The resurrection of Sunn Amplification has been one of the biggest guitar gear stories of 2023 so far, with Fender, in partnership with Mission Engineering, announcing the storied bass and guitar amp brand’s return, and confirming a new line of products, all made in the USA. But one question stuck out: where was the Model T?
There were the 100S and 200S tube amps. The Buzz Osborne-approved Beta Lead was back in production as a head and preamp. There were powered monitors, guitar cabinets – merch, of course, because since Fender put the brand on ice it has only appreciated year after year in cult appeal.
But the Model T, Sunn’s most legendary tube amp design, was conspicuous by its absence. This, for many players, was the one they were waiting for – the one favored by Boris, Ron Asheton, and of course Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley of drone/doom pioneers and disciples of the brand Sunn O))).
Well, for all those despondently sifting Reverb looking for a vintage Model T in decent condition, there is good news; Sunn has addressed the Model T question in a recent Q&A video with Andy Ferris, aka The Guitar Geek on YouTube, and has confirmed that the amps will be coming.
Furthermore, the reason why the Model T was not included in the original product launch was because Sunn is still deciding what to do with it.
James Lebihan, CEO of Sunn Amplification, said there were a number of options available to the company, but its employees want to put the Model T into as many players’ rigs as possible, and are considering what form it might take. Yes, Lebihan said, a historically accurate reproduction was possible, but the Sunn leadership team are conscious that this might price too many players out of the market.
“We could absolutely make an exact copy, and we have to design all – or some – of the components from the ground up to do that, but it could definitely be done,” said Lebihan. “But it is gonna be an expensive amplifier… Could we make a Model T that’s just like the original and sell it for $500? No, absolutely not.
“So our question is how do we do that, how do we get a Model T into the hands of everybody who wants to have them.”
It is not just a question of price and the market. The Model T is a tube amp with a lot of headroom. To press it into service of doom metal or whatever big riffing application you have designed for it is to commit to cranking it hard and driving the power tubes. Not everybody has the opportunity to do that. In many (most?) venues, the sound engineer might have a nervous breakdown.
Also, there is a case to be made for modernizing the Model T platform. There is no good reason why there can’t be some concessions to the needs of today’s player without compromising the performance that made it so legendary in the first place. Lebihan hints at power scaling, or even lowering the output.
“Maybe you can run it at lower power, maybe it’s a smaller form factor,” he said. “These things are big, heavy amps and they are not the sort of things that are easy to take around in a modern playing environment, so how do we get that Model T sound to people who can take them out and use them?”
All this remains to be answered. But at least we can rest assured that Sunn is trying to square the circle and find a way of bringing the Model T back, and ultimately the firm will bring it back. This the brand's leaders were certain of.
“There is going to be a Model T,” said Mike Eldred, chief marketing officer of Sunn Amplification. “We are definitely going to come out with a Model T but we’re not going to do it haphazardly, or quickly. We want to research that. We want to go into it – and that is what we have been doing since we got the license.
“Every meeting we have we talk about the Model T, and what platform it’s gonna be. We can make it accessible to everybody and not just people who can afford a 100-watt or a 150-watt hand-built tube amp, made in America.”
The first new products from Sunn Amplification will be available by the end of 2023. For more info on the brand's products, see Sunn Amps.