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Digital Subscriptions > Guitar Magazine > Jan 2019 > BRIAN GERHARD TOP HAT AMPLIFICATION


Boutique mainstay TopHat Amplification is the brainchild of North Carolina native Brian Gerhard, whose pioneering engineering and choice use of materials has kept him ahead of the game for 24 years and counting. Dave Hunter meets a designer who proves form is temporary, but class is permanent…

Boutique-amp makers will come and go, but among the smaller shops, one in particular has remained highly respected throughout its run: TopHat Amplification. Rarely does a guitarist who has played a TopHat have anything negative to say about the experience, and more often than not, they’ll be happy to rave about the thing until well past closing time.

Without straying too heavily into ‘blowing your own horn’ territory, I’m pleased to recall that I reviewed the first TopHat ever tested by a British publication, right here in the pages of The Guitar Magazine around the turn of the millennium, after having met the man behind the brand at the previous Winter NAMM Show. It was the then-current iteration of the Club Royale combo, and it sounded glorious.

TopHat Amps was founded by Brian Gerhard in California in 1994, and his amps pretty quickly developed a great reputation among pros. A move back to his native North Carolina in 2005 saw the continued popularity – and design evolution – of models such as his Vox-meets-Marshall-esque Club Royale combo and Plexi-meets-JCM800-ish Emplexador head, as well as the development of new Custom Shop heads like the 16-watt Supreme 16 and 33-watt Vanderbilt. Throughout his 24 years in business, Gerhard has steadfastly refused to ‘let it lie’. If a design is already good, it can almost always be made better – and every model he produces has continued to evolve toward the more perfect sonic image of itself, according to how this sound exists in its creator’s head.

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