| MILITARY-SPEC | HARRY WHO? | RAVES
Harry built electronics for over 50 years. He was taught military-spec construction as a boy by a couple of Americans during WWII. He introduced that method to guitar amplifiers when he was contracted to build HIWATT amps for Dave Reeves in the 60's and 70's till Reeves' untimely death in 1981.
For the next 20 years Harry and company built all sorts of electronic apparatus for the British Ministry of Defense. In 1993 Harry was urged to end his retirement and once again lend his skills to the world of guitar amplifiers.
Starting where he left off, he made many improvements to the Mullard-circuit based amps he had made two decades ago; resolving known service issues, adding an extra gain stage, improving the tonal palette, redesigning the transformers for improved sound and efficiency, changing the layout for improved signal to noise ratio, and implementing a useful effects loop. The results are the HJ CUSTOM 30, 50, and 100 watt amps.
Two great books about the subject of
have included some kind words about
Quotes appear as a courtesy of the publisher. All rights reserved.
AMPS! THE OTHER HALF OF ROCK AND ROLL provides an excellent overview of what you plug a guitar into as interpreted by several different makers. It states:
Dave Reeves was a wirer at the Sound City Factory. He saw what he felt were deficiencies in the basic Sound City design and set out to create his own circuit that delivered the sound he heard in his head. After a period of trial and error Dave felt he found it and decided to start his own company, Hiwatt. In need of people to start production, he looked in the phone book under wiring and found the name
Harry was a certified government wirer – this is not a joke; all governments have contractors that bid on any number of jobs from making toilets to battleships, and they must meet very stringent guidelines. Harry was more than willing to take on Dave Reeves’ project, but in the name of quality control he insisted that he would not make more than 40 amps a month. This was all right at the start, but as HIWATT became more popular it became a problem. Dave tried every method possible to convince Harry that an increase in production would be a good thing and wouldn't affect quality, but Harry was unrelenting.
There are physically many ways to make an amp. Typically, consumer electronics are not as ruggedly built as those used for industry and military applications. Besides being extremely sturdy, electronics built to military specifications ("military spec," or just "mil spec") are neat and clean beyond comprehension. Every component in a mil spec unit is clearly labeled, and all wires are bent at right angles and tied off, including the leads coming off of resistors and capacitors. This makes replacement or repair under adverse field conditions easier to accomplish. In mil spec construction, the heavy-duty quality inherent in tube amp construction is carried out to the highest degree. The difference in sound between two identical circuits assembled in the consumer and military fashion would be negligible; but their ability to withstand abuse is quite different. All early Hiwatts are built to military specification – surely at Harry Joyce's insistence. When I showed mine to a service manager at Marshall, he couldn't believe his eyes. He just kept staring at it like an artist looks at a beautiful flower.
- Ritchie Fliegler
THE ART OF THE AMPLIFIER celebrates the beauty found in tube electronics with a collection of excellent photos and text:
HIWATT was the brainchild of an Englishman named Dave Reeves. Originally employed by Sound City, Dave came to the conclusion that he could build better amps (it wouldn't have been hard). As luck would have it, he came across a government-certified wirer named Harry Joyce, who apparently was a perfectionist and who agreed to wire a limited quantity of chassis for Dave's new amp.
While the Hiwatt name is owned by others, it appears as though
Harry Joyceis the spiritual heir to the throne, as evidenced by the introduction in 1993 of the Joyce amplifier.
The same high standard of construction is still clear to see, as are the Partridge transformers and EL34s. Better yet, the colorful internal wiring layout will forever remind me of the London Underground map!
- Michael Doyle
Pictures and descriptions on
site refer to HARRY JOYCE HJ Custom amplifiers produced prior to
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