Blackheart’s Speaker Selection Explained
This month I spoke with Pyotr Belov, director of or design the amp and then find a compli-
amplifier development for Loud Technologies’ mentary speaker?
Blackheart Engineering division.
What’s your process for creating a new amp?
It starts from a serious meeting with our marketing expert, Kevin Van Pamel (director of
marketing and product development), in a
dodgy watering hole. Tools are good beer, a
pen, cocktail napkins and vivid imaginations.
When I was an independent amp builder I
designed an amp and catered the circuit to the
speaker. Now I have the luxury of using speakers fine-tuned to the circuit just as much as the
circuit to the speaker.
How do you go about finding the right
speaker? What factors are considered?
Are you trying to fill a niche or trying to
emulate similar products on the market?
Both. It’s amazing how many companies take
the stance of “we know what the customer
wants, therefore we will make it and they will
buy it.” Instead, we keep our finger on the
pulse and our ears to the ground, seeking the
opinions and demands of players on the street.
Then we try exceeding their expectations.
Some gear is proven, but priced at a level
where the average person can’t afford it. We
take the hype out of boutique prices, keep the
quality and make it where anyone can afford it.
Do you aspire to create a specific tone when
designing the amp?
I am a product of old school technology and
rock – I like pretty organic sounds. A guitar
should sound like a guitar. I desire the amp
to be the extension of the player and guitar.
Some amps make any guitar and player sound
the same. I like making the amplifier a blank
canvas for the player and guitar. Many players rely on the front-end gain structure of the
amp to achieve easy sustain – I think that’s a
crutch, the tone should come from your hands.
The best way to develop this is to take off the
training wheels, plug in and turn up old school
style. I like to take players back to the roots
where amps were all tube, rock was pure and
you had to be a hell of a player to get laid
after the show.
What role does the speaker play in your
Major! It is the last and probably one of the
most important components to your overall
tone. Not having the right speaker is like running out of gas as you approach the finish line.
Do you design the amp around the speaker
Efficiency is a big factor. A small amp can
sound huge with an efficient speaker and a big
amp can – but doesn’t have to – sound like
crap with a speaker that has a low efficiency
rating. Then there’s break-up – early or late?
Is it going to be an open back or closed back
cabinet? Do I want an American or British vibe?
I generally just tell Eminence what I want and
then they translate my request into their mad
science and deliver what I need.
Do you prefer custom designed or off-the-
shelf speakers and why?
Custom! I like to feel special. Seriously, there’s
nothing wrong with off-the-shelf speakers.
In fact, when requesting a custom designed
speaker I use standard models as references,
but having a custom speaker option is hard to
How do you decide the power of the amp
and what role does the power of the speak-
Blackheart has amps from a fraction of one
watt to 100 watts. In each case, we try creating
a speaker that best compliments the specific
circuits. At the same time, we realize our extension cabinets may be used with other amps,
so we also ensure that they complement other
amplifiers and their respective power levels. I
heavily lean towards high efficiency speakers
rated much higher than the amp.
What features of the amp are you pleased
with? What’s cool and different about
Boutique design and quality construction at a
working musician’s price is one of our greatest features. Let’s face it, for tube amps, the
building blocks every designer relies on are the
same used in the first amps ever built. Some
technologies have been developed, but the
bare bones of a great tube amp are as simple
as the V8 block from the 1950s. Building an
amplifier that captures the player’s eyes and
ears with useful features, quality components
and top workmanship without bending them
over the barrel is the magic behind Blackheart
Engineering. As much as I refer to price being
important, that’s not where we start. We nail
down an idea we’re excited about and run the
numbers last. If both can exist in a world true
to the BHE mission, the planets are aligned
and there is great peace in the universe. We’re
just a bunch of average guys that like to hang
out and make the world a better place through
tubes and wires. In the words of Brian Johnson,
“For those about to rock, we salute you!” At
Blackheart Engineering, we salute those who
work hard, play hard and like to get something
of substance for their hard-earned cash.
For more information on Blackheart products
please visit blackheartamps.com.
Anthony “Big Tony” Lucas
is a guitarist and Senior Lab Technician at Eminence
Speaker LLC, where he specializes in guitar-speaker
design and customer support. Big Tony has been with
Eminence for over 10 years and is responsible for many
well-known guitar speaker designs.