For Those About To Rock

Tony Valainis

Ted Weber and his son, T.A., longed to recreate sounds from a seemingly bygone era: the golden age of 1950s and ’60s rock. So the senior Weber, an engineer and avid guitarist himself, tinkered with magnets, coils, cones, and other vintage components until he created a speaker that mimicked those in the great amplifiers of that generation. In 1996, the duo opened Ted Weber’s Famous Loudspeakers in Kokomo, and now the client list includes Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh, Metallica, and Pearl Jam.

[sidenote position=”left” credit=”Buy It”]Gray Wolf amplifier, a Baltic birch cabinet containing a Weber Ceramic Gray Wolf speaker, $2,500.[/sidenote]“What started it for us was the older guys who used to have these amps when they were kids, and they wanted to get that sound again,” says C.J. Sutton, who joined the company a few years later as a graphic designer. Today, Sutton helps musicians choose made-to-order components depending on the unique sound they’re after. “I’ve played guitar since I was 13,” he says. “That experience comes in handy. Trying to describe sound in words requires finesse, but I have the ability to translate.”

Despite Ted’s death in 2009, T.A. Weber, Sutton, and a few others still handcraft roughly 200 speaker models. Each one is hand-assembled; attaching the paper cone is hardest part. “It requires some artistry to paint with glue and not let it get into the magnet structure,” Sutton says.

Once a customer has selected a speaker or speakers, the company can build it into an amplifier cabinet. The cabinets themselves cost $231 to $451 and are crafted from pine or Baltic birch. “They have to be of a certain quality so they won’t rattle internally,” Sutton says. To finish, the amps can be covered in throwback tweeds, ostrich, snakeskin, embossed boot leather, and more.

Mass-producers like Eminence or Jensen make thousands of speakers daily. “We do maybe 200 to 300 in a month,” Sutton says. “Those bigger companies are like your big three auto makers. What we do is more like Ferrari or Rolls-Royce—really small-batch stuff, but really good.”