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Bass Amplification Spotlight

Year of Bass Amplification: Ampeg with Dino Monoxelos

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Continuing with our Year of Bass Amplification, we are honored to bring you Ampeg, including an in-depth interview with Dino Monoxelos…

Name:

Dino Monoxelos… some people refer to me as “the Ampeg guy” though.  You can call me either… just don’t call me late for a gig.

How did you get your start in music?

I guess it goes all the way back to elementary school, playing recorder in music classes and then switching over to clarinet for a few years.  It was definitely music education in public schools though that got me started.  That and having older brothers and sisters, (I’m the youngest of 8 kids) and listening to all of their different influences over the years.  After that it was straight into school bands, both IN school and with friends after school.

Do you play bass? 

Oh yeah… I still consider myself to be a professional bass player over anything else.  Between gigging close to 100+ gigs a year and being on the road demo’ing and doing clinics for Ampeg, the only time I usually don’t have a bass in my hands is when I’m home enjoying time with my family.

What does Ampeg build? 

Ampeg builds a wide range of bass amplifiers, cabinets and combo amps.  Everything from a $99 practice bass amp all the way up to what’s regarded as the holy grail of bass amplification, the Heritage Portaflex B15.  We also build really cool basses and guitars as well and guitar amps from time to time, but we’re primarily a bass amp company.  It’s what we started out as and what we’ve been known for over the years.  I know there are a lot of older guitar players out there that will argue that fact and reminisce about their old V4s, VT22s and Reverberockets.  Those were hugely successful amps no doubt.  But again we’re most commonly known as a bass amp company.

Most recently we’ve gotten back into the pedal side of things building the SCR-DI, Classic Pre and Scrambler pedals, which allow players to put that Ampeg sound in their gig bags and pedal boards.  Bass players these days want to be more and more portable, especially guys that do a lot of fly dates or traveling on a small tour.  Not every bass player has the space in the band’s trailer to haul an SVT rig.

How did Ampeg get started building bass amps/cabs?

Well… I wasn’t around when this all happened because it was long before my time.

The founder of Ampeg, Mr. Everett Hull was a bass player and a tinkerer.

Everett Hull Top Notchers

Mr. Hull needed a way to amplify his upright bass during a time when there was no such thing as a “bass amp”.

This was 1949 so big bands were pretty popular.  And, if you’ve ever played with a 17-piece big band, you know it can be just as loud as a four-piece rock band.

He came up with the idea of taking the endpin out of his bass and installing a microphone on the end of it and then re-install it into his bass.

Joe Comfort & Irving Ashby with the Nat Cole Trio

He started calling it “the amplified peg”.  Hence the name Am-peg was born. 

So, the amplified peg, plugged into a Michael-Hull designed bass amp, began what eventually became the Ampeg Bassamp Company.

 

And just for fun, the video version:

How did you learn electronics/acoustics?

That’s the funny thing… well not really funny more so than ironic… I have absolutely ZERO knowledge of the inner workings of an amp. I mean to say, I know HOW an amp works but I’ve really no idea how to physically build one.  I know WHAT and HOW an amplifier should perform and sound as well as what features should be on it coming from years of experience of playing thousands of gigs on different amps.  And, I try to convey those ideas as clearly as possible to our designers and project managers.  From there they take it to the next level and actually make it happen.  Even to this day, it still amazes me how an idea becomes a solid, working piece of equipment down the road of design, engineering and manufacturing.

Does Ampeg prefer an old-school approach or a modern, high-tech incorporation?

I think a little of both.  We’ve tried to stay true to our old-school sound and approach with our tube amps.  Heavy copper-wound, iron transformers and vacuum tubes in our “Classic Series” heads, such as the SVT-CL, SVT-VR and V-4B.  But then when you look at our Portaflex Series, we’re using cutting edge, proprietary class D technology.  As much as we’re always trying to innovate new products and ideas, we’re also drawn back to our roots and honestly, what we’ve been most famous for.  Big butt-kicking bass amplifiers!

What do you feel are the most important characteristics in a bass amp/cab?

First and foremost, they HAVE to be dependable.  Doesn’t matter if you’re making a living playing music or it’s something that you do part-time or as a hobby.  The amp just HAS to work.  Now, of course there are times when yeah, stuff breaks.  These things are basic machines that sometimes will fail.  That’s when customer service comes in and saves the day.

Second, it has to inspire you to make noise.  It has to sound great!  If it doesn’t sound right, let’s face it, you’re not gonna play it.   Especially for young players that are just learning because they just think, “Well, this sucks… it sounds horrible, maybe I just wasn’t cut out to play bass,” and next thing you know, they’re putting the instrument down.  I can tell you as a teacher, how many students I’ve seen want to give up their instruments because they’re fighting with sub-standard gear that doesn’t inspire them to want to pursue it further.

Other than those two things, everything else is pretty much icing on the cake.  You can add and subtract features as you go but first and foremost, it’s gotta be dependable and sound awesome!

What are a few things you would consider that make Ampeg so unique?

Well, if you follow the history of the company or have been to any of my clinics, Ampeg was pretty much one of the first bass amp companies.  Ampeg was building bass amps before there were solid body electric basses.  A lot of what you see in todays modern manufacturers designs still borrow from Ampeg’s early days.  The Portaflex fliptops can be seen in just about any design where the head physically attaches to the top of a speaker cabinet.  Anytime I see a 210, 410 or 810 cabinet, lets face it, the SVT/810 rig again, was one of the first if not THE first amplifier to use a cluster of smaller speakers for bass amplification.  I’d have to say we’re unique in that we were the first bass amp “only” company.

Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing Ampeg? 

Oh boy… we could base an entire interview just on that subject alone.  In terms of rock ’n’ roll, I think it really was the Rolling Stones that kinda put the SVT and amps of that style on the map and made Ampeg a household name in the rock business.  Prior to that, the B15 was used by just about EVERY studio bass player from L.A. to New York and in between.  As for “pioneers” of the bass… phew… who WASN’T playing Ampeg!!!

You’d have to have a look at our artist page on our website.  And even that still changes from week to week.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find their perfect amp/cab? 

Be patient!!!  It takes a lot of time and patience, and unfortunately money too.  Heck, I work for the company and I’m always experimenting with stuff and seeing how “this head” might work with “that cabinet”.  I know what works for me though and THAT’s usually what comes out to the gig with me.

Seriously though, find out what your “bass hero” is using.  If you have a player or a sound that just inspires you to pick up your bass and play everyday, find out what he or she uses for gear.  You might not be able to afford the biggest or best that they’re using right away but, at least get into that particular brand and work your way up.  I remember two of my earliest influences were John Entwistle and Stanley Clarke.  Both of whom play(ed) Alembic basses!  That was THE sound I was going for.  Unfortunately at that time, I didn’t have the bread to buy an Alembic bass and my parents certainly weren’t gonna take out a second mortgage.  But I worked my way up, trying out a bunch of different basses until one day, I could afford to buy a used Alembic.  From that point, I was “in the club” and started to move up, buying and trading basses until I got what I really wanted.

Try not to let what I call “creature features” deter you from your decision either.  What I mean by that is you might absolutely LOVE the way one particular amp sounds but, another brand (brand x) has a “flux capacitor” that does everything BUT make the amp sound great.  Go for the amp that SOUNDS GREAT!  Even if it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles or is a few bucks more or weighs a couple of pounds more.

Can you give us a word of advice to young electronics fans who are considering designing their own amp/cab?

Well… again, coming from someone who really shouldn’t be poking around a tube amp with a screwdriver but sometimes does… be careful!!!  HAHA!!!  I’ve scared myself more than a few times.

Seriously though, you have to ask yourself this one question… Are you designing it for YOURSELF or are you designing it for others? Or both (IE: to market and sell?)  If you’re designing it for yourself, the sky is the limit!  Have at it and don’t hold back.  Just be honest with yourself and build what you need.

If you’re looking to get into “the business”, phew, it’s tough now.  There are so many great companies and they’re all vying for market share, store space, artists, etc.  Also, safety certifications have really become stringent from what I understand.  Stuff that we built 40-50 years ago just would not pass safety certifications these days.   But, if you really make a great product, and it’s accessible, I truly do believe that it will find its own way.  Lastly, you may be the GREATEST amp builder in the world but you also have to have a good common business sense.  Take some basic business courses in school or, if you have a friend that does have a good business sense, bring them in as a partner or at least ask for their advice.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

For the company, I’d have to say being in business for the last 68 years, and still building what I consider to be some of the best, kick ass amplifiers in the world.  After that, I have to say earning the trust and the business of so many bass players, of ALL levels from around the globe that depend on the Ampeg sound for their livelihood, and/or their shear enjoyment of playing bass.  That and having such a dedicated team of co-workers who all pretty much share the same vision of continuing to carry on the legacy of this iconic brand but also innovate with it too.

On a personal note, my biggest success really is being allowed to be a part of it all.  I’ve been with the company now going on 15 years and then some.  Like I said earlier, first and foremost, I’m a bass player.  I’ve been an Ampeg player since day one so in a way, it’s like growing up and getting to go play ball for your home team!  Ampeg has allowed me to get my name out to the world as a player and as “the Ampeg Guy” as well as brought me to places on this planet I never in a million years thought I’d visit.  Like my Dad used to say to me… “You’ve done all right for a kid from Dracut, MA.”

Are you preparing a new model/new design or maybe some other bass product, etc. If not, what are your future plans?

Always!!!!  But if I tell you, I’d have to kill you!  LOL!!!  No seriously… we are always scheming up new things.  A lot of times though, they won’t even tell me what’s on the roadmap because they know I’ll get all excited about it and blab it to the public.  I will tell you this though…. It’s bigger than an iPhone but smaller than a Mack truck… how’s that?

Anything else to share…

Be sure to keep in touch with all things Ampeg via our website… www.ampeg.com as well as our YouTube Channel, Ampeg.TV!  And for up to date fun stuff with our artists and they’re “happenings” like us and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Other than that… PLAY MORE BASS!!!

Photos courtesy of Ampeg

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Bass Amplification Spotlight

Asterope’s Dariush Rad – His Journey in Signal Optimization

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Asterope's Dariush Rad - His Journey in Sound Optimization

Interview with Dariush Rad…

Dariush Rad knows a LOT about the science of signal transmission. He is the President and CEO of Asterope Premium Audio Cables, who fabricate cables that are designed to carry our electronic signal with the highest fidelity possible.

Asterope's Dariush Rad - His Journey in Signal Optimization

Bass Players put a lot of effort into finding their sound.

