Which Guitar Amps Are Made in the USA?
The most common guitar amps that are made in the USA come from American manufacturers like Thunderfunk, Big Ugly, Bergantino, and Carr Amplifiers and more. There is no way to tell just by looking at an amp: you need to look for the “Made in the USA” label.
Looking for reliable amps that are affordable? Since most components are manufactured in China, they are cheaper and more readily available. Due to this, most companies are now producing their components overseas so they can maximize their profits by offering cheaper prices than their competitors.
On the other hand, you have these small shops or boutiques that sell pricey amps made by American manufacturers. These are often handcrafted or produced on a smaller scale than the big manufacturers. The truth is that they are far better in terms of quality, hence the higher prices.
You might not be able to hear the differences at first, but when you crank up the guitar, you’ll ultimately realize the not-so-subtle differences between the two. Some individuals might disagree and say that they’re both essentially the same.
US-Based Guitar Amp Brands
If you’re looking for the best US-Made Guitar amps, then look no further. The following are some of the most popular brands that manufacture their guitar amps in the US.
Ugly Amps is a US-based company that actually hand crafts guitar amps. As a result, they develop stronger circuits that allow the ultimate control in your hand.
The company kick-started its way into the market when its founder tried to convert tube PA gear into vintage tube amps. The best part is that since they hand-build their amps, you can ask them to customize them for a truly unique amp.
- Big Ugly 100 Amp – $1,250
- Ugly 18 Head – $832
Bergantino is a popular name in the music industry due to their reliable and high-quality devices. They remain a close and tightly knit group to ensure that their main drive is high-quality engineering products and not sales.
The company is completely independent which means that they design and manufacture all their products in the US.
- B|Amp Bass Amplifier – $1199
- Forte Bass Amplifier – $899
Based in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Carr Amplifiers are a group of guitarists who have manufactured unique circuits to help amplify your electric guitar. Their premium components allow for an amplifier that is diverse and versatile in its tone and functions. All of their products are handcrafted within the US to ensure the best quality.
- Telstar – $2540
- Mercury Amp – $2680
Thunder Funk is one of those rare older companies that have managed to stay true to their roots. Where others such as Fender, Marshall, and Vox have all started mass producing from abroad, Thunder Funk still manufactures its amps in the US.
Each amplifier is hand made in America. It includes a design that allows you to get it repaired from anywhere in the world. In fact, the company even allows you to modify designs for a truly custom guitar amp.
- Thunderfunk TFB800 – $1895
If you’re looking for that old US quality with a personal touch, there’s no one who does it better than Friedman Amplification. The company builds each amplifier in the US according to a set of standards while using hand selected components. Next, the owner inspects, plays and signs each amp before shipping. This way your amp gets the owner’s stamp of approval.
- Small Box Head Amp – $3199
- PT-20 Head Amp – $1649
The creators of Bogner Amplification are passionate about serving their customers with reliable equipment. Each amplifier is designed with precision right here in the US. This not only ensures high quality but also a unique and vibrant design.
- Helios Head – $2849
- Atma Ecstasy – $149
But what makes these American-based amps so expensive?
Why So Expensive?
A question might arise as to why these US-made amps are so expensive. There are a number of factors that contribute to these high prices. They can often end up costing as much as 2 mass supplier amplifiers.
For instance, Vox sells their AC15C1 amplifier for merely $800. This is in stark contrast with the prices of the boutique amps that cost an average of $1700.
The high cost is mainly due to three major factors which are parts, labor, and design.
The first factor is the components. Boutique shops use high-quality components at every point in their amp construction. These components themselves are quite expensive for the manufacturer. The companies had selected these components after testing them out.
On the other hand, mass manufacturers tend to compromise on the quality with the price. Some do make good quality products that are quite affordable however, the main objective is reducing the price to make more sales.
For instance, a generic coupling capacitor may cost about 18 cents while a high-end capacitor can cost as much as $3. The effect is greatly enhanced with larger components such as a transformer.
One term you may have noticed most boutiques use is ‘hand-built’. These companies do not use machines to wire and assemble the components together. Instead, they make skilled professionals to do the job. This results in neater joints and circuits.
Since the job requires trained workers who need to work intricately, the costs are often higher. In fact, the owners themselves partake in the assembly and inspection.
At the same time, larger companies use assembly lines or machines to wire and assemble the components. They use processes that are quick and affordable.
The last factor is the design. Of course, larger companies put all their efforts into a unique design as well. But their end goal is completely different. Trained and skilled professionals, who have spent their entire life studying amp design, help design boutique amps.
All in all, amps made in the USA by small boutique shops fare far better in terms of design and quality than their mass-produced counterparts. The creators put much more effort into their amps which clearly shows. The manufacturing process is also time-consuming and results in high-quality and reliable products.