Like most of the people in the industry, Andrew Barta started
out as a musician with the goal of becoming a rock star. A natural tinkerer since childhood,he majored in electronics in college
--just in case.
Andrew emigrated from Hungary to the U.S. in 1980 and
became a citizen in‘ 86. He
worked in music stores repairing, customizing and modifying
amplifiers during the day and
played guitar in a band at night.
Unfortunately (or fortunately as the story ends up), many of
the major manufacturers didn’t see a future in his concept and
rejected his unique invention. Thankfully, Andrew was urged by
his long-time friend, Dale Krevens (Tech 21’s Vice President),
to start his own business. She knew this idea was too good to
keep to himself. After the two of them spent days compiling a
list of over 300 possible names for the
mysterious black box, Dale, who was in
advertising and marketing at the time,
came up with SansAmp. “Sans” mean-
ing “without” in French.
In his spare time, he worked
on making a pedal-sized box
to emulate different kinds of
tube amplifiers. This project
began as something Andrew
wanted for himself because, as
much as he loved their tone,
he was sick and tired of lugging around heavy amps that
were temperamental, costly to
maintain and consumed large
blocks of expensive studio
time trying to mic them up just
right. Given his knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of amplifiers,he made it his personal mission to find a new
approach. Once Andrew was happy with what he created, he
thought he could sell the technology, make a pile of money and
move forward with his musical career.
First and second Tech 21 advertisements.
Pictured left and right respectively.
Working out of a back office on 30th
Street in New York City, Andrew met
Mick Jones of Foreigner. Andrew
shared his product with him, got his
support, and Mick began recommending the SansAmp to his friends. Sam
Ash on 48th Street agreed to put one
on consignment, despite their perception it was just a high-priced distortion
box. Within hours, Ash sold it to Phil
Collen of Def Leppard. Then Andrew’s
phone rang and it was Ash calling to
place an order.
From there, Tech 21 grew almost entirely by true word of
mouth. There was no internet back then!
Andrew Barta finishes
design on his “black
box.” Spends two years
trying to sell the
pursuing his music career.
Tech 21 makes its official debut at
Winter NAMM, just as the Gulf War
gets under way. (An announcement
was made by the pilot during the flight
to California.) Despite the war and bad
economy, SansAmps went directly from
the assembly line into shipping boxes,
destined for all corners of the world.
At the January NAMM Show,
Tech 21 introduces the
Trademark 60 combo amp,
based on the all-analog
SansAmp technology. It was
the first combo to offer
guitarists the ability to emulate
a variety of different kinds of
Rejected by major manufacturers,
Andrew starts his own business,
Tech 21, and begins selling the
black box, now named SansAmp,
solely through consignment and
word of mouth.
Kurt Cobain uses SansAmp as his main distortion for the In Utero
tour. He actually had 5
SansAmps in total.