Profile and History

Interview for Vintage Guitar Magazine - Builder's Profile

When was the company founded and who or what was the impetus?

I first started offering my services to the public as a business in 1993.
I grew up in Vienna, Austria and began playing guitar in the late 80s and always worked on and set up my own guitars, amps and pedals.
Before I arrived in the USA at the end of 1992, I played guitar and wrote songs in Australia for a couple of years.
I also got into modding vintage tube amps and started doing guitar setups and repairs for musicians I knew.

Was it a full-time venture initially, or something you did on the side? And at what point did it become full-time (if it did)?

From '93 to '95 I posted fliers all over grunge-rock Seattle as 'The Guitar Doctor' and did guitar and amp repairs for music stores and rehearsal studios.
I also held a job as a finisher at a fine custom furniture shop.
That's where I started making a few original design solid-body and hollow-body guitars after hours, using mostly my own hand tools.
I was all self-taught, as I wanted to learn and discover guitar making hands-on from scratch, developing my own original signature sound and appearance from the start.

In the summer of 1995 I moved to Austin, TX and set up shop full-time by converting my home's garage to a guitar making and repair shop plus tube amp service.
I advertised in the classified section of local music oriented periodicals and ran a small monthly display ad in VG Magazine as 'Siegmund Guitars'.
In the spring of 1997 I made my first acoustic guitar, an original design hand-carved archtop guitar, that I showed together with my other guitars at my first vintage guitar show as an exhibitor in Houston TX. I still have the article of an interview, a local reporter from the Houston Chronicle did with me during the show for the Weekend section, inspired by the unusual guitars at my booth.

A few months later I relocated my shop to Los Angeles into a well-known historical house that Charlie Chaplin built in the popular 'story-book' style of Hollywood of the late teens and 20s. That's where I made in 1998 my first tube amp from scratch in 10 days including the cabinetwork, just in time for another vintage guitar show date.
This amp marked the beginning of my tube amplifier production.

How large was the initial product line, and which models did it include?

Initially I was offering only original design and unique one-off custom guitars, amps and preamps made from scratch individually to order, which I still do today.
It wasn't until 1999 when I first offered a tube preamp/overdrive footpedal product called the Micro Tube Overdrive.

At what point did the product line begin to expand (after X# of years, specific dates, etc.), and how did it happen (i.e. was there a trend that spurred growth, did you notice that certain advertising was effective, did you get some helpful press, etc.)?

I ended up making exactly 200 of the MTO and VG Magazine did a review of it.
At the end of 2000 I introduced my first tube amp model - the low wattage, all-octal tube, single-ended Midnight Special, as a vinyl covered version or custom made to order solid-wood cabinets.
At the time low wattage amps didn't get much credit or interest yet, but it is still to date my most popular amp.
Continuing as 'Siegmund Guitars & Amplifiers' I added the higher wattage Midnight Blues amp and at the end of 2001 I retired the MTO in favor of the DoubleDrive.
I also expanded my archtop guitar model with an electric and later a resonator version with pickup.

I was an exhibitor at the NAMM shows from 2001-2003. In 2002 Tone Quest Magazine printed an interview and Guitar Player Magazine gave me the Pick Award for the Midnight Blues.
In 2003 I introduced the Missing Link, which is the simpler and pure version of the DoubleDrive with half the gain.
I also started to get a good reputation for my custom made Micro Tube preamps as floor units and later custom-made rackmount preamps for studio professionals.

What is it that sets your product apart (i.e. how do you strive to be different)?

I offer and personally make several styles of guitars, tube amplifiers and effects pedals, all with original design ideas.
The creation and ideas for my instruments are about finding the balance of something at its core naturally musical, unique and interesting, by blending traditional methods with an endless curiosity and passion for musical sounds.
To me the making of instruments is also about promoting an intuitive response and personal 'dialogue' a musician has with the instrument.
A refined but simple and pure sound quality inspires a playing approach that comes from the original desire to express musically how a player feels at the moment, without sounding like anybody else.
I always found it interesting that these principles apparently work well for players of any musical style.

Inspiration for the player can also come from an understanding about the approach and passion of the instrument maker.
After all, we are part of something that's bigger than the individual player or maker or the instrument: The sense and ability to share musical sounds and harmony.
As an instrument maker, I try to do my part by constantly searching for an ideal musical purity and balance in whatever type of instrument I make at the time.

When did you hire your first employee(s)? And how many do you have now?

My customers and me prefer that I personally make their instruments. And I quickly learned that everything flows easier, when I manage and do all the other tasks as well.
Starting with the original idea, advertising, website, talking to customers, making each instrument from scratch, packing it and dropping it off at the shipper plus running the business and accounting, etc.
I especially enjoy talking to each customer and making their instrument individually one at a time for them personally.
There is just something unique and very special about each instrument made this way.
I also get great purpose and meaning to what I do everyday from that approach, which all flows back into every aspect and energizes the entire process.

