Enter the Rocket 50, and the review that changed our lives
By the latter half of 1995 it became clear that in order to grow Electroplex, the line had to expand. A trend in the market at the time favored smaller, lower-powered amps. Fender was enjoying success with its reissue of the 4×10 Bassman™ and other models, and a renewed interest in the Vox AC-30 was creating a demand for lower-powered amps; class A and class AB or “push/pull”.
So I set out to make a 50-watt Rocket, utilizing the same preamp voicing and gain-structure that made the Rocket 90 stand out. The first Rocket 50 was a 4×10 model with Eminence-made Mojotone™ alnico tens. With nervous anticipation I “débuted” the Rocket 50 at the ’96 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim. It attracted much attention from players, dealers and competitors at the show, and it became clear that we were on to something: the Rocket 50 had an aggressive, overwhelming presence, and a sustaining capability that set it apart. More US dealers signed on with us, and the Japanese market really embraced the Rocket 50. In fact, our sales in Japan had exceeded our US sales at that time. But still, sales growth was fairly modest until January of 1997.
In the fall of 1996 I learned that Guitar Player Magazine was going to conduct a boutique amp “shoot-out” with as many boutique amps that they could get their hands on. I saw this as an opportunity for Electroplex to at least get some free press and, with any luck, get a favorable review. So, again with nervous anticipation, I sent a 4×10 Rocket 50 combo to enter the fray.
After the guys at Guitar Player finished their exhaustive evaluations they sent down their review of the Rocket 50 for me to check for accuracy. To my great astonishment and relief they loved the Rocket, declaring it one of their 3 favorites in the shoot-out. Using some highly creative language they described their impressions of the Rocket’s qualities [Read the Rocket 50 review excerpt here]. Then we anxiously waited for the February 1997 issue to come out.
The reader response was almost instantaneous. On January 2, 1997, the phone started ringing off the hook. We figure that that was when the subscribers received their issues in the mail. And the orders flooded in—finally we were “on the map” in the US!
And it continued on like that for months. Then in their November issue of that year Guitar Player listed the Rocket 50 as one of their picks for top gear of the year, and put it on the cover. That caused another nice “bump” in orders. We were off and running!