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The Spirit of Amptone.com

September 1, 2000

Amptone.com is the first and oldest site dedicated to amp Tone. It is the most popular, the most thorough, the biggest, and the most focused. It covers the most overlooked cool gear, and is the most innovative site, as well as the most relevant site for the guitar-gear industry.

This site is the first and only place to cover speaker isolation cabinets and cabinet isolation boxes, and feedback drivers. It has a consistent focus on the middle, block-diagram level of thinking about guitar gear. It is the only site with full coverage of quiet cranked-amp Tone, low-wattage amps, selectable-wattage amps, processing equipment for guitar home studios, and amp simulation software. It provides comprehensive coverage of all modeling amps and amp-modelling processors, coverage of all dummy loads and power attenuators for guitar amps, in-depth discussion of effects placement techniques including post-amp effects placement, 3-stage amps and amp rigs, and extensive coverage of guitar-rig switching products. This site also is the first and only place to provide a link list focusing on amp Tone MP3s.

To strengthen the focus on much-needed amp Tone topics, the site consistently excludes areas that are already covered heavily, such as music theory and how to play the guitar itself. In the magazines and on the Net there is already heavy coverage of low-level approaches such as effects circuit design, circuit theory details, and guitar electronics, and of high-level approaches such as conventional reviews of conventional common guitar amps. Unlike the guitar link directories and Harmony Central, this site organizes the online and offline worlds all around the central organizing theme of amp Tone. Even effects are covered in terms of how they fit in with the total amp Tone picture.

The foundation and center of guitar Tone is the middle level, the block-diagram perspective, with hard-pushed power tubes and guitar speaker as the foundation and starting point for all aspects of guitar sound and equipment. Playing technique is only touched on here as far as its relation to amp Tone. This site also coordinates with other sites such as guitarsite.com to strengthen their coverage of amp principles and Tone techniques. I've been involved in Tone discussions in alt.guitar.amps since the early 90s and started this site in 1996.

I've worked to blend together the online discussion areas, the Web, and email. I've also had email discussions with product designers from leading guitar-gear companies and have emailed some of the guitar magazines. My activities are heavily Net-centered and I especially applaud companies such Line 6 for their genuine, respectful, and active solicitation of input from anyone on the Net. The most welcoming and with-it email address in the world of amp Tone is ideas@line6.com. This communication channel is not a mere feedback form that hides the company addresses, but a real solicitation of input; an address emphatically and specifically created to use standard emailing for the specific purpose of soliciting and encouraging new ideas from anyone on the Net. Such serious use of the Net works well for the Net-oriented information exchange used to build this site.

Some of the circuit experts rail against the realm I have helped to open. They focus exclusively on the low-level circuit design realm. I have an EE degree, but I found that the good circuit design is already covered -- what we need more now is middle-level block-diagram level, more similar to modelling and Line 6 and my principles-site and the new rig diagrams in guitar magazines and at sites like guitargeek.com. Circuit design is falling in importance and some circuit gurus are furious at me for revealing that. They are technical shredders whose relevance or excessive dominance is falling. We've had adequate time to study the Fender circuits in The Tube Amp Book, some 15 years.

What is needed now is more generally relevant concepts about gear, especially for the common situation of a guitarist in a cafe or at home. This site lists a lot of resources for guitar-gear designers and I spend a lot of time in discussion with circuit designers. But the main emphasis here is on features-packaging and product conceptualization rather than component values and circuit details. I've seen too many interesting products go out of production due to poor understanding all throughout the industry of the middle-level concepts -- products such as the Ampulator and the Crunch Master, and preamp/power tube convertor sockets. GMArts.com and the Evolution of Guitar Amps article by Keenan demonstrate the middle-level, block-diagram level of thinking about guitar gear.

So too has the high-level perspective on amps fallen in importance. By now we are drowning in high-level reviews of amps and effects, at Harmony Central. What is needed most urgently and is amazingly not covered on the Web is the middle level of analysis. Soon the whole guitar industry will be speaking the language I am teaching: the language of the middle-level analysis of rigs and Tone design, the block-diagram level which must centrally feature Bradshaw concepts and rack-inspired diagrams though these diagrams often now are centered around conventional amps and pedals.

Michael Hoffman

Amptone.com ultra gear-search page

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