Julien Jeudy Interview:
"the amps currently sold in stores are often disappointing..."
With Julien Jeudy about the process of building, sound and everything that concerns amplifiers.
Julien Jeudy, founder of Jeudy Amplification, is a man who drew my attention thanks to a very interesting custom made amplifier. His BlackTweed Reverb has become an excuse to talk about the process of construction, sound, technology and everything that concerns amplifiers.
His brand history begins with a huge economic crisis, which paradoxically turned his passion not only into a profession, but also into a way of life...
Today, Julien will talk about what to pay attention to when choosing an amplifier. He will help us to look at the sound from a different perspective, from the inside of the amplifier. He will also try to answer an very important question,
What to choose? Serially produced, or hand-made custom amplifier?
Adrian Lucas Witaszczyk: You are thirty-four years old, so you had to make a decision about your profession very early, how it was? How did it all started?
Julien Jeudy: I started to be interested in tube amps about 10 years ago, I worked in an electrotechnical design office in a large company in the steel industry. It was there that I met a man experienced in the field of "amateur radio and tube amps", he gradually trained me through repairs and a project to design a Fender Pro Reverb combo amp, which we successfully completed. It became like a virus to me. In 2009, there was the economic crisis that everyone experienced.
It hit the company where I worked. The months of technical unemployment pushed me to start my own business.
At that time, I chose to call myself, "Jedy Amplification", Jedy because it was the nickname given to me by my friends, a mixture of Jeudy and the famous masters "Jedi" of the saga. Then over the months, I gained a reputation among friends
and first customers, and gained experience doing the repairs for a local music store. It was not until 2012 that I chose to become "Jeudy Amplification", because I found that it was more serious even if it made me feel weird to see my name on my amps. Since then, I have not stopped learning and continuing to progress, working with renowned French and foreign artists.
I've heard a few of your constructions in action and I have to admit that they really make an impression.
You need to have a broad knowledge about building the amplifiers, the history of brands, its topologies…
Thank you! Yes, I have indeed got to know the brands, the styles, also the stories. At the end of the jack, there is often an artist's story or construction techniques. There are an incredible number of tube amps that have existed and disappeared, and then reappeared again... I still have a lot to learn but I don't stop because that's also the interest of this work.
Is there any story that has fascinated you in particular? I mean, did any brand history, maybe the design or production technique fascinated you especially?
It is interesting to know the history of amp manufacturers. To know, for example, that the manufacture methods has changed in the past. For example, Fender and the period before the purchase by CBS in 1965 and the appearance of SILVERFACE from 1967. For me, the Fender models began to decline in manufacturing quality from that time on.
An interesting story is also the release of the JTM 45, which appeared as a response to the 1959 Bassman Tweed...
In 1963 Marshall made practically a Bassman clone in head version, the only change was the use of a 12AX7 to replace the 12AY7, the 5881 power tubes and the modification of the feedback circuit. The 4x12 box with the Greenbacks has contributed greatly to sculpt the Marshall sound validated by artists like Angus Young, Clapton and Gary Moore.
How did you learn the profession?
With my studies in the electrotechnical and electronic field, I acquired the necessary foundations to embark on this adventure. But, the majority, I learned with an experienced man whom I mentioned earlier who trained me in my first projects and repairs. Then, the thousands of hours or so I spend tweaking my circuits and repairs. The literature about tubes also helped me a lot. I am not a fan of forums and I rarely find the information I need for my work there.
Tell me more about the first amplifier you created…
It was a clone of a 1965 Fender Pro Reverb Blackface, it took me about 6 months to entirely make it complete
(amp and cabinetry). I was still working in my parents' basement and I still remember the first time I played this amp,
it was incredible for me! I was far from thinking that this was the beginning of a great adventure.
Did you try to make a hundred percent clone, in terms of look and sound? Or did you just want to make a working amplifier then? Did you have a comparison with the original construction?
Strangely, I had no idea what a Pro Reverb should sounded like because I had never heard one before!
I based myself on this amp when studying the schema, I wanted a Fender Blackface base and a medium power to avoid breaking my eardrums and also to be able to exploit the power. The first time I heard the amp I got a slap! The sound was crystal clear, very dynamic, it was the kind of amp that doesn't give you the right to make mistakes and that takes the effects faithfully. Then, I understood the remarkable success of the Fender amps.
What should be the perfect amplifier for you?
