It is established that nowadays we may find a wide range of different amps on the market being them tube, transistors, digital or even hybrid amps.
Each of them is defined by a distinctive sound.
This is because, how they are built differs not only in components but also in construction methods, and this affects their performance.
For this reason, finding suitable equipment is not always an easy task but an overwhelming or confusing one instead.
Boutique amps are produced in short quantities and, in many cases, under custom specifications. They are a great alternative for seasoned players who are ok with paying a higher price in exchange for a sound tailored to their needs. Build quality, materials, and aesthetics, as expected are also exceptional.
As they are usually superior amps, their price is really high. If you are looking for
a boutique amp and you want to know more about it this article is for you.
What makes an amp to be considered “boutique”?
To answer this question, I would like to compare boutique amps with those called mass-produced amps. The latter are crafted in big factories on the production line so loads of people are working on the assembly.
Contrarily, boutique amps are handcrafted by not many people.
Sometimes just one person is in charge of all the work, and they spend approximately 25 to 35 hours to finish the crafting.
It is an all-out work but the attention to detail is clearly superior to a mass-produced amp.
So, taking into account the previous information we can say an amp is considered “boutique” not only because of its price or look but also because of its construction, electronics, and sound.
These amps are usually derivations from well-known models from the zeitgeist, but meticulously voiced and improved upon with the taste of an experienced builder.
What is more, boutique amp makers tend to use the finest components to build each unit.
They want to use the best available parts to construct the amps, and this is what affects amps’ prices.
Main benefits of a boutique amp
We have already discussed what makes an amp “boutique” so it is time to show its most remarkable benefits.
One of the most important points about this kind of amps undoubtedly is the tone.
Boutique amps are, in most cases hand wired point to point, which many players consider give them a superior tone, while mass-produced units use electronic circuit boards to reduce labor costs.
Apart from that divisive claim, just the mere attention to detail and craftsmanship, not only on the construction but also on the design of every model, usually tends to yield more complex, refined sounds.
Another important fact to be aware of is that boutique amps have a high resale value. This equipment is rare, and its price will likely go up with the years whereas mass-assembled amps decrease its worth.
This is usually the norm because cheaper amps are readily available all the time. You can always get a new one, while boutique amps might require you to be on a waiting list for months.
Also, more affordable digital amps get obsolete within years.
On the other hand, such as with vintage gear, the older a boutique amp is, the more likely its value would be higher due to scarcity. Especially if it’s a model that has become a classic among the player base.
Another huge benefit is that Boutique amps usually have custom options. In most cases, you will be able to customize your amp as you wish.
Can you imagine your perfect amp with the features you like the most? Now your dream will become true with this kind of amp.
This will be perfect for those meticulous guitar players who want to carry their own sound to every gig they have to play.
They may have customized voicings, finishes, configurations, or any other quirks and features we musicians love to have at our disposal.
Main drawbacks of a boutique amp
On the flip side, we may face some drawbacks. Boutique amps have an astronomical price tag, they are much more expensive than mass-produced amps.
As the finest components are used in the construction of these pieces of gear, they are quite expensive if you compare them with different types of amps.
And by “finest”, in many cases, it means being built with vintage old stock pieces. This means parts that are no longer produced but are still available in limited quantities from specific suppliers.
Another disadvantage is the low production. Not many of them are made each year.
Although the people involved in their construction are typically passionate about their work, they are built in vastly shorter quantities.
This is because amps manufacturers are usually small companies, and sometimes a modest ancient shop of just one person.
Remember what we mentioned before, it takes many hours to assemble a whole gear by hand being just one or two people.
As a consequence, fewer units and models are released to the market each month.
Although tube amps are so desirable, they are also fragile because most of them are hand-wired point to point.
PCB circuits, used in factory-produced models are more robust.
Obviously, if you care about your amp and you give the proper maintenance to it this will not happen but it is important to bear in mind that this kind of construction is known to act up.
At this moment, we can refresh the most relevant points to clarify your minds, and try to visualize if hand-built boutique amps are actually better.
First of all, boutique amps can be the best option for gigging or seasoned guitarists who look for a specific sound.
The difference between mass-assembled and boutique amps tends to be night and day.
Secondly, I know that you might not think about the resale value of every piece of gear you acquire but it is also a fact that boutique amps will be worth more now and ever.
Then, customization options are really helpful to defining a specific sound.
However, the price of these pieces of gear could be unreachable and would not suit everyone’s tone.
What is more, the scarcity of these amplifiers due to their short production would hinder your chances of actually getting one quickly, so please be armed with patience.
Last but not least, it is important to know how to preserve your equipment: Compared to amps produced in factories, boutique amps are more fragile.
Being all this said, In my opinion, you do not need superior equipment if you want to play music, it is well known that most of the most famous musicians in history never used a high-quality amp or guitar.
Not everyone has the needed amount of money to afford a boutique amp so my suggestion for you is to try to consider your possibilities and get what better suits your sound, and your budget.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.