Sunday, December 19, 2010

Top Finds of 2010 / Apache Amps

Apache Amps

If there is one town fit for the musician it is Los Angeles, Ca. Living here in LA has always provided me with every piece of gear I have ever wished for - whether it be a guitar, amplifier, set up pups, or rare stompbox. But there is another resource that Los Angeles carries, one that if you ask me is worth more than gold. And this is?.... It's wide band of highly talented amp gurus. This last year I had a chance to meet one such cat, and this has been one of the-if not the most gifted builders I have ever met. This brother has not only introduced me to some new and exciting tone tools, but has also shown me to further appreciate the true meaning of passion for toneHis name is Tommy Aguilar, a laid back mellow individual with a keen insight on amp building and hot-rodding. Tommy and I's path crossed at one of my favorite local guitar shops (Time Warp Music) while doing a regular visit a few months back. What started as a just another gear chat with a fellow tone purist, ended in one hell of a treat. Within Time Warp's collection of impressive gear I would discover a handful of Tommy's hand built creations. Amongst these builds was a 50 watt JMP replica, a couple of hod-rodded amps and pedals, a killer sounding original Apache Amp and matching cab, and last - a curious little black box with a trio of vintage tubes sticking out from it. That little black box would end up being one of the most intelligently designed tone tools I would ever know. Ladies and gents, I'd like to introduce to you the...


preamp/clean boost/overdrive/fuzz

  • Power Transformer
  • 6X4 Rectifier tube
  • Compatible Preamp Tubes: 12AX7, 12AY7, 5751, 12AT7, etc...
  • Built-in Power Supply
  • Available Mods: Push/Pull Bright and Boost
  • Hand Built in the USA
  • Front Panel: Tone/Volume
  • Side Panel: Volume


Imagine being able to hot-rod your amp while at the same time having the option to leave it bone stock, as is, untouched, and untampered. When on a mission to upgrade or mod our amps, what is it we're trying to achieve? To put it simply the answer is - better tone. The hot-rodding of guitar amps is a ritual that has been regularly practiced since the birth of the tube amp, and one that continuously improves as time goes on. Sometimes the amps we choose to upgrade are budget builds, some simple boutique builds, and others DIY kits. But then there's those few that choose to modify their precious vintage pieces. And if there's on sure way to screw up the value of a vintage amplifier it is by opening it up to tinker away at it. So what is the alternative to this? Well, until now there really hasn't been many options. The Rectidrive puts this issue to r-e-s-t. 

