A History of Brisbane's VASE Amplifiers

For anyone that came up playing in bands or going to shows in and around Brisbane, VASE is a familiar brand. If you didn’t own one at some point, chances are you knew someone who did or have seen the amps on stage with local bands numerous times.

VASE amps have been a mainstay in Brisbane for many decades thanks to their great sound and rock solid reliability. There have always been plenty available at quite reasonable prices, making them an appealing option for young bands chasing a valve amp sound on a limited budget.

VASE founder Tony Troughton with a
hand-made steel guitar

However, as familiar as many Brisbanites may be with the brand, not many are as familiar with its origins.

The Birth of an Amp Company

The beginning of the story goes all the way back to 1950 when a wood turner and musician named Tony Troughton relocated his family from Lancaster, England to Brisbane. Prior to relocating, Tony had combined his two practices by building some instruments. One of these was a lap steel that he performed with for many years.

But in Brisbane, Tony discovered a new opportunity: servicing and repairing valve amplifiers. Despite lacking formal training in electronics, Tony turned out to have quite an affinity for circuitry.

His hobby quickly evolved into designing and building amps from scratch. It was only a matter of time until that pursuit grew into a fully–fledged company. Thus, in the late ‘50s, the VASE brand was born.

Never a huge company, Tony employed a staff of four to five people at the peak of production in his humble Brisbane factory. Despite this small team, almost every aspect of the building process was done in house, from the design and assembly to the vinyl covering.

Norman Rowe & The Playboys - Tour of UK with full VASE backline

VASE’s most notable models were its Trendsetter guitar amp and Dynabass bass head. It is estimated that over the course of the company’s existence Tony and his team produced around 5,000 amplifiers, the majority of which were built to order for customers.

Tony retired and VASE closed down in the late 1970s, followed shortly by Tony’s passing. Yet the VASE legacy lived on through the decades with the original amps built at that Brisbane factory, many of which still regularly grace stages in Brisbane and around Australia.

VASE Reborn

Some 40–odd years since the last original VASE amp was built, the brand is back producing top notch valve amps in Brisbane. It was Brisbane native Harry Lloyd–Williams who jumped at the chance to bring the iconic VASE name back to life when the opportunity presented itself.


Harry’s first memories of VASE date back to when he was 19 years old, working in an Ipswich guitar store which was a retailer for VASE. Because of this, Harry often found himself heading over to the VASE factory to pick up stock. “Ever since that time it was something I always wanted to be involved with,” he recalls.

Fast forward to 2010 when a number of old brands were reappearing on the market. Harry remembers hearing that, “a few people were contemplating bringing back VASE and getting it made in China.”

The brand had always been so specifically Brisbane in every way. To Harry, the idea the VASE name getting slapped on new amps that weren’t locally produced and had little relation to the originals just didn’t seem right.

Harry decided that if VASE were to make a comeback, it had to be done right. Harry promptly registered the VASE trademark to protect Tony Troughton’s legacy.

Seven years later, VASE is well and truly back. The company is producing top–notch valve amplifiers handcrafted in Brisbane, just as it had for so long.

The flagships of the new VASE amps line are modern incarnation of Tony’s classic Trendsetter guitar amps. The visual reproduction is so exact that Harry and his team ensure that the specific patterning on the vinyl covering matches the original’s.

The Trendsetter 60 Head is an exact replica of Tony’s original 60-watt design, while the 18–watt Tonesetter combo is a new design by Noel Bourne.

VASE Tonesetter 18 Combo & Extension Cab Demo

The Two versions of the Dynabass amp are also available: a head and a combo. Called the Dynabass Classic 1K, this is also a new design.

Over the coming years, there are plans to expand the range with more original designs that stay, “faithful to the original VASE spirit.”

VASE has recently launched its shop on Reverb to share these Brisbane favourites with the rest of the world.

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