solid state amplifiers

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Trace Elliot

Trace Elliot originated in 1979 in the Soundwave music shop in Romford, Essex. The Soundwave owner, Fred Friedlein, and staff which included Alan Morgan (sales) and Stuart Watson (design engineer) were building and hiring out PA systems. Musicians began using these amplifiers for basses and the Soundwave staff went on to developed range of products that using MOSFET output stages driving large cabinets, including 15” drivers, and a 4 x 10” cabinet, now an industry standard for bass amps. The brand became Trace Elliot: by 1989 they were also making acoustic amplifiers. The company was bought by Kaman in 1992. It was sold again in 1997 as a management buy-out and again in 1998 to the Gibson Guitar Corp. By 2002 UK manufacturing had stopped & Gibson moved production of any remaining products elsewhere. By 2015 Peavey had aquired the rights to the brand.

Source: Trace Elliot website (14 January 2021)


Steve W. Rabe founded SWR Engineering Inc.  in 1983. His aim was to make a bass amp with a full range and hi-fi, clean sound. SWR's first “hybrid” full-range bass amplifier, the PB-200 (later to become the SM-400), appeared in 1984. The first five units were made in a garage. The PB-200 had a warm but highly accurate tube preamp, a stereo solid-state power amp and a low-noise, integrated circuit-driven tone section. It was used for the famous “We Are The World” session, at which a direct-input signal was taken from the amp (as opposed to using a direct box), a then unheard-of bass recording concept. In 1986, SWR released the Goliath, a 4 x 10" full-range speaker cabinet with a built-in horn tweeter, a first for bass cabinets.  In 1997 Rabe sold the company and it was sold again in 2003 to Fender Musical Instruments Corp. Fender discontinued the SWR brand in 2013.


Ikutaro Kakehashi founded Roland in Osaka in 1972. Roland's first product was the TR-77 drum machine. In 1973 they introduced a compact synth - the SH-1000. Guitar effects were added to the line-up in 1974 and in 1975 they began making amplifiers including the legendary Jazz Chorus model. In 1977 Roland introduced the GR-500 guitar synth (by 1980 they also had the 303 and 808 guitar synth models). Roland also owns the Boss brand name known for its effects pedals.


Rocktron was founded in 1983 by Bob Waller and Jim Chowning as a producer of top quality signal processing, amplification and effects. Rocktron’s first hit product was the HUSH noise reduction lineup. In 1984 the company introduced the first compressors, preamps, enhancers, effects and controllers with built-in noise reduction, along with the first footswitchable rack mount compressors. 1985 saw the introduction of the first touch-sensitive, digitally-controlled multi-effects preamp. In 1989 Rocktron provided the first factory-produced Bradshaw switchers.


QSC Audio began in 1968 when the Quilter Sound Company was founded by Patrick Howe Quilter. Quilter Sound Co. concentrated on guitar and bass amps initially but moved into professional power amplifiers, audio control systems and loudspeakers The company was renamed QSC, LLC in 2015. Patrick Quilter retired from QSC in 2011, and founded Quilter Labs to develop portable, solid-state, high-power guitar amplifiers.

Source: QSC Audio website (24 April 2019)

LR Baggs

L.R. Baggs was founded by Lloyd Baggs who started out In 1973 by buying, modifying, refinishing, retuning and then returning old Gibsons and Washburns - this led to L.R. Baggs fine-handmade-guitar-and-guitar-repair business being  launched. After Lloyd finished his first guitar in a Berkeley, California garage, he took it to his guitar idol, Ry Cooder, and received his first commission. Lloyd's list of customers for his L.R. Baggs Handmade Guitar included Jackson Browne, Janis Ian, Graham Nash and two instruments went to Ry Cooder. The guitar featured on Cooder's "Jazz" album is an L.R. Baggs Handmade Guitar.


Robert Gallien is a Stanford educated engineer who first began making amplifiers in the late 1960s, while working a day job at Hewlett Packard in California. These first amplifiers had the GMT brand name, but in the early 1970s Gallien joined forces with another HP engineer Richard Krueger and the company became Gallien-Krueger. Gallien-Krueger are best known for their bass amplifiers and stopped producing guitar amplifiers all together in the late 1990s.

Source: Gallien-Krueger website (5 July 2017)


The company was founded by Leo Fender as Fender's Radio Service in late 1938 in Fullerton, California, USA. While repairing musical instrument amplifiers in his electronics workshop he noticed their design flaws. He began making a few amplifiers using his own designs or modifications to designs. By the early 1940s, he had teamed up with another local electronics enthusiast named Clayton Orr (Doc) Kauffman, and they formed a company named K & F Manufacturing Corp. to design, manufacture, and sell electric instruments and amplifiers. Production began in 1945 with Hawaiian lap steel guitars (incorporating a patented pickup) and amplifiers, which were sold as sets. Leo Fender decided to concentrate on manufacturing rather than repair. Kauffman remained unconvinced, however, and they had amicably parted ways by early 1946. At that point Leo renamed the company the Fender Electric Instrument Company.


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