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Press: Music Trades

Posted in Press | 08 April 2010 | Comments Off on Press: Music Trades

JEAN-CLAUDE ESCUDIE has always liked building things, and over the years tried his hand at making guitars, amps, effects pedals, “and a lot of odd gadgets,” he says. However, at the Dallas Vintage Guitar show in 2005, he had a stroke of inspiration that led to the founding of Hottie Amps. Looking at old guitar amps made from vintage tube radios, he thought, “Why not build a portable amp out of a ’60s-era transistor radio.” He began searching for old radios but was quickly discouraged because all the models he came across at flea markets, pawn shops, and junk stores were either ridiculously expensive or destroyed. However, in the process, he kept coming across old toasters. “The thought popped into my head, I could turn one of these toasters into an amp,” he recalls. Hottie Inc. was born soon after that.

Hottie has since cranked out 350 amps from toasters built between 1930 and 1960, what Escudie calls “the golden days of American manufacturing.” He prefers models from the mid-20th century because “they combined design elements from wartime manufacturing, art deco styling, the auto industry, and the space age craze.” And, not all toasters pass the grade. He relates, “Modern toasters, for example, don’t utilize a strong enough metal gauge to support a speaker. Many older toasters simply fall apart when we remove the inner machinery so they can’t be used. The toaster must be large enough to house our 6″ speakers.”

In the manufacturing process, a small team of builders remove the toaster machinery, give the chassis an industrial wash, and then install electronics that are powered by a 9-volt battery, and the speaker. Dialing back the volume on your guitar will clean up your sound considerably. In the name of simplicity, they have an input jack and an output jack, and volume and tone are adjusted via the guitar. Dialing back your guitar’s tone knob will warm up your sound providing a fat bluesy tone. Escudie adds, “Sound from the speaker bounces around inside the toaster and creates a natural reverberation before exiting through the bread slots. Hottie Amps have a very organic tone with lots of feedback and natural harmonics. Each type of toaster has its own unique sonic qualities.”

And the toaster amps are just the beginning for Hottie Inc., which will soon introduce Hottie Guitars, a line of high-end, U.S.-made electric guitars.

“I’m waiting for someone to ask us to build a Hottie Amp from a full-size oven or a refrigerator with rows of 12″ speakers,” says Escudie. “Shipping might make it expensive, but if someone wants one, we’re up to the task.”