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Le Renifleur 01/20/2016

Stimer M10 : Le Renifleur's user review

« Django Reinhardt's amp ! »

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Value For Money : Poor Audience: Advanced Users
As rare as it is pricey, this myth of an amp was the one Django Reinhardt was using by the end of his (too short) career.

A bit of history*

« Jean Guen made his first guitar pickups and amplifiers in 1974, the year he jointly founded a radio device build & repair shop in Courbevoie (near Paris) with a friend. The Stimer brand was born in 1947. Yves Guen was hired circa 1948 as a wiring specialist when Jean's friend and associate left the venture. That very year, the very first industrial pickup was released: the Stimer ST48! », told me French AudioFanzine member "Super Potiron", a real specialist in the history of French guitar amplification pioneers.

According to Christian Guen (Yves's son) on his website, Yves Guen « met with Django Reinhardt, the famous guitarist, and both men decided to work together on a pickup project. Creating a pickup for Django was a fabulous endeavour. »

At the same period, the Guen brothers created and built tube amps, also in the Stimer brand : the 6-watt M6, 8-watt M8 and 12-watt M12. The M10 is a 10-watt variation which appeared in 1953. The Nuance was released by the end of 1955 or early 1956.

Django Reinhardt made Stimer famous when he used their pickups and amps and made advertisements for them. Gypsy players soon adopted the brand, as did a lot of jazzmen in the post-war era: Les Paul, Henri Crolla, Marcel Bianchi, Maurice Ferret, René Chaput, Barney Kessel...

« From 1946 to 1957, Stimer pickups and amplifiers were all built in Courbevoie », Super Potiron says. After the Guen brothers split ways in 1958, Yves kept the Stimer brand going, still in the Paris area (in Maison-Laffite then Sartrouville) until his death in 1986.

Technical aspects

It's a 10W, A/B class, full-tube amp with an EZ80 rectifier tube, a pair of 6AQ5, a 12AX7 and a 6AT6. The speaker with included output transformer is a 22cm wide Vega or Gé-Go depending on the availability. The amp has two distinct inputs and an additional phono-dedicated input. Please note than unless you have the original ST48, you'll need an adapter to plug a female jack on the original screw plug so as to use it with nowaday's standard connectors.

The sound

A very distinctive sound that evokes the 1950s-60s Paris of guinguettes and so on. For a more precise idea, go to the Media section and watch the video of gypsy jazz player Christophe Lartilleux, who uses a M10.

The price

This is where it hurts. For a few years, M12 remakes have been available with jack connectors for approximately €1,500... An original M10 will cost you slightly more, but you'll have to add another few hundreds for a complete overhaul as high tension condensers don't tend to age well at all.
But after all, its "Django's amp"!

* Edited on 01/20/16