TOOB is the brainchild of Markku Pietinen, an veteran jazz guitar enthusiast from Finland. During 2003-2014 he underwent four major surgical operations, each restricting his playing, let alone gigging, for months. After a string of successively smaller combos, Markku realized that further shrinking of the speaker was not the way to go. At the same time, small but powerful Class D amps were taking the bass market by a storm, and early quitar versions were testing the waters - admittedly lukewarm.
Trusting that excellent micro-amps for guitar would eventually turn up, Markku focused on radically lighter speaker cabinets. This obviously required some serious thinking out of the box.
One day in 2007, newly retired, Markku walked past a construction site and spotted a leftover piece of plastic pipe used for rainwater drainage. It looked just about right to house a 10" or 12" driver. 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, Markku reckons he produced some 40 front and rear end variations on the theme before reaching the final design. The use of clamping rings or rims for the one-step assembly of the front and rear ends was a major step ahead. 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. He felt that the open-back jazz model did not offer enough bottom end for rock'n'roll and power blues players.
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.
A bass version was on the agenda from start, but it proved quite a challenge. After several elaborate tail-end variations, a relatively simple half-open back 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. Subsequently, many double-bass players have discovered the virtues and versatility of the 12B, including the option of positioning it vertically.
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 his 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.
At 71, Markku still assembles each TOOB by hand. This is possible thanks to the simple basic construction. He even has time to fancy one-off, custom versions. Scaling up the capacity would be easy - no major capital expenditure, just larger premises and more pairs of hands. For a speedy geographical expansion, licensing/franchising is not out of the question.