Today, there are so many different choices available to the musician, due to evolving technology and the proliferation of the internet, that it is nearly impossible to differentiate among the guitar amplifier companies or their models, much less choose the amp that’s right for you. Granted, it’s not just musicians who would find this confusing…anyone would get mired down in the mish-mash. So many options lead to so many questions: What makes an amplifier different? Is it Power? Is it the amp with the most watts that will create stadium-filling rock stardom? Is it the features? The ones with DSP processing and onboard computers can simulate all sorts of effects: reverb, overdrive, vibrato, kitchen sink, etc…is that the answer? Is it gain? The one with the most earth-shattering crunch, is that the winner? Then, even if you are able to navigate your way through the maze of features, there are a multitude of catchy marketing terms and fad engineering with which to contend. All of these choices, yet something still seems to be missing, and it is the only thing that really matters! But, what is this elusive quality, you may be asking?
Musicality – the ability to inspire not just the making of sound, but the creation of actual music…that’s what’s missing…instrument amplifiers designed to reproduce music, actual music! It seems simple and fundamental enough to expect an instrument amplifier to be able to accurately reproduce the music the artist is creating, yet it is extremely rare.
Currently, instead of focusing on the most fundamental job of amplifiers - the music - the current trends are flashy features and marketing over the tone and build-quality necessary to create amps with musicality. This lack of regard for the music is new, as it hasn’t always been this way. Think back to the amps that are considered to be the best of the vintage classic amps -- the holy grail of amps, if you will. Those designs did not follow any marketing scheme or trend, and, in fact, they set the trends as “watershed designs” of their time, and that may be the secret to why they never sound outdated or fall out of favor. Isn’t that weird for “old” technology to be better than the majority of the newer stuff? Isn’t “new” technology supposed to improve upon the old? Normally, yes, the newer stuff should be better than the older stuff, but many instrument amplifier companies have lost their focus and no longer serve the music. It leaves people to wonder, “Where are the watershed amps of our time?” It doesn’t make much sense that these companies are not using the most cutting-edge modern parts on their products, but are just adding current, flashy bells and whistles to their outdated and cheap parts, which results in a flashy product that, to be blunt, sounds bad. It doesn’t make much sense to me and it, probably, doesn’t make sense to you, either. Yet, the fact remains, few companies have that talent, bravery, and foresight to avoid falling prey to the trap of “staying trendy” or using the crutch of “fad engineering,” but why is that?
It simply boils down to what is easiest. To avoid the “trend trap,” the designer must have a tight grasp on the design and a clear-focus on the criteria necessary to build it, instead of basing a design on a few quick sales without regard to build-quality or creating a product that will stand the test of time. For the sake of brevity, let’s call this approach “Engineering Discipline.” Engineering Discipline comes about only through a strict adherence to design goals and a transcendent philosophy intended to be the antidote for this “trend disease” that has spread like a pandemic. Engineering Discipline requires the designer to delve into the riddle of what makes a good amp different from a great amp? Furthermore, it is not enough just to ask the question, Engineering Discipline demands the answer be found, then acted upon by creating a product worthy of being called a watershed amp. The answer to what makes a good amp different than a great amp must be its design, parts, and implementation, regarding the specs and criteria necessary to achieve a strict, quantifiable goal for instrument amplification. Many companies claim to use “audiophile” parts and build-quality, but few actually meet that goal. The statement, “Audiophile grade parts and build,” in instrument amplification has almost morphed into a false marketing term, with no real definable meaning, much like “fine Corinthian leather” was just a marketing term coined by the advertising agency, Bozell, and was meant to lend some cache to an ordinary leather made in a factory in Newark, New Jersey; however, there is such a thing as audiophile grade parts and build. It does exist and is definable, and is not just a marketing term to add an air of quality to average parts and standard build-quality. Hi-end or audiophile design is true engineering practices and philosophies that create quality products. It is not a slew of made-up marketing terms and catchphrases, but, in fact, is a purposeful design goal, which very few are capable of achieving. True audiophile parts are chosen with two goals in mind -- reliability and sound quality, and cost is not a factor. Many designers of guitar amps and effects state, “we use audiophile capacitors,” when, in actuality, they use off-the-shelf $2.00 caps and just dub them, “audiophile grade”; in comparison, audiophile capacitors are never off-the-shelf. For example, the best are hand-trimmed, matched to 1%, cryogenically treated, damped Teflon capacitors costing $30.00 to $70.00, which results in greater reduction of parasitics such as ESR, and improves the effective linear bandwidth, clarity, and coherence. “Audiophile parts and build” means every detail is considered, such as the chassis, isolation, and vibration control of parts, even the circuit hook-up wire. By paying attention to even the smallest, most overlooked detail a designer can achieve the greatest tone. Most guitar amp designs use standard spool hook-up wire, but that would never fly in a true audiophile design. Audiophile hi-end design would call for a purity of 99.9999% copper OHNO that is designed to achieve the very highest level of performance imaginable. OHNO wire is named after Dr. Atsumi Ohno who invented the method of manufacturing mono-crystal wire, which is a highly sophisticated process of producing wire without the crystalline barriers found in all conventional wire. Whereas, standard copper typically exhibits thousands of crystals per meter, and, as audio signals move through this maze, energy is lost at every crystalline juncture. OHNO copper is a single crystal providing an unobstructed path for transmission resulting in the purest audio signal. OHNO cables are made with XLPE (cross linked polyethylene), one of the very best insulations for high-end audio cables. This wire results in the best choice for low-level harmonic and macro/micro dynamic resolution possible. Remember, once a detail of dynamics or harmonics is lost nothing can give it back to you. Just as true audiophile grade transformers should be mil spec, high tolerance, custom hand-made, and hand-wound specifically for guitar amp applications and not a generic transformer, that is the true definition of an audiophile grade part. Knowing this, some may be wondering why, if audiophile grade parts and hi-end implementation create the most tuneful expression of amplified music possible, then why isn’t every designer making their amps using the best parts available and designing for tone and musicality? There are three reasons: 1. They may be unaware what a true hi-end design is and about audiophile parts; 2. They do not have the capability or ear to design with such complexity of tone; 3. The do not have the guts to invest in such expensive parts to create an instrument amplifier that bucks trends, since it may not sell as well. Now, ask yourself, “Does anyone even build this level of amp anymore?” and “Does my guitar amp have this level of true audiophile design parts?”
