Is the Amp Kit market oversaturated?

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by Mickey_C, May 17, 2005.


  1. Mickey_C

    Mickey_C The Original Racketeer Gold Supporting Member

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    I have been considering entering the amp kit market with some high-end parts. I hesitate because I wonder about two things:

    A) Is it more of a headache than I could really stand,

    and

    B) Is that market segment already pushed to the limits?

    I am considering it only because it could offset some of my current production costs - I could manufacture some parts in greater quantity.
     
  2. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    This isn't quite the same, but not too far off.

    I know a guy locally who was doing the kit building thing (selling finished kit amps) with premium parts and was selling a lot of kits at ridiculously low prices. As soon as he raised his prices to reflect a business model that he could actually survive on, his orders slowed WAY down.

    Are you planning on paying income taxes? If so, don't forget you pay the whole 14.5% for social security that your employer normally pays half of. So if you're like a lot of us, be prepared to pay out close to 50% in income tax if your state has income tax.

    Planning on quitting your day job? Are you covered by a health insurance plan? If not, figure on $6K to $10K per year for yourself and a spouse (if you have one).

    Figure on spending at least 15 to 25% of your time on customer service issues (you don't get paid for this time). This could include answering emails or phone calls about your products, helping people who've never soldered before figure out what they did wrong in the kit building process OVER THE PHONE, replacing "defective" parts that may or may not be defective or may or may not have been destroyed by the kit builder.

    Writing instructions for kits isn't trivial and it's impossible to proof read your own instructions. You'll have to do several tests with someone who hasn't built a kit before, or you'll be dealing with a lot of frustrated customers.

    I'm sure I'm missing a lot of things but these are some very real issues you'll be dealing with.

    Good luck.
     
  3. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

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    Hey Mike,

    I don't think anyone could have said it better.
     
  4. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    After reading Mike's post, all I have to say is God bless David Allen!:D
     
  5. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    You're right. David has pulled off what few have been able to and has a sterling reputation to boot.

    One thing I forgot to mention is that living in a relatively low cost of living (housing) area is probably mandatory.
     
  6. Mickey_C

    Mickey_C The Original Racketeer Gold Supporting Member

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    Well, thanks, but I think I can take care of my own financial future, for better or worse. I'll spare the rant about how other people in the business keep warning me not to enter it at all. LOL. It's already too late for that guys, so let it go.

    Anybody care to answer my original question?

    I am an amplifier manufacturer, considering if the market is already oversaturated for kits.

    I could easily add a number of kits to my lineup, that would help offset some of my substantial investments in tooling up. But it seems there's already a number of kits out there, and I suspect that market segment is already oversaturated. It's bad enough having parts shelved for amps I have not yet constructed, it would be worse to have ones shelved that were never intended to be constructed by me.

    Anyone?
     
  7. TieDyedDevil

    TieDyedDevil Member

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    So you're asking whether we, as potential kit buyers, would be interested to see another vendor...

    Like most things, the answer is: it depends.

    Are you bringing something to the market that none of the other vendors offer? Will what you have be compelling enough to attract customers who'd otherwise turn to established vendors? Finally, are you offering something that's unique enough that the other vendors will have a hard time matching your offering if you find success?

    Based on your original query, which mentioned "high-end parts", I'd have to say that, IMO, you won't be offering enough to attract customers unless you've somehow cornered the market on some very important components.
     
  8. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    What he said.
     
  9. Mickey_C

    Mickey_C The Original Racketeer Gold Supporting Member

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    Well, there's nobody in the the world that offers something nobody else offers, that's a fact.

    The question is whether or not there are already too many amplifier parts and kits being offered than the demand, which would mean the market is oversaturated.

    I am really interested in how people feel about that topic; I would guess that nobody really feels they know.

    My guess is that the amplifier kit market is near to saturation. Most people who want to "build their own" already have, and there might already be too many kits available for each amp to really make business sense for anybody else to enter - I think the margins may be too tight.

    Anybody else care to share their conception of this?
     
  10. sampleinajar

    sampleinajar Member

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    I think you have come to a pretty reasonable conclusion. I also think that having a significantly lower price than anything out there would be the only thing that could expand the market. That would be tough to do.

    Good luck-

    Steve
     
  11. tonezoneonline

    tonezoneonline Member

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    I think the people who want high end will probably source the parts themselves and get exactly what they want.
    I beleive the market in kits these days is the "bang for the buck " kit.If this is the case you just can't compete with Weber's
    and a couple other's that are out there already.
    I don't know if the market is saturated or not but some pretty simple match tells me I don't want to try and compete with what's out there now.
     
  12. KLB

    KLB Member

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    It seems to me that the Boutique Gear market is hyper-saturated. Buyers are faced with what Barry Schwartz calls the "Paradox of Choice" in his excellent book by the same name.

