BUILDER PROFILE > TOP HAT AMPS
ABOVE: An inside look at Top Hat’s “Super Fat” Club Deluxe shows the military-grade, terminal-strip
construction and custom-wound Heyboer transformers.
RIGHT: Builder Brian Gerhard often uses Celestion speakers, but opted for the Scumback H75-LHDC
for the Club Americana 1x12 amp pictured here. Photo courtesy of Fat Sound Guitars
10 different-sounding amps. The classic
circuits are a basic guideline, but I would
say our overriding philosophy from the
beginning was to try to have amps that do
what the greatest top five ever did—with
much more versatility.
Which is, of course, hard to get with
some of the great old ones, love them as
we do. They’re just not all that usable in
a wide variety of situations.
Absolutely. Like on a top-boosted AC30,
you get volume, treble, and bass. With our
King Royale, we add a midrange knob, a
fat-off-bright switch that varies the gain in
the preamp section, and a master volume.
If you dime the master, put the mid at
10 o’clock—which is where Vox fixed the
midrange—and put it in the fat mode,
your circuit is identical to a standard top-boost AC30. But you also have the option
to change your midrange, engage the fat-off-bright switch, or adjust the distortion
with the master so that it works at a much
lower volume than you’d be stuck with on
the vintage ones.
That’s my philosophy—even on the
Emplexador, where you’ve got the bright
boost, the fat boost, and the master vol-
ume added to what would otherwise be a
dead-bone Marshall plexi circuit: You can
always get the original Marshall sound,
but you can get a lot of other things, as
well. Great as the old ones were, they’re
impractical most of the time. Nobody can
play that loud, even with a 45- of 50-watt
amp with no master volume. Once you
put it up to the sweet spot, you’re loud as
hell, the singer’s having a hard time being
heard, and the sound guy’s upset [laughs].
So you’re trying to appeal to vintage
purists while offering more options.
That’s what I gave a lot of consideration
to—why anybody would possibly sell my
amp. I tried to address those problems so
that they would keep it for life and never
want to sell it. With the exact copies that
don’t improve upon the vintage ones,
yes, you’ve made an ideologically pure
model—but it’s impractical and unusable
so much of the time. Of course, there are
a few people man enough to handle those,
as in the case of a real tweed Deluxe in the
studio. But it’s still expensive to build with
very limited capability, so what happens is,
as the amplifiers pile up in your collection,
the one that’s not getting used so much
ends up getting sold for something else. I
tried to learn from all that very early on,
and folks tend to sell mine a lot less than
they do others. If I had to compete with
myself on the secondary market, or if they
weren’t bulletproof so that I had to be fixing old amps all the time, I’d be pulling
my hair out. That is why I build them so
that they don’t mess up and are practical—
to keep people happy for life rather than
to be the flavor of the month.
You’ve got a pretty impressive list of
stage and studio heavyweights using
your amps. Is there a particular artist or
story that makes you smile most?
112 PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2012