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The History of Crate Amps

Crate amplifiers were developed in the 1970s.
live music image by maxthewildcat from Fotolia.com

Crate has been producing guitar amps for almost 40 years. The first amplifiers were built in wooden cases that were "crated," and even when the look wore off and the amps assumed a more traditional appearance, the name stayed intact. Many famous musicians and bands used Crate amps in the 1980s, bringing attention to the brand.

Prehistory of Crate Amps

The idea of creating Crate amplifiers began as a "flash of inspiration" by Gene Kornblum, who was then leading his father's business, St. Louis Music, Inc. The company was then primary known for importing and distributing stringed instruments, including violins and violas.


By the late 1970s, Kornblum was shopping in a Crate & Barrel store when he noticed that products were held in wooden crates. After considering whether beefing up a wooden crate to hold a guitar amplifier might be a good idea, he began attempting to produce guitar amps that looked like wooden crates, with chest handles similar to the ones found on military footlockers.

Crate CR1

St. Louis Music introduced the 10-watt Crate CR1, its first guitar amplifier, in 1978. Before long, the company had sold enough amps to outgrow its manufacturing capabilities, and it had expanded its Crate line to display a full range of solid-state Crate amplifiers. Soon after, the company retired the wooden crate look and adopted the traditional amplifier look, complete with Tolex covering. This transition helped the business to stay consistent.

1980s Crate Amp users

As Crate amplifiers became a legitimate amplifier for professional musicians, there were numerous artists in the 1980s that were unpaid endorsees of the amps. The list of the endorsing Crate amps users including Gene Simmons of Kiss, Sting from The Police, Sammy Hagar from Van Halen, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and Joe Walsh from James Gang and The Eagles.

Current Crate Models

As of 2010, Crate displays three lines of amplifiers for musicians, including the solid-state Flexwave Series, the tube model V-Series and acoustic amplifiers. The Flexwave Series offers the combo of the head/cabinet setup with three wattage choices of 15-watt FW15, 65-watt FW65, and the 120-watt combo FW120. The V-Series tube models range from 5 watts to 100 watts. Some of the tubes on the V-Series are EL84 tubes for lower-wattage amps, as well as V50 and V100 sports EL34 power tubes for higher-wattage amps. The acoustic line of amps range from 10 watts to 120 watts, depending on the model. The CA10 10-watt is the basic amp, while the 30-watt CA30DG has the addition of digital effects (reverb and chorus). The 120-watt CA120DG is the most powerful acoustic amp distributed by Crate.

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