Posted by: Jon | October 31, 2006

Ampeg: the History of the Revolutionary Bass Amp

ampeg.jpgSo you’re at a concert venue watching your favorite group perform and BAM! It suddenly hits you. The thundering lows, full mids, and crisp highs. How is the bassist getting such superb tone? We’ll if he’s any good; chances are he is using an Ampeg. The company is known for their silky full tone that their amps produce. What’s the big deal about Ampeg? You might ask, and why is it everyone is always raving about the amps they manufacture.

Alright, in the next few lines, I will try my best to explain exactly what is up with these amazing amps. Bear with me it’s actually pretty interesting.  

Ampeg was founded in 1946 by Everette Hull, who at the time was an upright bassist, and Stanley Michaels. The company was named Stanley-Hull Electronics lab and first created a pickup that could be attached to the end of an upright bass. The two dubbed their creation the amplified peg, or “Amp-peg” for short. The name stuck and in 1949, Hull renamed the company. Ampeg first produced low-wattage combo amps, and in 1960, created the “Porta-flex” that featured a chassis that could be inverted and tucked inside the speaker enclosure to protect the vacuum tubes that it ran on. Sales were good, but started to decline as concert venues grew and the need for a more powerful bass amp arose. An electrical technician and inventor by the name of Dan Armstrong was hired, and in 1969, Ampeg released a new line of amps. They included the V-4 combo, and the famed SVT. Armstrong created a new innovation known as Super Valve Technology (SVT for short) that enabled his amps to produce up to 3X the output level and volume of their predecessors. It is this same feature that gives Ampeg amplifiers their distinctively smooth all-tube tone and slightly distorted growl. Many companies today, have attempted to replicate the sound of the famous SVT, but haven’t really succeeded.  This was truly a milestone in the companies history, and the legend of the SVT was born. The Rolling Stones first popularized the amp, when their original British Hi-Watts were delayed in customs. (Wow that would suck!) They loved the tone that they produced, thus never returning to the Hi-Watts. It was at this point that the Ampeg SVT became the standard bass amp of Rock and Roll, and the chose of many professionals. Dan Armstrong continued to improve upon the amps design, and even created a special SVT 810 cab which gave the amp an even fuller sound. Although the company manufactured a few guitars and basses, their strength ultimately remained in their bass amps they invented. In 1986, the St. Louis Music company purchased Ampeg and Crate inc. (Yes, the same company that makes those crummy amps that make you guitars sound like chainsaws 😉 ). Today, Ampeg is still located in St. Louis, Missouri and continues to build 100% of all their bass amps in America. The company continues to improve upon their amp designs and now also makes a “b” and “pro” series line of bass amps. Ampeg has defined the sound of, and continues to be the top chose of worship bands, and famous musicians alike.

-Jon Chema



  1. I suspect that the one of reasons I’ll never really be a rock bassist, no matter how many rock bands I play in, is that I HATE the sound of an Ampeg SVT. I much prefer the sound of a modern amp like an Eden, an SWR, or a Genz Benz. Actually, I generally prefer to go direct through a good box.

  2. Its all personal preferance. I prefer to play a Ampeg BA3RE head thru a classic SVT410 cab. It gives me a fairly balanced bassy tone, and I have complete control over how much high end goes to the horn. Eden makes great amps as well that tend to be more mellow sounding. However, they tend to be on the higher priced spectrum. Becides, how many Eden dealers do you see around? 😉

  3. there’s my bass player, talkin up his ampeg. lol nah, just kiddin, ampeg really is the whip guys, jon knows what he’s talking about.

  4. Saying you HATE the sound of the most played, recorded, used and revered bass amp of all time is like a guitar player saying he hates Marshall or Fender. Uhhh learn your history your a moron when it comes to gear. By the way try buying an original 69 SVT with the Cabinet …your looking upwards of $3500-$5000…for a reason. It bugs me when people make such bold statements out of ignorance. Retarded truly.

  5. Is there any way to tell when my SVT was built?

  6. I personally prefer solid-state amps over tube amps. But the sound of classic Ampeg is my long time favorite over the years. I use an old-school SVT-200T with 2 cabinets SVT-410HE and SVT-18E. It’s a massive blast of good sound that I wouldn’t trade to any modern amp, even a modern Ampeg 🙂

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