The answer to question 2 is, “Yes, and his name is Tim Schroeder”; the answer to question 3 is, “Yes, assuming you have an amp from Schroeder Amplification.” Tim Schroeder has been an audiophile for over 30 years. He understands what it means to say “audiophile build” and he means it when he says it. Schroeder amps come with proprietary custom Audience cryogenic-treated capacitors, Cardas parts, OHNO wire, and Mercury Magnetic transformers, which are all true audiophile parts costing, in some cases, twenty to thirty times more than the standard parts that other companies market as “audiophile grade,” but are just your standard off-the-shelf parts. Designers who choose to work with audiophile parts do so to create the perfect product designed for musicality. However, a stellar instrument amp design calls for much more than just ordering the perfect parts…the other side of this story is the implementation of such parts; the parts themselves do nothing without a clear design focus, discipline, and philosophy, which makes up the Engineering Discipline that was spoke of earlier. The parts are only a means to an end and that end has to be a clear design with strict criteria. The goal of hi-end audio is to reproduce accurate timbre, transparency of tone, retrieval of low-level details of both harmonic colors and resolution, and dynamic shading with micro/macro rhythmic details intact. The basic underlying concept of hi-end audio reproduction and design goals is all about Tone, Rhythm and Dynamics – TRaD, for short. Hi-end design is more than just a collection of expensive parts, but it is a holistic design approach necessary to achieve the goal of TRaD. Achieving TRaD is a mark of excellence and is why so many boutique companies claim to be “hi-end” or “audiophile grade” just so they can be associated with that goal of “no compromise perfection.” However, in reality, their connection is only through marketing terminology, not by actual design standards. The only way a guitar amplification company can accomplish the goal of TRaD is to be very aware and experienced with hi-end products and sound. It is impossible to build with definable, qualifiable, and quantifiable standards if you first do not completely understand those practices and standards. Luckily, there are such companies capable of this higher standard.
Schroeder Amplification builds amps with not only audiophile grade parts, but with hi-end audio design practices. The Schroeder Amps are not your standard amp, which are usually governed and designed by trend or fad engineering and what is “hot” at the moment. Schroeder Amps are not a “me also” approach to design. They are built and designed with the same goal as hi-end audio…TRaD, and push the boundary of musicality that was a standard set by vintage amps. It’s about the tone, it’s about creating music and not about what features are hot today. If you follow a higher standard than trend engineering, then your amps are never at risk of sounding dated and ending up with an amp that has little to no value, which means it was a bad investment monetarily and sonically. You are never in danger of ending up with a “flavor of the month” product with Schroeder Amps. They are unparalleled in the retrieval of low-level details and harmonic resolution, dynamic shading and transparency. In other words, it’s about the music! The inherent timbre of your instrument will come through with more harmonic detail and sustain than you thought possible. A Schroeder Amp will be like hearing your guitar for the first time, and you’ll unlock all of the tone and detailed trapped by inferior amps. The fundamental notes come through with more dynamics, transparent with soaring sustain…but, wait…what comes next is the hi-end magic; held within the bubble of sustain are the harmonic colors of the fundamental notes resolved to the highest detail, but are invisible in most all other amp designs. This is what separates Schroeder Amps from other amps on the market. The goal is to achieve what only a few musicians have ever experienced, namely the almost unlimited rich harmonic structure, colors, and dynamic shades contained within your music. Schroeder has taken the engineering goals, parts, and implementation of hi-end audio and morphed them into an instrument amplifier like no other before it. Don’t be fooled by the current marketing and the misused term of true audiophile design. Only one amplifier is truly an audiophile design. Schroeder Amps are hand built and are unique from the ground up. This is the difference between creating a design from concept to completion or producing just another product.
Schroeder Amplification is the benchmark in tone and harmonic resolution. So, ask yourself if your amp has the guts to be more than another “me also” product? Schroeder Amps have guts! We don’t just say we have the guts; our parts and design prove it.