The reason for Orion or Man alive! That’s a really long story……………
The reason I started building amps is a strange tale. Not tall. Just strange. The following banter should clear things up that were cloudy but will probably just confuse you more as it did me after I wrote it.
A very not so long time ago, a friend of mine told me about a guy selling amp kits and I thought it would be "totally cool" to see if I could build an amp... “that worked.” At the time, I didn't know why this sounded like fun, but it did. Nor did I have clue of what I was getting myself into. So, I found a non-working Bassman 50 head in Vintage Guitar Magazine and I ordered a "Do it yourself” Bassman kit.
When the head arrived, it had a funny smell and when I opened it and quickly discovered why you should never order anything advertised as "Non-Working." The inside looked like the aftermath of a car fire, only smaller. I started to wonder about my sanity. I had just spent 300 bucks for a burned-up metal shell and a big bag of stuff, shiny and colorful stuff, but stuff. It took a long time for that bag of stuff to turn into a bag of amp parts. I still have that head and I don't know why or how it has survived 25 years. Maybe you do. It still stinks too.
After four months, several shocks (some from electricity), 35 phone calls to the guy I bought the kit from and a little luck, I had built my first amp and it made sound most of the time. While building the amp, a very unexpected and wonderful thing happened that would change my life forever. When I made the very first solder hit, that smell triggered something in my brain. I loved the smell and it brought back long forgotten memories of me watching my father build our TVs, stereos and, yes, even a microwave oven from those old school Heath Kit kits. From that second, I knew what I wanted to do - build guitar amps. Funny how life works if you let go and just do what's in front of you.
Now, building guitar amps and selling guitar amps are two very different things. At that point, selling amps never even crossed my mind. Building was fun. I read all "those" books, built a bunch of different circuits, went to school for a while (my teachers were amused that all I cared about was 50-year-old tube circuits…they gave me all these old books to read because the class textbooks didn't have the info I thought I needed...wrong...I needed the basic knowledge, too.) I was always thinking about why this did that and what happens to the sound if you change resistors to capacitors to tubes to transformers to...You get the point.
Fast forward a few years... I decided it was time to build an amp that did everything I wanted. I started with the always-safe "Blackface Circuit" and went to town. Las Vegas. Then I came back to Burbank I started changing, adding, breaking, fixing the stuff I broke, removing, painting, smashing, smelling, changing...I said that already...everything inside that circuit to see how the sound changed and if I liked it or not. Eventually, I stumbled on four designs I really liked. I was a happy guy.
Plus...friends, strangers and farmers kelp saying over and over and over again, "Dude, these amps sound better than the amps I own, you should sell these things." My response to these...these...well meaning, left of center, unsolicited advice givers, was..."You’re high, why in the world would anyone want to buy these amps and I don't have any experience in business, marketing, fishing, advertising, selling and product promotion (that's a fun word, “promotion.” How do you promote a product? Move it up and to the right and give it more money?)
But their nagging...so much nagging that never stopped. So, I took the plunger...waved it back and forth, screaming like a mad man at a full moon...and took the plunge. Apollo Amplifiers and it's children, the Apollo 1 and Apollo 2, were born (I had to name the damn thing.) The Apollo 3 is in its second trimester and the ultra-sound looks like A#maj3rd. Apollo 4 looks like a very voxy lady. Hendrix understands…
Anyway, I chose Apollo because I'm an amateur astronomer, guitar God (yeah, I’m laughing at that too) and Apollo is the Greek God of the sun, light, music, flying that chariot all day and N.A.S.A named a giant rocket after him. Wait...They named the rocket after that car, but they named all those moon missions after him. That's even cooler.
That was then…this is now. Then was 1998…Now is 2018. So what happened?
Well, lemme tell ya, A bunch of stuff, mostly good stuff, some bad stuff, some interesting stuff and some great stuff!
I sold amps, repaired amps, designed amps, fixed amps, broke amps, sat on amps….and built amps for 5 years. Things was happenin’! I wasn’t making a living exclusively from building amps, but I was happy. THEN….I got married to my girlfriend and THEN….we had a baby boy and THEN…. I went, “oh boy!!! Not at the boy, but “oh boy” at my situation. I had to support my “Oh Boy” and my ‘Oh Mamma” So I packed up the shop and when full time in the “lovely”, oh so “lovely” Los Angeles video post-production industry.
(Hang on, gotta puke)…I made good money and was happy to make you 500 copies of an Old Spice commercial on ¾’ tape, upload it to a satellite and / or insert it into your TV show for maximum profitability or transfer your Disney Kids…(sorry…more vomit)…show from 10,000 year old 2” tape to 1” tape to VHS tape to DAT to CD to DVD to Magic 3D Virtual Drive back to…you get the picture. (HA! I made a pun.)
So, I did that for a long, long time. And built a few amps here or there for my own amusement. My son grew up and went to college. I split with my wife (we are both so much happier now and still good friends). Vegas Baby!... Yes again. Came back and moved to the big city of Los Angeles. Moving from Burbank to Los Angeles is akin to moving from Des Moines, IA to Omaha, NE. It’s the same only different.
THEN I got to thinking. Hmmm…I really liked, no, loved building guitar amplifiers, So, that’s probably what the good Lord and farmers everywhere want me to do. That’s what I wanted to do, so I jumped back into the boutique amp building world with a new company name. New beginnings, new name… Orion Amplifiers. Woo Hoo!
Orion Amplifiers is a labor of love, my love of making guitar amps that will hopefully inspire you to play and create the best music you have stirring inside of you. These amps are the amps I wish were being made so made them myself. These amp designs are truly unique, innovative and original. My old company, Apollo Amps amps were basically hot rodded and heavily modified clones of Fender, Marshall and Vox amplifiers. Orion Amplifiers are my new vision of a truly great sounding, unique and the most versatile and useful guitar amplifier for recording and gigging and just noodling around.
The name Orion was a natural progression for me as I’m still an amateur astronomer and general space enthusiast and lucky for me NASA’s new Constellation space program includes the Orion Space Exploration Vehicle. So…again….if it’s good enough for NASA, it’s a go for launch for me! So, all my amps are named after NASA’s space program or the Orion Constellation up in yonder sky. There really is, in real life, an Orion Rocket, Orion Constellation, Orion Nebula and believe it or not an Orion HorseHead and an Orion Rigel. Google it and fill your mind with whatever. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Orion Amplifiers circa 2018
The first Orion Amplifier Circa 1998
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