Fargen Amplification offers some of the best sounding and highest quality hand crafted tube guitar amplifiers on the market today! Ben Fargen, chief in command, has produced a line of guitar amps modeled after the classics, but are both very durable and extremely high quality in nature. He often aims at purity in tone, so that the guitarist may feel a closer connection between his hands and the speaker. SSS had the chance to pry open this West Coast amp builder’s brain just enough to make us kick our old vintage amps a few times!
Hear the Fargen Blackbird
SSS: How did you get involved building amplifiers? Were you a musician first?
Ben: Yes, I have been a musician much longer than a technician. I have been writing and recording music for over 15 years. My love of building tube amps grew from doing my own service work on my small personal collection of vintage amps.I taught myself how to service them and then stated building some DIY amps that I gigged with.I tested them until I had a few designs that were worthy of producing. I also was actively doing repair work and custom one off jobs as I built up my current production models.
SSS: Did you have any significant mentors?
Ben:Bruce Collins of Mission Amps (www.missionamps.com) is a wonderful amp builder/tech and a class act. Bruce helped me as I was starting out and there were times that he really steered me in the right direction when I got stumped . Also back in the early days the guys over at Ampage were a huge help regarding technical info as I was building my first few DIY amps.
SSS: Looking at your product line, you seem to like to build improved versions of classic designs (Marshall Plexi, Vox AC30, Fender Deluxe Reverb, etc.). What are some of the things you do to make these designs better?
Ben: I think it’s really about trying to up the tonal quality while addressing the many problem issues that modern players have dealing with vintage amps.I have tried to take some classic tones and put my stamp on them while maintaining what everyone liked about them in the first place.
SSS: Which of your amps is your favorite design?
Ben: I would say I am really proud of the Mini plex….it’s simple design and classic rock tones make it a really fun amp to play without spending all your time twiddling knobs to find a good sound.
SSS: You obviously prefer tubes over solid state. So, which tubes do you prefer? (both preamp and power tubes).
Ben: The EF86 is a wonderful preamp tube and as far as power tubes the EL84 and 6V6 are my favorite……nice and chimey.
SSS: What would you say you do differently than most amp builders that helps make your amplifiers unique.
Ben: My years as a player have tuned my ears into knowing what sounds good and what does not. This is something you either have or you don’t. I have been fortunate enough to find that my idea of good tone crosses over too what other players are looking for.
SSS: What speakers do you use in your combo amps?
Ben:I have used many various models from Weber VST since day one of Fargen……Teds speakers are one of a kind and he has so many option you are never hard pressed to find the correct speaker for the job.
SSS: How important are details such as the type of solder and wire to an amplifier?
Ben: We use standard high quality Kester solder and a combination of 18 ga. solid core for high voltage runs and 20 ga. vintage style cloth covered for all signal runs. I have used many different types of wire and such in my prototypes and I feel in my designs there is no “mojo” in wire that affects the tone….
SSS: Do you test your amps with pedals? Many guitarists often realize that certain pedals sound best with certain amps. Do you ever take things like this into consideration?
Ben: Yes I do have a wide variety of OD pedals I test the amp with: Menatone, Fulltone, Voodo Lab, etc. I try to keep an eye on whats hot and test out new pedals when I can.
SSS: What’s your take on the trends of the amplifier market since it’s birth over 50 years ago? How has it progressed? Where is it headed in the future?
Ben: I do believe we live in the golden age of high quality guitar gear…..you have a group of hard core tone nuts in the boutique amp building world that keep pushing the envelope. I feel fortunate to be able to add my amps to the mix.
For more information, please visit the website for Fargen Amps.