professional deformation (it´s written in our name) we tend to focus our
attention on guitars. It happens in almost every article that we publish on
these pages. Surely for the charm and brightness in the object itself, always
first in line, with their shapes, woods, and colours. Yet, this is just the
start of the series.
Here today, we want to take a trip to the other side. And to get there with the help of Gianluca La Boria, amplification luthier , ‘father’ of GLB Sound, a small company from northern Italy, which brings the world of heads and cabinets, ‘unknown’ to many, to the highest level.
Gianluca is a man who knows what he wants: the best sound for the most demanding guitarists. And this sound, that search for perfection, demands superb heads and cabinets crafted by hand with precious woods and top quality materials. The result is an object of desire that reflects years of experience and knowledge of the world of amplification, besides being the symbol of excellence ‘Made in Italy’.
We invite you to read our interview with Gianluca: a point of departure in a journey any guitarist must, sooner or later, learn. Here we go.
1. GUITARS EXCHANGE: How did this adventure begin? Why do you consider yourself an amplification luthier?
GLB: Passion for sound was born years ago, together with the love of wood, their essences, and infinite variables, as much aesthetic as acoustic. I did the first experiments on a Fender DeVille, my first amp; it was too ‘heavy’ for the output -in my opinion- so I thought about breaking it up: I built a structure- of very bad quality to be sure- one for the head, and the other for the cabinet, and I realised how amps mold sound. Since then I started to consider the cabinet as a musical instrument itself, as if it was actually a guitar. First we had to change the building materials, which led me to the woods for the instruments, and after countless tests, calculations, and assembly methods, GLB Sound amps were born. “Not just wood, pure tone wood” is our motto. I spend days selecting in detail each board of wood to use for my amps: this is the most time consuming process. Wood for instruments, ‘resonant wood’, is a rare thing: that's why its price is higher than your traditional one. And since we're speaking of handmade instruments, it’s essential to respect the fundamental rule of wood: it must sound good.
2. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Do you look for a special sound for any particular reason?
GLB: What I'm looking for is not a special sound, but something we could define as ‘self-carrying sound’. A sound with character, personality, soul. I'm not interested in already recognised sounds. The unknown fascinates me, the sound that the different variables can create . Another thing is to manage to catalogue a new sound in stereotypical categories. Does it sound more rock or blues? Is it better for a solid-body guitar, or an archtop?
3. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Pick one and explain the reason: soul, jazz, rock, pop..or what?
GLB: We're talking about musical genres, categories, simplifications of the same concept. Sound. Indispensable to be able to navigate in tastes, and the different flavours of a guitar face or in its style, but let’s not forget that they all follow the same common pattern: send a message to their public. I don’t want to opt for any specific genre, I’d rather take the part of ‘someone’ able to deliver this message, regardless of the genre played.
4. GUITARS EXCHANGE: What is the secret of the woods you use?
GLB: The secret is in the choice of the boards. The raw material, in my case, is the key to get a particular sound...even more than those who make solid-body guitars (it’s different for acoustics). The standard I always use is the same and is well engraved in my head and ears. The funny thing, from my view, is how I marvel every time I discover how nature is capable of creating small shades in sound, in the designs, and ultimately, something special: bodies cut from the same trunk, which have different pitch responses. Then we'll have to discuss the whole process of making the cabinet, the tone of its walls, the harmony between the body, and a thousand other things.
5. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Why give such importance to the cabinet?
