Who is the market for the 'really' boutique amps?

boo radley

Member
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2,158
I was browsing the 'Destroy all guitars' website, thinking while I recognize, mostly by name only, some of the names of the amps being sold (probably from too much time here) at least 50% I've never heard of.

Outside of TGP, who would know about all these various amps? They're all expensive, and I'm certain, sound great, but what's the market for $2500-$4500 50/100watt heads, and how are people recognizing the builder?
 

-CM-

Something Clever Here
Gold Supporting Member
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1,725
There are a lot of other guitar forums, and don't forget the various social media.
 

bettset

Member
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4,184
Guitar players with lots of disposable income?
figure the same. having good amps for studio is a must, but price doesn't mean it's a guaranteed thing seeing how you can make many little amps sound big, or some are doing great with software for recording. onstage......after having messed with various amps over the years.....mesa wins :munch
 

boo radley

Member
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2,158
? No, these are new amps, and the prices are...what they are and in line with new Splawn, Friedman, etc, amps.

It's just interesting and kinda cool that there's enough of a market out there to support these different variations of old Marshalls, and the like.

Then again, looking at the guitars on that site, I haven't heard of many of those either. So there's an entire, deeper level TGP barely touches/discusses in high end gear. :)
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
27,903
I've heard of 14/25, so that's not too bad. And there are a lot of high buck boutique amps they don't have (Victoria, Matchless, Bludotone, Komet...). What's more interesting to me is how long some of these will be around, and what their story will end up being? Thinking back to the late 90s when I first started noticing boutique amps and how many have come and gone since then...

As for who pays $2-5k for an amp, that's not really a question with one answer. Pros who have decided they know what they need. Bedroom lawyers and doctors who want to sound like their heroes. Weekend warriors who finally have the money for that ONE amp that speaks to them. Someone with a significant other who realizes that a diamond may not be the best way to express love... That list goes on endlessly, too!
 

Blue410

Gold Supporting Member
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4,077
There are a lot of other guitar forums, and don't forget the various social media.
For most, who search and then stop, there are only 2 guitar forums in existence world-wide/web-wide, TGP being one of them. This is ingrained behavior similar to baring one's soul on forums complaining about a builder for months on end without actually attempting to contact them.
 

GT100

Member
Messages
3,833
Interesting thing I noticed.
They now sell "Big Tone" Amps -from Spain I believe.
Guytron owns the "Big Tone" Trademark in the USA and uses it for the name of their speakers.

Lloyd
 

MHG

Member
Messages
5,823
Pretty much every boutique amp I've purchased over the last few years aren't even offered in stores. I find them by paying attention to conversations right here on TGP. Who buys them?........People who are passionate about amps.
 

rawkguitarist

Member
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11,019
I'm good friends with some guys that make some of the best gear on the planet. And then I've had plenty of conversations with people at the same level. All of these people current and past favorites of TGP. They state that this forum is a great place to increase knowledge of their products, but it isn't even close to their entire market. And to some this place and members can be a nuance.

The point is, this place is very fickle... If your universe of the market only exists here, that universe is in constant churning flux. These companies wouldn't survive if their customers constisted of only TGP members. And if you assume their demand has dried up based on threads here, you'd be quite mistaken. Ive been mistaken by the same influence.

The boutique market is exactly what one should expect if you expand your focus. Well healed hobbyists, famous players that geek on gear like those same hobbyists and guys that want the best possible gear they can or *cannot* afford.
 

EADGBE

Member
Messages
12,342
They're all expensive, and I'm certain, sound great...
How do you know they all sound great? I tried a couple of boutique amps a while back and was unimpressed. All were either too dark or they didn't distort. I bought a Marshall instead. I figure a lot of the boutique amp designers don't like rock music.
 

logdrum

Member
Messages
2,111
Not necessarily disposable income. Sometimes you just spend because it makes sense for your music. When I was in college almost 30 years ago, I sold plasma and did a couple of medical studies so I could bridge the remaining balance to get my carved upright bass. I also ate Ramen for months. Now that bass really made me serious about music (even though I was physics major). Today it is appraised at the price of a new mid level japanese sedan and just continues to appreciate.

Today I buy amps as a hobby and can be the market for them.
 

GT100

Member
Messages
3,833
Everybody and there grandfather are building amps these days. No EE background and basically more or less just hobbyists. 90% of the boutique market I could care less about and would rather spend my money on designers who actually know how to design ampslike Carol Ann
This is so true. Too many copying circuits and maybe changing them a bit -like a few components or values of components. I really think too many don't actually listen to the numerous demos on the net.
Your ears don't lie.