Starting with our hands, we create a signal that is influenced by our choice of strings, our instrument with its particular characteristics, and the amplification chain. It is essential that this signal is carried as cleanly and truly as possible for it to represent our unique sonic signature.

Join us as we learn more about Dariush Rad, signal optimization, and the scientific details that go into the Asterope line.

Visit online at asterope.com

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Bass Amplification Spotlight

Interview with Stonefield Musical Instrument Company’s Tomm Stanley

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Interview with Stonefield Musical Instrument Company's Tomm Stanley

Tomm Stanley with a Winter NAMM preview…

We have a special treat for our Bass Musician Magazine readers to start 2020 out just right. Here is a sneak preview of the Stonefield Musical Instrument Company’s product line, before the Winter NAMM Show!

Interview with Stonefield Musical Instrument Company's Tomm Stanley

Check out all the amazing basses, mini-cabs and the passive effect pedals that Tomm has to offer, as well as information that is sure to prove useful for some of the bass musicians out there.

Without further ado, direct from New Zeland, here’s Tomm!

Visit Tomm Stanley online at stonefieldmusic.com

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Bass Amplification Spotlight

Bass Amplification Spotlight: EBS Sweden AB’s Bo Engberg and Mats Kristoffersson

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Bass Amplification Spotlight: Get to know EBS Sweden AB’s CEO, Bo Engberg and Tech Director, Mats Kristoffersson…

How did you each get your start in music?

Bo: As a little kid, I had three big interests: Music, Electronics and Business. That led me to an education in music in Stockholm, Sweden. Before I knew it, I was playing bass in various pop, rock and jazz bands.

Mats: As a youngster, at 9 years of age, I started playing music in school. I started with drums, then after a year I added bass as well.

Are you still active bass players?

Bo: I started playing Bass when I was 13. Today I don’t play actively as a musician, but it happens.

Mats: Yes, of course. I kept playing actively for about 20 years before the job commitments took more and more time. These days I don’t have the time to play on stage, but I always grab the instrument while working on the designs.

What does EBS Sweden AB build?

Today EBS Professional Bass Equipment produces Heads, Cabs, Combos, Pedals, Strings and Accessories. All our products are developed and designed entirely by EBS in Sweden. We are a brand focused on bass, but we have customers, and even endorsed artists that use our pedals and accessories with guitar as well. Even violin, horn and keyboard players use EBS effects.

How did you get started building bass amps/cabs?

Soon after we first met, we discovered we both carried the same vision of one day making the best bass amplifier the world had seen. Our first project resulted in the launch of a 19” rack mounted preamp called the EBS-1. This was in 1988, and we still hear from bass players that think it is the best preamp ever made for bass. We were lucky to have several top musicians, including Flea, Jimmy Earl and Billy Talbot, picking up that unit, which gave us the confidence to continue and develop our business. To start with a product like that also helped us stay focused on making the best equipment we can and to design gear for professional musicians. If they love it, many others will approve as well.

How did you learn electronics/acoustics?

Bo: As a matter of fact, Mats is an unbeatable designer and technician with a natural born talent so I have concentrated most of my efforts to business and marketing strategies.

Mats: Basically, when I started playing the bass the interest in electronics arose and I was fortunate in finding a mentor, an electronics component distributor that guided me in the right direction. He also gave me my first designing jobs. At a young age I had managed to put together a lot of kit projects for home electronics involving power amps, FM tuners, clock radios, computer monitors and I even put together my own synthesizer just for fun.

Later, at around 20 years age, I worked as first maintenance engineer at one of the largest recording studios complexes in Stockholm. That task involved service of high end mixing consoles as well as magnetic “old-style” tape recorders. I did maintenance on tube amps and other musical equipment as well.

How do you select the materials you choose to build with?

This depends on what we want to achieve, of course. We are working closely with a wide range of suppliers of raw materials directly in order to pinpoint what an appliance would need. The lowest cost, lowest range components have never been on our radar and not suitable for our products. However, when we have scanned the market for components that are critical for the functionality of a product, such as electromechanical components (switches, potentiometers and so on), it is not always the most expensive ones that have proved to perform the best. So, when we make products we always try to find the perfect balance that offers reliable quality, outstanding performance and at an optimal cost.

What do you feel are the most important characteristics in a bass amp/cab?

The natural uncolored response in sound is the ultimate and absolute most important goal when designing an amplifier or cabinet for bass. If it can provide that, you can create all kinds of sounds with it – but it has to have that fundamental quality.

The build quality is very important, since we build products for professional use. So, long life length with a minimum of maintenance needed is our aim. Note the fact that people are still using gear we released back in the late 80s. No recycling and no waste, just occasional maintenance when needed.

What are a few things you would consider that make your amp/cab so unique?

No compromise, no hassle with facts and performance and easy-to-use gear! Our products must fulfill the highest demands of the top bass players, while still being user friendly. If it’s not easy to operate, it will cause frustration, so it’s a big deal actually. We make tools, not toys, to play with. It sounds simple, or a bit cliché, but not many brands live up to that promise like EBS does.

Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing through your amps/cabs? 

Our three first international customers back in 1988, were Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billy Talbot from Crazy Horse / Neal Young and Jimmy “finger licking” Earl (with Chick Corea at the time).

