So many Amp Kits, hurt or helped the boutique amp market?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by littlejohn, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. littlejohn

    littlejohn Member

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    Figured I'd post the question? Maybe helped the amp market, but hurt some of the boutique builders I'd think.
     
  2. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    I doubt it's hurt them much. Building a sophisticated amp is a giant undertaking, especially for a novice, and is as much about the process of building something as ending up with a cool amp. I know that in many cases it's boosted business for amp tech's.
     
  3. WesKuhnley

    WesKuhnley Member

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    I think it might hurt business for guys who build clones of vintage amps. For instance, if your amp business is based on a 5E3 style amp, the plethora of 5E3 kits out there might not be good for sales...then again, it might not matter at all.
     
  4. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    Then again, many of the 5E3 "builders/sellers" are kit builders themselves. ;)
     
  5. midnightlaundry

    midnightlaundry Member

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    I think in general, as guitar players become more informed on what goes on inside of their amps by building their own, the harder the aspiring designer will have to work on coming up with innovating designs to set themselves apart, instead of rehashing the same old ****.
     
  6. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    Somewhat true. However, building an amp doesn't necessarily impart UNDERSTANDING of what's going on. It's completely possible to build something without understanding how it works. This has been proven countless times.
     
  7. Lublin

    Lublin Senior Member

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    I think it may hurt it to an extent. There's a lot of people selling "clones built by *insert no name builder here*" and in reality it's a snotted together POS. I recently considered a tweed twin build here that looked great until I had a well respected amp builder friend look at the gut shot of the amp. His response was "don't walk, run from that thing." These people overvalue these slopped together amps and devalue the works of actual geniuses.
     
  8. Madison

    Madison Supporting Member

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    A friend (who's a member here) received a Mission 5E3 kit last Friday. He began work at 2:00 pm, and was complete by 1:00 am. THAT was an eye opener for me. Had no idea a kit could be assembled so quickly...at least by someone who knows what he's doing. The same guy has purchased at least 4 boutique amps the past 10 years, so I'd say his new situation could likely impact future purchases.
     
  9. smolder

    smolder Gold Supporting Member

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    Amp kits do a few things. They help guys like me better understand how they work and what it takes to build something. I'm sure it makes some folks better customers to the builders as they realize what's involved. It also provides an alternative to guitar center at the mid price point. Lastly, I think a lot of guys are comfortable with a simple build of an amp they want, without some of the magic.
     
  10. keithb7

    keithb7 Supporting Member

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    I built my own 5E3. I studied electrons books like crazy before the kit arrived. I learned an awful lot but I still have a ton to learn. For me is was something I always wanted to do. Now I am way more comfortable doing my own troubleshooting. I will open up an amp before I'll take it in to a tech. Maybe I can find something. Before? No way. I had no idea what was in there or how it all worked. Does it hurt boutique builders? I figure there are thousands out there like me learning. Those who hack it together and don't learn anything, probably move on and won't try another kit. I am not sure if hurts, or helps the boutique builders.
     
  11. Koop

    Koop Member

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    It's an interesting topic. There's a discussion at the Ampgarage regarding the cloning of a Z Wreck. Dr. Z himself piped in and talked about cost to produce and so on. The clones made by some of the guys there are very high quality and could take a few people out of the boutique market.

    Another point of view comes from Stephen Cohr at Trinity Amps. He is a low volume builder that also sells kits. He says the kit sales help him gain economy of scale when ordering transformers, chassis etc, so in his case it helps him keep his costs down.
     
  12. guitarcapo

    guitarcapo Senior Member

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    I think the biggest factor is that the baby boomers are the market mostly interested in electric guitar. As this music gets outdated, there's going to be a lot of this type of gear out there looking for fewer buyers. Some yuppie with 8 amps really doesn't need a 9th one. Saturated market. All these pedals and amps and guitars already out there really don't wear out as fast as other consumer products.
     
  13. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    I'd venture an unscientific guess that the overwhelming majority of people buying amps of any variety have no real interest in building stuff.

    And plenty of boutique amp buyers are brand-conscious and have some degree of brand-loyalty as well.

    Indeed. I have only the most rudimentary understanding of what goes on in amps, but have been able to build a handful of amps on my own (i.e., not from kits), all of which were more than simple 5E3 kits.

    It's not likely I'd buy a "boutique" amp that I could easily build myself (e.g. some Fender or Gibson knock offs) but there are a whole lot of boutique amps that are relatively unique and appealing designs that I'd have a harder time replicating, e.g., much of the Dumble-inspired stuff, many Bogner amps, etc. etc...
     
