“It’s super-light and super-loud,” says Dave Avenius, bass-player and CEO of Aguilar Amplification. Historically, this company has made their biggest strides while venturing into uncharted territory.
President Dave Boonshoft launched Aguilar in 1995 with the first tube preamp designed specifically for recording bass, and went on to help to revolutionize live amplification by popularizing the 12” cone-and-tweeter bass cab concept.
Today is no exception. Avenius is referring to the latest addition to their line, the Tone Hammer 500, a 3.8-pound, 500-watt head that fits in the front pouch of your average gig-bag. Despite its feather-weight status, this amp makes a lot of noise, and sports a tone that compares favorably to the rest of the Aguilar line.
“I think it’s going to be a home-run,” says Avenius, visibly excited. Surprisingly, each of these units (which list for $949 and can be found for under $700 street) is hand-assembled in the heart of downtown Manhattan. We visited Dave and Dave at their SoHo headquarters for a factory tour.
“All of our assemblers are really smart guys. Each one knows how to build all of our products, and how to test every single one.”
In a reversal of the expected, Avenius and the team have begun to turn their backs on the assembly-line process, adopting a build strategy known as one “One-Piece Flow”. In effect, each amp and pedal is hand-assembled by one individual. Remarkably, this approach has proven to be more efficient, eliminating bottlenecks throughout the process. According to Avenius:
“It’s a bit more training for each technician, but we’ve also gotten better at designing the products so that they’re easier to build. And each of [the technicians] is even a little more invested in the process. It’s more satisfying, I think. They start with parts, and know that because of them, there’ll be a finished amp on the table that they created.”
This team builds all the heads, pickups, and pedals. Cabinets, which require more space, and kick up a lot more dust, are built in a separate facility in Ohio.
If Aguilar’s new build approach blends 21st century manufacturing with old-world craftsmanship, their niche in the market blurs the lines in a similar way.
“Some people call us boutique, but I don’t think that really sums it up,” Avenius says.
“If that means we care, and that a couple of our products are expensive, then, sure. But if boutique just means ‘small’ or that we don’t make a lot of product, it’s just not a distinction that makes sense. We really have a global presence. We build a lot of these [amps], and people are playing Aguilar all over the world.”
Across the line, Aguilar’s basic sound is modern, but flexible.
Aguilar’s flagship head, the DB751 shows the roots of the company’s first preamp design, employing 3 12ax7s in the input stage. As for the power section, Aguilar turned to IC chips years ago and hasn’t looked back…