Rootbeer Audio amp building and repair serviceWritten by Helmut Watterott
"Rootbeer Audio is a tube amp repair/building workshop that's been operating in some form since 2008. I (Matt Manhire) started Rootbeer Audio in a parking lot in Northern New Jersey, moved it to a bedroom in Francisville (Philadelphia), relocated it to a basement in Fishtown (Philadelphia), before finally settling into (for the moment) a better-suited basement in Fishtown. Prior to Rootbeer Audio, I worked at a boutique amplifier company in New Jersey, and worked for Jess Oliver (Ampeg B-15 inventor). - Matt"
Rootbeer Audio is also a repair service. As a musician in the area, I would prefer to have more friends than enemies in our seemingly small music community. I have adjusted my rates to ensure both you and I feel comfortable with the rate/bill (I have actually lowered some of my prices in the past two years as I have gotten faster, etc.). Upon pickup, I want you to know what I did to your amp, and why I did it.
Name: Matt Manhire
Company Name: Rootbeer Audio
A quick introduction please, name, company, location:
Matt Manhire - My company/business is Rootbeer Audio. I repair and modify mostly vintage and boutique/handmade tube amplifiers in Philadelphia. When I'm not repairing amps, I'm building them.
What got you started making gear?
I bought my first tube amp (Ampeg B25B) and instantly had issues with it. I was clueless. I took it to a tech who diagnosed it with a bad output transformer and a bad preamp 12AX7 which resulted in a bill larger than the intial cost of the amp (and in retrospect, I don't think it needed a new output tranny). It was around this time I got into soldering and repairing cables, so I tried to learn to bias my own amp and the obsession grew. From there I tried to learn from the guys who knew it best, and ended up working for both Andy Fuchs and Jess Oliver.
What gear do you make?
At the moment I am making 40 watt and 20 watt "blackface" style amps with many circuit tweaks for more gain, etc. These are known as the Philly 40, and the Philly 20 respectively. I am working-on/designing an el84 18 watt style amp, a 100 watt bass amp, and an oddball 5 watt amp.
Where do you operate from?
Currently in the basement of my home in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.
What about making gear do you like the most?
The ability to make any kind of amp I want to have --> selfish reasons.
Is this a hobby or full time operation?
Somewhere between. When I am not in my home shop working on amps, I am teaching audio electronics at two local colleges. With that schedule, the amp gig becomes full time for a few months each year.
Who inspires you/who do you look up to musically, IE what gear do you admire?
People: Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo.
Gear: Ep-3 echoplex, Hiwatt-style wiring, and Ampegs.
What pisses you off/what do you like; about the boutique audio gear building industry?
I like knowing something I use/own is built-well and thus sustainable and hassle-free. Modern mass-produced amps are annoying to me as both a tech and a player.
Are you still in a band or play music and do you use your own gear?
I play in a few bands and I use my own gear when possible. I have been working on a bass amp for 6 years and so aside from a DI box that I made, I use my first Ampeg for bass.
Favourite Guitar Maker? Elliot Swauger
Favourite Guitar Effect? Tape Delay
Favourite Amp Maker? Jon
Favourite Music Genre? NZ
Favourite Band / Artist? The Clean
Favourite Guitarist? Neil Young or Ira Kaplan
Favourite Instrument? My fender p bass
Favourite Drink? Rum
Favourite Place? Mt. Maier
Favourite Food? Mexican / Latin
Rootbeer Audio Amp building station