Five Lesser Known Vintage Aussie Amp Brands

Australia is likely not the first country that comes to mind when you think of classic guitar and bass amplifiers. While Fender cemented the American amp sound and Marshall defined "British crunch," there's a less clear conception of the vintage Aussie amp legacy.

Despite this comparative lack of notoriety, there remains a rich heritage and history of Australian amp building that's worthy of renewed exploration.

The golden era for Aussie amps came during the ‘60s and ‘70s when Australia’s geographic isolation and high tariffs made imported amplifiers prohibitively expensive. Because of this, enterprising local builders began to design, produce and sell their own high quality amps at prices that were often more affordable than their imported counterparts.

Many of these amps survive today, sound amazing, and are still a great value when compared to most big name brands – when you can find them. While far from exhaustive, here's a look at five classic Aussie brands that you may not be familiar with.

Goldentone

1963 Goldentone 1755 Twin 12 Combo

If you’ve only heard of one vintage Aussie amp company, there’s a good chance that it’s Goldentone. They were one of the earlier Australian amp producers, founded in Melbourne in the early 1960s.

Early on, Goldentone produced mainly smaller combos. Later, though, they began producing bigger, louder amps very much in the vein of the high powered Fender combos popular at the time.

The fact that Goldentone is a somewhat better-known brand compared to the others on this list means that they tend to sell more quickly and for more money than the others. But compared to American or British amps from the same era, they are still quite reasonably priced.

Eminar

1970s Eminar Valve PA

Eminar was founded in Melbourne in the 1970s. Their products included guitar and bass amps, as well as a significant number of PA systems. Their production run amps ranged from 40 to 150 watts, but they also offered monster 250 watt versions as a custom option.

Of particular note with Eminar was their fondness for unconventional speakers and cabinets. It wasn’t uncommon for their amps to be paired with one or two 1x18 speaker cabinets, or a pair of 3x12 or 4x12 columns.

Vase

Vase Amplifier (Photo from guitarnerd.com.au)

Founded in Brisbane in the late 1950s by Tony Troughton, Vase amps were an absolute mainstay of the local Brisbane music scene throughout the '60s and '70s. Despite a lack of any formal training in electronics, Tony produced a range of meticulously crafted and very well regarded amps for both guitar and bass.

Some of the more prevalent incarnations of Vase amplifiers include the Trendsetter (a guitar amp most commonly found in a 60W head format), the Dynabass series of – you guessed it – bass heads, and also a number of valve PAs and “Bassman” amps.

Tony retired in the late ‘70s and passed away not long after, but the brand was sold and has been revived in recent years. Once again, Vase is producing top-notch valve amplifiers, handcrafted in Brisbane just as they always were.

Baez

Baez 300W Full Valve Bass Head

Another ‘70s brand, Baez amps were built in Newcastle by Mick Sampson. As was the case with many of these builders, most of their amps were sold locally, so Baez gear was a fairly common sight in the local Newcastle and Sydney music scenes at the time. They were also perfect for the high-powered rock of the era.

For those in the know, these amps have become somewhat sought after. And when they do pop up for sale, they never last long. The originals are hard to come by these days, but rumour has it that Mick does still build the odd new one from time to time, so we may see more of them yet.

Jansen

Jansen Bassman (Photo from Rockdog Amplifier Repairs)

Okay, so this last one is technically a New Zealand brand, but hey – that has never stopped Australia claiming ownership of something before.

Jansen was founded in Auckland in 1959 by Bruce Eady and Jack Collins. Initially the company’s focus was on repairing pianos and merely assembling imported amplifiers. But it quickly became evident that there was a gap in the market for them to start designing and producing their own amplifiers. Later, they started producing guitars and organs as well.

Jasen is probably best known for their outstanding Bassman 50 and 75 heads, which were closely based on the Fender Bandmaster and offer a great value alternative if you’re chasing that sound on a limited budget.

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