Author Topic: OT - Workhorse amps are available now  (Read 15793 times)

R.G.

OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« on: December 30, 2006, 11:08:51 AM »
Sorry I didn't get this out earlier. I've been completely consumed in some new designs. Several people wanted me to post it when they came out. Workhorse amps shipped to dealers in late October. Quantities are small as yet, but they are out there. Most dealers that pre-ordered got one or two of each size, Pony (30W - 1x12) and Stallion (60W - 2x12). They shipped simultaneously worldwide.

If you're interested, contact your local dealer that carries Visual Sound stuff to see if they have one. I think the web page has a dealer list, too.

If you try one and have an opinion either way, I'd welcome the feedback.
R.G.

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Harry

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2006, 12:31:19 PM »
Hubcap speaker grills!

analogmike

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Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2006, 01:42:31 PM »
cool, will try a production model at NAMM, maybe with one of our new pedals, good luck with it!!!
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Pushtone

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2006, 01:45:31 PM »
Great news R.G. and congradulations on the shippment.
I guess you'll be taking orders at NAMM again.


I want one!
But the problem is... When I call my local dealer listed on the web page they are CLUELESS.
They would rather pitch me on the Mesa F30 they have in stock.

What would be really helpfull would be a list of dealers that bought and got shipments.

I've asked my local dealer, Long and McQuade in Canada, and all I get is puzzled looks and doubt, FUD.

If I was sure there was one in, say Seattle, I would call the dealer, hold it, and make the 3 hour drive to buy it.

I know a shipping list would be a hassle. But that would help. Not that these amps will have any problems selling.
The problem is GETTING ONE it seems.
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rockgardenlove

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2006, 04:10:34 PM »
I haven't played it, but just from looking at it, here are my thought:

The hubcap grilles are a fantastic idea sonically, but they're a bit "out there" and I dunno how/if they will catch on.  Personally I'd have put in something like the Weber "Beam Blockers" to do the same job.  They'll do the same thing more or less, but are less likely to scare somebody away.

Only one channel.  I know this is marketed as a good thing, and I'm not saying it isn't a good idea (clean channels sound much nicer overdriven than the fizzy 12ax7 distortion on my dirty channels).  It's just that when you get this high in the price range most people expect more features.

Great idea with the 9v output.

The 1000 dollar pricetag on a 30w amp with these features is a bit on the high side IMO.  The fact is, you have the Vox AC30 for the same price, and same wattage, but with the Vox you get two channels, tremolo, reverb, effects loop (I'm surprised you don't have these, as the amp is marketed for use with pedals, or so it seems, and some effects do sound better in the effects loop), and then it's a trusted name that everybody knows of and is familiar with.  To be honest, I don't really see your amp having much of a chance at all.  And on top of that, you're pushing a new look and new features nobody has seen before in an amp and they might be skeptical/scared of. 

This is all from a marketing point of view.  I'm sure it's a great amp, but there are so many amps out there with more features, for the same price, and cheaper. 

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts R.G.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2006, 04:25:42 PM by rockgardenlove »



MetalGod

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2006, 05:32:34 PM »
nice one RG, any info on the amps - can't find much out there on the web.

so what's the story with the metal grille? - I asume it's some kind of diffusion device to stop the cab being so directional and to promote a wider spread of sound (???).  gotta admit, I'm not keen on the look of the metal grille - I'd put some grillcloth over it myself.

I'm sure the amps sound great - pity that I'm unlikely to see one here in the UK.  I wish you all the best in this venture.




fixr1984

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2006, 05:46:50 PM »
Here
This was posted a while back. Maybe it will help explain things.

Paul Perry (Frostwave)

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2006, 06:17:17 PM »
This is all from a marketing point of view.  I'm sure it's a great amp, but there are so many amps out there with more features, for the same price, and cheaper. 

Same price, more features, sure.
But.. probably not with the same maintainability. And, it's designed & sold on the basis of being what a gigging musician wants and needs. The 'features' on mass produced amps often just get in the way of a professional, who has to cover all the styles.
I don't think they will sell a million of these, but I don't think I'll see any put out with the trash either!!
An amp designed for working musicians? That's pretty novel!

the dude

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2006, 06:34:31 PM »
I would only buy that amp if it had "spinners" on that hub cap, perhaps with a motor hooked up to spin it, then you could get a fake leslie sound.  ;D

R.G.

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2006, 06:48:37 PM »
[Meta note: Will you guys slow down and let me get this polemic posted?? I can't type that fast.  ;D  ]

Yeah, it's always a speculative venture when you put out something that's not in line with the other stuff in the market. Who knows? It may not be that attractive to many people.

