While we're spearheading a megatrend - lighter gear for the active musician - there's a human story behind it all.
TOOB is the brainchild of Markku Pietinen, a veteran jazz guitar enthusiast and retired communications executive from Finland. In 2003-2014, four major surgical operations halted his gigging for months each time. Out flew heavy tube amps, in came successively lighter solid-state equipment. At the same time, small but powerful Class D amps and Neo speakers were taking the bass market by storm. Sooner or later, Markku figured, this would happen in the conservative guitar world as well.
Trusting that excellent micro-amps for guitar would eventually turn up, Markku focused on radically lighter speaker cabinets. One day in 2007, newly retired, he walked past a construction site and spotted a leftover piece of ribbed plastic pipe used for rainwater drainage. It looked just about right to house a 10" or 12" speaker. Thrilled by its light weight and stark aesthetics, Markku picked it up.
The crime has expired. The rest is the usual story of trial, error, domestic terror, stop&go, wrong tracks, dead ends, expenditure, obsession, more expenditure, prejudice, laughs and, finally, amazement.
The first prototype, the Ur-TOOB, was neither light nor great-sounding. Undeterred, Markku went on.
Overall, he reckons he produced some 40 front and rear end variations before reaching the final design. Clamping rims for the assembly of the front and rear ends were a major breakthrough. With help from industrial designer Heino Jukarainen and a 3D printing specialist, the rim design was fine-tuned in 2016. At the same time, the closed-back version with a reflex pipe saw daylight on the encouragement of Harri Koski from Mad Professor Amplification.
Almost all available Neo speakers were tested before settling on Jensen for the guitar models and, later, Celestion for bass. In this process, the expertise of Mikko Kankaanpää from Uraltone Amplification was invaluable. Subsequently, direct contacts with speaker manufacturers have kept us up-to-date on their alternatives and new products.
A bass version was on the agenda from start, but presented quite a challenge. After several more elaborate takes, a relatively simple half-open design with internal dampening and a bass-enhancing angled shelf finally got the two tumbs up from our "test pilot", multi-instumentalist and Berklee Alumnus Juha Pöysä.
Small-scale production of guitar versions started in early 2017 in Padasjoki, inner Finland, where Markku has his second home and woodshed. This is why our network of sub-contractors is still centered in this region. However, in winter 2017 the final assembly was relocated to Espoo, near Markku's town home. This enables his sons Tuomas (guitarist & media pro) and Mikko (drummer & music pro) to be closer to the project and keep Daddy on the right track.
Following the success of our 10” and 12” cabinets, New York’s jazz guitar and bass pros came back, asking for something even more compact. ”What a way to thank,” Markku revolted. However, physical size also matters, if you depend on public transit and win your bread in multiple locations. That’s a freelance musician’s reality in many metropolitan settings. And the starting point of the new TOOB METRO 6.5 series.
With his 75th birthday looming, Markku still assembles each TOOB by hand. Whenever there’s spare time, he builds and tests new versions. Passionate? Absolutely. Crazy? Certainly!