Line 6 Inc. has already revolutionized the guitar amplifier industry. Now it's hoping do the same with the way online music is created.

With the help of venture firm Redpoint Ventures, the Thousand Oaks-based digital amplifier company is developing ways to allow musicians to create, record and alter music through the Internet. It is planning several Web-related products slated to debut in 2001 products it is reluctant to discuss for fear of tipping its hand to competitors.

But if history is any indication, Line 6 should continue to be very successful.

Only 4 years old, it is the fastest-growing music product company in the country, according to Music Trades magazine, the industry bible. Revenues continue to grow at a rate of about 100 percent a year, having jumped from $3.5 million in 1997 to $23 million in 1999. This year's sales are projected to be at least $40 million, according to Line 6 co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Marcus Ryle, who also says the privately held company is profitable.

The core of its business is the digital modeling amplifier, which Ryle and co-founder Michel Diodic invented and patented in 1996. The amp uses a digital signal processing computer chip. Before the product's introduction, all guitar amplifiers were made with vacuum tubes, and each had a signature sound. Blues guitarists might prefer using Fender amps, while rock guitarists used Marshalls, often stacking two of the huge amps on top of each other to produce the kind of volume and distortion recognized by anyone who's ever been to a rock concert.

Line 6 amps, using digital technology, can reproduce virtually any sound put out by any amplifier at any volume, making it extremely versatile.

"These are very sharp people," said David Angress, executive vice president of Agoura Hills-based Guitar Center Inc., the largest musical instrument retailer in the U.S. "They essentially deconstructed the popular amplifier and came up with an electronic algorithm to replicate it. It sounds remarkably like any amplifier you want."

Professional guitarists and recording studios jumped at the new product. Instead of having to buy different amps to create different sounds, a blues musician who wanted a country/western sound could simply use a Line 6 model. While traditional amplifiers still command the lion's share of the market, Line 6 has become the fourth or fifth biggest amplifier manufacturer in an industry that does around $400 million in sales a year.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.

Prev