But since you ask, here's the reasoning which went into those facets of the amp design. I'll try not to make this a blast of marketing-speak. If I get too wound up, pinch me.  :icon_biggrin:

Quote
The hubcap grilles are a fantastic idea sonically, but they're a bit "out there" and I dunno how/if they will catch on.  Personally I'd have put in something like the Weber "Beam Blockers" to do the same job.  They'll do the same thing more or less, but are less likely to scare somebody away.
People fall into two classes when they see these - they love them or they hate them based on the way they look. I can't argue with that at all. My first reaction to them was not all that positive either. They are definitely "out there".

However, I've now listened to them a lot. In comparison to beam blockers, they do a much better job of spreading treble instead of just blocking it. The sweet spot in front of the amp is actually huge compared to most amps. Miking a Workhores is easy because of this. We thought about putting a condenser mike capsule into the hubcaps and bringing it out the back to make the amp self miking, but decided against it because people have so many different preferences in which mike they use.

If someone really hates them, the grilles are paintable...  :)

Quote
Only one channel.  I know this is marketed as a good thing, and I'm not saying it isn't a good idea (clean channels sound much nicer overdriven than the fizzy 12ax7 distortion on my dirty channels).  It's just that when you get this high in the price range most people expect more features.
Good point, and one that we spent a long time working on. That's the line of reasoning that led to the J&H being included. A single channel amp is kind of dull all by itself, but the J&H adds two independently voiced distortion channels which are stackable. We just didn't put that inside the amp. If you think of the J&H being just the footswitch which cuts in channels 2, 3, and 4 does that help?

We did a lot of talking to session musicians and touring musicians about amp setups before we did this. Almost none of them use the distortion channels in their amps on stage. They pretty uniformly set the amps to play clean-ish and get their tone out of their pedalboards. It makes the amp setups critical, and most of the functions in the amps don't get used.

Using just a single channel is not just marketing-speak (which regular readers here will know I have this aversion to). There's a reason for it. If you do tone shaping and any delay effects before you do distortion, the distortion can make sonic hash out of your carefully EQ-ed and delayed sound. If you do delays - like chorus, flanging, and reverb - after any distortion, it's a much different sound.

In fact, one way to look at it is that effects loops exist because the amps have built in distortion channels in their amp/preamps. If you do your distortion in your amp's preamp, then you pretty much have to have an effects loop to stick delay effects into to avoid the sonic-cement-mixer effect of distorting after delay.

If you do distortion then delay, you can actually hear the delayed sounds. So the principle of doing distortion and delay in your effects ahead of the amp is logically consistent. The Workhorse amps were designed specifically to be effects-friendly, including the case where you want a distortion pedal and a delay pedal. Done this way, an effects loop is not particularly needed. That's not to say that there aren't other uses for an effects loop, but you don't need an effects loop to make up for the fact that the preamp is doing a lot of distortion.

Quote
The 1000 dollar pricetag on a 40w amp with these features is a bit on the high side IMO.  The fact is, you have the Vox AC30 for the same price, and similar wattage, but with the Vox you get two channels, tremolo, reverb, effects loop (I'm surprised you don't have these, as the amp is marketed for use with pedals, or so it seems, and some effects do sound better in the effects loop), and then it's a trusted name that everybody knows of and is familiar with.  To be honest, I don't really see your amp having much of a chance at all.  And on top of that, you're pushing a new look and new features nobody has seen before in an amp and they might be skeptical of.

This is all from a marketing point of view.  I'm sure it's a great amp, but there are so many amps out there with more features, for the same price, and cheaper.
All excellent points, and ones that we worried about.

I view the Workhorse amps as a step sideways, out of the mainstream of guitar amps.

We put our manufacturing money into things that are not all that flashy or easy to see. There are not many knobs on a Workhorse. But every knob that is there can be repaired in under 15 minutes without even pulling the chassis out of the cabinet. You might crack the grille or destroy the speaker by dropping the amp out of a truck, but you probably won't crack the extra-thick PCB or the triple-thick copper on it. In fact, with the steel stiffeners on the board, it likely will not even flex.

At $40-50 per visit to bias tubes when you replace them, you'll make up several hundred dollars of service calls you don't pay for because of the owner-biasing in the amps, so they get comparatively cheaper the more you use them. If something in the circuitry does burn out, an amp tech can get to both sides of the main PCB without removing it from the chassis, so unlike some amps, the tech does not have to remove 20 knobs, then unscrew the nuts on 20 pots, six jacks, and a few switches to remove the PCB to work on it. We interviewed a number of techs and asked "what do you hate about servicing modern amps?" and they told us about that, at length, in four-part harmony.

