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About Henriken Amplifiers

The Henriksen JazzAmp was created in 2006 to satisfy a void in the marketplace for a jazz archtop guitar amplifier that produced a pure and true reproduction of the instrument’s tone. After having purchased a number of amps, and trying out an even larger number purporting to be jazz friendly amplifiers, I saw a common flaw in the basic design of all of these amps, at least for playing jazz. To my way of looking at it, that common flaw was in the institution of tone circuitry. Why not, I thought, create an amp with no tone controls at all. That would leave “tone color” decisions as the exclusive province of the instrument. The presumption is made that a high quality jazz archtop inherently has built in the jazz tone desired which then only needs to be made louder. Time and market acceptance has proven this to be a valuable insight.

Tone controls on conventional amps can be characterized as either low pass filters (bass), high pass filters (treble), or band pass filters (middle). Most are passive filters which give them the ability only to reduce unwanted frequencies. Some are active filters which allow some level of amplification of a particular spectrum. In general, a bass control works by reducing the magnitude of higher frequencies above a certain “cutoff”. A treble control works by reducing the magnitude of lower frequencies below a certain “cutoff”.

The problem with all of this is that all of the controls are “eating” part of your signal. In the jazz world we experience this by finding that we have to choose between higher notes that are “thin” or lower notes that are “boomy”. Our ear tells us that neither compromise is acceptable. So we spend the gig fine tuning the bass/treble controls in search of the “sweet spot”, only to go home unsatisfied. Removing the tone circuitry completely eliminates undue influence by the amplifier and leaves the establishment of tone up to the player and their instrument where it properly belongs.

Apart from creating an “un-toned” amplifier intended only to make the sound louder we believe, and have proven in practice, that the design of the cabinet and the choice of speakers is a proper and effective “toning” of sorts. There is no such thing as an all-purpose combo amplifier that provides great tone from classical jazz to 90’s rock. We readily admit that a Henriksen JazzAmp-10, as great as it is for jazz, is by its nature a poor choice for rock. However, that has nothing to do with the electronics. By using a different speaker cabinet, one can achieve about any sort of tone desired. For example, a JazzAmp-10 is not particularly commanding when playing an acoustic flat top guitar. However if you plug one of our “Tweety” cabinets into the extension speaker jack it is a whole new world. The 3 kHz and 10 kHz controls on the EQ have new life and give you as much or as little ring and finger noise as you desire. In that configuration a flat top player will experience the full range and tonality of their instrument. As mellow as a standard JazzAmp is, a Telecaster plugged into our Convertible ER configuration can create a sound shrill enough to break glass with the exact same electronics contained in the JazzAmp-10. The difference is simply in the speaker(s) and cabinet.

Small combo amps are very important to jazz musicians, which is why we build the JA-10 and the JA-12 models. The Henriksen Convertible series of product is just as portable, though slightly heavier but is modular and far more flexible. A Convertible consists of an amplifier head, a speaker cabinet, and a padded gig bag that holds them both. Not quite as “grab and go” as a combo but for a musician that plays multiple genres the convertible offers the opportunity to use a different speaker cabinet on different gigs. The other thing that musicians tell us is that they will travel with the head and have to rely on the venue/promoter only to supply a speaker cabinet. A number of top artists take our head on the road and when they inevitably encounter a Fender twin or a Roland jazz chorus on the bandstand they simply disconnect that amp from its speakers and plug in our head to the speakers instead.

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