Shop Spotlight: Achillies Amplification Super-Charged, Vintage-Style Amps

Labros Bogthanis, founder and master builder of Achillies Amplification, creates more than just mere replicas. Each gorgeous amplifier he produces is painstakingly handcrafted with nothing but the best components. Make no mistake—his amplifiers are built to deliver the identical vintage tones that we all know and love—but they are heavily upgraded with superior parts, additional modern functionality, and practical usability tweaks.

Labros Bogthanis in his workshop.

Bogthanis' superlative skills in woodworking and electronics were passed down by his father, a speaker cabinet maker.

"I was always building stuff as a kid," Bogthanis says. "I guess it was in my blood to do it. But what really started me on my path was when I was fairly young, taking up guitar lessons, I wanted to bring my own amp—not one you can buy from a store—but an amp that I built myself."

And build an amp he did. Bothanis built his first transistor amp at the young age of 17, using it as a springboard to launch himself into the world of amplifier-building. Over the years, he dove deep into the guts of countless vintage amplifiers, finding out how exactly how their hallowed tones were produced. "I had to dissect plenty of amps to find out how they sounded like they did," he says.

"I looked at the thickness of the chassis, the transformers they used, the capacitors, resistors, even the boards themselves. I realized that every single component made a difference."

Bogthanis' endless quest for tonal knowledge culminated in a recreation of a '59 Fender Bassman in 2002. This started a slow snowball for Bogthanis, leading more and more interested customers to his other products.

Achillies Amplification slowly began to spread through online forums—one of the most prominent being Aussie Guitar Gearheads. Slowly but surely, Bogthanis began to expand his repertoire of replicas—and the orders similarly started escalating for both Achillies amplifiers and speaker cabinets.

Customers were particularly drawn to the sterling build quality and longevity upgrades in all of Bogthanis' amps, as found in the construction of his circuit boards. "A lot of boards from the old vintage Tweeds and Blackfaces suffer from what they call 'tweed disease,'" Bogthanis says.

"Over time, crackle and a whole lot of unwanted issues originate from the circuit boards. So, I upgraded the quality of the boards to a better, more solid material to prevent that from ever happening. But overall, I upgrade the majority of the components to make the end product last longer. It's a bit like a cake, really: When you use better ingredients, you get better results."

The Achillies workshop is where most of the magic happens, and is an incredible visual combination of old and new. Stacks and slabs of rustic raw wood—some even still preserving their bark—lie adjacent to well-maintained bandsaws and rivet machines. Tucked away in a corner is a brightly lit office filled with meticulously organized custom-ordered parts and components, topped with fancy electronic equipment and soldering tools.

Perhaps most impressive of all is the demo room, where Bogthanis stores a jaw-dropping amount of his completed stock. Most are finished, but some wait patiently for their boards to be inserted—but these still make for elegant-looking wooden husks in their own right.

"I import all of my building materials from Russia, and my custom capacitors from Germany," he says. "And I specifically request the material type, density, and a unique kind of glue that gets used in my products. ... Once it all comes in, I cut and dovetail it all. The reinforcement process is what makes Achillies cabs unique—that's what I really look into. All these little bits and pieces are what makes a good cabinet, which consequently affects the sound of the amp."

Like all of Bogthanis' products, the inspiration for his latest amplifier stems from ancient Greek mythology. Named the Argos after the many-eyed giant, this beast features a 40-watt Marshall JTM45 circuit with a modified tone stack, powered by two KT66 power tubes.

The "eyes" of the Argos correlate to the slew of knobs, switches and inputs of its control panel, which naturally grant a myriad of tonal options. And just like the giant itself, the controls even extend to the amp's back panel, allowing access to an effects loop, master volume, external speakers, and even a half-wattage power attenuator. "The Argos is basically a super-modded JTM45," Bogthanis says.


Achillies Amplification
Argos
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Achillies Amplification
Nemesis
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Achillies Amplification
Ophion
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"I used to do plexi replicas, but a whole lot of people wanted them with extra modifications. So, I thought I'd build an amp that can do everything, but still remain completely switchable. That means if some players don't want that particular mod in there, they're free to switch it off whenever they want, and the Argos can still be a standard JTM45."

The future looks both vast and bright for Achillies Amplification. Currently, Bogthanis is prototyping his custom-built pedalboards and a new original amplifier model. While he remains tight-lipped on the finer details of this upcoming project, some secrets were unequivocally spilled.

"It's going to be an original, cross-breed amp," he says. "It'll be two amps in one. A Fender crossed with a Marshall. I'm naming it the Bident for now—meaning a double-ended fork. It's still in development, and I've got way more testing to do, so you'll have to wait for maybe another six to twelve months."

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