If I put myself in high fidelity, I would say the one with the lowest distortion rate, which will perfectly respect the envelope curve of the signal, which will be as quiet as possible, a very fast response... For the case of amplifiers for musicians, it is a little different because I consider it as an extension of the guitar. It is therefore not simply a question of reproducing the sound of the instrument but of enhancing it according to the style we are going to seek. It is the combination of Guitar, effects, amps and speakers that will make it perfect for the musician. So there is no perfect amp but a perfect combination.
Can you give an example of such a perfect combination between instrument, effect and amp? Do you mean, for example a Les Paul connected to a Plexi with the Tube Screamer on front? Or a Tele style guitar connected straight into an AC30?
I had in mind a different kind of reasoning. The amp must have a basic kind of sound chosen by the musician. For example, US style, British... and we must feel this style, be associated with it. This is the base to which we have to choose the right guitars and effects. So as to feel it all in the fullest possible way...
Oh, you think this way...
Yeah, all combinations must not only stand out, but also lead to the best end result suitable for the musician.
If you were to convince me... A mass built or custom handmade amplifier?
I would say, the customs, because of its quality and personality... With the handmade amps it’s all about personality…
If we are talking about my path, I will also stay on the side of custom handmade because I'm very small. If I make a model that is very successful and you know... I should make the series, I would like to remain in the handmade philosophy and I would respect a very strict specification of limited series.
So, what is missing in today's mass-produced amplifiers?
In mass produced amps, often the quality of the components and especially the design and dimensioning of the components are not up to the task. Basic parameters are not respected to compensate for their weakness such as the misuse of feedback, the voltage limit of use of the tubes... The amps known as reissues are often not true to the original designs.
You would be surprised how little they sometimes have in common with the original amps... Maintenance, after-sales service is also very complicated with miniaturized components, fragile boards which are dimensioned with too little tolerance...
Is there some well known amp construction in which you found some project issues? You know, something that you think was not properly designed? Something that should, or could be better designed from the start...
I don't think I'm going to mention a particular brand here, but yes, amp wiring, for example, the use of cables with cotton sheaths and smaller, more brittle sections and more line loss. The use of resistors with very high tolerances on less precise power supply circuits for example. And on the side of safety... grounding circuits or fuse protection which were not always present on some power supply circuits...
You make only tube amps or also the solid state and digital constructions?
I only make tube amps, because I love them, but maybe one day I'll work on transistor as well. The transistors of the 70s
and 80s, which made the bad reputation of solid state transistors, have nothing to do with those made nowadays, which are very efficient.
The clones of well-known brands which are created by you seem to sound perfect. Meanwhile, the fidelity of their sound is determined by many nuances. How do you work out all these characteristic subtleties? Do you study topologies and follow exactly the traces of the original constructions, or do you just listen and hold to your personal experience?
I obviously rely on the good period schemes for the construction, but I don’t afraid to control and redraw it to my taste,
I try to add my touch and improvements because more than fifty years ago... you know, the standards of that period, as well as components from the time was different. I rely also on sound samples, those played by artists and those sent to me by my customers. I rely on what style is required and above all what the client wants because that's what counts.
Can you create any sound, any kind of amplifier?
This is my trump card, you see… There are very few limits in the creation of custom amps. When I am asked for a project,
it is also a new experience for me and it is also what fascinates me about this work.
Your favorite kind of sound?
I like all kinds of sounds, as long as it's dynamic, there is this thing called "MOJO", for example if I want a blues style sound from Stevie Ray Vaughan, it has to be a US sound, you know, the sound with a big dynamic, slamming but not aggressive, slightly crunchy and controllable by the guitar volume... Whether it's blues, rock, jazz, metal... It's the same philosophy.
So, If you were to sell me your amp now... What do your amplifiers have, which is not available in stores?
Well, I think there are many advantages... Already at the sound level, it is the tube sound that will make you raise your hair from the first notes. It is the sound that will make you want to play for hours, dynamic and enjoyable... Then, when I build an amp it is in the perspective that it is reliable, robust like in the golden age of tube amps. For example, I chose to make my circuits on Eyelett board and point-to-point. I made this choice because it is very robust and allows easier maintenance and limits the problems of isolation between circuits and parasitic capacitances that can be found on double-sided printed circuit board. The components are oversized and of superior quality as well. Finally, where I get a clear advantage,
the customization of the amp. I make a specification with the customer, it is the amp that perfectly adapts to the customer needs and not the opposite scenario where the customer tries to adapts to the purchased amp. I think that all these elements are extremely important if you want to get a good sound.
