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