In the 90’s artists like Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Bailey begin to use and enjoy the excellent craftsmanship of EBS Professional Bass Equipment. It helped a lot to establish the name, so we are forever thankful for them trusting and using our designs.

Have you develop a signature product for an artist?

We have never made a signature amp or cabinet with an artist, but we have designed signature pedals with Billy Sheehan and Stanley Clarke. Based on that experience, the initial input has come from the artist. In other words, they have come to EBS with some sort of need and asked if we think we could help them develop a product that will meet their request. From that we try to find a functional design from the players’ “point of view” that can also benefit the regular customer. In the process, we come up with prototypes to be evaluated and modified before the launch of the signature product. A process that may be repeated several times before finished. In all, this means a tight development communication between the artist and us. We would never put an artist’s name on a product just as a marketing gimmick, it has to have real substance that is closely connected to the artists demand, and the artist must be fully satisfied with the result before it is being released.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find their perfect amp/cab? 

Do not just look for as much power as possible or as many features as possible.  Think carefully about the features you really need in the long run and make sure your choice is the one that does that job best for you.

A bass rig is an investment for your career or at least something you should be able to use for several years to come. So, it may be better to save up some money or otherwise finance the rig of your dreams than go with what you can afford at the moment. Unlike a great vintage bass guitar, amps and cabinets usually don’t increase in value over time, so you will save money at the end of the day by making the right choice from the beginning instead of trading gear several times until you get there.

When you play your bass through an amp and cab that do justice to all the work you have done to learn how to play, when YOUR sound is what you hear through the speakers, then you know it was money well spent.

Can you give a word of advice to electronics fans that are considering designing their own amp/cab?

Try to find your own way of thinking instead of watching what all the others do. Only in this way will you be able to do something that could be new and unique.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

Success is relative. But to see famous players play our brand and enjoy it… that makes it worth all the hard work. That is also what gives your brand a place on the musical scene.

What are your future plans?

We are always planning for and working on new stuff. Keep your eyes and ears open, and make sure to check us out at the NAMM Show, where we always have our latest creations on display, and sometimes even offer a little preview on what’s next to come. A good way to make sure to get the news first is also visiting www.ebssweden.com and sign up for our newsletter.

Anything else you would like to share?

EBS Professional Bass Equipment has always been about SOUND – QUALITY – SERVICE!

A lot has changed in the World since the company started 30 years ago, but World-class sound, quality and service is still at the core of our business.

Just remember, EBS make great tools to play with – so, ‘Don’t Play Without It!’

Check out EBS Sweden AB online at ebssweden.com

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Bass Amplification Spotlight

Year of Bass Amplification: Teegarden Audio with Bret Teegarden

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Continuing with our Year of Bass Amplification, we are honored to bring you Teegarden Audio, LLC, including an in-depth interview with Bret Teegarden

How did you get your start in music?

I began piano lessons in the 1st grade. Music was important to my family and my uncle was a very talented jazz musician. My grandfather was an accomplished guitar player and played professionally in the Tulsa, OK area. While continuing piano lessons, I began playing trumpet in the 5th grade and played all the way through college.

In my middle school years, my father had an acoustic guitar that he would let me tinker with. He wasn’t a professional, but, he did show me how to play a few chords and riffs. I would sit in my bedroom, spinning my favorite LP vinyl records, trying to play along. For some reason, I was drawn to the bass lines. Maybe it was just easier! One day I took the two highest strings off the acoustic guitar, spread the remaining four out and proceeded to follow along with the bass lines of my favorite bands like Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Grand Funk Railroad, ZZ Top, America, Yes, The Beatles, and even Barry Manilow! (did I just say that?)

Do you play bass? If so, are you still an active player?

I play bass every time a new Fatboy Tube DI comes off our production line and I test it to meet my sonic expectations, but, that’s about all I play anymore.

Shortly after I started learning bass lines using my father’s modified acoustic guitar, he felt compelled to buy me a real bass. One of the best days of my life. I started playing bass with my church youth choir back in the small town of Sapulpa, close to Tulsa, Oklahoma. This eventually led to playing in real garage bands with friends from school. We even landed gigs playing elementary school dances or parties while we were still in junior high. We were terrible but as long as the drummer was going, the kids were dancing!

I still carried on with my participation in marching and concert band as a trumpet player but our high school jazz band/pep band afforded me the opportunity to spread my wings on bass. It quickly became the instrument I spent most of my time with.

Between the jazz band and accompanying the pop portions of high school choir concerts to playing in bands with friends, I had a bass around my neck most every day of the week.

My bass playing took me on to college where I played on a nationally syndicated television show which helped pay for school. My time there also provided me an outlet to work on the technical side of things within the television department. I spent many hours learning to wire patch bays and modifying gear. I left college early to pursue my music career playing professionally with a few Christian artists (I’ll spare you all the name dropping!). I also became involved in the Tulsa music and recording scene as a bass player and later as a recording engineer. I continued to play bass on numerous independent artist records, commercial and corporate film scores while engineering and mixing many of those projects.

My touring and recording work led to my move to Nashville in 1988 where I worked as an engineer/producer, primarily in the Contemporary Christian Music field (again, I’ll spare the name dropping). I spent 25 years in Nashville as a recording engineer until I decided to start Teegarden Audio. I became so immersed as a recording engineer that I pretty much laid down my desire to be a session/touring bassist. It can happen pretty quickly when you get an opportunity to record so many of the top bass players in Music City. I never lost my love for the bass guitar as an instrument though.

