John Cuniberti on the Reamp

By Allen Whitman
for TapeOp Magazine

AW: What is the Reamp?

JC: The Reamp coverts balanced +4 audio that is typically found in professional recording equipment into a high impedance signal that is common to a guitar pickups output. It allows an engineer to feed a guitar amplifier from a previously recorded track into an amp any time after the performance. It’s also useful for interfacing guitar stomp boxes to recording consoles so they can be used as outboard effects.

AW: Why would you want to do that?

JC: A lot of engineers asked me that 12 years ago when I was trying to convince them to try one. I wanted to solve a problem with a live Satriani record I was working on. The recorded bass amp sounded dreadful and I only had the direct track to use but that sounded flat and lifeless. I wanted to take the direct track and feed it into a bass amplifier rig, get a heavy aggressive sound and re-record it back to tape to use it in a mix.

AW: Why not just feed a direct box backwards?

JC: I tried it. That old trick was crap. There’s no low end and there’s distortion no matter what. I built a box just for this project. I hired a super-tech friend James Gangwer to find a transformer and design the ideal circuit specifically for reamping.

AW: How was your invention received?

JC: It was the beginning of a very long trip into the world of manufacturing, patents, trademarks and licensing. None of which I cared about at the time.

AW: What made you build more Reamps?

JC: I knew it was a useful tool and I knew I’d use it again but it was my engineer friends borrowing it all the time that inspired me to build more. I built 5 more Reamps using a very expensive UTC transformer that allowed the inclusion of a direct box. I put them in off-the-shelf enclosures. But that didn’t satisfy the demand.

AW: How did you find time to build Reamps?

JC: It was very hard to do both. I felt I’d better start building Reamps or someone else would. If I could design it to be built faster and still maintain quality I was willing to build more in my spare time. I went to a printed circuit board with all surface mounted parts, I had a custom built transformer specifically designed for reamping, and I eliminated the direct box feature. I had 100 built at a time.

AW: Did you advertise?

JC: Not at first. Half of the first 100 I gave away to well-known engineers and studios in LA, people I didn’t really know. I wasn’t sure if other engineers would be interested in reamping. One very famous engineer sent it back with a note saying: “I have no use for such a thing but thanks.” He has since purchased two Reamps that he says he uses often.

AW: Who actually built them?

JC: For the first few years myself and a couple of friends would build them by hand until I went crazy. I later turned the manufacturing over to a company in Indiana that does a great job.

AW: Thanks for keeping jobs in the country. Is this the same box you sell today?

JC: Basically, yes. There have been a number small changes and improvements over the years.

AW: Why are they different colors?

JC: Every year I change the color of the enclosure. This helps me know what version they are if someone needs it repaired. It also keeps it interesting.

AW: Why did you bother patenting the device?

JC: When I realized other engineers were warming up to the idea and there could be a demand for Reamps I decided to look into a patent. I was thousands of dollars into the hole but I still wanted to protect my investment. Advertising is very expensive and the Reamp was costing me a lot of money to build. I insisted it be built with the best parts plus look and feel professional - like something I would use. At first I wanted to see if someone else already had a patent on a similar device and spent a few days at the patent library but didn’t find anything. I asked everyone I knew if they’d heard of such a device. I even searched through old recording magazines looking for anything similar but found nothing. I decided to take the leap and hired a patent atorney and began a very long and expensive process. I was granted the U.S. patent in 1999 at the cost of about $10,000.

AW: Yow! That’s a lot of Reamps…

JC: It took awhile to get into the black but that’s not uncommon in the music business. It’s also not uncommon to protect one’s intellectual property so it seemed like the right thing to do. I believe the patent may have discouraged large companies from flooding the market with cheap re-amping devices. I’ve developed and popularized the technique with a device that works well and that engineers could be excited about. It’s only a matter of time before a cheap re-amping device appears on the market that has marginal performance.

AW: You’ve set the standard…

JC: Exactly.

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