Fender and Mission Engineering have announced the stunning return of Sunn Amplifiers, one of the all-time cult classic guitar amp brands in history, used and abused by high-volume rock players from Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix through to Boris, Melvins and most notably the drone pioneers Sunn O))) who take their name from the brand.
New models and accessories expected to be available by the end of 2023. Fender picked the brand up in the mid ‘80s but it has been dormant for many years now.
Perhaps what is most surprising about this resurrection is that it has taken so long. The significance of Sunn tube amps, particularly designs such as the Model T, has been a huge part of the rock, alternative, and doom metal guitar sound.
Fender says it was awaiting “the right team and resources” before making a move. Last year, that happened, with Sunn Amplification Corporation to manufacture the Sunn amps under license in the US. James Lebihan, CEO of Sunn Amplification, heads up a team who has been waiting a long time for this moment.
“Resurrecting the Sunn brand has long been a dream of our team, and we are thrilled to be the trusted partner Fender has selected to bring this vision to life,” Lebihan said. “We are honoured to have a robust group of Sunn enthusiasts, including some of the original employees, join us on this journey to restore Sunn for musicians worldwide. If you know the Sunn brand, and the historical significance it has in the music industry, you understand why the world needs it back.”
Few details have been shared as to what products will be available but Fender and Mission Engineering have promised a full line priced from $499 to $3,299, with “historic reproductions” joined by new designs “that incorporate modern technology to meet the needs of today’s musicians”. This could mean anything from power scaling to onboard speaker emulators for direct recording.
But think Sunn Amplifiers, and the first thought that comes into mind is volume. That’s how the brand got started, when Norman Sundholm of ‘60s garage rock heroes The Kingsmen reached out to his brother Conrad for a new bass amp design.
The Kingsmen were making some big noise with their cover of Louie Louie and Norm needed more volume for their live shows. Conrad obliged. By ’65, they had their own company, and within a few years they were providing backline for the likes of The Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Today’s announcement is very exciting for the doom metal, alt-rock, punk players who crave a Sunn Model T to give their riffs an animalism that can only come from maximum volume. And spare a thought for sound engineers in the months ahead.
Richard Bussey, vice-president of accessories, lifestyle and licensing at Fender, promises “raw power” – and there you go, there’s another famous Sunn player, the late Ron Asheton.
“We’re proud to partner with Mission Engineering to uphold the legacy of the Sunn Amplifier brand and look forward to introducing modern players to the raw power that these classic amplifiers are capable of,” Bassey said. “We can’t wait to show what the Mission Engineering and Sunn Amplification team has in store.”
Neither can we.