I could go on with this, as there's a lot more of the insides that were done for durability and longevity for the player who uses his amp a lot. The idea was to make something that is not what people expect today - lowest cost construction with all the bells and whistles that can be loaded on for cheap. Instead, the focus is on building a working musician's tool set - sounds good, durable, easy to use and flexible in application. It's an old fashioned way to build amps, but with modern materials and design.

Is reliability you won't see for years going to make people buy an amp with fewer fancy gadgets on it? I honestly don't know.

Modern marketing theory holds that this is the wrong way to sell stuff. According to the MBAs, we should be making stuff that just lasts as long as the warranty period, with as many flashy eye-catching things as we can and all of the features per dollar that we can cram in. That would let us compete with the big names.

A little googling shows an AC30-212 with Celestion alnico blues for $1600 on sale. The AC30-212 CC without the blues is $1000 "on sale", and the AC30 CC-112 is $700 although it lists for $1400. My ears tell me that the AC30CC is not the same amp as the original AC30. The Pony has one twelve inch Celestion, and goes at a street price of about $850. A boutique AC30 clone will be over $2k. The 212 Stallion is a 60W amp as compared to the AC30 212's 30W. The AC30 has the name and the history. They are ...heavy...  A Pony is the same power, a bit quieter by having only one 12", but you can put your cords and the J&H into the pockets on the side of the padded cover, pick up the Pony with one hand and your guitar in the other and go play a gig. If you put a bad rectifier tube or shorted-heater output tube into the AC30 or the boutique clones and turn them on, they will destroy a multi-hundred-dollar power transformer. Do the same thing to a Workhorse and it pops a $0.50 fuse. An intermittent speaker jack on a main-line amp can cause arcing on the output sockets and may kill your output transformer. On the Workhorses, it trips the transient-eating MOV across the output transformer primary.

What I do know is that some very picky musicians and session players are impressed with the flexibility of the amp. There's a whole lot of different sounds that can be made with the Workhorse amps and that J&H pedal. I'm an AC30 bigot personally. Love the things. But an AC30 is always an AC30, you can hear it instantly. The Workhorse amps don't have a single sound. We have had people go from chicken picking to ear-bleeding metal by messing with the knobs and the J&H. Yes, I know that sounds like sheer marketing blather, but honestly, it surprised me. They are very flexible - as a good working man's amp should be.

On the other hand, we did stick a CD input on the Pony, and there is a speaker-emulated line out on both of them. Taking the amp into a mixing board is a breeze. It's just not a very sexy feature.

What do I make out of all that? To me, they're apples and oranges.

I honestly don't know whether they will be commercially successful. I sure hope so, but then there are reasons that the MBAs get rich. I did aim directly at the working musician and the guy who wants to craft his or her own sound, or the sessions guy who has to produce whatever the session needs.

Quote
nice one RG, any info on the amps - can't find much out there on the web.
We pulled in our horns on advertising when it took so much time to get them produced in quantity. It has been a real struggle to get any reasonable quantity produced. But they are now being manufactured.

Quote
so what's the story with the metal grille? - I asume it's some kind of diffusion device to stop the cab being so directional and to promote a wider spread of sound (Huh).  gotta admit, I'm not keen on the look of the metal grille - I'd put some grillcloth over it myself.
It is. The grille is actually a support for a cone that spreads the treble out of the middle of the speaker so the sound is more consistent, not a beam of treble in the middle and muffled off-axis. That actually works surprisingly well. And did I mention the grille is paintable...

Quote
I'm sure the amps sound great - pity that I'm unlikely to see one here in the UK.
You might be surprised. There are not many there, but we did ship all over the world. Some went to the UK, although I don't know if they're near where you are. There are at least a few in Finland, some in Germany, France, Italy, a couple in Ukraine I think.

Quote
I don't think they will sell a million of these
Me neither. I'd be perfectly happy with selling 100K of them.... lemme see, where's that smiley for an evil grin?   :icon_wink:

R.G.

Quick IQ Test: If anyone in a governmental position suspected that YOU had top-secret information on YOUR computer, how many minutes would you remain outside a jail cell?

