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Sound City L100 amplifiers
plus Sound City L100 posing as a Hiwatt


Top: Sound City; Bottom 2: Hiwatts

August 1970 Isle of Wight show. Top amp (chrome faceplate) is customized Sound City with Hiwatt nameplate; bottom two amps (black faceplate) are Hiwatt CP103 amplifiers, with “The Who” faceplate. Bottom speaker cabinets are Hiwatt SE4122 4x12s; top are Hiwatt SE4123 4x12s.

Prior to using the famed Hiwatt amplifiers, Pete Townshend used customized Sound City L100 100-watt amplifiers, from mid 1967 to late 1968 (John Entwistle began with Sound City amps in early 1967). These amps were customized for Pete and John by Dave Reeves of Hylight Electronics, the maker of Hiwatt amplifiers (and who originally worked at Sound City, a division of Dallas Arbiter), presumably to the to the CP103 specification.

Customized L100 specs

The controls on the customized L100s were identical to the CP103 control layout. From left to right, the controls:

Early versions had various block script Sound City nameplate badges, but beginning in late 1968, the badges were removed so that some were unlabeled and some featured Hiwatt nameplate badges.

In the photos on this page, the amplifiers with chrome control panels and wide silver-faced knobs are Sound City L100 amplifiers with Hiwatt nameplates affixed.

The amplifiers with black control panels in the photos below are actual Hiwatt Custom 100 DR103 100w amplifiers, customized to the CP103 specification, though no “The Who” faceplate. Pete began using these in August 1969.

The amplifiers with black control panels in the photos here are actual Hiwatt CP103 amplifiers, with “The Who” faceplate, which Pete began using in early 1970.

Pete continued to use the customized Sound City/Hiwatt amps through 1970.

The herringbone-pattern grille cloth on the bottom two 4x12 cabinets in the photo above (from the August 1970 Isle of Wight show) are early Hiwatt SE4122s, identical to Sound City’s 200w 4x12 cabinets.


 

Photo Gallery

Full detail views of a modified Sound City L100 amplifier once owned by Pete Townshend.

Sound City L100 front
Sound City L100 rear
Sound City L100 rear 2

 
Sound City L100 -33  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -34  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -35  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -36  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -37  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -38  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -39  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -40  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -41  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -42  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -43  Click to view larger version.
Sound City L100 -44  Click to view larger version.

Click a thumbnail image to view larger version. Courtesy david@hylightelectronics.com: Full detail views of a modified Sound City L100 amplifier once owned by Pete Townshend. Includes close-up of customised control panel configuration, featuring, from left to right: four inputs, Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, Treble, Bass, Master Volume. Later sold by Alan Rogan to a Canadian band called Sheriff, who stenciled their name on the back. Then sold to a buyer in the UK who ended up selling it to MusicGround, Leeds, UK.


 
Click to view larger version. Ca. 1967, two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, each with different blockscript Sound City nameplate badge; topped by a Grampian Reverb unit.

Click to view larger version. Ca. 1967, two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, each with different blockscript Sound City nameplate badge; topped by a Grampian Reverb unit.

ca 1969 The August 1969 2nd Isle of Wight show. Top amp (chrome faceplate) is customized Sound City with Hiwatt nameplate; Bottom two amps (black faceplate) are customized Hiwatt Custom DR103 amplifiers, customized to the CP103 specification, though no “The Who” faceplate.

The August 1969 2nd Isle of Wight show. Above and right, top amp (chrome faceplate) is customized Sound City with Hiwatt nameplate; Bottom two amps (black faceplate) are customized Hiwatt Custom DR103 amplifiers, customized to the CP103 specification, though no “The Who” faceplate.

Top: Sound City; Bottom 2: Hiwatts
Top: Sound City; Bottom 2: Hiwatts

Top amp: Sound City L100; bottom two amps: customised Hiwatt DR103, customized to the CP103 specification.


 

Selected quotes from Pete Townshend

All quotes and references are copyright their original owners and are included for reference only.

Ca. Spring 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with both Pete and John using unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier heads, with Hiwatt-style chicken head knobs. Pete’s guitar is 1968 Gibson SG Special.

Ca. February-March 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with both Pete and John using unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier heads, with Hiwatt-style chicken head knobs. Pete’s guitar is 1968 Gibson SG Special.

From August 1994 Guitarist magazine interview

“We took the whole equipment thing to America, lock stock and barrel. Coincidentally, Cream arrived with exactly the same amp rigs, as did Jimi Hendrix. Jimi and his manager Chas Chandler had previously come to see me to ask about buying amps. I said that I’d just stopped using Marshall amps at that time and was using a new rig called Sound City, which became HiWatt, and I said I thought Sound City were better. Chas, being a canny Geordie, turns to Jimi and says, One of each, I think.

We did a show with Jimi later at the Saville Theatre where he had Marshall and Sound City stacks together. So we all arrived in the States within a couple of months of each other with this formidable weaponry, used in different ways. The Who was very much a pop band, Hendrix was the psychedelic guitar artist, and Cream were Cream. I think we all helped one another, and it was like a tidal wave. The Americans couldn’t believe it. They’d had The Beatles, the Stones and The Animals, what could possibly follow that? Then we three showed up...”

Following major acts with more major acts…

“Even louder acts.”


From 1980 Sound International article at Joe G’s site.

And then I met this guy who was making amplifiers at the time for a company called Sound City. This is much later, but all I know is once I found the Hiwatt amplifier I stuck with it. I tend to choose a guitar that fits the amp rather than the other way around.

From Guitar Player, October 1967

Ca. 1967, in the studio, with Sound City L100 head, topped by a Grampian Reverb unit. Guitar is 1965 or 1966 mapleglo Rickenbacker 360/12.

