“The world needs it back”: Sunn Amplifiers – the brand used by Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend and countless doom metal heroes – has been revived with the help of Fender

Takeshi of Boris's ’74 Sunn Model T amps
(Image credit: Future)

Fender has partnered with Mission Engineering to revive Sunn Amplifiers – one of music’s most historic guitar amp brands, whose list of previous users features the likes of Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix.

A key player in guitar amp development and innovation throughout the 1960s, Sunn amps is being brought back for modern players – and this time it’s got help from Fender, which bought the brand back in the mid '80s.

While in operation, Sunn made its way into the backline of numerous high-profile players. In 1967, Townshend briefly used one of its models while in the US. Around the same time, Hendrix signed an endorsement deal with Sunn and used its gear on stage for a time.

The most blatant champions of Sunn amps, though, are drone metal overlords Sunn O))), who not only used the Model-T amp to conjure up their viscerally distorted tones but quite literally named themselves after the company.

It was in this scene where Sunn found its most loyal fans, with its catalog becoming popular among players in the wider stoner and doom metal genres.

And that’s just its tube amps: Sunn also crafted a suite of solid state amps that found fans among the likes of Adam Jones, who used the Sunn Beta Lead on Lateralus.

Now, at long last, Sunn is returning, with a brief statement from Fender confirming that both “historic reproductions of classic Sunn designs” and “new products that incorporate modern technology” are on the way, and they'll arrive later this year.

Not only that, Fender has revealed all Sunn amps will fit in the $499 to $3,299 price bracket, meaning a diverse range of amps should be expected when the brand officially launches.

Of Sunn’s surprise return, Mission Engineering CEO James Lebihan said, “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. 

“We are honored 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,” he went on. “If you know the Sunn brand, and the historical significance it has in the music industry, you understand why the world needs it back.” 

If you know the Sunn brand, and the historical significance it has in the music industry, you understand why the world needs it back

James Lebihan, Mission Engineering CEO

“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,” added FMIC VP of Accessories, Lifestyle and Licensing, Richard Bussey. “We can’t wait to show what the Mission Engineering and Sunn Amplification team has in store.”

The return of Sunn amps is also notable for what it means for the wider gear world: it’s just another reminder that, although digital technology is often seen as the future of guitar gear, old school tube amps will always have a place in the music world. 

The recent revival of Marshall’s classic JTM45 amp head and now the rebirth of Sunn proves that gear nostalgia is still a force to be reckoned with, and the fate of tangible tube amps isn't in jeopardy, despite what the internet might have you believe.

Keep your eyes peeled on Sunn’s new website for updates.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.