In Sanford Magnetics’ modest shop located on Pacific Ave. in Moncton, a revolution is being born, one that stands to add some local flavour to the equipment side of the music world.
Since the advent of rock and roll in the 1950’s, the musical equipment side of the industry has been arguably dominated by amplifier heavyweights like Marshall and Peavey, while Gibson, DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan are among some of the best-selling guitar pick-ups in the world.
Competition in the market is certainly fierce, but it is also a place where Sanford Magnetics founder Nathan Sanford feels his company is well positioned to compete.
Sanford began playing bass at age 12 before moving onto the electric guitar at age 18. A self-professed gear geek, he soon began taking guitar pick-ups apart to discover what made them tick.
“I took the time to figure out how guitar pick-ups worked, but then a couple of years ago, it dawned on me that I should pick myself up some parts and give making them a go,” Sanford recalls. “It was for nothing more than the pure satisfaction of seeing if I could do it.”
As Sanford began churning out his homemade pick-ups, made in the comfort of his living room, he began passing them out to many of his musician friends to try with the simple request they provide him feedback on how to improve the product.
“I estimate it was a good two years of trial and error before I began hearing the sound I was hoping to get from the pick-ups. I wanted something that surpassed what people could buy in stores. For years, in my opinion, the guitar pick-up market has largely been a race to the bottom for how cheaply and easily companies can manufacture the equipment.”
To date, Sanford has launched seven Humbucker-styled pick-ups, ranging from the dry tone of the Model 1812 through the rock-oriented Model 24, while his P-90 line boasts three different models.
“Guitarists that use my pick-ups want something that is tailored to the classic tones they know, rather than settling for a cookie-cutter pick-up. That has been my goal since day one.”
With his pick-up business gaining steam over the course of the last year, Sanford, somewhat expectedly, decided to add to his product line late last year, launching a series of hand-wired amplifiers with the help of his longtime friend Jody Perry.
A guitarist from the time he was 18 years old, Perry was a member of several Moncton-based bands before he voluntarily withdrew from the scene approximately 10 years ago. Over the course of the last few years, Perry kept himself busy in his spare time by building amplifiers in his Salisbury basement.
“In the last few years, I grew more interested in fiddling with the electronic side of music, rather than playing,” Perry says. “I decided to show Nathan two of the amplifiers I had been working on as a hobby, both of which were 100% original, having started from the circuit board and built it up from there. Nathan ended up loving the sound and suggested we begin manufacturing the amplifiers under the Sanford Magnetics banner.”
Sanford says what ultimately sold him on Perry’s design, and convinced him that they could be onto something greater, was the unique sound that he had been able to capture with the amplifier.
“From the time I heard it, I instantly knew that it wasn’t a copy of anything else on the market today,” Sanford says. “The dynamics of the amplifier were far different than anything musicians are getting from established companies that tend to dominate the market.”
Custom-building amplifiers is no small task, however. Perry notes that the primary component involved in manufacturing the amplifier, including the chassis and circuit board, are specially made for the product.
“This isn’t a cookie-cutter product by any means,” Perry declares. “The amplifiers are not a clone of anything else. We’ve chosen the individual components of the product based on a combination of the quality of parts we are using and the sound we were able to achieve. This isn’t a combination of components that musicians will be able to find anywhere else.”
The duo spent more than six months fine-tuning the sound, trying out almost two dozen different combinations of capacitors, circuitry and tubes before ultimately settling on the successful combination that drives their amp’s unique sound.
Sanford believes it is that attention to detail that will ultimately help set the company apart and ensure its longevity. The same stringent quality that has thus far gone into manufacturing their pick-ups and amplifiers is also going into their newest line of business, guitar cabinets.
“Jody and I work well together because we are able to take a sound that we hear in our heads and implement that in our products,” Sanford concludes. “The process is completely collaborative and is something I feel is going to help carry us forward.”
For information on any of Sanford Magnetics’ products, visit their website at www.sanfordmagnetics.com.