Could a sub-$1,000 Carr amp be coming?
PITTSBORO, North Carolina is situated roughly 35 miles southwest of the Raleigh-Durham airport. The town of about 4,000 people boasts a large courthouse, its own failed local currency (called Plenty) and is a stone’s throw from the Haw River, which rises near Kernersville to the north and flows about 110 miles to where it joins with the Deep River to form the Cape Fear River. Nestled away in a deceptively large building in downtown Pittsboro is the headquarters of Carr Amplifiers.
The building itself spent time prior to Carr residency as a neon light factory, and even earlier — a chicken hatchery. The main room sports a high ceiling and several different work stations, including Steve Carr’s R&D table. This room is where the amp itself is brought to life — from raw chassis to tone machine. To one side there is a large rack of completed chassis, but these are not for completing and selling. These are copy amps to be used by the crew if they need a quick reminder regarding components, wiring, etc…
Next year, Carr will celebrate its 20th year in the amplifier business. The company was one of the early entrants in the second wave of boutique guitar amp manufacturers after brands like Matchless, Dr. Z and others had sort of paved the way in the then fledgling market.
“I starting playing music before high school in a little band,” recalls Carr. “It was that kind of start and just really loved it. And it became something, I kind of identified myself as a musician, I sort of tried to make it for about ten years, back in the late eighties early nineties. I was in a host of bands in Philly and then North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which at the time I moved here in ’87 had a pretty thriving alt music scene. But anyway, along that path just became more and more interested in the gear I was using. You know the amps, at first I didn’t know anything about them. After a while it was, oh I really enjoy playing this one. Why? You know, then I started reading up on old classic Fenders and Marshalls and luckily there was a guy named Rich Bogart in Chapel Hill who had a little tiny repair shop. He worked for IBM and repaired their big mainframes, it was like 1990 back when they were in a whole room and his job was kind of great, he was on call 24 hours a day, but also would not be called for two to three weeks at a time. So he set up this tube amp repair place and I would go hang out with him and that’s kind of where the technical side of it started for me. Just being exposed to these repairs and talking to him. And it went on from there, still playing in bands, still being interested in gear, still getting more and more kind of crazy about tone and focusing my tone. Buying and trading and selling gear, so much of it I wish I could get back, vintage guitars… you name it. Eventually I asked this guy Rich, can I be an apprentice for you an understudy or whatever? He was like no, I really don’t have time.”