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Polytone Amps - What in world is up with this company ?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by alienstarguest, Jun 26, 2013.

  1. alienstarguest


    May 30, 2009
    For those of you who don't know about Polytone Amps, here is a brief background. This is a California based company that has produced solid state amplification for over 4 decades. Although Polytone is (was ?) a small company that did almost no marketing, their products actually gained a cult like popularity worldwide with Jazz musicians and especially accordion players. As far as I can tell, they were able to achieve enough success to stay in business for decades by word of mouth alone. I thought that to be pretty impressive in its own right.

    Many of their amps were considered multi-purpose and could be found in use by guitarists, bassists, keyboard players and others (the company founder was a famous accordion player). Rarely were the amps ever designated by an intended instrument but because the amps could handle demanding bass tones, they often became known as bass amps by default. Their amps became important to bass players in the Jazz world (I assume initially pairing up with early pickups designed for double bass). The amps would also gain some following as practice amps for rock and blues players that wanted to hear every note/mistake thus bolstering playing chops. Perhaps they found some application in the studio as well for those players. These solid state amps were popular for their clean articulate voice and certainly not something that would be linked with crunch or distortion (hence the Jazz connection rather than rock). The electronic features/channels were considered pretty advanced in their hey day. The amps were quite expensive when purchased new, perhaps another reason they never became widely known. A few years back, I seem to recall most of their amps being in the $1200 - $1300 range, mostly units with single speakers and maybe a small horn. Also from what I can tell, their products came with nothing more than a single sheet of paper with very cryptic instructions (even though features were abundant).

    One thing for certain IMO, Polytone is one strange outfit that seems to alienate anyone trying to do business with them. I have been recently trying to inquire about parts and in doing so I cannot determine if the company is still operating. The website is 'out there', nothing recent or any useful contact info. I did locate a phone number with a Polytone greeting, but never an answer or a lead of any sort. Every where I look just seems to defy the logic of the existence of relevant, viable business entity. The most information I got was from an Accordion vendor who had a long history of doing business with them (I spoke with the Accordion company owner). This is a current statement from Accordion_O_Rama, the vendor's website.

    " Don't buy Polytone Amps! They take your money and never send you the amplifers! We prepaid for eleven amps from them in April 2011. They have sent one! We are not the only ones that they have done this to. Dealers and individuals beware! Mr. Tommy Gumina may have been an talented accordion player but his company is defrauding people of their money. If they resolve this problem we will let you know."

    While this warns against buying a Polytone, I could'nt even manage how one would even begin to find a new one for sale.

    Does anyone at all, have any idea what is up with Polytone. They seemed to have had a successful following. I found a thread here on Talkbass from a few years back, that at first noted the company was out of business, only to have someone declare evidence that they were indeed alive and well. Here is that link.
    AlexanderB and Garret Graves like this.
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I remember that thread. Polytone, at one time, was huge with jazz guitarists and bassists. Got no clue what happened to make them fall out of favor, but my first bass teacher had one and it was killer for a combo. But if they aren't answering calls or emails, I'd have to think that the accordion vendor is right.
  3. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Two years after that thread, I've yet to see or hear of those "new products" they were busy developing.
  4. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    You're right, a accordion player named Tommy Gumina ran that company. If you take a look at their website http://polytoneamps.com/ there is a phone and fax number.
    I guess the lights are on but nobody is home. I think that once the GK 200MB's hit the market they were just kind of pushed aside. After that Guitarists used them for a while. As
    I recall there were some reliability issues with the early Mini Brutes.

  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I have a Mini Brute 2 (don't know what year) that I bought from a guitarist friend. It sounds fabulous as a rehearsal amp for bass -- when it's working. However a year after I got it, it pooped out. I got it repaired last year, but after a few months of extremely light duty it pooped out again... past the repair shop's warranty period, of course.

    Anyone need one for spare parts? Just pay shipping, it's yours.
  6. +1 They were the only game in town back in the day for that 'small, reasonably loud, warm' tone that DB players really flocked to. I remember meeting Ray Brown in the Polytone booth at NAMM in the earl 80's.

