When did amp manufacturers start emphasizing distortion?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by SeaFoamGreen, Aug 3, 2008.

  1. SeaFoamGreen

    SeaFoamGreen Member

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    A history question. AFAIK, Leo Fender was mostly a Country music fan, and as his amps progressed through the Tweed, Brownface, and Blackface eras, the emphasis was mainly on being cleaner and "HiFi". When Dick Dale came into the mix, the emphasis changed slightly into being LOUDER but still clean.

    Likewise, across the pond, Jim Marshall was taking Fender designs and making them bigger and louder. A separate head for an enclosed cabinet with an unprecedented 4x12 arrangement. And like Leo had Dick Dale, Jim had Pete Townsend encouraging him to make it LOUDER. Along comes Jimi and the JTM45 becomes 100 watts. Marshall eventually did a 200watt amp too.

    Fender was making the 180w (but clean) Super Twin in the 70's. Even the Ampeg V4's of the 70's were LOUD but still relatively clean.


    So when did amp manufacturers wake up and realize that it was the distortion and not neccessarily an endless chase to be louder that guitarists were seeking?

    I'm thinking of 2 events:

    1. The introduction of Master Volumes: this was an acknowledgement that players wanted preamp OD while being able to trim overall volume. (when were MV's first introduced?)

    2. Mesa/Boogie: this was essentially the first boutique amp maker, modding Fender Princeton's into using cascading stages and a relatively tiny amp compared to the big, visually-impressive arena stacks.


    What else? Any other comments?
     
  2. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    It's like the designers slowly caught up to the trends that happened. Jimi and Pete were big as far as distortion being a sought after thing for sure.

    But there were many from that era that were running fuzz boxes and treble boosters in front to get higher distortion levels so i'm sure the makers were trying to give players what they wanted.

    An example of Marshall following demand was with the JCM 800's. Many players were putting tube screamers in front of thier JMP MV's and modding them so they designed an 800 with essentially a dirt box built in, reverb and an FX loop. (the 2205/2210 models)

    Now the makers know there is a market for great sounding amps at livingroom volumes so your seeing lots of small watt amps with great master volumes and power scaling.
     
  3. SgtThump

    SgtThump Member

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    It seems to me like the first time "distortion" was acknowledged by an amp maker was when Marshall released the first master volume amp. I was a wee lad back then, so I'm not saying that from personal experience. Just from what I've read.
     
  4. SeaFoamGreen

    SeaFoamGreen Member

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    Jimi and Pete were big as far as distortion being a sought after thing for sure.

    Well, Jimi and Pete did indeed have a lot of distortion in their playing, but that seemed more of a by-product of their primary desire to be as loud as possible. They obviously were trying to get Marshall to make their amps LOUDER, but did they ever specifically ask for the amps to be made so that they would distort more?

    Also, was the AC30 top-boost more of an attempt to give players more volume or distortion?

    What year was the first Marshall MV? What year was the first Mesa/Boogie?
     
  5. Whoopysnorp

    Whoopysnorp Member

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    The Mark I Boogie came out in 1972, and it definitely had a dedicated mode for distortion.
     
  6. SgtThump

    SgtThump Member

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    I believe the first MV Marshall was something like 1975. I've heard it touted as the first MV amp ever?
     
  7. wildschwein

    wildschwein Member

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    Fender made the Super Twin in the mid 70s which had a distortion knob on the face panel along with a pile of knobs that corresponded with various frequencies - basically an eq but split into knobs rather than sliders. But early Boogies seem to be the first to produce lots of deliberate front end gain. This includes the ultra-early early ones which were rebuilt Fender Princetons - these were apparently heavily "hot-rodded" Fenders.
     
  8. SgtThump

    SgtThump Member

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    Maybe the "Marshall introduced the first MV amp in 1975" comment I've seen before is more about it being the first mass produced MV amp? Could be. I dunno...
     
  9. angelo

    angelo Member

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    Mesa Mark I. I am not old enough to have been a player at that time, but from what I read, it's a no doubter.

    Cascading gain, MV - the amp was BUILT around disto.
     
  10. Groovey Records

    Groovey Records Member

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    IIR Jim went with the 8x12 first for Entwistle first then Pete got his. The Roadies where not having it so they were broken into two 4 x 12's

    I may be wrong but I believe the Master Volume on Marshalls's was a Market reaction to the Mesa's

    EnJoY ThE MuSiC
    GrooVey RecOrds
     
  11. ripoffriffs

    ripoffriffs Supporting Member

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    Before master volume knobs became common, many players already were seeking the distortion sound at less than arena decibels. So they also turned to DiMarzio Super Humbucking pickups. These overwound, high output pickups were all the rage in the 70's. Highly mentioned in those old Guitar player mags of the 70's.
     
  12. Echo Are

    Echo Are Member

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    To answer the OP's question, it's hard to say. I'd say it wasn't until the mid-1970s when the major manufacturers really began to acknowledge the fact that players wanted overdriven and distorted tones out of their amps.
     
  13. blackba

    blackba Supporting Member

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    I think as the PA's got much better in the 70's and guitar effects pedals started to become popular the tide slowly started to shift away from being as loud and clean as possible.
     
  14. Roccaforte Amps

    Roccaforte Amps Member

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    The Sound City BMF had an OD circuit and master.
    Good sounding too.
     
  15. Peppy

    Peppy Member

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    Around 1970 or so. I think Garnet had the Stinger circuit put in their amps around then for just one example. As best as I can remember from playing in bands back then.
     
  16. SeaFoamGreen

    SeaFoamGreen Member

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    IIR Jim went with the 8x12 first for Entwistle first then Pete got his. The Roadies where not having it so they were broken into two 4 x 12's

    Yes, I've read the stories about the 8x12 refrigerator cabinets. Here's a wikipedia page on the Who's influence on equipment:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Who's_influence_on_musical_equipment

    Everything seems to indicate they were more interested in VOLUME rather than distortion.

    But they eventually switched to SoundCity/HiWatt. What's that company's story? Were they also totally about volume, or did they do anything to add distortion? Someone mentions a BMF above - what was that all about?
     
  17. openbar

    openbar Silver Supporting Member

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    Hiwatt had a MV in the late 60's, but that wasn't really about gain either.

    And I believe the Fender Twin Reverb had a master before any Marshall did, around '73 or so?
     
  18. Echo Are

    Echo Are Member

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    Prior to the mid-'70s there also amps from companies like Kustom, Acoustic Control Corp., and SG System that had what amounted to built-in fuzztones, which were not about gain either, I don't think, but rather were regarded as an added effect, like tremolo or reverb.
     
  19. SeaFoamGreen

    SeaFoamGreen Member

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    And I believe the Fender Twin Reverb had a master before any Marshall did, around '73 or so? [​IMG]


    Yea, I think the Fender Twin MV predates Marshall. Does anyone know if the intention for Fender to have a MV was for for dist at lower vol... or for situations where you plugged one type of instrument into one channel, and another into the other channel, and the Master was to bring the overall level up or down (like a mixer)???

    what amounted to built-in fuzztones, which were not about gain either, I don't think, but rather were regarded as an added effect, like tremolo or reverb.

    Yep, I had a "fuzzbox" back in the day, and it was just an effect that was used occasionally, like echo or phaser.


    So far it doesn't seem like there was anyone before Mesa (1972) who were manufacturing amps with specific gain/distortion features. Not even Marshall or Hiwatt, let alone Fender.
     
  20. BluesForDan

    BluesForDan Member

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    I get a chuckle out of the old Morris Rose ads for Marshall amps "The most powerful, distortion-free amplifiers in the world".
     

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