Yeah, but even with all this, there are lot of those, who think that a clone will never sound like an original brand.
Do you have anything to say about it?
The problem with the vintage amps is precisely their age, the components are degraded and it's a bit like a lottery.
If you don't check the condition of the device while buying, it can surprise you in negative way. Similarly, the amps currently sold in stores are often disappointing because they have just taken the names, but there is nothing vintage left inside...
The spirit is completely forgotten to privilege the profits rather than sound. That's all I don't want to do, I want to keep the quality of manufacture worthy of the golden years of vintage tube amps, with the high quality and oversized components.
I don't try to produce in large series, which means that I have to aim for a very high level of quality anyway. I hope this answer is enough…
I don't know if I told you about it, but the first impulse, a kind of pretext for our meeting was your BlackTweed amp. I must admit that this design is fascinating. Can you tell me more about it?
Oh, thanks! Yes it is a unique amplifier that has two worlds in it. A combination of two amplifiers witch different characteristics. BlackTweed actually has a few models. Three to be precise. The first channel in the first and second model is based on a Tweed Bassman with reverb. The second channel in both cases is based on the classic Blackface Twin also with reverb. The third, last model is based on a 57 Tweed Deluxe with tremolo and switch mods for 5e3 and 5f6 gain in first channel. Its second channel is based on a Blackface with two mods of bright, no medium pot switch and no tremolo switching for more gain.
Impressive! Have we just finished the interview and we going to play now?
No, no I still have a few questions so... Custom amps It's a tough market, how do you reach your customers?
Through social networks and my website. By working with artists from well-known groups such as Alcest and General Elektriks, Tuscoma (Nz), Roots intention Crew, PiZu... By participating in exhibitions on festivals or theatres (Le 112 in Terville in France, the Blues Express - Luxembourg, Mécleuves Terre de Blues...). But also word of mouth, I mean the interviews.
I understand that at these exhibitions you can listen to and play on your amplifiers?
Do you think that the amp market can still surprise, develop?
Maybe thanks to Jeudy Amplification amps? More seriously... It's quite complicated, I'm a passionate person above all, the competition is important, but custom and high-end production may still be an area where it is possible to achieve some kind of surprises…
Let's move now into the middle of the action... How does the work on such a custom amplifier look like? Work plan? Work hygiene?
The first step comes from the idea of the musician who does not find what he wants in store or who looks for a vintage style amp but with some additional features like for example, more or less power, additional channel or amp characteristic... During the interview with the musician, we draw up then a set of target specifications and from there
I carry out a study to cost the project. Once the client agrees, it is the beginning of a project.
The customer can even follow my work as I send him pictures, small demos when the amp is under development. He participates in the manufacturing process.
That’s nice! And how much time does it take to build an amplifier on average?
Approximately two to six months depending on the complexity of the project or the adjustments. I take the time it takes to make the amp meet the customer's expectations.
How does the customer service process looks in your company? If something broke in the amplifier purchased from you…
I make amps that are easily maintainable by making point-to-point circuits for example and choosing quality standard parts to easily find spare parts. A qualified technician must be able to repair the amp without my assistance because
I can't be everywhere and also because the shipping costs are very high.
Do you accept returns?
If the amp is faulty and within the limits of the guarantees, of course. But for the sound quality, no customer to date had the idea to send me the amp back.
Do you have several ready-made items in stock, or do you make each unit for an individual customer's order?
I don't have any stock, only demo amps. Each model is unique.
You mentioned that you use quality components, but what exactly can be found inside of your amps?
You will find in there only high quality components that I select according to my specifications. They come from all over the world, Russia, China, European countries, Canada... It doesn't matter to me, as long as I can make an exceptional product.
What do you think about virtual amplifiers and the increasingly common amp modeling?
I think it's an incredible advance for artists who have little money or who would like to travel light with an "all-in-one" system. However, we must not forget that, what is trying to achieve there, is to imitate the sound of a tube amp and the reactions to overdrives, equalizers, time constants to power supplies etc... There are so many parameters to control, and a signature, an character of an amp, It’s something that can't be simply emulated. It is not enough to simulate the sound itself. Even if this type of amp does the job, an experienced guitarist will always find that the spirit is not there.
