Atlanta Tube Amp
About Steve McKinley

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So just who is this guy, Steve McKinley...

I’m Steve McKinley, founder of Atlanta Tube Amp.  I was born and raised in Florida.  I like to think that I inherited my mother’s love for music and my father’s logic and technical intellect.  My mother's involvement and love of theater taught me to appreciate music and all the work that goes into a musical production.  She would play records of Broadway shows of the late sixties and early seventies.  My Dad was more of a rebel so the soundtrack of my childhood ranged from Chorus Line to the Eagles.  My Dad has a mechanical engineering background and is profoundly logical.  He owned and operated a roof truss & cabinet business.  When my brother and I were old enough, he would let us "help" him in the shop, which was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed working with tools and equipment and was amazed at my new powers of creation.  My father taught me the limitations of linear thought.  He taught me to step back and see the big picture while keeping in mind the importance of the fine details.  My Mom and Dad taught me many of the same lessons through each of their passions.  They are brilliant and I am infinitely grateful for them.


As a pre-teen, I was into riding and tinkering with mini bikes and off-road motorcycles.  My first motorcycle was a Yamaha YZ80, which could rocket straight up a wall if gravity allowed. My Mom was worried that I would get seriously hurt because I often came home from a day of riding covered in mud and blood (but with a smile on my face).  When my interests turned to girls and rock-n-roll, I told my parents I’d like to sell my motorcycle and get a guitar. That very day my Dad drove me to Ed’s Guitars in Miami and bought me a used, early model Music Man Stingray II and a Peavey Studio Pro amp.  It was so cool.  At first I was terrible at playing guitar but it sounded awesome to me. There were family jokes about me skinning cats rather than playing guitar.  My stepbrother, Gene Crout (yes, the Gene Crout - composer, engineer & producer of Audio Digital), had a Gibson Sonex and was far better than me on guitar, taught me the chords to play Rush’s Fly By Night.  I was on my way.


Playing in bands while in high school, I needed a more powerful amp so I got a 50-watt Marshall (solid state sizzle). A buddy in one of my early bands, Demons & Wizards, had a Peavey Classic, a wah, and some other pedals. He had a wicked sound and it introduced me to the world of effects pedals.


As blind luck would have it, my first pedal was a BOSS SD-1 (which I still have, have modded many times and use regularly). I had no idea of its circuit’s significance but that’s another matter all together. Other guitars, amps, and pedals came and went but I was always searching for a better sound.


While playing in bands during my 20’s I began learning about fixing amps the hard way … when they broke at gigs (the worst possible time). After a few amp failures, I learned to bring along an emergency kit with some tools and spare parts.  Eventually I started to consider what could be done to avoid problems before they happen.  I paid more attention to equipment and what worked. I started helping out friends with their amps.  Soon word started to get around and I was working on amp’s locally.


While I had learned some things through experience, I wanted a more thorough understanding of amplifiers.  In the early 90’s the Internet was still rolling around on training wheels.  The many books and seminars we have today were not yet available either.  My only resources were local music stores so I started talking to amp techs every chance I got.  I soon realized that I had much to learn.  For example, I remember the day I learned the dangers of repairing an amp without discharging it, even when it’s unplugged. There were so many times I could have gotten fried!  Through the years I accumulated knowledge in various ways from the likes of Aspen Pittman, Gerald Weber, Jeff Bakos, Ken Fischer and Ritchie Flieger. While I’ve come a long way, I still have a thirst for knowledge.  There’s always something new to learn.


In 1998 I opened Atlanta Tube Amp and worked out of my band’s rehearsal room. This worked out for a while but I soon ran out of space and I moved my workshop to my garage (where ATA currently exists).  Over the years I’ve expanded my services to include the dying art of speaker repair (so my customers can keep their amps original) and effects pedal modifications.  I offer popular mods (like converting your SD-1 to a TS-808) and my own custom mods.  In 2005 I launched Steve McKinley Electronics (see the Links tab).


Feel free to contact me for small talk or long discussions about my passion: tube amps.  My wife tells me to give people the short answer first and if they want to know more, they’ll ask.


One last thing, if you’re thinking about tinkering around with your amp and don’t know for sure what you’re doing, please stop and ask a professional as it could save your life. There are high voltages involved even with an unplugged amp and you really can get badly hurt or killed.


Thanks for visiting the Atlanta Tube Amp site.


The world of amps is a fascinating one so go forth and find YOUR tone.

Call Steve McKinley at 404-545-3581 or e-mail