Lloyd
 

GenoBluzGtr

Platinum Supporting Member
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3,276
I'm of two thoughts on this topic.... (and I apologize for being long-winded)

On the one hand, lots of us here on TGP (myself included) are enamored of the hype when we read the glowing reviews and "NAD" posts... and especially when one of our own here post well-done Audio or Video demos of their latest acquisition. I know I truly enjoy listening to Pete Thorn or Mike Hermans, but I have determined after serious research and consideration that those two (and a few others like them) can make a Diddly-Bo and a Ham Radio sound like it belongs in a stadium in the hands of a maestro... but I digress... My point is, that while I love those demos, it's the ones by normal average dudes (and dudettes) that make me notice new gear on a level that is more likely to prompt me to open my wallet.
So, have I bought boutique gear? YES! lots!!! and I would say that for the most part, it is WORTH the expense and saving/scrimping to avoid having it negatively impact the money I use to pay my bills. I have occasionally found something that everyone else on TGP thinks is fantastic, and it just doesn't work for me, however, on average, the boutique gear has something about it that puts it several notches above the mass-produced, big-name stuff. Most of them DO sound better to my ears, have more balanced EQ or better taper to the tone stacks, etc... and more often than not, seems to be built MUCH MUCH better for long-life being schlepped in and out of my truck and into/out of little bars and on big outdoor stages etc. So, to give a bottom line... I think the boutique gear is pretty much better than the majority of the mass-produced gear. Is it worth the added premium? I think only each individual can quantify that for themselves, but I tend to think so for my own situation.

But that brings me to my first semi-negative... While I stand by my statement above, I'll be the first to say that in the band mix, in a room built more to house drinkers, drunken dancers, and bar-hopping regulars than to optimize sound systems, I can rarely tell the difference between my old PRRI and the latest boutique object of my affection (or substitute any comparison you wish... in the bar, during the gig, there is such little delta between them, I would venture to say that it's not worth the extra $$$). At home, during side-by-side comparisons, I can hear the difference. I can feel the difference (and on gigs it's usually more the 'feel' that makes me smile and say "glad I bought this!" than the tone/sound). But put me next to the bass player and just in front of the drummer, and listening to our other guitar player wail on his latest boutique pedal/amp/guitar, and it's kinda a wash.

I even put his to a test a few months ago. I decided I was tired of the continuous carousel of boutique amps and guitars and i wanted to see if I could get a "decent" gigging rig at a baseline price.... I didn't have to look far for the guitar, I was given a gift at my military retirement 15 years ago of a very nice American TX Special Fat Strat. I have not sold/traded this item, as it has sentimental value (even engraved on the trem cover with my unit's motto and "thanks for your service"). I have modded it a bit, but it's essentially a nice HSS strat with a comfortable neck - probably worth about $600 or $700. Next I wanted to find a good sounding but inexpensive amp. I had to look no further than the one I leave at my drummers house for rehearsals. A Peavey Bandit 1X12 that I bought used for $120. not wanting to upset my routine and have to start hauling it back and forth, I used a credit at GC that I had to pick up a second newer Bandit for gigging. at $399 new (and with my credit, it was only $200!!), it's about the least expensive amp with a good tube-like tone and enough volume to gig everywhere I play.

I can tell you that it sounded VERY darn good. I won't say it's as good as the $3K amps and $2K guitars I usually use 3-4 times and then trade for something else, but it was damned close. I would be willing to be your paycheck that not a single person in the audience can tell one bit of difference. Lost a little bit of "lush" and probably a tiny bit of the normal "feel" of tubes, but I used it for several gigs and I will say, that could gig every night with that combination. I also tried my more expensive guitars with it, and it performs just as nicely with those as with my old, cheap strat.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't let you know that I'm back on the boutique bandwagon... still looking for that perfect "desert island amp" (and may have just found it... Milkman Creamer.. Holy Crap that is a sweet amp!!), and I am now a HUGE devotee of the feel and sound of Grosh guitars... but I see more as my own hobby of trying out the latest big thing and finding what combination works for me. But i don't harbor any thoughts that it's making a big difference in the way I play or the way I sound. If I lost my disposable income tomorrow, I could sell everything except my strat, the Bandit and a couple of overdrive pedals and never look back. Honest.
 




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