Brown Note Amplifiers
ampage.org and 18watt.com, I really got
involved with the DIY craze. I was the first
to offer an 18-watt kit based on the lead
channel of the Marshall 1974X, and then,
as far as I know, I was the first to offer an
Overdrive Special-type kit—the D’Lite.
How much electronics knowledge does
someone buying a kit need to assemble it?
I’d say almost none. I know of people who
have never even heated a soldering iron
who just decided to try it and were totally
How long does it take to build a kit amp?
A guy who is really cooking could have
an amp kit up and running in a week, yet
another guy might take six months to a
year to complete it. If you decide to tackle
a kit with no experience, you need to
approach the project slowly and methodically—and ask a lot of questions. After
you’ve built three or four kits, you could
easily assemble one in a weekend.
What are the differences between your
kits and the assembled amps you sell now?
The whole idea with the kit is to provide a
really high-quality product and make it as
affordable as possible. My other goal is to
simplify the building process, so someone
who is just starting out can put one together. Fortunately, simplified circuits end up
sounding really good. With the Brown Note
amp line, our approach is to offer as high-quality an amp as possible and include all
the things customers want, like an effects
loop and reverb.
So a customer can’t get reverb and an
effects loop in a kit?
Our kits are streamlined for the sake of
cost and ease of assembly. That said, we
now have a reverb retrofit kit and effects
loop kit available, and we also offer a footswitching kit. For more ambitious builders,
we offer kits with add-ons to bring the
level of the DIY features closer to our production builds.
By making affordable kits available, you
probably reduce the temptation for someone to open up one of your production
amps and copy it.
Even if you try to keep it a secret, people
are going to find out what’s under the
hood anyway. We follow more of an open-source model. That’s cool because it’s like
a community—a collaborative effort with
hundreds of great minds working together
and sharing knowledge.
Has anybody come up with a kit mod that
you’ve integrated into your designs?
The back of the ODR 100 features convenient power-tube bias-adjusting controls (top), as well as an Impedance selector, FX Loop, an OD Gain Trim
control for adjusting the amount of footswitchable gain, three mini toggles—OD (which switches between clean and overdrive), MID (for mid boost), and
PAB (for a preamp boost)—and a 5-pin jack for the footswitch (bottom).
Norm Feaster worked with me closely in
developing the D’Lite kit and had some
great ideas we put into use, and Scott
Lerner was very helpful. There’s Gil Ayan,
who came up with a cool treble-bleed
circuit I use, and Alfonso Hermida who
worked with me on a ported cabinet
design. The Hall VVR, Iron Sounds FX
Loop, and Ampdoc 3-relay board are after-market items you can add to your amp kit.
A lot of guys have really tricked out their
build and done cool stuff. In some cases,
their mods mirror what we’re doing with
our production amps.