As most musicians will tell you, playing in front of a live audience is what makes it all worthwhile. Unless you're successful enough to have a dedicated road crew, though, loading and unloading the equipment can be backbreaking work. All that could change thanks to an experiment in "what if" amp building by Tim Brennan of Brisbane's Tym Guitars. He says that late nights, stupid conversations and an obsession with building things that people might laugh at has resulted in the FAMP – a 50W guitar amp combo encased in a foam housing.
Brennan claims that the high-density foam used to house the Tym 50W solid state amp – with hand-built preamp and PCB 50W power stage, and 60W, 12-inch speaker – is durable enough to withstand being stood on, or you can even "kick it down the street (Tym Guitars does not endorse or recommend kicking an amp down the street), and it will still work."
A waterproof coating is applied the outer face of the foam, which strengthens the structure, and there's security mesh between the grill cloth and the speaker to help prevent accidental damage. The whole setup tips the scales at under 20 pounds (9kg), which Brennan says is so light that his 2 year-old offspring can pick it up. He adds that he could have made the FAMP even lighter if he'd used switch mode power supplies, but prefers the better tone offered by a toroidal transformer.
To play through the 16.5 x 16.5 x 10.6-inch (42 X 42 X 27-cm) combo, you'll need to open up the back – after which it closes up tight, so that nothing's left protruding out. The amp has bass, treble and volume dials and the speaker throws out 4, 8 or 16 ohm, although 8 is optimal.
Brennan told Gizmag that he's working on the development of production models, but pricing and availability information won't be known before June. To lower the cost and make manufacture a little easier, he's currently toying with the idea of using expanding foam in molds for future models, rather than cutting, gluing and painting the high-density foam by hand.
A 100W version of the FAMP is now also under development, and a 2 x 12-inch, 120W speaker cabinet that weighs in at just 20.9 pounds (9.5kg), as well as a 4 x 12-inch, 400W speaker cabinet weighing under 33 pounds (15kg), are also joining the foam party.