Elektrojšnis

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2006, 07:09:02 PM »
The fact is, you have the Vox AC30 for the same price, and same wattage, but with the Vox you get two channels, tremolo, reverb, effects loop (I'm surprised you don't have these, as the amp is marketed for use with pedals, or so it seems, and some effects do sound better in the effects loop), and then it's a trusted name that everybody knows of and is familiar with.  To be honest, I don't really see your amp having much of a chance at all.  And on top of that, you're pushing a new look and new features nobody has seen before in an amp and they might be skeptical/scared of. 

On the other hand, maybe the point is not in competing with the well established manufacturers. If the new amp was just like Vox AC30 (or some other well known amp) it would be hard to compete, because it would be just the same, and Vox would have the well known Vox logo on it. So, maybe the target buyer is someone who wants something else than the the same old things that the other brands put out. Those people may be a minority, but I believe they exist.

And bear in mind that the price includes one pedal that should be quite verstaile.

If I was in need of that kid of power I might buy one, but I only play at home to my bedroom walls. 30 watts is a bit of an overkill for that.

I'm sure the amps sound great - pity that I'm unlikely to see one here in the UK.

I wouldn't be so sure... One of the local stores here in Helsinki (Finland) seem to sell them: http://www.musamaailma.fi/bandikamat/tuotteet/136/154/256/workpony.phtml

I don't know if they actually have them in the store, but at its on their catalog. Next week I might go and see as I work in the same building.

Edit:

You might be surprised. There are not many there, but we did ship all over the world. Some went to the UK, although I don't know if they're near where you are. There are at least a few in Finland, some in Germany, France, Italy, a couple in Ukraine I think.

Duh... I should have reviewed my message when the red text told me to.  :icon_confused:
« Last Edit: December 30, 2006, 07:25:20 PM by Elektrojšnis »

Paul Marossy

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2006, 07:40:13 PM »
With regard to the "hubcaps", I think they might look more appealing to most people if they were flat black instead of the chrome. Just my two centavos.  :icon_wink:

slacker

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2006, 07:43:12 PM »
I don't know what these will end up costing by the time they get to the UK, but $1,000 seems pretty reasonable to me.
 Like most things it's a case of horses for courses, all I need from an amp is a good loud clean sound. I'd take the exact opposite position to rockgardenlove I'd rather spend my money on an amp that does one job really well than on an amp that gives me the sound I want but has a load of extras I don't need. I currently use a Twin but only use the clean channel, so I don't need the dirty channel or the FX loop. I'd take the extras the Workhorse offers over those any day.
I guess this will also appeal to the boutique crowd as well, after all if you're spending $300 on a TS clone then $1,000 on a "boutique" amp to play it through is pretty good value.

slacker

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2006, 07:53:00 PM »
with regard to the hubcaps I quite like 'em. Then again I like 70s big headstock Strats so what do I know  ;D

rockgardenlove

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2006, 08:13:13 PM »
I don't know what these will end up costing by the time they get to the UK, but $1,000 seems pretty reasonable to me.
 Like most things it's a case of horses for courses, all I need from an amp is a good loud clean sound. I'd take the exact opposite position to rockgardenlove I'd rather spend my money on an amp that does one job really well than on an amp that gives me the sound I want but has a load of extras I don't need. I currently use a Twin but only use the clean channel, so I don't need the dirty channel or the FX loop. I'd take the extras the Workhorse offers over those any day.
I guess this will also appeal to the boutique crowd as well, after all if you're spending $300 on a TS clone then $1,000 on a "boutique" amp to play it through is pretty good value.
I'm not necessarily talking about my personal tastes (though I do LOVE the AC30's and I am a total trem+'verb nut).  Most guitarists will go for more stuff.  Dirty channel, or no dirty channel?  They'll go for the amp with the dirty channel almost all the time.  And if you can throw in tremolo too, why not?

The fact is, you have the Vox AC30 for the same price, and same wattage, but with the Vox you get two channels, tremolo, reverb, effects loop (I'm surprised you don't have these, as the amp is marketed for use with pedals, or so it seems, and some effects do sound better in the effects loop), and then it's a trusted name that everybody knows of and is familiar with.  To be honest, I don't really see your amp having much of a chance at all.  And on top of that, you're pushing a new look and new features nobody has seen before in an amp and they might be skeptical/scared of. 

On the other hand, maybe the point is not in competing with the well established manufacturers. If the new amp was just like Vox AC30 (or some other well known amp) it would be hard to compete, because it would be just the same, and Vox would have the well known Vox logo on it. So, maybe the target buyer is someone who wants something else than the the same old things that the other brands put out. Those people may be a minority, but I believe they exist.

