Alexander “Howard” Dumble custom builds the the most expensive and sought after guitar amplifiers in the world. Well, he did at one time build amplifiers. He is so shrouded in mystery no one can confirm if he is still actively working.

His customers, mostly studios and celebrity musicians like Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ben Harper, John Mayer and Joe Bonamassa (who bought one of his Dumble amps from Christopher Cross; yes that Christopher Cross), are sworn to secrecy about the cost of these custom and modified vintage amps, but resales have been in the $70,000 to $150,000 range. At least that is what people admit to.

At his peak, Dumble made two to three amps per year. He would only agree to take on a customer after he heard the customer play, and he liked what he heard. Customers reportedly signed and and notarized agreements to (1) never ask about the project’s progress and (2) never reveal anything about the amplifier’s design and customizations. To ensure secrecy, Dumble painted all the electronics black and covered everything except the vacuum tubes (which he uncharacteristically insisted be commonly available items for easy replacement) in clear epoxy to prevent reverse engineering.

Are Dumble amplifiers better than other amplifiers? Maybe not, but they are unique. Custom. Special. Rare. And therefore sought after.

So, by all means, pay your dues. Learn and hone your craft.

But then be yourself.

Unique. Custom. Special. Rare. And therefore sought after.