GLB: The relationship between a guitarist and his amp is very special. If, from a practical side, we’re talking about the most important thing - as important as the instrument- in the sound process, from an emotional point of view you can pick up that ‘thing’ that makes a guitar be heard. How many times have I heard, ”It's just an amp!”. Hard to deny, that thing always present there on stage, in the studios, at home, or wherever else you want to play, it's something 'far away'. A good amp should amplify the guitar signal without adding or taking away anything. The history of amplification teaches us well that it's not like this. The flow of the signal is very simple: from the guitar it goes to the pedal, enters the amp and ends up in the cabinet (transmitter). If we were sound engineers, the flow would go through a mixer, and then to an outboard with effects (if it were set up this way we would use it), then back to the amp and transmitters. If you spoke with a professional he would tell you that he spends the budget on his audio system in equal parts. He would never spend 80% on a mixer and the rest on a cheap amp with bad cabinets. I challenge you to ask yourselves the same question: “What percentage of the cost would you spend on each piece?” most people would say: 60% guitar, 20% effects, 15% amp, 5% cabinet. To answer your question, I think the cabinet is one of the essential instruments for the flow of the audio signal. It would have to have the same importance as the rest of the stages of the flow: in order to have quality, we need balance, notwithstanding the advances of digitalisation.
6. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Why is a ‘boutique’ amp an alternative to the big manufacturers?
GLB: There are different features that the big companies cannot guarantee, for example, the power to capture the sound for a given person and style. In my case, this is possible, but not in others: there are many craftsmen in Europe and the world, but few of us can give such diversity in the sound and space of the pitch. The idea behind the basis of GLB Sound is that each cabinet has its own personality, pitch, and magic. Each wood has its own sound: a sapele, often used in making instruments, has a completely different pitch than maple, much clearer, sharper, and with a bigger throw.
The first choice always has to do with pitch: the cabinet is already considered as an instrument itself. The signal flow is opened with an instrument and closed with another and both have to be in harmony, compensating each other to get the pitch balance for a complete and satisfactory sound. Some guitars will sound better with a pearl wood cabinet, while other ‘darker’ ones adapt better to oak wood. This is what sets us apart from any other amp brand. An example of a request often made to us: for Stratocasters and PRS guitars they need a clean channel mono amp, with small dimensions and mid-range power with the option of plugging into a cabinet 1x12 or 2x12. An amp maker has one or two products to cover this need. GLB Sound can offer up to 12 heads, 10 different woods to combine in 2 formats with 3 alternative speakers available. And this is just from a pitch point of view!. On the aesthetic side, which is very important when creating true objects of design, we have a wide range of colours, fabrics, leather or skins along with other small touches. And if that wasn’t enough, we offer a lifetime guarantee, and 24-hour service assistance as well as our expertise, something that globalisation is losing in favour of savings.
7. GUITARS EXCHANGE: Who plays on your amps? Who would you like to see using them?
GLB: Many from the pop, rock, jazz scene: you can find them all on our website. I would like to see all the artists that I could learn from playing on my amps: Gilmour, Clapton, Jeff Beck, and besides Joe Pass, Django, B.B. King, Chet Atkins and I would love to get Pat Metheny to change his mind....
8. GUITARS EXCHANGE: We hear you are fascinated by jazz… where does this fascination come from?
GLB: Jazz is very tied to quality sound, it’s the father of all other genres that we know these days. We just have to look at the guitars that we use: the semi-acoustics, or archtops. They are no more than an acoustic guitar with pick-up. There are many problems tied to the amplification of these instruments, that's why I accepted the challenge to create an amp system capable of recreating the sound of the 40s and 50s, adapted to today’s needs.
It was with Gaetano Valli, who was one of the first jazz players to use our cabinet, that we got the idea of adding the GIG50 to the GLB Sound catalogue: totally valved heads combined with GLB boxes able to produce a warm sound, full and surrounding, something very much sought after for lovers of the blue notes. Completely customizable in power and pitch, they have already convinced the Italian jazz scene like Bebo Ferra, Maurizio Brunod, Enrico Bracco, Sandro Gibelli or Battista Lena. Internationally, we are collaborating with Steve Herberman, from Washington D.C., and with Ferenc Snetberger.
This past summer we have organised the first edition of the GLB Sound Jazz Festival that brought together all the artists we have worked with. The festival was born with the intention of uniting different styles, personalities, tastes, and musical flavours. Jazz is contaminating: everyday the number of artists grows in this genre, and we are sure that the next edition of the festival (don't miss it!) will be even more filled up with ideas and personalities.
'GLB Sound' Store on Guitars Exchange
Official site: http://www.glbsound.com