    If it were me, I'd concentrate on building the best quality amp for the lowest price that makes it worthwhile to you. Don't offer too many options (Paradox of Choice.) On the other hand, offering something unique is a plus. Your upcoming power-scaled amp is a great example. Many, perhaps most, Gear Page hounds apparently have several guitars, amps, pedals, etc.. Give them a reason to want to buy one of your products. This formula is still working for some of the builders who frequent this forum.

    That being said, you should offer your chassis and any unique or hard to source parts that fit it. It seems to be the best of it's type on the market. Doing this will help offset the cost of one of the most expensive parts that you use. Make it clear that you don't offer advice for how to build the rest of the amp, other than free schematics and parts recommendations. This way you won't be saddled with support issues.

    Best Wishes,
    Ken
     
  13. daveS

    daveS lefty dude on hiatus Gold Supporting Member

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    Hey there Mike,

    From what I know there are a few guys out there that offer kits . . Weber, GDS, Ceriatone, Trinity to name a few. Of these, I think Nik at Ceriatone is a very cool guy and probably is the best bang for the buck. Honestly. The only issue there is that he is overseas.

    That being said, I do not think the kit market is saturated . . . at least from the classic Marshall type kit perspective. Each kit has its own little nuance that makes it slightly different. I cannot comment on Fenderesque kits because I'm not a Fender amp guy.

    As a consumer and an owner of many many amps, what I personally look for (kit or non-kit) is something unique and versatile. Versatile for me personally is being able to play the amp at home at low levels (perhaps with with an attenuator), or gig it at higher levels. I don't nee a bunch of knobs and switches for this and that. Unique is all a matter of perspective but to give an example of unique amps out there, how about Carr Mercury, Aiken Tomcat, Kingsley Deluxe 1, Emery Superbaby just to name a few. They are all in the spirit of something already out there but they have a twist on them that makes then unique.

    I guess what I am getting at is that I would buy a kit if it was something that I could build, that was like one of your "turn key" amps, but could save a few $$ and have the experience of building it myself.

    Here is what I would like to see in a kit :

    1) high quality parts

    2) reliability (of course depends on how will I solder)

    3) Add on options like a) reverb, b) on board attenuator, c) power scaling, c) tremolo, d) channel switching.

    4) a low power, high gain amp I could use at home or for recording.

    It seems like there are a lot of clone kits out there for amps like the Matchless Lightning 15, the Marshall 1974X, JTM, AC30, Champ, Tweeds, etc . . you know them all. But, what if I wanted a kit for something like a 12 watt amp with one channel like a high headroom Fender with Reverb, and the other channel like an Brian Mayesque AC30 on steroids . . .plus some kind of built in attenuator or power scaling to handle at home practice ? There's nothing out there. Unlikely for a kit ? I don't know.

    If you are looking to offer your Londoner as it stands today as a kit, I believe sales will be generated by being able to give the best bang for the buck. That varies with each person. For me I am not hung up on NOS that and that with Mullards and "exactly like the original" turret boards and stuff. I just want quality parts and a killer sounding amp that sounds like the original or even sweeter ! No hum, no crackling, doesn't fall apart after mocing it a few times, etc. So for me, price is important. Probably the most important though, is the guy who makes the kit or amp. If that person is good at customer service and stands behind his stuff, SOLD !

    I am not sure if I helped or not . . I am just ranting. Good luck Mike and remember, these are just my opinions dude. I'm just a guitar player ;)

    Cheers
    -Dave

    P.S. Looking forward to the Manchester
     
  14. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    You know what would grab my attention: a 10 watt SLO. Not sure if that's feasible. But there has to be numerous folks with home studios that want a "hi gain" amp for basement recording. I know that's why I bought the Allen Class Act II kit. But that's a marshall design. A Soldano SLO clone would be interesting. I remember James Peters commenting on the inherent problems with small wattage hi gain amps. Who knows, the problems may not be insurmountable.
     
  15. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

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    Your guess is probably right.

    However, if you offer a kit of your amp, then that might also take some of the amps sales away (as a finished product). Hmmm, are you selling direct amps or through stores, then if stores are you killing sales by offering the same thing as a kit?

    What parts can you offer that I or somebody else can't already purchase through distribution or ebay?

    If building kits, how are yours going to be any different than anybody elses?

    Good luck whatever you descide to do.
     
  16. gkelm

    gkelm Supporting Member

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    My feeling is that the market is close to saturation with kits...there are only so many people who can/will take the time to build. A while back I had planned to build an 18 watt (still might), but ended up finding a gem on ebay, so I chickened out. :)

    That said, one niche you might consider is offering par-built kits...perhaps a populated circuit board & all the other components. To me, a novice, that would be a great alternative, & less intimidating, if it were close in price to comparable kits.

    All the best in your pursuits.
    Greg
     
  17. JamesPeters

    JamesPeters Member

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    My two cents worth:

    Chris Hurley of AX84 and I are friends (he sells amp kits). I'll give you the short version of his experiences--you can be in the business but don't expect it to be free of headaches. Sometimes LOTS of headaches. After all you're pandering to a lot of people who don't want to learn anything about electronics--this *will* cause problems.

