Reverb Interview: Andy Fuchs on Amps, Influences and the Story of Fuchs Audio Technology

As someone who grew up knowing quite a bit about Andy Fuchs and his products, I assumed that he was always part of the music scene. But it wasn’t until I delved deep into the wild history of the amp industry that I came to recognize just what he’s accomplished as an inventor.

Fuchs grew up in a household that passionately celebrated music. His grandmother played the Zither, his father was an acclaimed accordionist, and his mother studied guitar with Giovanni Vicari, a guitarist and mandolin player immortalized in The Godfather.

As an avid student of all things music-related, Fuchs’ destiny seemed to be set from the start. He was a scrappy worker who culled vital skills from old world craftsmen that came before him and honed them into something special. From his early days impressing corporate suits at Plush, to his formative years with companies like Earth Sound Research and 48th Street Guitars, Andy Fuchs cut his teeth on applications aimed at the active east coast music scene.

His eventual evolution into a premier builder is a destiny long validated by the many famous musicians that praise and support him. From Al Di Meola to Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa, a wide array of musicians all flock to the Fuchs amp family.

I had a chance to speak with Andy about his inspiring journey, and the ingredients that prove Fuchs’ technology is more than just another flash in the pan.

I know you were raised in a musical world, but at what point did you have your first real experience with amps?

"My mom and dad met through music. After they married, they eventually started their own music store. Once, I started plucking away at an old guitar in one of their studios and eventually was asked to check out a new electric guitar and amp that came in for a customer. It was a Danelectro Convertible through an Ampeg Gemini I amp. It was sheer magic to my ears. The reverb on that Ampeg was deep and warm, and the tone was harmonically rich and bell-like. (Laughs) Man, I was hooked."

Ok, so if the enviable position of growing up around a music store fired your imagination, who sparked your interest in working with electronics?

"My dad would take in repairs. He had a stringed instrument repair guy as well as the local TV shop guy, Al Canova. Al repaired amps, stereo equipment, and organs. When I was young, my job was to bring him the amps my dad took in. He asked me if I would work for him after school, so starting in 6th grade, I answered phones for him and swept up while observing his repair jobs and gleaning off his expertise. He was an engineer at Grumman on Long Island who was laid off when they lost some big contract, so he started his shop. I learned enough that eventually I began repairing amps and modifying amps for myself."

Once you started experimenting with your basic designs, how did you come to discover that quintessential Fuchs tone for the first time?

"Interestingly enough, I learned that many things I did were not unlike what guys like Dumble, Ken Fischer, and Dennis Kager did. We were all taking gain stages and adding boosts, utilizing the unused first channel in a Fender Pro or Twin or Bassman, and using it to make overdrive. I did see a few Dumbles on my bench for service, and some were not gooped over, so I got to see some of the things were similar to what I did. Dennis Kager and I shared a few laughs at amp shows about how many variants on the same Fender/RCA and Western Electric circuits “new” amp designers continue to sell. People like the familiar feel and tone they grew up playing and hearing, so you do need to stay in a given “circuit family” for a certain tone."

What was the prototype that launched Fuchs back in the early days?

"I bought a Bandmaster from a friend and designed my first ODS mod. I started working with circuit boards early on. I felt that the consistency and ability to do more and do it easily was compelling. I rebuilt the amp with a new panel and new circuits, and then started using it at open mics and blues jams. Because I started a new day job selling electronics, I had to cut back on my band gigs, but I continued to make amps at night. I would take these amps to gigs or jams and guys would like my tone and ask where they could get one or if I would make one for them. Eventually my wife Annette suggested I make an amp chassis, cabinet and market my own branded amps."

I want to put the “Dumble/Ken Fischer” rumors to bed... I understand that your amps come from original concepts, so what started the online “attack of the clones” gossip?

"Well, in the beginning, around 1999, I got caught up in the internet discussion forums. I learned that guys had reverse engineered Trainwrecks and Dumbles, and I made a few clones. I already unknowingly shared many of the same circuit ideas in things I built on my own. My first amp was an homage to Dumble; I called it the Overdrive Supreme and it looked obviously like a Dumble. But the irony is that other people were actually making perfect Dumble clones. However, they didn’t look like Dumbles, so I took the brunt of the heat as a “cloner” when I had actually taken the design concepts in my own direction. I did my Train-45 initially as a Trainwreck inspired amp, with Ken Fischer’s blessing. I later made the Train-II for people who wanted more gain and a master volume, and it’s pretty far from what Ken made. The ODS-II is the same thing: after almost 15 years of making the ODS, I had received a ton of compliments and endorsements, but also a long list of ideas and suggestions that players brought to me. Everything evolves…"

How did you acquire Plush and what has the reaction been to date?

"As a kid, I went with my dad to Plush. I was maybe 10 or 12, and while Dad was waiting for an amp to be repaired, I was shown how things were assembled and wired. When I started our pedal line years later, I discovered the trademark was available and wanted the pedals to be a part of the Fuchs family but to have their own special identity. So we made the pedal line Plush. The line now has over 20 pedals from overdrives to delays, boosters, and signal processors. We’re proud of our little family of products, and they’re dominating their field."

How many models are in the Fuchs lineup now, and what’s up next for Fuchs Audio?

"The amp lineup is about twenty models. By integrating shared cabinets, chassis, and components, we can make more models than the average “small company.” The Casinos are at the lower end, the ODS and Train-II cover the middle, and the Tripledrive and Mantis take care of the high end. All come in head form and combo. We’re already back ordered on the ODS-II, which has taken the boutique market by storm. The unique audio features, the built in bias test metering and the external bias controls give the player or his tech awesome control over the amp."

"We have a couple of new bass amps entering the market. The Bruiser Jr. is a tube preamp with 500-Watt solid state power amp, and the Bruiser is an 800-Watt with tubes up front and solid state out back. We’re excited for these because they awesome and have some cool circuit innovations that we’re particularly proud of."

Are you strictly manufacturing the new product, or do you work on client gear as well?

"Many people don’t realize Fuchs also operates a busy repair shop that opened five years ago, which specializes in tube audio and musical gear. We provide repair services to the local musical populous in Northern New Jersey and New York. Because we stock parts and have the knowledge, our customers are extremely happy. We’re proud of fair prices, prompt service and personal attention to each customer. Our relationships within the industry allow us to repair boutique amps as well as mainstream Fender, Marshall, and others - especially older amps, because as a vintage model myself, I can definitely relate!"

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