What does your company build? Do you limit your efforts to bass amplification exclusively? If so why?

Teegarden Audio builds (and plans to build) numerous devices for all of the recording process. From mic preamps & DI boxes to microphones, speakers, EQs and compressors.

Our very first product was The Fatboy Tube DI and though it doesn’t fall under the category of “Bass Amplification” it is related. Many players these days are moving away from large clunky stage rigs and prefer a more direct based approach. Mark Clay, bassist for the CCM supergroup Newsong, walks on stage every night, during their packed Winter Jam concerts, with nothing but a Bluesman Vintage Bass and a Teegarden Audio Fatboy Tube DI. His sound is massive, fills the arena, yet doesn’t get in the way of anything. No amps on stage. He needed a DI that didn’t just match the impedance of his guitar to the sound system but actually offered him the tone of an amp for the FOH as well as their in-ear monitors.

The Fatboy Tube DI can be used for any instrument but bass players seem to be drawn to it the most. Maybe it’s because I am a bass player and used a bass during the R&D process to fine tune the unit to what I wanted to hear as a recording engineer and former player.

How did you get started building? Tell us about your first build… what prompted you to do it? What were the challenges or lessons learned?

I’ve met a lot of people though my 35+ year career in the music business. I’ve use almost every piece of recording equipment made from the 50s to date and I’ve owned quite a bit of it over the years as well. We, as recording engineers and musicians, are always striving to be better with sound, even though the music industry as a whole is satisfied with the quality of phone/computer speakers and compressed MP3 files. Some say it doesn’t matter, but to me, the best sound you can start with is paramount, no matter how it ends up in the end. The better your beginning, the better the final result. It’s a law of nature that can’t be broken. You can’t recreate what is not there.

I got started building equipment through friendships with two gentlemen that spent many years designing and building custom audio recording gear in Hollywood through the 60s, 70s and 80s. Their creations were used on so many hit records that there would not be room to list here.

As you will recall, I had experience in college working with soldering irons and tinkering inside gear. I also spent time working for a company that installed sound systems in churches, schools and corporate meeting rooms. I had built and maintained a few recording studios over the years so it was a natural fit to begin building gear. The music business is evolving and changing. For older professionals I highly recommend being open to reinventing yourself. It’s OK if your role and contributions to the industry change with age. I saw my own career changing with the proliferation of home studios and the decline of physical music product sales. I still use my engineering skills every week but not to the extent I did in the 90s. The biggest challenge for me has been figuring out how to channel all my experience and skill sets into something that will benefit others. I feel I have found that with Teegarden Audio. I don’t necessarily have decades of experience working in the pro audio gear manufacturing business but I do feel I have contributions I can still make.

How did you learn electronics/acoustics? Did you have a mentor?

After meeting the gentlemen I mentioned above and after about 2 years of get-togethers, talking about their history of recording and gear, these gentlemen began teaching me the intricacies of their design philosophy and gear building methods. After I successfully built my first simple tube gain block I felt it was only a short matter of time (and money) until they would share a design of a product for me to begin building and selling. I expected I would be given schematics and blueprints to build some of the same awesome gear they had been telling and teaching me about, some of the same gear I had had the occasional opportunity to use throughout my recording career. Boy was I wrong! They forced me to go through the arduous process of learning how to draw schematics, learning the math behind circuits and component selection, learning to layout PCB boards, learning how to work with metal fabricators, learning the business side of ordering parts and inventory control. Nothing was handed to me by them. They wanted me to “own” my work. They instilled the importance of making my circuits and gear perform to MY standards, to MY ear, and my experience. I am truly thankful for their guidance.

How do you select the materials you choose to build with? Do you prefer an old-school approach or a modern, high-tech incorporation?

Part of my mentoring and education was about the importance of selecting the right parts for the sound you are after. Also, because of my mentors’ long time involvement in the industry, they had spent countless R&D hours selecting components for their builds. Hours were spent researching the best metals to use in enclosures, etc. That was one benefit they did hand to me. However, they did not allow me to take their word for it. I had to prove the sonic advantages to myself through my own listening tests. I had to use the prototypes in my own recording sessions.

A lot of what we do at Teegarden Audio has it’s roots in old-school and vintage design. We also incorporate many modern techniques as well. One aspect of our approach we are most excited about is our designs are not copies or clones of other gear whose parts have been unobtainable for decades. They are not inspired by adaptations of vintage gear that were mainstays in the market. We are finding new ways to bring the principles of Vintage sound into our new era of recording.

What do you feel are the most important characteristics in bass sound?

Sound and reliability are the only characteristics that are important. Like in a car race, the only important things are how well the car stays together and how fast it runs. The number of gages and paint color don’t matter at the finish line.

What are a few things you would consider that make your products unique?

Simplicity and character are what make the Fatboy Tube DI so unique. Sometimes I say it’s what it doesn’t have that makes it a favorite among session players and touring musicians. We don’t add feature for marketing purposes because more often than not, those features diminish the sound a device is capable of.

Who were some of the first well-known musicians using your products?

