Year of Bass Amplification: Eden Amplification
Continuing with our Year of Bass Amplification, we are honored to bring you Eden Amplification, including a Q&A with the team…
The Eden Amplification Team
- Luke Green – Brand Director
- Elise Robinson – Creative Designer / Marketing
- Jon Langstaff – Research & Development Manager
- Kevin Sharp – Production Engineering Assistant & R&D Engineer
- Tom Fanning – R&D Engineer
How did Eden get to where it is today?
When Marshall Amplification bought Eden Amplification in 2012, Brand Director Luke Green hand-picked a small and dedicated team to re-build the brand. “I simply couldn’t turn down such an exciting opportunity. We built the team around what we thought would be the most important elements to make the best bass brand in the industry and it seems to be working. Everyone in the team is passionate about music and passionate about their role in the company, that is far more important than being a wannabe rockstar.”
Beginning as a small PA enclosure company in the 1970s, Eden focused on the needs of bass players, and grew to be one of the top brands in bass amplification in the early 1990s. Today it is one of the few high fidelity, super-clean amp companies that exists from back then. “The whole story has come full circle from manufacturing on our own premises in Minnesota back in the late 1970’s to now being able once again to manufacture cabinets at our HQ in the UK. Marshall have provided so much support since buying the brand. Their support has allowed us to grow back into a leading light in the bass world. Many people know stories of the creation of the company and over its 40 years. Of course, over time the names and faces have changed but the hi-fidelity philosophy and the sound we strive for has never altered.”
Do any of you play bass? If so, are you still active players?
There are basses in every office and every room at Eden. Everyone in the team owns at least one bass guitar and all play to different levels. Research & Development Manager Jon Langstaff comes from a strong background in music and electronics design and has been designing amps and audio gear since he was a teenager.
While the R&D department are skilled players, Creative Designer Elise Robinson took it upon herself to start learning bass when she joined the team. “It’s important that we understand the language and the needs of bass players. That started for me picking up a bass guitar for the first time two years ago.”
While everyone is encouraged to be familiar with playing bass, from the business’ point of view it’s also important to remain one step removed. Valuable feedback from artists, producers and techs helps us develop and test products. Without external feedback it is too easy to make something too specific and too tailored to one person’s taste.
What does your company build? Do you limit your efforts to bass amplification exclusively? If so why?
Eden’s product development focuses on the bass market, but we also see how the hi-fidelity Eden sound benefits other instruments. Explaining Eden’s approach, Luke comments “We build amplifiers, cabinets and pedals, all purely for bass. We have made some other products such as a Ukulele amplifier but our core passion has always been bass equipment. With our sister company Marshall being the number 1 guitar amplifier manufacturer in the world, we are lucky that we don’t have to think about anything other than bass products, making us bass specialists.”
Jon Langstaff explains “When we designed the pedals, we were in a pretty lucky position. There was no need to make them work for guitar (or piccolo bass – as I call it) as well. This meant all the focus was on bass guitar only. We’ve all played pedals that are compromised because they ‘work with guitar’, or worse, they are slightly modified guitar pedals without a real understanding of the needs of bass players. We purposely never tried any of the pedals with guitars, and focused solely on bass, this allowed us to voice the tones and scale the controls so they felt good all the way round.”
Luke adds “We also try and keep a creative balance. For example, we have Friday afternoon project time where people can go off script and come up with new ideas and play with concepts. We have a 3D printer and access to some exceptionally skilled fabricators, carpenters and engineers in the Marshall factory which really allow us to experiment on new things. We are all big believers that accidents and creativity are heavily linked and that if you don’t make mistakes you will never create new things.”
How did you learn electronics/acoustics? Did you have a mentor?
Eden’s head office can be found at the famous Marshall Amplification factory in England. Luke explains, “I think if you ask anyone who has been lucky enough to have met Jim Marshall, they will tell you that Jim is the inspiration for many amp designers. He listened to the customer and delivered what they wanted. Today, for myself and the whole team at Eden our philosophy is the same.”
Jon adds, “Electronics can be studied, and mentors can come from all walks of life. Like with many professions, an engineer is something you Are, not something you Do. I’ve often thought Teaching is the same. You need to start with a good grounding in electronics, but it’s just a start for musical instrument amplifiers, which crosses a divide between art and science that makes it a thoroughly enjoyable – if a little eclectic, area of study. You never stop learning in this profession, which makes it very interesting and requires total commitment.”
How do you select the materials you choose to build with? Do you prefer an old-school approach or a modern, high-tech incorporation?
“It’s a matter of what will give us the best product.” Explains Luke. “I have great confidence in the Engineers in our team and they always are quick to point out the reason they want to use particular solutions, invariably the choice comes down to audio quality, speed or effectiveness of a feature.”
Jon explains further, “We use all kinds of different materials and techniques. The project usually dictates the possible solutions, based on target retail price and the capabilities of the production facility, however some solutions we use go back as far as the 1950’s, some electronics techniques come from as early as 1940/50 and often a project will incorporate techniques from every decade from the latter part of the 20th century, and all the way to the present day. Every decade brings something new to use.”
Elise gives two examples, “Our D-Series cabinets stand the test of time, so why would we change the winning formula? However, our newest amplifiers are lighter, smaller, and more flexible and reliable than ever before, and part of that progression is down to new technology.”