  14. whoismarykelly

    whoismarykelly Oh look! This is a thing I can change!

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    This is especially true with the higher priced kits with the best parts. They are very much a solder by numbers undertaking that imparts little knowledge of what each component is doing.
     
  15. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    People who make claims like this forget about little details like taxes, credit card fees, rent, insurance, customer service, distribution, etc , etc. Notice the scads of "builders" who've gone out of business. I'd venture to say that they didn't consider a lot of these details like customer service, possessing the understanding of electronics to allow them to troubleshoot their own work, etc.

    More often than not, they're praised as "good guys" because their prices are low. The problem is that they're not good business people and when they run into an, inevitable, problem, they vanish from the face of the earth with deposits from their customers because they don't have the money to dig themselves out of the hole they're dug for themselves.
     
  16. WesKuhnley

    WesKuhnley Member

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    This. And again, THIS.

    Sure, people can often build ONE-OFF clones of anything on the market today, for less expensive than the device costs retail. The mistake is thinking that you can take the difference, multiply it by a number of devices you're going to now build as a business, and come up with any kind of profit. It just doesn't work that way, and unfortunately, both builders and their customers find out the hard way.
     
  17. keithb7

    keithb7 Supporting Member

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    After building my own 5E3, and now working on a 5F2A I can honestly say that some days when my day job bums me out, I have dreamt about throwing at all away and building amps for a living. Ya right. Not gonna happen. It is fun to dream though. It was said well by Blue Strat above: "possessing the understanding of electronics to allow them to troubleshoot their own work" is a big one. People can just solder together amps like putting together lego and learn next to nothing. Heck, it goes on today at all the amp factories now around the world. The laborers just solder and assemble, many of them have no clue how to troubleshoot. Some of us, really truly want to learn the goings on in an amp. I know I do, and still learn a little more every day.

    I may build a few more amps for friends and family for parts cost and no labor. Heck of a deal for them. However I am limited in my troubleshooting skills. I'll do it for fun and a chance to learn. I'll never try to make a living at this. I do however hope that one day I'll have enough experience to troubleshoot on my own and service my friends and families small army of amps that I build.
     
  18. levous

    levous Member

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    As a recent tone slut, I will say that amp kits have helped educate me on what it takes to build a clone and what these boutique amps really are.

    Kits ain't cheap! Having a box of parts sent to your house will put you out more than it would cost to buy an off the shelf at Guitar Center. That alone tells you something about why a boutique or vintage amp is worth the $$.

    Then you learn what raw materials go into the kits, including the mod kits for big brand amps, and it becomes evident that there is a legitimate difference between a printed circuit board amp assembled in china and a p2p or turret design assembled by a musician a short drive away.

    I would love to build my own amp, just for the experience and knowledge and the right to say, "I built this with muh own two hands!" But when I sit down to record or gig or even rehearse with the band, I want to know my tone is at its best and the only thing holding me back is my playing. I also know that those magical accidents that come out of a beautiful instrument are more likely to happen from a hand built, professionally produced amplifier than they are anything else. I can get some very pleasing tones from Amplitube and that's fine for practice but I find myself holding my guitar up the the computer monitor and no feedback, none. No harmonics. No overtones. No life.

    Finally, when you see everything from restaurants to car manufacturers closing their doors in this economy and there are a few people, working in their garage or a small shop, putting out one amp at a time, making a living at it... they are artists. The are something special and their work is worth the premium that you have to pay.
     
  19. big mike

    big mike Administrator Staff Member

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    It's helped me see which 'emporer' is wearing clothes or not.

    Learned a lot. learning more, kudos to the real gurus...shame on those passing kit building off as boutique.
     
  20. guitback

    guitback Member

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    I am sure that there are unique designs that have come around in the last 10 yrs. There are probably some more "in the pipe" to come. Still, it is so easy to romanticize about "mojo," "magic," "insert silly euphemism here." Not ranting, just trying to point out that as much as the expression "it's all been done before" may disgust all of us, there is a kernel of truth in it. Most of the amps I love so much basically were designed 40 to 60 years ago! Yes, the Ceriatone "Creme Brulee" I use is technically "different" than a Vox AC 15 -but only to a rather small degree. Whether it is guitars OR amps... we have an appreciation for evolution of products for sure. However, that need for "forward" movement is, in my opinion, outweighed by our need for the "warm fuzzy" of what passes for classic in tone. My point is... we like improvements, but we really aren't in the state of mind to accept some kind of revolutionary change(s). Consequently, builders (of all scales) are in that rather iffy position of trying to balance old/familiar and new/groundbreaking. In some ways it is a no-win.
     

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