Since I have spent so many years of my career in Nashville, our local community was a fertile ground for the Fatboy Tube DI. As a recording engineer, I had worked with a good number of top bassists and other musicians. When I would call them to try out my prototypes, they didn’t hesitate. Session players like Gary Lunn, Matthew Pierson, Mark Hill, Jimmie Lee Sloas, Craig Nelson, Luis Espalliat, Danny O’Langherty and Jay Demarcus were early users and clients. You can hear the Fatboy Tube DI in concerts of Carrie Underwood, Reba, Rascal Flatts, Dylan Scott, Trace Adkins and many others. Keyboard players like Blair Masters, Christian Cullen and Chris Carver are using the Fatboy Tube DI on their keyboard rigs and analog synths. Some notable players and producers from the west coast like Jay Graydon, Todd Homme and Tony Espinoza have also added the Fatboy Tube DI to their arsenal.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find their perfect sound?

Listen, listen, listen. Then listen again.

Can you give us a word of advice to young electronics fans who are considering designing their own amp/cab?

The costs and time commitments will be more than you could ever imagine. My mentors constantly remind me, “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.”

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

Hearing reports back from users about how the Fatboy Tube DI has affected their playing and career are the best we could ever ask for. It was pretty fun to win the Vintage King Nashville Bass DI Shootout in 2016 where we were up against 18 other top level devices.

Are you preparing a new model/new designs?

We have a new solid state Active DI coming out this fall, called The Magic DI, which will sell at a more affordable price point of under $250. We have reimagined the 48v powered Active DI and feel it will be a game changer for many players and sound engineers. It is especially tailored for acoustic instrument pickups but sounds great on electric bass too. It would be perfect for bass players who desire a more hi-fi sound than they get with tube devices or are looking for the perfect complement for their upright basses. Our prototypes have been out on the road this summer with Kenny Loggins. He and his guitar player, Scott Bernard, are using them on their acoustic guitars. They love them and are saying they have solved their long time struggle with getting a great acoustic guitar sound live. I’ve tested it side by side with the Fatboy Tube DI and I have to say, while different, the new Magic DI is on par.

Is there anything else you would like to share that we have not included?

Green is my favorite color.

Visit online at teegardenaudio.com

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Bass Amplification Spotlight

Year of Bass Amplification: Trickfish Amplification with Richard Ruse

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Continuing with our Year of Bass Amplification, we are honored to bring you Trickfish Amplification, including an in-depth interview with Richard Ruse…

Richard Ruse 1987

Top Photo, Winter NAMM 2017 – Ryan, David, Richard and Mike

How did you get your start in music?

I started at age 11 playing popular songs and the blues with friends. We gravitated to the Blues as was the norm in the 60’s but also because the Blues records were pretty prevalent in the “dollar bins” at the record store. We could afford them and we could sort of play the Blues. By my freshman year in high school I was playing in bands at the local dances and, when I got my driver’s license, I was off doing all kinds of gigs – basically freelancing with other musicians playing for dance studio shows, playing with older (much older) guys at functions, typical hired gun stuff. The local music store owner, Don Hemminger (who was a phenomenal jazz guitarist), kept recommending me for these gigs. “It’ll make you a better musician, don’t argue with me just go do it and take the money!”

By my senior year in High School I was gigging 5-6 nights a week with a horn band playing any kind of rock/funk music that had horns: Chicago, Steely Dan, TOP, Cold Blood, and Aerosmith… I hit the road with this band right after I graduated High School and gigged 5-6 nights a week with them for years. At one point I met a person who had a deep impact on me musically and that was the guitarist Scott Henderson. We formed a band in Toledo that started out playing Gentle Giant, Chick Corea, Mahavishnu Orchestra – all of the fusion stuff that was out in the 70’s. Eventually we ended up playing Bad Company and Foghat, Stones – nobody fired us for that! Scott instilled in us the nobleness of being a musician and the shared his genius of discipline and hard work. I spent the next 25 years gigging as my sole source of income, moving from Ohio, where I grew up, to Boston where I studied music and then to Chicago. I eventually ended up in LA where I played live in clubs, did a ton of recording work on commercials, movie scores, songs with singer/songwriters and major artists. I lost count at 4000 live dates…

In LA I met Rocco Prestia, who became the closest thing I’ve ever had to a mentor on bass.

Richard and Rocco Prestia

He asked me to sub for him with his band, the Tower Rhythm Section. His blessing opened doors for me and that’s when things began to happen. At one point I was doing some very serious, AAA level sessions for producers like Jimmy Iovine and Rick Rubin working on stuff by Robin Zander, Tom Petty, Jon Bon Jovi and was fortunate enough to play/audition with Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger among others. The gigs were awesome and the money was good. I was also working at Nadine’s Music in Hollywood and they were very cool with me taking off to do the sessions.

One day a fax came into Nadine’s announcing an opening at Alesis, at that time the fastest growing, most technologically advanced company in the business. My wife was pregnant and we had two kids to feed so I had to give it a shot. I ended up getting the gig and that was my first real legitimate day job. I realized that I could be creative, intelligent and have an impact on musician’s lives in an important way working in that environment. Music is a very spiritual thing for me and I could, vicariously, honor the music through my good work in that environment. I worked there for 5 years, went to SWR Engineering eventually becoming the VP Sales and Marketing and when that company was sold to Fender, went over to Line 6 briefly and a couple of years later took a job as VP Sales and Marketing for KRK Systems. I left KRK after 4 years to start a consulting business, which became quite successful until the economic crisis of 2008. People in business were circling the wagons and the consultant wasn’t a wagon! I saw the writing on the wall, made a few calls and ended up at JBL Professional where I eventually had oversight of about half of the company’s product development/ marketing endeavors. In my last year there I was appointed VP Global Sales but was lured back into the consulting sector by an improving economy. That was in late 2012 and by 2014 the genesis of Trickfish was on the horizon. We incorporated in late 2014 and had our first NAMM Show in the winter of 2015.

