A Closer Look: Synergy Amps
Published on 31 March 2020
Guitarists very often have a large collection of guitars, but they don’t often have a large collection of amps.
Don’t get us wrong: we understand massively the need to amass a collection of instruments that will bring us the selection of tones and experiences that we need as serious players. We also fully comprehend the desire to be constantly on the lookout for that next, perfect guitar. We know as well as anyone that a Strat with a bridge humbucker is an entirely different beast to a Strat with a single coil at the bridge, and that’s why you need both. We get it!
But, the thing is, three guitars and three amps will give you a hugely increased range of tones than 9 guitars and one amp. Amps, when it gets down to it, are more responsible for your tone than any other non-human factor.
So, having a room full of delicious vintage and modern amps is the goal. A large room with great acoustics, where stacks of cabinets and combos await you, ready to connect and make a sublime sound together.
Trouble is, most houses don’t actually have ‘amp rooms’ in them. There just isn’t the available space to afford such luxuries as an amp collection.
Or is there?
Digital modelling has done so much for the modern guitarist, and it’s now accepted that pro players across the globe use digital means with which to amplify and colour their guitar’s sound. Digital is portable and largely convincing.
But it’s not the real deal, right?
If you love and appreciate what a set of vacuum tubes does to your sound, then digital is not what you crave nor covet.
What you need is Synergy.
The idea behind Synergy is almost foolishly simple. You take an amp head, or rack unit, and fill the space for the control panel with small modules. Each module is a proper valve pre-amp, and is designed either to sound like a classic amp (Tweed combo, British AC, Plexi etc) or, better still, has been officially designed in conjunction with a top-quality boutique amp maker!
Some of the world’s most sought after amplifiers have had their preamp sections recreated inside one of these Synergy modules. These aren’t ‘versions’ or models – this is not modelling technology – these are the real deal! Proper, fully valve preamps from makers like Friedman, Diezel, Bogner and more!
The idea is, why settle for one amp when you can have a collection of the best in the world? Each module has two channels, but you most often have the opportunity to have at least two running in the same amp, or rack. Sometimes three! Think about it: you bring your amp head to the gig and you can switch from the sound of, say, a Metropoulos Metro Plex to a Diezel VH-4, just by pushing a footswitch!
The modular nature means that you can buy a number of modules and swap them in and out as you fancy, at a much smaller cost than having to own the amplifiers in the traditional way! You simply pull out the module and fit another in its place to change out the sound: it’s that simple!
The World’s Top Amp Brands
Part of the reason why Synergy convinced us to become involved in stocking them was the sheer weight of credibility lent the project by the level of boutique manufacturers involved. If people like Friedman, Bogner, Morgan Amplification and and Diezel were getting involved with their own company’s reputations, it convinced us that there was some real legitimacy here.
We definitely thought the idea was a cool one, but things got pretty real when we took delivery of the first modules and plugged them one by one into the Synergy SYN-30 head. As dealers of Friedman, Bogner etc already, we were actually in a good position to be able to assess how the modules performed.
We think Synergy is a game-changer.
We honestly think that Synergy have put the world’s best amp sounds into the hands of most players, and, once again, without having anything to do with modelling. Whilst we love our digital modellers, we see this is being a different product for a different guitarist. Using something like the SYN-30 head, a guitarist can select the overdrive he wants to use for the set, using the amp’s built in clean channel. So, investing in a small number of modules (under £400 each) allows the player to have a ‘sound’ for his Rock covers band, another sound for his metal gig and another for Blues, all without having to own separate rigs. It’s genius.
Originally, this modular technology was introduced by Randall, who specialise in solid state technology. For whatever reason (too far ahead of the game?), it didn’t catch on, and Synergy took over the technology. Now, things are really coming together because players are beginning to understand the potential. It’s like, who wouldn’t want a Dumble Overdrive Special and a Bogner Ecstasy coming from the same amp?
Big Artist Endorsement
As readers of our blog will already know, Synergy have attracted a pretty big name for their first Signature module. Master guitarist and composer Steve Vai has joined Synergy’s increasingly laudable list of users. His module, a natural progression from his Legacy amps, has been worked on with the assistance of none other than Dave Friedman of Friedman amps, bringing some true ‘synergy’ to the process! Vai has plenty to say about his new Synergy module in Part 2 of our exclusive interview, which you can find on the site here. Here’s just a little of what Steve had to say:
“But what they did, was they licensed with a lot of these boutique amplifier companies, the exact schematics for the preamp section of all these incredible amps. And they built them. When I heard that this was possible, I was pretty stunned, because what it allows you to do – and I’m standing in front of my rack right now and I have one, two three...six Synergy modules in the rack, so that’s six different amplifiers”
Steve’s module, like the other Synergy modules, has two channels to play with. On this module, you get Boost, Bright and Fat switches to let you sculpt tones from clean to supersonic, all with the highly trained ears, sensibility and finesse of one of the world’s finest guitarists. You may not be able to play like Steve (hey, maybe you can!) but you’ll sound pretty exceptional, whatever you do play. Your amp bases will be more than covered!
As well as having the ace card of Steve Vai in your hand of cards, Synergy amps are also being used by our friends Fredrick and Mikael from Opeth, as well as Javier Reyes from Animals as Leaders. These are musicians who know their tone, for sure!
There are new modules being released all the time: the Vai Module was only released last month and already there is a new Engl Powerball model! Bogner now have a number of modules, too, and there are also the superlative modules which are not licensed. They are no less essential, so when you see names like BMAN and 800, you’ll know that they hit the sonic nail squarely on the head!
Synergy have made it possible for valve amp devotees to have an entire studio’s worth of vintage, rare and boutique amplifiers available in a very space and cost-conscious way. The system flat out works. For all you tone aficionados, the time has come to synergise!