“Albion amps are like boutique amplifiers such is their feature set and sound quality…”
Sometime in March this year Steve Grindrod paid his first visit to South Africa. Now for those not familiar with the name, Steve has been designing and engineering amplifier and speaker products for two of the world’s most famous guitar amp companies for almost four decades.
From 1973 to 2000, Grindrod served as Chief Engineer and Director of Research and Development for Marshall Amplification. In 2000, Grindrod was invited by Vox to become Managing Director and Chief Designer, a position he held until 2008. The products of Grindrod’s work have been heard on countless recordings and are featured on more concert and club stages than could be counted. He has since embarked on a new adventure with International Audio Group to form Albion Amplification, a partnership he says has offered him the creative freedom to produce the kind of guitar amplifiers he has been wanting to design for sometime; “There’s no such thing as the perfect design, not when you’re the designer,” he explains. “There’s always something in retrospect that I feel could have been done slightly different or improved upon but ultimately the product has to go into production so one has to move ahead.”
Celebrating his 50th year of producing guitar amplifiers – he designed his first one at 13 years of age “out of necessity,” he adds – this 63 year old, somewhat hippyish looking eccentric guitar player is clearly a perfectionist and can tell you about design flaws that some of the most esteemed players and reviewers of his products are unlikely to have ever picked up on.
On enquiring about his years at Marshall and Vox Steve is reasonably non-committal, suffice to add that after 36 years with the companies he’d had enough of the ‘bean-counters’ and non-musical people having such a big say in his designs. He relates a story where at Vox he was instructed to ensure that a particular segment of an amp needed to have valves instead of solid state technology, this despite the fact that he knew and had advised ‘the suits’ that solid state would sound better for this module. “All they knew was that valve was considered as better and that’s what their customers wanted. They had no idea of sound quality or for that matter any understanding of when and where valves should be used. In the end I set up a ‘blind test’ for them – one with valve and one without for the effects loop on this particular amp and asked them to listen. Of course in the end they chose the one I wanted without even realising it,” he chuckles.
It’s these sort of restrictions and “dealing with corporate bullshit” as he puts it, that made leaving Vox and embarking on this new venture so appealing to him. “Albion Amplification is 100% designed the way I think amplifiers should be. My objective is simple; produce the best possible amplifiers for the most reasonable price. I don’t want to be the cheapest on the market, but I want to be the most affordable for what you get.”
And what you get is quite something as Nic Roos, the Sleepers lead guitarist and Muse Magazine reviewer will attest to. Says Nic, “Albion amps are like boutique amplifiers such is their feature set and sound quality, but amazingly at way more affordable prices. In fact some of the top brand names do not have features I can list on the Albion amps.”
“It is no secret that my products are built in Shenzhen, China. But what I would like you to appreciate is that we really do own our factory. I live here, next to the factory, full time, and work side by side with my manufacturing team on a daily basis. This enables me to constantly monitor products as they are built. To the best of my knowledge there is no other guitar amp company using off-shore manufacturing who can claim this dedication. Most brands who build in China use a nameless, unknown O.E.M. factory. We don’t!” states Grindrod emphatically.
Shooting the breeze with Steve, it’s no wonder then that all products reviewed by us thus far have received a massive thumbs-up for innovation, build quality, sound, feature set and affordability. Here’s a man that has had such a major influence on amp design for over 40 years finally able to produce guitar amplifiers totally with his own vision and it shows in the Albion range.
Originally branded as Wharfedale, the products underwent a name and styling change but the heart and soul of each amp as reviewed by us remains the same.
To read our previous reviews online follow these links…
Written By : Muse Reports