Do you play bass? If so, are you still an active player?

I haven’t made myself available for gigs in a long time but I have a small recording studio and still practice when I can…

Dog Party Live

What does your company build? Do you limit your efforts to bass amplification exclusively? If so why?

Trickfish is a new company with the singular focus of building bass amplification. The people involved with the company are all bassists but our professional experience extends well beyond the borders of the low end. Anything could happen but we’ve got few more things to do in the bass space!

Why did you decide to start the company and what drives you to push forward?

I started this company because I felt, based on my experiences working for several other companies, that I was ready to not only manage a business on my own, but that as a bassist I had yet to hear or experience an amp that was “the shit”. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful products out there, but I wanted to hear and feel something that I felt was missing. Are we there yet – nobody is! That’s the beauty of this; with every revelation comes new questions and the horizon gets pushed out a little farther. You keep striving.

Trickfish BH1K

All of my years in music and audio have been dedicated (in part) to the pursuit of truly musical tone; natural, organic… whatever you want to call it, but believable tone that inspires a player or sound engineer to reach inside and reveal their artistic dream. Here’s the thing – when the music sounds good people listen and when people listen, music can change their lives. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in product development is that there’s a delicate marriage between science and art if you want to take something from simply being “good enough” to that goose bump giving, sublime tone that inspires a musician to step it up and really touch people with their playing. Based on the feedback from our customers I’m positive the ship is pointed in the right direction.

How did you get started building bass amps/cabs? Tell us about your first amp/cab build… what prompted you to do it? What were the challenges or lessons learned?

Well the first amp I built was a Heathkit power amp I built with my Dad. We also built a speaker cabinet but had no idea what we were doing and needless to say it was horrible. I actually cut my teeth at SWR working closely with Steve Rabe and Bryan Bellar on a few products most notably a Rocco Prestia signature model Workingman’s amp and cab, the Megoliath 8 x 10, the MoBass, a little on the Bass 750 and some LA Series prototypes. I also oversaw the modernization of the manufacturing process and was part of increasing the output capacity of the factory. When I started at SWR there was a 6-week wait on new orders and by the time I left we had tripled the size of the business and could ship most items the next day. Failure rates fell and the artist roster grew. It was a great time for bass amps to be sure.

How did you learn electronics/acoustics? Did you have a mentor?

I was always a bit of a wing nut. I just like taking things apart and putting them back together. My Dad and I did a lot of things around the house and I learned how to analyze and solve a problem from him. When I was in more professional bands I always hung out with the technical people. I loved sound systems and recording studios and was fascinated by the components and how they worked together. With help from the guys that really knew what they were doing, I learned quite a bit about the important elements that make audio technology work. While working at all of these different companies I’ve picked up quite a bit of technological information about circuits, electro-acoustics, cabinet design, crossover design and most importantly how to tune systems. I’ve been hired to do sound design or cabinet tuning by some pretty high level people in the pro audio business based upon the changes we made to the sonic characteristics of the JBL Pro products and the work I’ve done with KRK. My experience as a professional musician had a direct impact on my ability to hear audio not just from a scientific viewpoint, but also from an artistic viewpoint. I know what a cymbal is supposed to sound like when it’s hit hard or played softly, or a trumpet or violin or orchestra bells. I’ve heard most common instruments first hand and can identify, from a frequency range viewpoint, what is missing or over exaggerated in a cab or system. Pure engineers simply don’t have that background.

How do you select the materials you choose to build with? Do you prefer an old-school approach or a modern, high-tech incorporation?

When designing a product you have to have a goal. There can be multiple goals for a product but understanding the hierarchy of the goals is paramount to developing something that’s meaningful to the customer. Once you’ve defined the goal (s) then they define the materials, the process and the outcome. Since Trickfish’s engineering capabilities are not exclusive to the scope of just one person’s knowledge, skill or vision, we can choose whatever objectives get us to the goal. Old Skool, Uber Modern – it doesn’t matter. Having a fully realized vision, knowing who the customer is and understanding what they want, embracing a realistic expectation of the price/performance ratio and understanding the metrics of the demographic before you embark on a product is pretty paramount. On a few rare occasions you can effectively throw caution to the wind and make something “because you can”. Nobody was screaming for a smartphone before they were invented. Nobody was demanding an 8 track digital tape recorder before Alesis invented the ADAT. Nobody was yelling for MIDI… That’s true innovation and it happens pretty rarely. In general Product Development is an iterative process and it addresses the solutions to common problems – basically building a better mousetrap. People who are in product development have a saying: “Better, Faster or Cheaper – pick two because you can’t have all three”.

What do you feel are the most important characteristics in a bass amp/cab?

As a player what I want in a bass amp first and foremost is headroom. I don’t care how good something sounds if I can’t get into 6th gear without the amp clipping or triggering a nasty limiter circuit. If the amp is in a compromised condition you’re also compromising the speakers. A bass rig is a system and each component is co-dependent on the other so, if the system is to function to its fullest capacity, both components (head and cabs) have to be symbiotically paired.