    I've sold a few kits of my own designs, but only to people whom I sort of interviewed beforehand (trying to ensure they had enough electronics knowledge/experience to get over the basic issues at least). All of those kits resulted in a fair bit of support time spent, which was not factored into the selling price. (If it were, the kits never would've sold at that price.) I resolved to never sell kits again after this, except to friends...if they have enough knowledge to still make it worth my while, that is.

    If what you mean by "high end parts" is that you're going to sell a kit with a higher price tag, you'll be struggling in a market which is already quite full (I wouldn't say saturated) of kits. Unless those parts make your coffee for you in the morning and say "I love you" everyday, it's not going to be seen as worth it. After all the most important part of the amp's sound is its design, not whether it uses really expensive capacitors or not. The days of "premium parts" promises are ending, the way I see it...those marketing claims have been scrutinized quite closely in the last few years, and embarrassingly enough by those in the homebrewing community (who can buy the same parts themselves without much extra expense).

    However...

    If you have a product which is unique and of good quality, and you don't bs about it, and the price is fair (it doesn't have to be rock-bottom, but it has to compete)--and most importantly, it's actually worth your while to do this--you can make a go at it.

    Good luck!
     
  18. David B

    David B Silver Supporting Member

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    Only you can answer question 1

    No market is oversaturated if you are offering, higher quality, great prices, excellent service, and are willing to educate customers about why you product is better. The term "high end parts" is very vague in today's market place, if you outline your plan with more detail you will get more detailed answers…

    Ask yourself why people will want what you have to sell? Guitar players who build gear is a smaller segment than simply guitar players…and guitar players you are into the high end parts and willing to pay for them is an even smaller segment. Make sure you have a plan, everything that lives needs to have a pulse…what will your pulse be?
     
  19. daveS

    daveS lefty dude on hiatus Gold Supporting Member

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    James,
    I for one very much appreciate a talented and knowledgable amplifier designer, builder and artist like yourself adding in your valuable comments to this post. I only wish that you did not make the assumption that a lot of us do not want to learn anything about electronics. I believe the contrary to be true. I'm sure that there are several folks out there who have a desire to learn and appreciate electronics as well as play through the amps. Personally, I am not one of those in the "lot" who does not have an appreciation for, or the desire to learn about the art of electronics design. But then again, what do I know . . . I'm only an engineer and a musician. :)

    Just my friendly .02 cents.

    -d
     
  20. RL in Fla

    RL in Fla Member

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    Dave , I imagine James had sheer number of people in mind as opposed to the "want to learn" segment . I'm *almost* in the same boat with you in that I spent 28 years in Hospital electronics work (albeit without the sheepskin, hence the "almost" ) , but sheer #'s probably support James' comments . And then there's the % of _% divisor , re: how many are gonna buy brand X .

    "gkelm -
    My feeling is that the market is close to saturation with kits...there are only so many people who can/will take the time to build. A while back I had planned to build an 18 watt (still might), but ended up finding a gem on ebay........ "

    There's another segment/% , and you can sub __ 's for 18 watt .

    " James : After all the most important part of the amp's sound is its design, not whether it uses really expensive capacitors or not. The days of "premium parts" promises are ending, the way I see it...those marketing claims have been scrutinized quite closely in the last few years, and embarrassingly enough by those in the homebrewing community "

    huge +1 in my usual worthless opinion , and ditto David on defining "high end" . Give me a good circuit , good trannys , tell me "wirewound, carbon comp, or metal film " and the values/voltage ratings
    on the caps , and I can jockey GE/RCA/Brimar/Mullard and Emi/Celestion/Jensen/"RollEmAndSmokeEm's" in & out of the equation all day long myself . As long as it's soldered and laid out right , design and tubes/speakers is where the "mojo" is until someone comes up with a "component aging machine" . I built a 5F kit and loved it . Would I ever build another one ? No way . Not when a AA764 Champ faces the front , has room inside , 3 pots , room for a standby switch , and a faceplate that's not chrome . ;) Mickey's have all that covered . I just wonder how many kits Graydon has sold at that price point , ya know ? Same with David Allen's Fender-flavored kits . Superb all the way around from one end to the other , but that's a nice chunk o' change for a box of stuff when you're John Q. Public lookin' at it on your 'puter .

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    side note - great post :

    " sabbath90 : some point in the future solid state will get to the point of sounding very tubelike ... however it will only sound like THAT tube. tubes are variables. they're incredibly fun to experiment with. i love trying all kinds of different tubes in my amps...it's fun. it's unique too. mixing different brands of 12ax7s can make my ac30 sound completely different from your ac30. "

    then we can plug in different tube model chips , a/la JRC vs RCA 4558's vs TI 072's :D


    huge prop to David B for his "tweaks" pages , BTW .
     

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