Ben Verellen is a Seattle man who makes amps. Verellen Amplifiers are beautiful, sturdy creations that give your sound tube strength, solitude, and solid foundation. Each amp is made with care. Each amp bestows the player with a sense of magma, power, and touch that only mountains and feathers know. Playing through a Verellen amp is not unlike a God creating the earth. Let there be light, and there is light. Let there be a finely crafted amp you can trust and love, and there is a Verellen.
If Ben were in Velella Velella, the band could be called Verellena Verellena. But Ben is actually in Helms Alee, who will be playing Total Fest VIII on August 21st and 22nd.
Ben spoke of his amp creating process. Next up, his process for creating birds and sea creatures:
How did you get into amp making?
Verellen: I played in bands, got into recording bands, and got interested in sounds and gear, which led to electronics. I went to electrical engineering school at UW, and didn’t want to get a job building airplanes or computers.
What is your specialty?
We do an amp right now called the Meat Smoke that we’re really excited about. It’s a 300-watt bass/guitar hybrid that can do both the duties of an Ampeg SVT and a Marshall full stack. You could backline an entire band using only these amps. They’re all tube, two channel, and very beefy with tons of headroom. Some might say it’s too loud, but that’s what a master volume control is for.
Let's talk amps and orgasms. Have you ever designed an amp that squirts a white foamy liquid? Prince has his guitar that jizzes, it would only seem natural that there would now be an amp that jizzes, or at least emulates some form of spraying bodily secretion.
No jizzing amps yet, but that’s something to think about.
What would you say the Verellen sound is?
Our custom orders have us making such vastly different amps that it’s really hard to identify one specific sound. One thing we can say is that whether we’re doing a fifteen watt, class-A combo, or a 300 watt, class AB 8x10” bass rig, we’re using all tube technology, and classic era guitar amp construction methods. We think this gives the amps a truer, and less sterile and filtered sound than most modern production amplifiers.
Do you ever get people ordering amps that are like, "I need the most evil guitar sound ever. Can you make me that?"
Totally, or, “Can you make it sound like a waterfall in outer-space?” Audio is a hard thing to articulate, and people can get pretty adventurous with trying to get their point across.
What's the craziest amp request you've gotten?
We had a customer who ordered a stereo guitar amplifier, basically two amps in one box. Each “amplifier” had foot-switchable clean and overdrive channels as well as a tube-driven effects loop. That was definitely an intense tetris experiment getting everything to fit in a way that looks nice and works well. Orders that haven’t gone through include a 2000-watt tube amp and a remote control laser inside the amp. We really ought to rein in just how custom we’ll go.
What's your process for making a guitar amp? Walk us through it.
This is how making an amp goes if you’re me. The first thing you need is a design. You can directly lift a design from something that somebody else has already, or you can take a working design and modify to taste, or you can start from scratch and break out the graphing calculator and tube data sheets and get real nerdy. Our design process uses some of all three of these approaches.
Next, you choose and source all of the parts you need. Once they arrive, you design a chassis layout, machine the chassis, and mount all of the components to the chassis. Finally, you wire up all of the components to complete the circuit. The amp is tested for bias voltages, tested for power, and tested for “Stairway to Heaven”. Once it passes, it’s “burned in” (left on) for a full day.
While this is happening your buddy Mike is building a beautiful dovetailed Baltic Birch enclosure that is stained, varnished, and covered in hardware. Once the working amp is mounted inside the enclosure, it’s ready for delivery.