What are your goals/hopes/expectations for the future of the industry?

That question is probably best answered by the players and buyers of musical instruments.
The interaction of customers and publications like VG magazine with individual makers and their new ideas is what shapes the future of the industry probably more than anything else that comes to mind.

What are your goals/hopes/expectations for your own line/products?

I thoroughly enjoy my approach to instrument making and how it works out for my customers, judging from their feedback.
There is never a lack of new ideas and I can only hope for continued good health, so I can keep at it and continue to learn and get better with each day at this great passion of my life.

Product History after 2003:

Over the years I always had this idea of making my own Strat or Tele version, but with a hollow body and mahogany neck.
So I introduced the Outcaster in 2004 with the body woods, pickups and hardware all custom made to order.

In 2005 I made a 1 Watt miniaturized version of the Midnight Special - the Muddy Buddy using Micro Tubes.
Like all my amps it also comes with a hemp cone alnico speaker and a custom solid wood cabinet made to order.

I made the first 300B tubes Diamond amp in 2004 and officially introduced it in 2006. A good friend and acoustic guitar collector, who asked me to make him the purest and best sounding clean amp I can make, inspired me to create a unique and original design, which my custom transformer designer Sergio Hamernick from Mercury Magnetics said is in the 1% of the best tube gear ever made.

In 2009 I introduced the Suspense guitar with a unique design where the bridge is mounted and suspended inside a small hollow body for an acoustic guitar-like lively response without any droning or feedback issues.

In spring of 2011 I started offering the Sound King amplifier, which is the Diamond amp with Midnight Special preamp.
The sound quality and fidelity of the Diamond and Sound King amps is so high, that they also double as beautiful sounding hifi power amps.

The MS, Diamond and Sound King also are available with original 1930s-40s field coil speakers, with the magnetic field responding directly to the strength of the signal played.
Especially with the higher power amps, I accomplish this by using a combination of methods that is unique to these amps.

While dialing in the Sound King, I also finished a handcarved hollowbody 6-string custom electric violin with a magnetic pickup.

In the fall of 2012 I introduced my tube version of the rotating speaker sound with the Micro Tube Doppler Vibe.
A pitch shift vibrato tremolo with mono/stereo outputs and optional foot pedal speed control.
The stereo mode creates a truly unique 3D guitar sound experience, pushing a dual amp setup into another dimension.

In February 2013 I introduced the Micro Tube Spring Reverb. A stand-alone unit and enhanced version of the special transformer-less reverb of my amps.

In July the Sound King amplifier was also available with vinyl covered cabinets and illuminated control panel.

In December I introduced the Simplex Micro Tube microphone and instrument preamp.

In January 2014 the Diamond was given a new simpler look.

In August the Midnight Special was now available as an enhanced head version with 3 power options.

In September I introduced Vintage Classics - Popular American and British amp models from the 1950s and 60s.

In February 2015 the Midnight Blues got an updated head design with new control panel.

In July I introduced the Doppler Stereo Combo with a unique original design Asymmetrical Frequency Soundstage

Starting in April 2016 the Midnight Special became available with 300B tube as head and combo version.

In July the Midnight Special Head was now available also as a combo with 13 different speaker configurations.

In November I introduced the Big Boy 300 Watt Bass amp.

In December the Muddy Buddy was available as head and 1x10 speaker cabinet.

In January 2017 I introduced the Micro Tube Diddy Wah and Overdrive.

In September and December I introduced new Hifi gear: The Micro Tube Phono Preamp and matching ST-230 Power amp.

In August 2018 I introduced the Sound King Combo.

In October 2018 I introduced the Simplex Vintage Tube Mic Pre with EQ.

In January 2019 I introduced the Pup Emu - Pickup Emulator.

In April 2019 I introduced the 5 Watt version of the Midnight Special as a Rackmount and 1x10 combo.

In October 2019 I introduced the Deuce Stereo 2x12 combo. The ideal pedal platform amp.

In December 2019 I introduced the Micro Tube Compressor. The simplest way to add genuine class A tube magic to your signal chain.

In March 2020 I introduced the Rage 45 amp with two distinct different clean and crunch channels.

A few days later I introduced the Celtic Tele. A unique 1952 Blackguard version I wanted to make for ages.

In April 2020 I introduced the ST-2100 amp with Micro Tube preamp and class-D power amp.

In June 2020 I introduced another Simplex Vintage Mic Pre with compressor.

In July 2020 I introduced the unique DHC Custom amp with all prewar directly heated cathode tubes.

In August 2020 I teamed up with local Bakersfield Sound Music Store, introducing the '19' amplifier.

Asymmetrical Frequency Soundstage is a trademark of Siegmund Guitars & Amplifiers