Trainwreck Circuits was an American company that manufactured boutique guitar amplifiers. They were handmade by Ken Fischer (May 12, 1945 – December 23, 2006) in Colonia, New Jersey, and are some of the most expensive and sought-after amplifiers on the market.
Fischer began working on electronics in the US Navy, and then repaired TVs and radios, and then got a job building amplifiers at Ampeg, where he became senior engineer. Disillusioned, he left in 1967 when the company was being sold to Magnavox.
When he set out on his own, he started building boutique amplifiers with "custom wood cabinets, configurations and secretly built transformers" for clients such as Mark Knopfler and Eddie Van Halen. He made the first Trainwreck amp in his shop in New Jersey, in late 1982/early 1983. With inspiration from Atlantic Records Caspar McCloud the amp was named 'Ginger' after Caspar's wife. His first amps (later named "Liverpool 30") were based on the 4 × EL84 configuration of the Vox AC30. "In beautiful wood cabinetry that matched their legendary sound," They were made to order in limited numbers, and are "ultra-rare and highly collectible". Lacking serial numbers, they are individually designated with women's names; the one owned by guitarist and producer Matte Henderson is called "Nancy". The last one he built ("Kaylene"), while suffering from chronic fatigue immune dysfunction, was an Express made from an old leftover chassis.
As of 2010[update], Trainwreck amplifiers fetch $25,000 and up. His amps are praised for the simplicity of their design and their touch sensitivity: "The sound's so immediate from the pick to coming out of the amp, [which] opens up a whole new kind of playing", according to Charles Daughtry (Kaylene's owner, who sold all his Dumbles to build a collection of six Trainwrecks). Fischer's circuits were simple yet original, and he took extraordinary care in selecting the individual electronic components.
All amps were individually made: "it's possible that no two Trainwreck amplifiers actually have the exact same circuit". Usually they were equipped with three 12AX7 preamp tubes. Fischer made three kinds of models:
- Express; two EL34 or two 6V6 output tubes (reminiscent of Marshall)
- Liverpool; four EL84 tubes
- Rocket; four EL84 tubes and a rectifier tube (basically a tweaked, single channel Vox AC30)
Matt O'Ree (Bon Jovi) Trainwreck homepage
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