Do you use this type of software yourself?
No, I don’t
Have you ever considered entering the market of digital amplifier emulation?
I didn't exclude it but in the form of my amp profiles.
What about some musicians who use or have used your constructions?
The first artist who recorded on my amp was Oliver Sozin, who together with his band Greenwish Cavern recorded the album Roots Intention Crew on the "Jedy" amp construction. Another great example is Heartbeat Parade band, whose members used and recorded with my King Reverb combo.
Which guitarist im your opinion has the most interesting sound at this moment?
It's a bit of a complicated question for me. I like a lot of artists. I tried to contact with some of them for a while to make proposals Some of them answered positively, but I realized that it was too early to provide financial support and advertising is good when you have amps to offer people. So for the moment, I'm on standby and I would like to focus on my products and see if any artists are interested in me. Now, if I had to choose one artist, it would be Joshua Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age, he's certainly one of the guitarists who influenced me the most.
He has always used tube amps, analog effects, guitars made by craftsmen, which has allowed him to forge his particular sound identity that can be identified between thousands of guitarists. But it's only an example because I love so many artists, so many different styles...
If you could choose an artist that you would make an amplifier, who would it be?
Jimmy Page probably.
Will you tell me something about some of your signature, unusual solutions while building the amp?
Sure, I've got a few... Surely the amp that you paid attention to and that we talked about earlier, my BlackTweed Reverb, which is an amp head with a Bassman 59 "5F6" channel and a Blackface channel in one construction.
All this with lush reverb and tremolo. I think that this one is a real bomb for blues players. There is also an amp with an orange 1972 style overdrive in one channel and on the other a clean Blackface style channel, that I had to adapt and by experimenting, successfully set a surprising Boost function on the clean channel. Oh, and also the Backstabber which is a Silver Jubilee clone but completely redesigned and with more gain, it has Germanium diodes for the overdrive channel and a real twin reverb...
The weirdest amplifier you've done?
Certainly the amp for the luthier Ninefingers. A two-channel, preamp which is a mix between the overdrive of an OR120 and the clean of a Fender, but I adapted it to have the crunch function in addition through a boost switch.
This resulted in a crunch that goes towards an incredible Fuzz saturation! This channel could be a great single-channel amplifier.
What about the most amazing amp you've done?
Each piece was a wonderful discovery and a kind of wonderful journey for me.
Let's get to the harder topic. Let's talk about prices. How much does your amp cost? What does the price depend on? The specific nature of the amp, power of the amplifier? Specific design, brand clone or other additional features?
As each amp is a unique piece of equipment, I have practically no stock and I buy the parts especially for the unit.
So the price cannot be the same as a series production. It is quite complicated to make this clear, especially when people are used to buying equipment in stores or in the second-hand market. It's like buying a luthier's guitar, to understand more easily. But... many people wrongly devalue amps whereas for me it is an essential part of their instrument. I hope you know what I mean... My prices range from about 1000€ to... it all depends on the demand... The power of the amp doesn't really influence the prices, it's also about the making of the preamp that plays as it should, its design... Concerning the time of labor, the experience I set a fixed price according to the complexity because if I counted the real hours spent during the design, it will be impossible for me to sell any of my amps.
It is said that the simplest constructions are the most difficult to reproduce, do you agree with this?
There is something about it, but for me there is no no small projects or simplier constructions, you have to take all the details seriously because it can be a trap.
So, is there any tube amplifier you cannot reproduce?
Yes, when I don't have enough information, when I have to do with a specification that make no sense, or when the parts are difficult to find. But I have broadened my knowledge so much that I can do beautiful things with almost no limits.
Where do you put all these amplifiers? Any workshop, garage?
I have a small workshop located in the east of France near to the three borders of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.
Any dangerous stories related to your work?
I have already taken some discharges during my experiments but fortunately never serious, you have to be very careful when handling tube amps which can be very dangerous even when disconnected!
A few words to those who do not know your brand...
Thanks for reading this interview. I invite you to come and discover my work on my website, my videos on youtube and my facebook and instagram pages... Oh, and feel free to contact me if you want more information about any of my amps.
Last question for today... Vintage or modern, which you prefer?
Vintage to make modern. ;)
Thank you for the talk!
More information about Jeudy Amplification can be obtained here.
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