Reamp History 1994-2008
Prior to 1994 anyone wanting to re-amplify a previously recorded audio track from a professional tape recorder had only a few options. The most common technique was to drop the gain of the tape recorder’s output to a modest –30 or more and feed it into the back end of a passive direct box’s XLR connector. Then connect the direct box’s ¼” input jack to the guitar amp’s input. The result was disappointing at best for a number of technical and practical reasons so the process of re-amping never really caught on in a big way.
In 1993 I was working on a live record for guitarist Joe Satriani. The sound of the two bass tracks recorded live, one a DI and the other an amplifier, was not what we wanted when we got to the mixing stage. The DI was too clean and the amp was too distorted. The only solution was to take the DI track and feed it back into a bass rig with a better adjusted sound and re-recorded it to a separate track for mixing later. We tried the reverse DI trick mentioned above but it did not produce the results we were looking for which was to make it sound like the bass player was plugged directly into the amp. Knowing this was a simple interface problem I set out to solve it once and for all. With the help of audio tech James Ganwer we built a box with off-the-shelf parts for the purpose of re-amping. When I brought it back to the studio Joe and I were blown away by how much better it sounded from the reverse DI method. It sounded like Joe’s bass player was plugged in and playing right there in the studio, kind of spooky feeling.
Over the course of the next six months I experimented with different transformers and continued to tweak the circuit to get the best sound for both guitar and bass reamping. Once I was satisfied, I built five boxes and called them Re-amps. These boxes with their huge UTC transformers also allowed the user to flip a switch and use it as a great sounding DI. As soon as these boxes got into the hands of other engineers they all wanted one. Not knowing if anyone would ever want to pay for one I decided to stick my neck out and build fifty at a cost of around $5000 in parts alone. I went to a smaller less expensive UTC transformer that omitted the DI feature and switched to a smaller more compact red anodized box fashioned after the Countryman DI enclosure. I hand built them myself and started passing them around to other recording engineers. I wanted to know if other engineers thought it was as useful as I did and hoped some of them would want to buy one to help cover my cost. At first, the reaction was lukewarm and I was sure I had made a huge mistake building so many. It took almost six months to sell the fifty and I was skeptical about building anymore.
It is important to know that in the mid 90’s most records were being made in studios using analog equipment. Digital recording had not taken over yet and the home studio was only a place to make demos. Many successful recording engineers had developed habits, both good and bad, and weren’t necessarily open to changing the way they did things. One famous recording engineer in LA returned a Re-Amp I sent him with a note saying, “Thanks John, but I don’t know what to do with this box. I get my guitar sound right the first time.” Regardless, a buzz about Reamping was beginning to spread and the orders started coming in slowly via a simple web site and word of mouth. Over the next ten years home-recording studios proliferated and digital recording was becoming the norm everywhere. The guys that got it right the first time were no longer making all the records. It was now people in home or budget studios making records and the methods of making records were changing as well.
I built the first Reamp to re-amplify a bass DI track but as soon as other engineers got a hold of it they started re-amplifying guitars, keyboards, drums and even vocals. Adding stomp box effects to already recorded tracks is also something I never had in mind but the practice is now common. I’m very honored that engineers and recording artists from all over the world used the Reamp on their recordings. To be honest, I thought it was a good idea in 1993 but never dreamed it would be this popular in 2008.
Over the years the color of the enclosure was changed when I made small changes to the design, but not always. As an example, when Prince wanted a Reamp I did a run of 50 purple Reamps or when I was spending a lot of time on a vintage Neve console I painted 50 Reamps Neve grey for fun. The list below describes the versions and their colors:
- 1994-95 Red anodized box with silk-screen Re-Amp logo / UTC transformer / Connectors on both ends / toggle switch / rubber feet.
- 1995-99 Painted box in Prince purple, Neve grey or black, new logo / Custom transformer / Rocker switch.
- 2000-03 Power coated box in green, black or dark blue / Laser etched logo / Connectors were moved to one end.
- 2004 10th Anniversary model in dark grey only / Combo jack
- 2005 Black only.
- 2006-07 V.2 Red only / New transformer design / Ferrite filtering / Rubber bottom pad / Recyclable packaging.
- 2008 Red V2 with internal phase switch added.
I plan to continue building the Reamp and make any refinements necessary as methods and recording equipment continue to evolve. My goal is to provide the user the very best re-amplifying device possible.