NAMM comes around on the calendar every twelve months; although these days twelve months feel like about four. Didn’t we just get back?! I’m not a fan of hard and fast deadlines; lazy people tend to be like that. It does help to know we have to finish something by a certain date. Every year we come home from NAMM frazzled and we tell ourselves that we are going to get an early start and prepare for the next year well in advance. Our well laid plans involve us coasting confidently over the finish line to the roar of applause. Yet every year we scramble with last minute 14 hour days and late night pizzas.
This year was no exception: potentiometer manufacturers sending wrong values, switches out of stock, etc. you get the idea. Yet, somehow magic can happen in those moments of high pressure. The pressure tends to bring about a heightened focus that can lead to discovery.
One time in a conversation with Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars, he was talking with some friends and me about innovation and, regarding his early years as an aspiring builder, mentioned, “thank God we didn’t have any money.” What he meant by that was that the lack of money to throw at the problem forced him to be creative which ultimately can lead to discovery. I think the same principle can be applied to time. The lack of time works a lot like the lack of money. You have to dig deep and find something else when money is in short supply. There is an old business adage that says something like, “you can have quick, inexpensive or high quality; pick any two.” All three are not possible simultaneously. It’s either good and fast, but not cheap or cheap and fast but not good. You get the idea.
This year we pushed ourselves very hard. We challenged ourselves to make an amplifier that sounded like our $2,000 Cub III but deliver it under $1,400. It had to be exceptional – after all it was going to bear the Bad Cat name.
In our case, inexpensive and high quality wasn’t going to come about quickly. We had to find a way to engineer out cost. We couldn’t change components; after all they are the reason why Bad Cat’s sound like they do. Our transformers and component choices are a huge part of the overall picture. We decided on a printed circuit board construction. This would effectively engineer out a great many hours of hand wiring labor. We needed to design them so well engineered, that they would be solid as a rock and simple to build.
Even PCB amps can be expensive if they aren’t designed with efficiencies in assembly. Quality could not be compromised. Prototypes were built and disassembled over and over again. Hours of playing tests ensued.
After too many late night shop dinners and engineering round table shouting matches Bad Cat proudly offers the USA Player Series Cub. Its great sounding! It sounds like a Bad Cat. It’s well built and comes in at $1,099 for the 15 watt head or $1,299 for the combo. Sometimes being out of time can lead to great things.