The People’s Amp Story, Part II

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Continued from last week’s episode of TubeTalk…

I built another amp based on Ace’s design, but I was much smarter about the layout of the chassis. I also simplified the circuit to ditch the presence and bass-boost controls. I used this amp to experiment with, and switched out a bunch of different components to see how it affected the sound. I eventually tinkered this amp past its point of usefulness, and didn’t care to restore it to its original design. The entire process had me wondering about how simple I could make an amplifier that might still be useful to me as a working guitarist.

Starting with the 18watt lite design, comparing it to original Marshall 18 watt schematics, and looking at projects at, I arrived at the circuit design for what would become The People’s Amplifier. At the time, I had no interest in building an amp for anyone but me. There it was, though: one input, one volume knob, one tone knob, power and standby switches, a tube rectifier, 12AX7 preamp and phase inverters, and a pair of EL84s in the power section. The original was just an 8 ohm output, but now I offer 4, 8, and 16 ohm jacks. I was blown away. It was the best feeling and sounding amp I’d ever played, and it was pretty affordable to make.

I wanted to share my “discovery” with the world, because I thought there were probably others like me who wanted a great amp at a great price. The idea of The People’s Amp was born, and off I went into the wacky world of music retail. I learned very quickly that guitarists are a rather superstitious and highly-opinionated lot, and also that you have one chance to make a first impression.

I used the prototype, model #001, without any kind of head cabinet for quite a long time. I carried it around in a toolbox lined with acoustic foam. I sold a few “naked” chassis, but I always had plans to design a head cabinet. These chassis without cabinets are the 100-series amps.

A 100-series with client’s design
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Another 100-series with a client-designed head cabinet. Pretty slick!








A family member who was into woodworking came up with a nice birch cabinet design, which can still be seen here at Premier Guitar. This is the prototype. We made a couple of small changes to the design, including a plexiglass window for the logo. I hadn’t received the new cabinet designs when Premier Guitar contacted me, so I sent them the prototype for the review. They asked me to send a note explaining that this was the prototype and not the production model. The note obviously got lost! I’m pretty sure the production model would have received higher marks on the appearance scale. Lesson learned.


The 200-series production model

I sold several of the 200-series amps with the new head cabinet design, before the cabinet maker decided he couldn’t keep up with my demand. What seemed like a crisis at the time actually turned itself into an opportunity. With the help of my buddy, Jerry Newkirk, we arrived at the expanded plate and wood legs design that led to the 300-series. The 300-series chassis and head cabinets are manufactured for me now by Columbus Machine Works. It’s a super-practical design, and the innovative flip-top with thumbscrews makes changing tubes a breeze. I also love how you can see all the wonderful tubey glow through the cage. Customization is another fun feature – the cage can be painted any color, and matching chicken head knobs are available for most of them.

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The 300-series People’s Amp


The prototype, the 100-series, 200-series, and 300-series amps all use the same exact circuitry, and they all have the same awesome sound. The simplicity of the design guarantees a high level of consistency, and I’m very proud of the results. All of the amps I’ve sold are being used by working musicians. They aren’t sitting around in hobbyists’ basements. I’ve had a couple of them come back for repair, but those were due to either damage from dropping, or from defective power tubes shorting out. The greatest testament to the amp’s durability is that I’ve been using the original prototype pretty heavily since 2008, and it has had no problems at all.

The continuing People’s Amp story will soon include an exciting new convertible combo design, and I’m doing research to develop a 36 watt model, as well as models that use octal tubes like 6V6, EL34, or 6L6GC in the power section. I’m also working on custom options, including an effects loop, reverb for the combo, a TMB tonestack, and perhaps offering clones of some legendary designs. Simple and affordable design, ironclad lifetime warranty, and guaranteed client satisfaction will endure.

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