking about this stuff while you still have lots of options. Also, remember that you don't have to do the same thing for the rest of your life. With a little luck, you will be able to a bunch of cool things along the way.

    Evan.
     
  12. Mark Kane

    Mark Kane Silver Supporting Member

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    Get a business degree too and then look at what you want to do. There are a bunch of guys building great amps but only a very few that are manufactoring them in a way that they can live well and support a family.
     
  13. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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    doing what you love will make things much more worthwhile but if you are going to jump right into amp building, you'll have to come up with something amazing and you have a high hurdle to get over. expect to eat and live poorly.
    So you could take the other route as most are saying, work a regular job, maybe develop your amps in your spare time for now.
    Or if you can find some internet business niche you could go that route for regular income.
     
  14. Teleplayer

    Teleplayer Silver Supporting Member

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    Most important steps......

    1) Take deposits for your product
    2) Create a 3 year waiting list

    Everything else will fall in line for you.

    :D
     
  15. teleamp

    teleamp Senior Member

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    The real money is in selling chassis, cabinets, transformers and related parts to people who want to build amps for a living. Weber and Mojo are the ones laughing all the way to the bank.

    Otherwise, take a look at Fractal Audio, he is making the bucks at the moment.
     
  16. rockon1

    rockon1 Member

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    But only 1% of them will sound really good!

    Ive been rebuilding automatic transmissions,transfer cases and other driveline stuff for,(gasp),30 years now. Im good at it and it pays the bills.
    Aside from making sure the job is done right my heart hasnt been in it for many years. Of more importance to me though is the knowledge that my labor has taken care of my family. However with only one spin on this planet it would have been wonderful to do something I loved to do at the same time.Due to circumstances somewhat beyond my control I didnt have much of a choice in the matter of vocation.
    I say follow your dream armed with some good advice thats already been given here. A regular gig that gives you financial breathing room sounds practical while pursuing your dream on the side. Do it while your young and not committed. My family has always come first. Dont know where but I realized my number one job is to provide and be there for them and that means time-so get cracking while your young and uncommitted I say!
    Finish(enjoy as mude stated ) school -I wish I had. (Well sort of. Any deviation from the path I took and I might not be at the place I am now that I love. But I digress....lol!) A degree in the hand is worth two in the bush. There is so much to embrace. Good fortune. Bob
     
  17. dspblues

    dspblues Silver Supporting Member

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    Call up and discuss this with a few of the builders on TGP.. There are quite a few who just started and who've been doing it a while. See what they have to say about the experience.

    Also, I hope you like dealing with people. You'll have to be everything ... sales rep, builder, web site developer, marketing, all that jazz.
     
  18. tralfax19645

    tralfax19645 Member

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    Hi,
    I have never made more money than I am now. Im not rich but Im paying my bills and have some left over.
    My advice is to do as much as you can yourself, punch and bend your own chasis, make your own cabs, do you own tolex. Buy in quantity as much as you can. When you pay others to build the cabs and chasis, that money you are basically giving away to someone else. The more you can do in house, the more you will make off each amp, the better chance for sustained success IMO.
    Rob
     
  19. redtoploader

    redtoploader Member

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    I've been pondering this same thing lately.

    Right now i'm just working my day job, and building in spare time. I'd love to be able to do that ALL the time, but it's just not practical right now. Eventually i'd like to start something up, but it would still be on the side unless things took off enough to pay the bills. Have you built any amps yet?

    Rob has solid advice- do as much as you can in-house. Outsourcing is EXPENSIVE. Next on my list is learning some woodworking and building my own cabs. I also plan on bending my own chassis at some point.
     
  20. padavis

    padavis Supporting Member

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    cool thoughts on here...
    this to me is sort of like when you get out of high school and you realize you are not going to be a pro baseball player, kind of but better than that really haha! it sucks to think about that real world job and I'm about to graduate from college and thats all I can think about and I dont know how many times I tell myself, "Screw it, go out and do something cool!"

    I think keep the dream alive man! sounds like youve got a good background. Little dudes like Lil Dawg and Gries seem to ask good prices for their stuff and offer pretty cool takes on classic stuff. So I think there is always room for more if you have cool takes on classic sounds and classic designs since we always want to antiquate new music, make it seem like its related to the old stuff or sounds like the good old stuff, or something like that... but just go for it, I think with an engineering degree you could probably use that as a nice backup plan if the amps dont work out!
     

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