How did you get started building amps?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in this stuff. As a kid I experimented with circuits: mostly mixing around parts of broken stereos. I remember one ill-advised attempt at a helicopter involving a couple of metal clothes hangers and some speaker wire. When I plugged it in, it didn’t fly, but my hair stood up!
Later in life, I studied sculpture at UL. Here, I was introduced to formal design concepts, and I began to develop creative methods and processes for working with woods and metals. I spent a lot of time in Dupre Library, where I read stacks of engineering texts from the ’30s and ’40s; attempting to wrap my brain around vacuum tube principles and electromagnetic theory. Then I’d go in the garage and see what I could make of it all.
Throughout all of this, I’ve loved and been led by music. Ever since I realized that I can hear, I’ve been drawn to things and people who create music. As I hear it, there is no better music in the world than the music made in and around South Louisiana. I aspire to build amplifiers as diverse and unique as the artists who drive our culture.
As I see it, these three elements — engineering, sculpture and music — are the mind, soul and heart of each Lullaby.
How long have you been building amps?
In 2009, I began building amplifiers from scratch in my garage. I’d bend and cut the metal to form the chassis, build the cabinets by hand and wire the vacuum tube circuits using old point-to-point wiring techniques. By 2012, enough interest had been generated in these amplifiers that I felt encouraged to launch Lullaby Sound Design. By 2014, this interest had caused me to outgrow my garage, and my wife and I broke ground on the Lullaby Sound Design.
Why do you build them instead of just buying them?
I think of quality as the ability to age, develop and improve over time.
Since 2012, I have restored hundreds of amplifiers and radios. One unfortunate trend that I have seen is the steady progression towards disposable, non-serviceable electronics. Manufacturers have clearly adopted the belief that their products should be replaced rather than repaired. As a result, amplifier manufacturers have gotten very good at building thousands of amplifiers that sound and perform just like the other thousands of amplifiers that they produce. They seem to have taken the fast-food approach to manufacturing: cheap and predictable. The problem I see is that musicians are not a homogenous group. They are each unique and have something different to express.
Lullaby amplifiers are built to heirloom standards. Each Lullaby amplifier is a one of a kind creation that offers the complex personality seen in master-built violins or pianos. These amplifiers listen to you and respond accordingly. In fact, different players are likely to get distinctly different tones from the same Lullaby amplifier. This is because they are designed and optimized for touch sensitivity, allowing them to respond to a musician’s playing style while allowing the intricacies of an instrument to shine.
My approach to achieving this is simple: I build the best amplifiers that I am capable of building, using top materials and components, each one individually voiced toward an ideal. The result is an amplifier with its own personality, as complex and unique as the artist who uses it.
Building amplifiers has allowed me to bridge the gap between music and sculpture. I feel as though through circuitry and design, I am able to create a tool which allows for the sculpting of sound. It’s a joy to witness a master musician as they explore the possibilities in one of these circuits. It’s like magic!
Tell me about your favorite amp.
It is actually the first amplifier that I built entirely from scratch. In 2009, I made the pine cabinet, steel chassis and point-to-point circuit for what was to be a small 5-watt tube-powered combo. Over the next few years, I re-imagined and rebuilt that little amplifier at least a dozen times. With each revision the circuit became more responsive, more opinionated and more versatile. I’d estimate that I spent well over 1,000 hours soldering and de-soldering that little monster before arriving at its specific voice.
Since then, this amp has been traveling the country behind one of Louisiana’s most talented musicians, Dax Riggs. If you’re familiar with Dax’s music, you know how unique and powerful his performances can be.
Dax says that his Lullaby has a soul of its own. I don’t know that I could be more proud of another amplifier.