    Now, there is just SO much stuff out there (+1 starting with that amazing little GK MB112 (edit: MB150) combo that came out in the 80's) that their performance and reliability kind of fell behind the market. I would guess they are pretty much done.

    Probably the closest line of products out there now is the Acoustic Image stuff, which is loved by many DB players and also guitarists.
  7. MrBEAR

    MrBEAR In Memoriam

    We had a local shop that carried most of the models, back around 1975, and I was looking for a smaller "club" amp. Actually almost anything was smaller than the double cab Acoustic and SVT I ran stereo with a Ric 4005.

    Tried the 2x15 OMG wattage (for back then) model. I can chime in and say sounded good, When It Worked, but it was always iffy as far as reliability.

    After the eighth repair I was told Polytone will not pay them for anymore repairs and would not give me a new one. Bob say hit the floor, try out what ever and pick something else we are done with Polytone.

    Appears the Legacy continues.

    Garret Graves likes this.
  8. alienstarguest


    May 30, 2009
    Hi there. I had been sick for quite a long while and just got back into being on TalkBass. I would happily pay shipping for that. I will see if I can PM you.. need to relearn some basic navigation. The parts will go to good use as I have both a Taurus and a mini Brute III
  9. Billy K

    Billy K

    Nov 5, 2009
    North Bay Marin
    George Benson uses them and he talks about them in the Musicians Friend newest catalog along with a John Bonamassa interview.
  10. alienstarguest


    May 30, 2009
    Wow. Really? Could you tell me exactly what catalog that is. Summer 2013? or version #. Thanks
  11. yes jazz guitarist friends here have some old ones here in the city. they sound no where near as good as the modern amps and cabs when ive a/b ed one or two in non gig situations. .....
    AlexanderB likes this.
  12. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    The older minis can sound quite fine in a live setting.

    The 101 which had a single fifteen in a Vintage 4X10 Bassman style enclosure (somewhat smaller), amp controls pointing up, sounded really really good. With a Y cord I would max the bass on one channel and min the treble and vice versa on the other then blend with the volumes. That model later had two tiny cones added.
  13. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2005
    My second bass amp ever was a vertically stacked 2x12 combo - 100w I think. This was in 1973 so a few decades ahead of the recent 12s trend.

  14. A Jazz guitarist friend of mine used to use one. The reverb would crap out often. Whenever that happened the amp was referred to as the 'Polygraph.' Always thought that was funny.
  15. LowBnDuluth


    Aug 26, 2005
    Sparta, WI
    Luthier, McPherson Guitars
    my first "real" amp was a Polytone S15B, which I picked up in the mid 80's along with a lawsuit model Ibanez Jazz bass for $250. No longer have the bass, but I do still have the Polytone. I knew nothing about it when I picked it up, just a dumb kid. It has survived being dropped on the A5 Autobahn in Germany along with tons of other amp killing incidents, but the dumb thing will not die.
  16. basmansam

    basmansam Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    I've had great luck with a late model mni brute plus 2 bass. Sounds great with bass guitar, so-so with upright. Picked off of ebay pretty cheap a couple of years ago.
    Too bad they didn't keep up with the times. I like mine.
  17. PuffusMaximus


    May 31, 2011
    I recently got a custom model of the polytone 101 (I think) with a 15 and 2 8's. The drivers are in various states of disrepair but I was impressed with what I heard even from them. Does anyone have a suggestion for good replacements?
  18. Low Class

    Low Class Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2005
    I don't know what you mean by custom, the 101 came with a 15" and 2-8"s. I bought one brand new in 1979 after hearing Randy Jackson playing through one at a Baton Rouge nightclub. Sorry, can't recommend any replacement speakers other than go for some inexpensive stamp frame 8 ohms.
  19. Anything that doesn't look like it could be repaired? Small tears, foam surround, center caps are repairable.
  20. PuffusMaximus


    May 31, 2011
    These are the 15 and one 8, the other had been replaced

    Attached Files:

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