Now, there are a handful of different applications this gadget can be used in, and believe me I tried them all. You can simply run it straight into your amp, through your amp's power amp in/preamp out or effects loop, use it in conjunction with your effects pedals, with a power amp (example: Marshall EL34 100/100), and so on and so fourth. I won't get too scientific on how this little baby works but here is pretty much the gist of it. Unlike many "tube" driven gadgets you will find out there today the Rectidrive is actually capable of kicking out real tube voltages, meaning real tube tone. Two adjustable gain stages slam the front end of whatever you choose to run it through, resulting in thick rich tones and tube soaked sustain. Each volume controls it's own tube's results, with the first tube sending it's signal slamming into the second tube. Depending on how it's set the Rectidrive can deliver anything from clean boosts, semi-grit, and overdriven rock tones, to high gain distortion, scorching leads, and even fuzz signal territories. The end result on your tone's character lies on your choice of amp, which means all that hard work at perfecting your tone stays perfectly intact. This means a California amp will kick out more of it's rich good sound, a British amp more of that throaty growl, a Liverpool amp a jump in jangle and chime, and so on and so fourth. I began my adventure with this little gem with a DeVille and duel humbucker semi-hollow body. Before switching on the Rctidrive I dialed in my root tone and overall output level. Once my amp was thumping out plenty of rich tube goodness I began working in the Rectidrive. So as to use it as an overdrive channel and having the ability to switching it on and off, I went ahead and plugged the Rectidrive into a footswitch. As a clean booster this baby worked wonders! I was able to boost all of my amps tonal characteristics without any coloration or change in feel. The Deville's big sparkling clean tone became even bigger and much more focused. Warming up or brightening my root tone was also a cinch thanks to the Rectidrive's tone control. This would later come in handy when throwing in different types of effects pedals. Slowly I began adding in a little gain for dirtying up my signal. I started with some light bluesy rock tones and classic rock grit. At even the lightest overdrive settings the Rectidrive kicked out an impressionable amount of harmonics. This added great results to my picking attack, bends, and double stops. I could hear and even more importantly feel the amp's tonal character hitting me straight in my soul. Cleaning up the signal was also a cinch with a roll back of the guitar's volume knob, this making for a wide variety of tones on the fly. Another setup that worked quite nicely was my Les Paul and AC15 clone, which was one of my favorite amps to play this unit with. Playing the Rectidrive through a sparkling clean tone was really something special, but through a decent amount of tube grit things only got better. Setting the 15 watter to a light crunch and setting the Rectidrive to take it into lead tones got me just about every tone I needed. On it's own I was able to take the amp from it's light grit to velvety cleans. Adding in the unit widened my tonal palette by ten fold. At the tips of my fingers I held the ability to go from cleans to grit, and crunch to all-out sustain. And again, no matter how much or how little gain I pushed through my amp, it's tonal character stayed intact and held it's own. Beyond these two amps I also dove into a 100 watt Super Lead and Fender Eighty Five solid state amp. I was able to improve on the Marshall's tone (which I thought not possible) and able to go places I'd never heard before. For this giant of an amp I broke out my 70's Strat build. Pushed through both high gain amp settings or dialed in into high gain settings itself, the Rectidrive was able to hit these really cool fuzz-like arenas that were a sound all their own. The single soil pickups in the guitar created an entirely different vibe to how the Rectidrive's dirtiness responded. Through each and every pickup position I was able to pull out something tasty and totally different. Within these many tones was the control and tightness of a great sounding overdrive, only with a howling top-end and slicing midrange punch that beat the silence silly with attitude. Adding in a clean booster to this combo created even more possibilities - which I will leave to your imagination. Finally was the Fender solid state amp, where things got unbelievably better. The sharp clean tone that I usually dial in Eighty Five amp became a proper wall of tube saturated dirt'n'grime. Something I have achieved from this amp before but not without such ease. Once I had my fill of running this baby through a decent collection of amps came time to toss in some guitar pedals. Being a pedal hound myself and having many of you pedal players as well, I wanted to see just how well this unit got along with stompboxes. With dirt pedals of all kinds the Rectidrive worked perfectly, adding in a boost in harmonics and overtones that brought my pedal to life and gave them new voices. Like with my choice of amp - the choice of pedal also made a difference on my tone's end result. With modulation pedals I was to add a super tube richness which warmed everything up to a vintage-like flavor. This was especially true through chorus, vibe, and delay pedals of all types. But my absolute most favorite use for this little monster, the one that delivered the quickest golden results.... was the pairing of a loaned Marshall EL34 50/50 preamp. The amount of control that I had over my tone was stunning! There was a simple straight no-frills attitude to my sound that charged out from my speakers with pure grade A tube tone. My buddy who owns the EL34 50/50 power amp was really taken by the sound we were getting from his unit and the little black Apache Amps box. With it's one tone control and two gain stages the Rectidrive did what many other much more complex units are capable of, and then some. I tell you, there are many gadgets out there today capable of some great sounding guitar tones. And if you look deep into these products you'll learn it is tube grit and saturation that they are emulating. This is what players are after when modifying and upgrading their amps and rigs. This little box takes you straight to the source with no side tracking and extra components for dulling your sound. After about a week or so of experimenting with Tommy's genius design I discovered there was absolutely no wrong way to use this thing. It didn't matter whether it was amp, pedal, or power amp, and whether those amps were tube or solid state - the Rectidrive did it's magic and did it without breaking a sweat. For those seeking pure tube harmonics and sustain, and super charged overtones and undertones - this is it.


For more info on Apache Amps and the Rectidrive unit itself you can emial Tommy at or contact him here through my site. Tommy is also a genius at hot-rodding amps, building his own designs, and pretty much building you anything you want. You may not find a website leading you to this brother, but that don't mean jack! Stay tuned, I will try and bring you more from Tommy's Apache Amps in the near future.


  1. Everything Tom Makes I love
    Fred Walecki

  2. Hands down the most talented amp tinkerer in Los Angeles.

  3. I actually have the first Rectidrive voiced for bass. Tommy and I have been friend since '92 and he knows what I like my bass to sound like, so now I can have that tone in any amp I play through. I also have a Wolverine (no serial number...) and Now I'm waiting for him to develop a 300watt all tube bass head.

    Oh yeah, I call him Two-Tone