Ca. 1967, in the studio, with Sound City L100 head, topped by a Grampian Reverb unit. Guitar is 1965 or 1966 mapleglo Rickenbacker 360/12.

Excerpts from an interview with John Entwistle and Pete Townshend conducted June 18, 1967, in San Francisco, just prior to the Who’s appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival.

GP: What is your amp volume setting on a ratio of ten?
Entwhistle [sic]: Five or six, full treble. I use two amps: full treble and full base. The cabinets are split, so the treble comes out on top of the amp. I set my guitar about two-thirds on, and then at the end I turn it full up.
Townsend [sic]: Mine’s on about five. I always have the guitar flat out; otherwise you lose top.
GP: Do you use any special equipment?
Townsend: I use a Granpiene [sic] reverb unit for distortion; it gives a kind of clear fuzz dirge. I like a slightly broken guitar sound.
GP: So we noticed. What about amps?
Entwhistle: Sound City, they’re an English amp. We both use sixteen twelve-inch speakers and two two-hundred watt amps. That way we get a nice even sound.
Townsend: We use Vox in the States . . . Super Beatles, four altogether.
GP: Picks and strings?
Entwhistle: We both use Herco heavy-gauge nylon picks. And I use Roto-Sound heavy-gauge wirewound strings; they’re only available in England.
Townsend: I use regular Fender Strings.
GP: Do you both play the same kind of guitars?
Entwhistle: I’ve a Fender Telecaster, one of twenty-five in existence; it’s a Precision Bass without the shavings.
Townsend: I have a Fender Stratocaster, a Telecaster, and I did have a Jazzmaster, one which I quite liked, but it got nicked . . . stolen. I’ve had a wide variety of guitars; one of the best was a Gibson Stereo; I shoved it into the amp, once, and it broke.

 

Photo Gallery

Bottom: Sound City; top: Hiwatt
Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, 1968

Ca. December 1968, the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus rehearsals, with unlabeled Sound City L100 amplifier head, with Hiwatt-style chicken head knobs, and the two 200w 4x12 cabinets are either Sound City 4x12 cabinets with Hiwatt badges or early herringbone grillecloth Hiwatt SE4122 cabinets. Guitar is 1968 Gibson SG Special. Effects pedal is Univox Super-Fuzz.

Ca. Spring 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier head, with Hiwatt-style chicken head knobs.

Ca. February-March 1969, recording sessions for Tommy, with unlabeled customized Sound City L100 amplifier head, with Hiwatt-style chicken head knobs. Guitar is Fender Electric XII 12-string.

Pete’s earliest uses of a Sound City L100 amplifier (bottom), along with a Marshall 1959 Super Lead, topped by a Grampian Reverb unit.

Ca. May 1967, Pete’s earliest uses of a Sound City L100 amplifier (bottom, with Sound City badge), along with a Marshall 1959 Super Lead, topped by a Grampian Reverb unit. Guitar is Fender Stratocaster fitted wtih rosewood Telecaster neck.

Sound City L100 control panel - Click to view.

Click to view detail. Ca. 1967, close-up of two of John’s Sound City L100 customized control panels, showing control configuration, from left to right: four inputs, Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, Treble, Bass, Master Volume.

Ca. 1967, multiple shots of two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, each with different blockscript Sound City nameplate badge; topped by a Grampian Reverb unit. Speakers cabinets are four Sound City 200w 4x12 cabinets, evidently held together with gaffer’s tape. -1 Ca. 1967, multiple shots of two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, each with different blockscript Sound City nameplate badge; topped by a Grampian Reverb unit. Speakers cabinets are four Sound City 200w 4x12 cabinets, evidently held together with gaffer’s tape. -3 Ca. 1967, multiple shots of two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, each with different blockscript Sound City nameplate badge; topped by a Grampian Reverb unit. Speakers cabinets are four Sound City 200w 4x12 cabinets, evidently held together with gaffer’s tape. -2

Ca. June 1967, multiple shots of two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, each with different blockscript Sound City nameplate badge; topped by a Grampian Reverb unit. Speakers cabinets are four Sound City 200w 4x12 cabinets, with herringbone grille evidently held together with gaffer’s tape. Guitar is Fender Stratocaster.

Ca. August 1968, Fillmore West, San Francisco, with three customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, two with round knobs, and the top unit with Hiwatt-style chicken-head knobs. Bottom amp is backup. Guitar is 1968 Gibson SG Special. Effect pedal is Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face.

Ca. August 1968, Fillmore West, San Francisco, with three customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, two with the usual small round knobs, and the top unit with Hiwatt-style chicken-head knobs. Bottom amp is backup. Guitar is 1968 Gibson SG Special. Effect pedal is Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face. Speaker cabinets are two horizontal unbadged (possibly Sunn) cabinets and four Sound City 200w 4x12s with herringbone grillecloth.

Ca. August 1968, possibly at the Singer Bowl, New York, with two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, with four Sound City 200w 4x12s with herringbone grillecloth. Guitar is Fender Stratocaster. Effect pedal is Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face.

Ca. August 1968, possibly at the Singer Bowl, New York, with two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, with four Sound City 200w 4x12s with herringbone grillecloth. Guitar is Fender Stratocaster. Effect pedal is Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face.

Ca. October 1967, two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, with two different Sound City badges. Cabs are two Sound City 200w 4x12s with herringbone grillecloth. Guitar is Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck.

Ca. October 1967, two customized Sound City L100 amplifiers, with two different Sound City badges. Cabs are two Sound City 200w 4x12s with herringbone grillecloth. Guitar is Gibson SG EDS-1275 double-neck.

Ca. February 1969, with Hiwatt rig.

Ca. February 1969, with Gibson SG Special and Sound City/Hiwatt rig.


 

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