And bear in mind that the price includes one pedal that should be quite verstaile.

If I was in need of that kid of power I might buy one, but I only play at home to my bedroom walls. 30 watts is a bit of an overkill for that.

I don't think you can produce an amp without competing somewhat with amps already on the market.  You may not be marketing them as the same thing, but they're both tube guitar amps.  That itself puts them in the same group, and whether you like it or not, they will be put up against other amps already on the market by potential buyers. 

Good point with the effects loop, I suppose if the preamp isn't distorting at all anyways there isn't much of a reason for one.  Still, it is a feature that people will see and think is lacking. 
I suppose a big factor is that we here on the forums are significantly more educated when it comes to this sort of stuff.  Most guitarists don't dive in as deep as we do.  I know heaps of guitarists who don't bias, they just plug in their tubes and go, and are perfectly happy.  We here know it's a good idea to protect expensive transformers, and how horrible it is to service an amp that's got strangely arranged guts (my Classic 30 is hell inside) and we know what traces are and that thicker is better.

And I don't quite understand why when you say that your improvements aren't easy to see you don't try and point them out.  After reading your post I'm significantly more impressed.  You might as well let potential customers know this too, eh?




sfr

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #15 on: December 30, 2006, 08:16:07 PM »
I'm drooling over one of these.   Hopefully the bonusese at work are decent this year.

I wonder if you can "slam" the front end with a booster enough to get some breakup?  That's my prefered overdrive. 

As far as the hubcaps go - I'm not sold 100% on the looks, but honestly, 90% of the time I make custom grill cloths out of breathable fabric so all our amps match.  Not certain having not seen one in person, but there seems to be enough room and the cap seems recessed enough that I could mount my standard fabric-stretched-over a wood frame method of making a grill cloth (I used to have an amp with switchable grill cloths) in there, and then you don't see the hubcap at all. 

Love the idea of mounting an mic capsule on the inside of the hubcap.   (Also agree with Slacker on giant 70's Fender headstocks)
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brett

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2006, 09:02:32 PM »
Hi.  My 2c...

RG, I think you are under-selling your amps.  Or maybe assuming that people know the benefits of the features you list.  For example, "toroidal transformer" doesn't mean much to most people, but "Toroidal transformer for less hum than regular amps" immediately says that this amp is better than most out there wrt transformer noise. 

The features that you mention in this thread could be attractive to buyers.  "Heavy duty circuit board" and "extra thick tracks" are two that conjure up attractive mental images and will make people desire these over the myriad of ordinary amps out there.  The many people who only vaguely understand about "tracks" will still appreciate that the engineer was concerned about them, wanted to improve them, and  made them "extra thick" in this amp.

Quote
If someone really hates them, the grilles are paintable... 
A black option would be good for people like me that think the concept is cool, but the grilles themselves are a bit much visually.

Concerning the channel thing.  I have a JTM60 - the 1990s re-issue that was given a distortion channel in addition to the original JTM channel.  I agree that a lot of stuff can be covered with a clean channel and a booster and distortions.  However, the convenience of a built-in distortion channel is significant, too, so maybe a little market research is needed to find out how your customers (and potential customers) would use the amp, and what they would be prepared to pay for an extra channel.

Your choice of classic power valves (especially EL34s at high voltage for 60W) is something that experienced amp buyers would or should be looking for.
Good luck.
Brett Robinson
Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend. (Mao Zedong)

smallbearelec

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #17 on: December 30, 2006, 09:43:37 PM »
Congratulations! I'll be looking forward to try one at NAMM...with a couple of of my own noise-toys, of course!

SD

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Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2006, 12:42:58 AM »
RG,

I'm an electronics technician, working on mainly pro audio stuff like power amps and mixing desks but also SS guitar amps. If I was a guitarist I'd definitely buy one of these. It's ridiculous having to take every knob off and unscrew every pot and socket just to diagnose a fault, let alone repair it. Most companies don't care about serviceability, and they probably make more money because of this. I've worked on some high priced modern R*ndall amplifiers and they are built incredibly shoddily. Most of the others are not much better.

I hope it sells well. I know they'll hold their value well.

Cheers,
Stew.

Barcode80

Re: OT - Workhorse amps are available now
« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2006, 12:44:15 AM »
makes me wish i had planned to go to NAMM this year. unfortunately, i work a real job in addition to my part-time at the music shop, and i'm out of vacation time :) R.G., what are the chances you could make one available for my boss to purchase for me at NAMM??  :)