The important thing to know about Standel Amps is that many of the features that Standels had were totally unique when they were introduced, and yet are almost industry standard today. So it doesn't sound like such a big deal when we say that Standels had these various features, but when you look at the fact that such supposed industry leaders like Fender started copying Standel years after Standel had already had these features, you start to realize what a ground-breaking, revolutionary company it was. Some of these features:
1) Standels were the first guitar amplifiers that used JBL, (Lansing) speakers. These speakers were much costlier and much heavier than the cheaper and less efficient Jensens that Fender and Gibson were using, but were already standard in super hi-fidelity phonograph systems by the time that Bob Crooks put one in an amp in 1953. "It made all the difference in the world," is what Bob told me, "when I first heard that amp with that speaker in it, I said, That's the sound." Seven years later, after experimenting with almost every other kind of speaker, Fender finally relented and started putting JBL's in their top-of-the-line amplifiers too. Today, almost every brand of amplifier can be ordered with JBL's!!
2) The first change Bob Crooks made when he started the second series of Standel Amps was to put the control panel on the front of the amp. Until that time, the control panel on every amp manufactured at the time was either on the back of the amp or the top of the amp. Bob explains that in the early 50's, most guitar players would set the guitar amp in front of them. Having the controls on the back or the top was fine. But in the mid-1950's, guitar players started putting their amps behind them, and he noticed several players really having trouble seeing where their volume & tone controls were set, with the controls on the top or back of the amp. So Bob brought the controls to the front of the amp where a player could see what his settings were. The first Standel amps like this were made in 1958--and believe it or not, in 1960 Fender introduced its "new" line of "innovative" amps with, yes, you guessed it--the control knobs on the front of the amp!!
3) Standel was the first amplifier company to make "piggyback" amps. A "piggyback" amp is an amp that has a separate amplifier, or "head," and speaker cabinet, or "bottom." From an amplifier designer's standpoint, a piggyback amp is very advantageous. A musician can put the controls next to his fingertips while placing the speaker cabinet on the other side of the room. Also less vibrations and frequency "rattles" make their way into the electronic circuitry, for greater performance and reliability. Although Gibson's very first amp, the EH-150, had a detachable electronic part that could be separated from the amp-this was a primitive deal from the mid-'30's, Standel was the very first company to make what we know as a "piggyback" amp, with a head mounted on top of a closed speaker cabinet, that could be detached. This was in around 1958. What happened two years later? You guessed it--Fender announced their "innovative" line of --PIGGYBACK AMPS!!
4) Standel was the first amplifier to have separate "bass" and "treble" controls. Up until that point, all amps just had one "tone" control.
5) Standel was the first musical instrument amplifier company to experiment with closedback speaker cabinets. The first five years or so all Standel Amps had open back cabinets like everybody else. Then Bob began experimenting with "Acoustic Control Cabinets," meaning he would close the back and experiment with variously tuned "portholes" in the front speaker baffle. This made the amplifiers louder, with more bass response. These amps also came out in 1958, and guess what came two years later? You got it--Fender introduced closed-back speaker cabinets on their "new" piggyback amps!
6) Another control panel feature that Standel had five years before anybody else was a light up control panel. Operating guides (volume & tone numbers, On & Off, etc.) were screenprinted onto plexiglass strips with luminous paint. Then lights projected from the side of the plexiglass would illuminate the panel for easy operation of controls in a dark room! This feature that really gave a "deluxe" feel to the Standel Amp.
7) At the time it first came out, Standel was the first constant current instrument amp.
8) Some of the other features that the first custom built Standel Amps had: a built in fuse holder in the back; a twenty-foot long extra-heavy duty power cord (Fender only had a six-foot cord); Seperate pre-amp and power amp sections (the pre-amp was mounted in the top of the amp, the power amp was located in the bottom of the amp); power amp mounted on aircraft-grade piston shock mounts; a "sneaker" input designed by Joe Maphis--the control panel had only one input, but on the underside of the amp (out of sight) was another input and volume control--this was to prevent "unwanted" guests from sitting in with you; the inside of the amp on the back was coated with a fuzzy material that felt sort of like fur; an engraved plate that said "Custom made for" with the players name on it, and transformers from hell!! (More on the transformers later) Most of these features were too costly and delux to ever be used on another guitar amp again, including the massproduced Standels (although the twenty foot power cord remained).
9) Standel was the first musical amplifier company to begin experimenting with Solid State (Transistorized) circuitry. Many view this as the beginning of the end for Standel, but I beg to differ. Some of the top of the line Solid State models sound every bit as good as the early tube amps! Really, Bob Crooks was on the ball as an electronic designer...his Solid State amps have none of the horrible tones that other Solid State amplifiers had. They were fantastic amps for country music--and best of all, they weighed next to nothing! Of course, there were drawbacks. Bob was so sure that transistorized circuitry was completely trouble-free, that he began making "modules" for the various stages of the amplifier, and he would "pot" the module in resin. This was partly to protect his designs and partly because he thought it would make the amps completey trouble-free for life. Well, potting the modules in resin proved to be Standel's downfall, because you couldn't work on them! When he unknowingly received a faulty batch of modules and put them in new amps in 1971, it spelled the end of the company.more