From the Amplified Peg to the Portaflex

US-based company which produces bass amps. Originally founded in 1946 by Everette Hull and Stanley Michaels, with the intent of producing and marketing a microphone pickup that Hull, a bass player himself, had developed for upright basses. You know, those big hollow wooden things that stand on the floor on those wierd pegs. In fact, Hull's pickup was fitted onto the end of the bass in place of such a peg, and the pickup was named the Amplified Peg -- "Ampeg" for short.

The company was originally called "Michaels-Hull Electronic Labs", but Michaels left it in 1949, and with Hull as the sole owner, he changed the firm's name to "Ampeg Bass Amp Company". When the modern electric basses were invented (by Fender, I believe), Ampeg started producing modern bass amps along with their amplified pegs. Their "Portaflex" model was the first combo amp for the bass, and pretty much set the standard for bass combos in the 60's and 70's. For those who aren't into bass equipment, a combo amp is simply a portable amp in which the head and the cabinet are built together.

Head? Cabinet? Ampeg produces those too. Quite simply, the head is the part that contains the amplifying electronics (and/or vacuum tubes), and the cabinet is a big box of speakers. For basses, you need a hefty wattage if you want to make yourself heard, because the bass has such a low frequency range. Bass players are often annoyed by the facts that no one ever listens to the bassist, and to add insult to injury, even if they do listen the bass will be hard to hear.

Rock n' Roar!

Ampeg, founded by a musician, tried to solve this problem in 1969. By that time, a 50-watt amp for a bass was pretty much the standard, a few used 100-watt amps, considered Pretty Damn Loud by most. Ampeg wanted to build what they themselves called "the most powerful amplifier ever made". Their labs cooked up what they labelled "SVT" (Super Valve Technology), resulting in a 300-watt purely tube-driven monster amp.

300 watt amps aren't really a big thing anymore, although Ampeg still produces them. However, the company's "special touch" has really always been building amps that are clear and monstrously loud, so it isn't really surprising that Ampeg still holds the industry record in "highest powered bass amp". Their SVT-4PRO head would be the particular beast that takes this title, offering 1600 watts of subsonic blast. 1600 watts! Power your bass with one of these things, and place your cabinet next to your drummer, and he will be the one begging for mercy for a change. Ampeg's "dirty, mean rocker" sound has been why heavy metal and rock artists have been using them for many, many years.

In fact, lots of artists in lots of genres use and abuse Ampeg's amps. Michael Anthony, Van Halen bassist, uses them. Marcelo D. Rapp of Soulfly uses them. Steve DiGiorgio, bass player of (among others) Death and Testament uses them. B. Real of Cypress Hill, Christian Olde Wolbers of Fear Factory uses them. Because of the sheer loudness of these things, you can probably understand why rock and heavy metal bassists are particularly fond of them.

Ampeg currently produces both tube-driven and MOSFET solid state based amps.

Product Lineup

  • Anniversary Classic Series (updated versions of the original SVT heads and cabinets)
  • B Series (low-cost heads and cabinets)
  • Bass Amp Series (how's THAT for an innovative name? They're named after a 1950 Ampeg model, and are all combo amps)
  • Classic Series (more or less the same as the 60's and 70's SVT heads and cabinets, to the point of looking identical to them)
  • Diamond Blue Series (reissue of 60's combos, some with built-in effects. James Jamerson played one of these. The Diamond Blue Reverberocket was the first bass amp with a built-in reverb effect)
  • PortaBass Series (small heads and cabinets designed for, well, portability)
  • Pro Series (the Big Fuckers. This is the line that contains the 1600-watt monster SVT-4PRO head, and the cabinets to go with it)

They don't produce any Amplified Pegs anymore, though.