“The Amp Show is about finding your sound and creating your reality as a guitar player. Most of the people who come to the show are guitar players that wish they had the key to make a living doing what they love. They come to the show to purse their passion and find the gear they dream about to create their own tone. They want to get advice from guys that have found all the little secrets, to follow their bliss, and actually do what they love.”
2011 LA Amp Show Image Gallery:
The Amp Show was created seven years ago when Loni Specter learned that there was huge interest from boutique amp makers, wanting to show their work to guitarists and other amp manufacturers. The first show was held at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys California in 2005, and hosted twenty-five exhibiting rooms.
What sets this convention apart from other gear conventions is that each manufacturer has their own private room to demonstrate their equipment. This affords each company the ability to sonically isolate their product in the proper environment, and gives the consumer the chance to listen to the newest gear without distraction.
The LA Amp Show continues to be held at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys California every October, and The New York Amp show is held in New Jersey every June. A new Amp Show convention will be held in Anaheim California in January, and will focus on American manufacturers.
Specter has shaped the show to cater specifically to the fine art of critiquing and “cork sniffing” righteous amp tones. Bands performed at earlier conventions but that idea was nixed due to lack of interest. In its place, panel discussions were staged with professional musicians, amp makers, and attendees. These Q&A sessions have proved to be a great way for gear freaks to interact with industry professionals, and get answers to burning questions covering a variety of topics.
Specter offers another aspect of the show that distinguishes it from other gear conventions, “The show was never intended to have a thousand people in attendance. It was only meant to have only the true seekers of the golden tone come here. I keep the price of admission at twenty dollars. It’s always been twenty dollars so that little kids that you see wasting your ears at the big stores aren’t here. It’s a planned filtering system so that the companies that come here’s time is maximized. They’re interfacing with people they can relate to, so they aren’t wasting their time.”
The 7th annual 2011 LA Amp Show on October 1st and 2nd exhibited over fifty amp manufacturers and makers of guitars and guitar accessories. Manufacturers donated door prizes for the two-day event, and attendees were able to rub elbows with some of the greatest guitar players and amp builders in the world.
Raphael Saadiq guitarist Josh Smith was on hand to demonstrate his new signature amp from Morgan Amplification. “We’ve been working on it for months and it’s unreal. It has the best reverb ever!” Guitarist extraordinaire Steve Trovato could be seen in a number of rooms wielding various Telecasters, blazing away, and jamming with attendees.
Chris Justice from Suhr Custom Audio Electronics showed off the Custom Audio PT100, which is the Pete Thorn signature model head. Pete Thorn later showed up to plug in and drop jaws. The tones were huge! “It’s like a super hot-rodded Marshall. It started out as our standard SE Plus model but through tweaks for Pete’s playing style, it got a lot of forward midrange – really bitey attack, like a really good Marshall but with a sweeter top end,” explained Justice.
Guitarist Phil X hung out to show off the Evil Robot amp line and played some wicked guitar. John Kasha who built the Evil Robot for Phil X had this to say, “The initial design was modeled after the Magnatone 214 but it wouldn’t work in a band situation where you’re trying to get over a drummer. I boosted the power to eighteen watts, and kept the circuit tried and true. It’s hand wired, we kept the 50’s look to it, but kept the tone where it needed to be.”
Blues phenom Kirk Fletcher and Chuck D’Aloia showed off their jazzier side trading licks in the Red Plate Amplification room. Elsewhere, Dweezil Zappa ran the amazing Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II through its paces. The demo was truly mind blowing so I spoke to Dweezil about it, “I was one of the early adopters of it because with the music I was playing, I needed the maximum amount of flexibility to create tones and textures that were originally done with obscure equipment. My dad was like a mad scientist in the studio. He was plugging anything into everything. The Fractal lets you do that, and it keeps getting better and better.”
All the manufacturers shared a great sense of pride in their work. Sam Evans of Cardinal Instruments of Austin Texas typified this feeling that ran though out the convention. He had this to say about his guitars, “I make every one by hand, I wind my own pickups, I use local woods, I mix my own varnishes, and I do what I want. Each guitar has a unique but accessible voice and something that someone feels like they can use. I wanted to build something that someone’s going to keep for the rest of their lives. Not something that’s going to be on eBay next year.”
Overall the show has a laid back and friendly vibe with none of the chaos and confusion of larger conventions. The Airtel Plaza Hotel isn’t a particularly large venue for the convention, but it’s more than big enough to handle all the exhibitors and attendees. It allows for just the right amount of space, intimacy, and a good time for guitarists of all levels pursuing the holy grail of excellent guitar tones.