What do you personally feel are the most important characteristics in a bass amp/cab?
Jon describes his personal preference, “For me, raw power (I want to shake the stage floor) and the root tone of the brand itself. For instance, what I expect from an Eden cabinet is high output efficiency (more sound output per watt put in), clarity (I want to hear not just bass, but that it’s me playing and which bass I’m playing) and good upper middle ‘cut through’. This wouldn’t be what I looked for in another brand, I’d be looking for a different core tone, it’s not to say one is ‘right’ or one is ‘wrong’.”
Luke agrees, “Clarity. When you are playing with a band keeping an edge and clarity in the overall sound is critical, or it’s easy to get lost.”
Elise jokes, “For me, as a beginner and a bedroom-bassist, I’m more concerned about whether it’s easy to carry!”
What are a few things you would consider that make your amps/cabs so unique?
Eden’s tagline and focus is “Hi-fidelity for low frequency”, but what does that mean in practice? Elise explains what makes Eden gear different to other brands. “What’s the best way to explain our hi-fidelity approach? The rig is doing its job if all the choices you make a musician, from the instrument, the strings, the EQ and the way you physically play each note, are faithfully produced by the amp and the cabinet. You’re in control – an Eden rig lets you refine your sound by making all those choices – rather than making you sound one way because that was one engineer’s opinion of how you should sound.”
Luke goes in to some more detail, “A key feature that Eden amplifiers have had for a long time is our Enhance control. It is an EQ sweep that helps the bass cut through without losing its definition. More recently, new ideas like our illuminated speaker outputs, 2-tube preamp and super-fast adjustable compressor in the World Tour Pro amps are all things that set us apart. I think for at least two decades the “Enhance” feature was the thing that Eden sold itself on. But with the team now developing so many new ideas, there are more and more features that set us apart from other manufacturers.”
Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing through your amps/cabs?
Elise reflects on Eden’s roots, “Primarily, Eden was an important studio tool for performers, session guys and engineers because of the clarity. In our 40-year history, Eden amps have been used on albums across all genres. From Tool to Justin Timberlake, from Genesis to Incubus. It’s difficult to keep track!”
“In the past, there were a lot of jazz and pop guys that were cited as Eden players, but when you listen to every style of music there are Eden players in each one, from top reggae stars like Family Man (Wailers) and modern Metal players such as Johny Chow,” explains Luke.
Elise points out that the growth of the brand around the world has resulted in a more diverse artist roster. “In the last few years, we have improved the distribution of Eden products outside of the USA, and that includes worldwide artist support too. So now more than ever before, our artist roster is truly international and spans all styles, and its growing all the time.”
What advice would you give a young musician trying to find their perfect amp/cab?
Jon emphasizes the importance of listening to gear and hearing it for yourself. “Go to a store and try gear. Play it, listen to it, test it with your own bass. Don’t read about it – go and play it. Make a huge effort to get around the country as much as you need to try everything. One person’s idea of perfection is rarely another’s, so don’t be surprised by what you find.”
Elise adds, “With bass gear in particular there’s a lot of interest in numbers and specifications, but in reality, can you make the decision based on that? As a player, you need to select the gear that sounds and feels right when you play it, in the situations you need to play it in.”
“Try gear with your band, if you intend to play with one,” Luke adds. “Some amps and cabinets sound great in isolation but when combined with the rest of the band simply don’t cut through. Testing things for yourself is really the only way to make sure you are getting what you want.”
Can you give us a word of advice to young electronics fans who are considering designing their own amp/cab?
Luke sets briefs for the Eden R&D team to build upon. “Start by thinking about what you are trying to achieve. Set yourself a brief, and keep checking that the decisions you make match that ideal. Design things people want, ask lots of questions and question every choice you make in your design. Focus on solving problems that others haven’t, that will lead to good things!”
Jon and his team, electronics engineers Kevin Sharp and Tom Fanning, develop the electronics and mechanics to make the product vision a reality. “Study electronics first, there is no way round it. Once you understand the engineering behind it, open your ears and the emotive side of your brain to the sound. Ask yourself how it makes you feel, and work out how to change how you feel using the engineering behind it. Once those are matched up – you can design any sound you want, or any sound anyone else wants. When you open up the emotive side, DO NOT fill it with other people’s words or thoughts – make the effort and invest the time to form your own thoughts otherwise it won’t work. You need your own language to describe sonic things, for instance, I make a hilarious number of facial expressions and noises when trying to describe what wrong with the sound of something to someone else. Take the time to learn to be playful again. As adults, we often lose this wonderful tool for learning and expanding. Be playful, make mistakes and keep pushing for what you want.”
What is the biggest success for you and for your company?
“I think the biggest success we have had is really in putting the Eden brand back on the map as a current and relevant brand for bass players,” says Elise. “Back in 2012 we had people telling us that they thought the company had closed. In 4 short years, we have really worked hard to turn that perception around. Our small team do everything from product design, marketing, sales and customer support. It is not that many, but it is such a tight knit group of likeminded people, it works. Together, we have brought manufacturing into our own facilities in England and in Vietnam instead of relying on other companies and now everything we do is internal, right down to our merchandise and website. So I would say our biggest achievement is making Eden, Eden again. It is really exciting to thing that we can focus on moving forward and developing exciting new things and building on the successes of the last 40 years.”