An early start in electronics saw amp builder Dale Sherlock introduced to tubes at a young age. Through both work and an avid personal interest in building and designing, Dale developed a deeper understanding that then turned into a fulltime career in the music industry. Specifically working with guitar equipment and amplifiers, he has continued to refine his line of gear covering a range of sounds and settings. An undeniable wealth of knowledge, he is a valuable source of information and his amps deserve a listen when you get the chance. Mixdown sits down with the man behind Sherlock Amplifiers to find out more about what goes into building a world-class amplifier.
Are you constantly designing and refining your amps? How do you develop and settle on new models?
Most definitely. My mind is always in that design and refine mode! I receive feedback from players that use Sherlock Amps, who help point out any bugs or irregularities, and I find myself continually modifying the amps to perfect the designs. I feel that this is the only way to stay ahead of the ‘technological market’. Regarding the development of new models, I look at what’s trending or required in the market and from my resource of knowledge, I create something that will work with the upcoming trends and playing styles and the criteria of the musicians that come my way.
I’d imagine that the term ‘boutique amplifier’ has created many misnomers about the production process – can you tell us a little about your construction/ build methods?
Firstly the term ‘Boutique Amplifier’ is a description of how amplifiers really should be built, i.e. the state of the art amplifiers. The reason that the common off-the-shelf amplifier cannot be made to this standard, or ‘the state of the art standard’, is because of financial and time restraints. These typically cheaper amplifiers are produced in factories on production lines by machines and assemblers, not highly skilled technicians. A Boutique amplifier is built from scratch, mostly by one person who is the master of his craft. I have an avionics background where it is paramount that the construction of all equipment is to be correct and reliable (otherwise planes fall out of the air!). I’ve used the same techniques in my amplifiers to produce high quality, beautifully laid out and extremely reliable amplifiers. I either use tag boards, tag strips or PCBs depending on the complexity of the amplifier. I use quality and sonically superior components throughout. I also minimise the number of internal connectors because these are a common source of failure regarding amplifiers, and I hardwire most sections. All of my PCBs are ‘over soldered’, so Sherlock Amplifiers are extremely reliable.
The Fat Head has been the mainstay of your amp line for many years – what were the original design thoughts behind it?
After working for many years on an array of amplifiers from the high quality state of the art to the mass produced, I witnessed both the best ways of doing things and the design faults and inadequacies of these amplifiers. I then decided to build something that both harboured the great design features that I was now aware of, and had a broad array of sounds that would cater to all music styles. That was the inspiration behind the Fat Head; to accumulate all the knowledge that I had processed over the years and produce a high-quality amplifier in Australia at an affordable price for musicians. The Fat Head’s far superior manufacturing and tonal qualities is a magnificent piece of work. In fact, speaking of refinement – the Fat Head has had seven years of refinement!
Any new amps currently in the pipeline for future release?
Now you’ve excited me! I’m so happy that you have mentioned this – I have a brand new partner for the Buddy and it’s called the Bender. It’s modelled on a 1964 Fender Deluxe, featuring 6V6 tubes and again it’s a low powered amp of about 15 watts. I am also producing a companion to the Angry Ant, part of my tiny amp series, which will be modelled on the Fat Head’s high gain sounds with a basic clean channel. This Tiny Head will be a two-channel, EL 84 15W baby shredder. I will do a tamer version next. Both of the new amps will be showcased at the Melbourne Guitar Show.
For more info on Sherlock Amplifiers, visit sherlockamps.com.