Secondly I want a colorless sound. I want to be able to have the EQ out of the circuit and have the amplifier NOT add any color – I want to hear the sound of my fingers, the sound of the strings, the wood, the pre-amp and pick-ups.

I also want an EQ that is powerful enough to carve out a sound without actually destroying a sound.

In the course of a live performance I want it to be easy to get a good sound. This means sonically or ergonomically. I also want the necessary routing options that allow flexibility.

In a speaker cabinet I look for spectral balance (properly tuned), power handling capability and rugged construction. The drivers have to be appropriate for the job and the cabinet has to have been properly designed as to diminish standing waves, it needs to be ported properly so the drivers can function to their best ability and that the box is solid enough to mitigate unwanted resonance. The crossover tuning is critical to achieving an even spectral balance as you don’t want gaps or bumps in the frequency response. The damping material has a lot to do with the sound so choosing the correct material in very important. The quality of the wood is also important – harder woods can be cut to more exacting dimensions. All of these factors make the difference between a good sounding cab and a great sounding cab.

What are a few things you would consider that make your company and the products so unique?

First and foremost are the people. Without this team of highly trained, experienced professionals there is nothing.

Anthony Fregoso

No one is guessing. We practice real science to create the designs and our experienced ears to polish the product. Mike Pope’s pre-amp design is a thing of brilliance that was born out of his incredible experience as a bassist. David Yates is our electrical guru. He is a world-class Electrical Engineer who holds close to 80 US Patents – that’s like having 10 albums of hit records! And while both of the Trickfish Bullhead amplifiers benefit greatly from the pre-amp, it’s a pretty amazing amplifier before you even engage the EQ circuit. That’s a testament to having a gain structure that is properly managed, a super clean signal path, a well-managed power module and power supply, real world ergonomics and the use of high quality components. It takes serious design and engineering skills. The application engineering, the industrial design, the electrical engineering and mechanical engineering all come together in the BH1K and BH.5K and that’s a testament to the design team’s ability to work together. Me, Michael, David and Anthony all contributed to the finished product and to be truthful, it would have never happened if just one person had taken this on their own.

We take the same approach to the cabinets – lot’s-o-science, critical listening, more science, more listening and we keep refining the design until it is right. The good news is that Anthony and I worked together at JBL Pro where we developed about 30 products together and we have a 6th sense with each other. He knows what I’m looking for and usually we don’t have to do more that 2 or three passes to get something we love. Anthony also works closely with the driver manufacturers on the development of higher performance drivers so that the basic food groups are as healthy as possible!

In the final analysis it is about the sound and the performance. I love watching people plug in, set the amp at flat, tweak the gain structure and hear themselves and their bass. So many times I’ve heard really serious players say “that’s awesome right there! I don’t even need EQ.”

We’ve brought on a new member of the family, Ryan Owens, who brings years of playing and touring experience to the table in addition to solid business skills that will help us as we grow. These five concentric circles of skill and experience form a core of prowess that no one individual could possess. It’s like a great band where everyone could be a band leader. And what makes it even sweeter is that we’re all friends and really enjoy each other’s company.

Who were some of the first well-known musicians who started playing through your amps/cabs?

Hussein Jiffry, Tim Landers, Jimmy Haslip, Rene Camacho, Jeff Andrews, Jerry Jemmott, Ernest Tibbs, Ric Fierabracci, to name the early adopters. I can’t stress enough how important their feedback was and is in the development of new product. We listen carefully and act on the real world concerns they have about the gear.

Chaka Khan – Bumbershoot, Seattle WA

How do you develop a signature or custom amp/cab for an artist? 

The first question is why? I get it with instruments but amps are a little like a PA system. They should be relatively benign. They should reveal the sound of the person playing through them and if you accept that premise, it is counterintuitive to develop an amp that has just one sound that is affiliated with one artist. Unless of course it is specifically for marketing related purposes and that person’s draw is such that you’ll sell more amps… Having seen this firsthand I can tell you that a paint job or an on-board effect really isn’t anything special or unique.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find their perfect amp/cab?

Let’s remove the age barrier and open that up to anyone who is still looking for their perfect rig. The first thing is to formulate an idea of your sound. Then ask yourself if the instrument you play is the axe that best suits your style or voice. If that’s under control then you can go looking for an amp. Define your price range first – no point in looking at $3000.00 rig when you have no intention of buying it. Can you transport it? When you’re playing through the amp does it reveal the sound of your instrument and playing? Does it get loud enough for your basic gigs? Do you understand how the head works? Pragmatism goes a long way…

Can you give us a word of advice to young electronics fans who are considering designing their own amp/cab?

Get out your wallet! Seriously, they should ask themselves “why”. What can they bring to the table that is innovative, creative or different? If they can answer that question then they should ask themselves “why not?” Plan on being in the red for years and don’t expect lightning in a bottle. This is hard work so surround yourself with talented, hardworking people who share your vision. And lastly, keep the faith, believe in your vision and take no prisoners… This is starting to sound familiar..

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

I feel successful when reading all of the positive emails and texts from our customers. When truly demanding players tell us that the gear has become vital to their musical experience. The team is awesome and I respect and value their friendship. I feel successful when sharing the company with them and our extended family. It’s humbling and exciting all at the same time.

Visit online at trickfishamps.com

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