Ashdown Engineering: 20 Years into the Game

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • Anniversary
• Created: July 10, 2017

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“Nate Mendel of the Foo Fighters continues work with us on sound and pedal,” Ashdown founder Mark Gooday says, as if it’s merely another statistic in Ashdown’s lengthy history.

The collaboration with the Foo Fighters bassist is apropos, however; Ashdown has been consulting the expertise of bass legends like John Entwistle of The Who JJ Burnel of The Stranglers before the company even opened its doors.

Sandwiched in between the two collaborations is a history of reliability and understanding the ins and outs of bass amplification as only someone with “bass in their blood” can.

Partially born out of necessity, and partially born out of a clever collaboration, Ashdown formed when Gooday left Trace Elliot and designed a full product line with his former Trace Elliot coworker Clive Button in just six months.

“As they say, the rest is history,” Gooday says. With a background in manufacturing and playing bass with an early Trace amp created a perfect storm. When he left Trace Elliot, all the cards were in line for Ashdown to move to the forefront of bass amp technology. In 2017, Ashdown remains the go-to for bassists who need an amp or pedal made by a bona fide bass veteran.

Back to Basics

Ashdown started at the most basic level, as most good things do; one employee in one garage, with 12 products in the first line. From there, Gooday purchased a 16,000 sq. foot industrial estate 15 years ago and has since expanded to 10 people on their staff and about 55 products. Not too far from the Ashdown Research and Development offices sits the old Trace Elliot building, and the Ashdown founder rents some buildings out to other companies to keep prices low for customers.

Despite these changes, Gooday still focuses on keeping prices low, the staff small, and products made in the United Kingdom.

“Let’s be honest, how many company’s make anything themselves in the UK or USA today? Really make it all in their own facility?” Gooday asks. “This allows us to make custom products and be very versatile, it does not mean we can stop offshore manufacture for higher volume products but it does mean we make more and more in the UK today.”

Despite pushing forward with their B Social amp, Ashdown celebrates their 20th anniversary by returning to their roots and making a 20th anniversary edition of ABM. The anniversary models of Ashdown’s signature amp will feature original speakers and parts with a new finish, all made in Ashdown’s own factory in the UK.

An Eye on Originality

With such a unique focus on bass amps, Ashdown has been able to push technology used in their products forward, always with the aim of standing out as an individual brand. Over Ashdown’s 20-year history, they’ve had mixed success with their dedication to originalty, but regret isn’t anywhere on Gooday’s mind.

“Ashdown has very much continued to be an innovator, with many companies copying much of what we do first,” he says. “We just try very hard to be a little different. It does not always work immediately – sometimes it takes 5 years, and other companies to do the same before we have success.” Gooday cites doing the Class D lightweight first with the Superfly as one of the many things that Ashdown pioneered, but have since been copied by other companies. There’s a certain element of frustration regarding industry copycats, but you know what they say about imitation; it’s the sincerest form of flattery. And of course, no one would bother unless the product truly have jumped though hoops to copy Ashdown technology is ultimately a testament to the British company’s knack for quality.

The Future of Ashdown

Mark Gooday, if anything, is a realist, second only to being an innovator. Looking towards the future, the Ashdown founder says that he wants to keep his staff small and never wants to return to his staff of hundreds like the days of Trace Elliot. Gooday says that a smaller staff helps to adapt quickly to the changes and trends in the market – something he sees as vital in the new age of technology.

“The MI market is NOT growing and has been in decline since the iPhone came to the world, and people stopped paying for music, films et cetera,” Gooday notes, although he says that he hopes the new vinyl music trend will help the music and musical instrument industry in the long run.

Gooday says the market won’t return to the pre-iPhone days until people start investing in music and venues again. In the meantime, Gooday plans to do more in home recording, like B social, and will also continue working with musicians on all fronts of the company. Because really, has Ashdown ever operated any other way?

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