In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man 

Now I’ve reached that age I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can

No matter how I try I find my way to the same old jam

Led Zeppelin

In order to pull off a mind-bending great amp, the aperture of the lens for your frame of reference must be wide. Rest assured that Mitch Colby’s time with Marshall, Vox and Park, as well as those that were and inspired by their likeness has led to him experiencing stunning, standout examples of all of those classic amps as well as the dogs and everything in between. It’s been his business for the last 45 years, which translates to him simply knowing his way around a circuit and specifically what each minor tweak will do to the sound and feel of a great tube amp. The knowledge runs deep.

TQR: Mitch, we’ve enjoyed a long-term relationship that goes back almost 20 years. Rich Lasner referred to you as “Mr. Marshall.” If you had to summarize your career in five sentences, how would that sound?

[Laughs] OK… A kid who was a guitar player found that the musical instrument industry attracted passionate people, and somehow he found a path to many great opportunities that continue to this day. It’s tough to put into five sentences.

TQR: I’m sure. Let’s touch on the places you’ve been.

I started out at Electro Harmonix, testing equipment, and was there only for a few months before moving onto Unicord in 1978. Unicord was the U.S. distributor for Korg and Marshall at the time. Korg was a big name in the burgeoning synthesizer market, and soon after I joined they came out with some fabulous products like the Mono/Poly and the PolySix. I started by going to dealers around the U.S.A. with Unicord’s salesmen to help them present new products, including anything that related to guitar, especially Marshall amps. I was also involved with marketing, writing ad copy, press releases, and things of that nature. A few years into that role I became the product manager for the guitar products. Korg bought Unicord in 1985 and became their own distributor for Korg in the U.S. and for Marshall, who stayed with the company. That’s when I became VP of Guitar Products and really got involved day-to-day with the amplifiers. I traveled abroad to Marshall twice a year, or more, for 30 years. I worked with the teams at HQ to develop products, marketing strategies, and artist relations. From 1985 until 2010, I was responsible for the U.S. distribution of Marshall. In 1992 Korg bought Vox’s distributor in England, which was Rose-Morris. That created somewhat of a dilemma as in what to do with Vox, because we were so strong with Marshall and you could perceive that there was a conflict of interest there, which Marshall did, but we worked it out for a while. Along the way, I convinced Jim Marshall to build the AC30 for us.

TQR: Some consider those some of the best modern versions of the AC30.

Well, it’s now known as the Korg AC30, the Korg/Vox AC30 or simply Korg era. Those amps are not hand-wired; they are PC board. Steve Grindrod, who was the head Marshall engineer, did all of the design on that. It’s a great amp. They sound amazing onstage. AC30s are just incredible amps to begin with. The vintage ones can be finicky because some of the parts they used were not great in the long term, and with the voltages we now have in the U.S., one has to be careful. The new one from the early ’90s is a little bit tighter, and because of that, some say, cuts through onstage a little better—not as much of a spongy feel—and that’s why players like them. They’re clear and they cut. There is also a handwired AC-30 that was designed by me and Tony Bruno. It too was built by Marshall and the first that I had a hand in designing. Some say may be the finest of that era. 

TQR: What years were those made?

It’s tough to remember…around 2000. It was a limited run. We didn’t make a ton of them.

TQR: Did you make any changes to the original?

Yes. We made some tweaks to the original AC30 design, as over the years you learn that very few players use all three channels. The Vib/Trem channels in the old ones are usually broken. They sounded great when working properly but are limited in terms of controlling speed with only three settings, and the depth on the trem is really only trem and vibe. Depending on how healthy the circuit is, it might or might not sound great. So, we took that channel out and just went with a Top Boost channel with Tremolo and Master Volume and then added a Fender-style spring reverb. 

TQR: What’s your coolest artist story?

Well, the coolest thing that ever happened to me was this past Friday night (November 3, 2023). Did you watch the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony or know anything about what happened?

TQR:  Do tell.

It was a great event, and I was lucky to be there. They inducted Link Wray.

TQR: I think you’re going to tie this to Jimmy Page because he loves “Rumble,” and I know he is a huge Link Wray fan. You worked with him on the Sundragon Amps Supro Coronado build.

That’s right. For three days, I got to hang out with Jimmy Page in preparation for his performance. During the two weeks leading up to the show, we were hurriedly building our new Super Dragon amps that Jimmy wanted to use for “Rumble.” It was last-minute, as sometimes these things are. We had to overnight parts in, etc. We had all of the new old-stock parts we needed and the tubes—those were the easy things. But certain things, like the chassis not being 100% right, and we didn’t have all of the hardware we needed…. The cabinets built by Kurt Wyberanec of KW Cabs, made it just in time. We neglected to order knobs; it was just all a bit crazy. The final transformers came in at the last minute, but we got the amps finished and we drove them into the city on Tuesday. Wednesday was rehearsal. We hung out, made sure everything sounded right, and he played for a while. We took photos of Jimmy, Perry Margouleff (Partner in Sundragon) and me with the amp. He’s a busy guy and not always available, even though he’s almost 80 years old. Thursday was soundcheck, which can be harrowing, and this was at the Barclay Center. The crew there is incredibly efficient and professional, and it was a sight to behold as to how they handled all the acts and bands that transition throughout the evening. To pull that off with live TV feeds and video was just amazing. Jimmy did the soundcheck, and it was a bit of a complicated setup. We had to have tremolo for him because “Rumble” ends with that fast trem. We then got to hang out all day on Friday, which was the day of the performance. Jimmy stayed in the back until it was his turn to be onstage because it was a surprise that he was there and would do a live performance. Jimmy performed, and people went crazy. We got to hang out a little bit afterwards and he was happy with how things went, which is critical because everything he does, he wants done at the highest level. So, yeah, hanging out with him for three days is at the pinnacle of my artist interaction. 

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