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TUESDAY, MAY 31ST 7:30p.m.
1240 N. HOMAN CHICAGO, IL 60651
(773) 489-4830

Specimen HQ Ian Schneller
(1) Specimen HQ, located in Humboldt Park, (2) Ian Schneller shaping stock for a new bass

As Chicagoans, we are very fortunate to live in a culturally and artistically rich town amongst many artists, tinkerers, and dreamers. A shining star and local hero among these visionaries is Ian Schneller, founder of Specimen who for decades has been dreaming up and building the most creative and unusual musical instruments, amps and reproducers seen anywhere. Specimen's 5000 square foot shop in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood provides the workspace for such dream instruments and houses an amazing collection of tools, jigs, and parts with plenty of room to spare. It is here that Ian and his staff of technicians invent, design and build superior quality electric guitars, ukuleles, lutes, basses, violins and mandolins as well as elegant tube amps for instruments and Hi-Fi stereo systems and audiophile speaker systems.

    Ian Schneller with large Horn Speaker
Ian Scneller with big Horn SpeakerThis month EARS will venture into the realm of Specimen's creative workings and will meet and discuss with Ian in person. Many thanks to both Ian and Nadine Schneller for taking time out of their busy work flow to host EARS at Specimen. A testament to the build quality and curio of these products is evident in Specimen's list of clients that range from multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird to Chicago's own Rise Against. Musician Jack White recently ordered one of each of everything made by Specimen.....that should keep Ian and his staff busy for a while. Ian has been in collaboration with Andrew Bird on several projects recently including the Sonic Arboretum's debut at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, featuring a solo performance by Andrew and a virtual "arboretum" of horn speakers placed around the performance space. The horn speakers are also featured here in a performance by Andrew when he appeared as musical guest on David Letterman.

More about Specimen products and services.....

aluminum ukelele Electric Tiple Thin Front Electric Lute Peanut Guitar
A small sampling of Specimen's instruments:
(1) Aluminum Ukelele, (2) Electric Tiple, (3) Aluminum Guitar, (4) Electric Lute, (5) Peanut Guitar


All of Specimens instruments are handcrafted using traditional techniques (hand rasping and carving, etc., no CNC machines) and have a classic nitro-cellulose finish like that found on most high-end custom guitars. For the most part, none of the guitars feature an adjustable truss rod as this is the preferred format. In the case of commissioned instruments, Specimen is happy to use the customer's preferred choice of truss rod, hardware, finish, etc. They also provide consultation and recommendations. Most of the instruments are custom electric guitars and basses created from traditional materials, but some also feature unusual materials such as as phenolic, aluminum, bell brass, masonite, and exotic woods.

 Some Specimens are one-of-a-kind instruments created either to fulfill a commission or Specimen's own interests, while others have developed into standard models. Custom guitars like the Pippin, Maxwell and Luddite became a series of electric guitars built around common design features. The Aluminum Series includes instruments made from machined aluminum and includes guitars, basses, ukuleles, and mandolas. The Ukulele series includes electric ukuleles ranging from traditional to modern. And the Singletons are unique one-of-a-kind instruments including an electric upright bass, electric violin, electric tiple, mandolin, and guitars inspired by the 1960s Silvertone.

New Fifty--50 watt tube amp Petimor amp
Red Hi Fi Subwoffer with satellites
Specimen amps and speakers clockwise from top left:
(1) "Fifty Watt" guitar amp, (2) Petimor guitar amps, (3) Hi Fi stereo amp and 300 watt subwoofer,
(4) Little Horn speakers with 50 watt subwoofer

Tube Amps:

The inside of a Specimen tube amp conspicuously lacks such superfluous accessories as channel switching, effects loops, master volume, complex equalization circuits, extra gain stages, and distortion channels. This minimalist design effectively shortens the signal path, leaving far fewer places for failure to occur.

Ian and Andrew Bird Arboretum Joe Principe of Rise Against
(1) Ian with Andrew Bird and the Janus 1 spinning horn speaker
(2) Horn Speakers at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, August 5, 2010 with performance by Andrew Bird
(3) Joe Principe of Rise Against with his Specimen aluminum bass guitar

Little Horn Loudspeakers:

Resembling a colorful old-school Victrola phonograph, another unique product created by Specimen are the Little Horn Loudspeakers. Although they appear to be ripped out of the pages of a Dr. Suess book, they’re no fantasy. Like Specimen instruments, each is carefully handcrafted. The Little Horns can be used with almost any stereo system, and are also uniquely suited to low-power (10-watts or less per channel) single-ended triode (SET) tube amplifiers— a standard for audiophiles everywhere. These speakers can be paired with Specimen's matching stereo tube amplifier to create a unique ensemble that an iPod or other sound source can be plugged directly into. Or for a minimalist setup, the Little Horns can be paired up with Specimen's satellite/sub-woofer. Its a small, 11-inch cube containing a 50-watt sub-woofer and two 25-watt satellite feeds for the Little Horns.

Guitar Making class Student building guitar Learn to build tube amps
Students learn the art of guitar and amp making at Specimen

Chicago School of Guitar Making:

In August 2005, Specimen Guitar Shop opened The Chicago School of Guitar Making, the only school in Chicago where students can learn guitar repair and building from a professional luthier. They are also the only school teaching the craft of tube amplifier building.  The school is located in the spacious guitar shop and outfitted with individual workbenches custom-made for the students. They have a fully-equipped wood and metal shop, and a wealth of tools and supplies available for student use. All courses are taught by Ian Schneller. Since 2005 more than 1000 students have enrolled in the school.

Expert Repair Services:

Since 1986 Specimen has been repairing instruments and amplifiers as well.....anything with strings or tubes! This includes guitars, basses, mandolins, violins, banjos, cellos, upright basses, and more. Musicians from Chicagoland and around the world bring their gear to Specimen where they stock replacement parts, many brand name pickups, and have an enormous supply of esoteric used and vintage parts. Specimen is known for a quick turnaround—1 week or less for setups and basic amp repairs—and they can do RUSH service (24-hour turnaround) when timing is critical. All estimates are free.

Specimen logo

See you at Specimen!


- There is plenty of street parking on Homan and surrounding side streets.
- The meeting is open to non-members and members alike.
- There will be NO food available at this meeting. Show up hungry and you will go hungry.
- Adult beverages provided courtesy of EARS.
- 7:30 p.m. Start time
EARS wants YOU as a member.

If you have considered joining EARS, this is an excellent opportunity. We are working hard to bring more events like this to our members..... and your membership makes it possible. It's easy to join, click the red button below to join online OR you can join at the meeting when you arrive.
Thanks from EARS and hope to see you at Specimen!

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Esteemed fellow member and former EARS president Harry M.F. Brotman, has made the very generous offer to MATCH the highest donation made toward the Miracles for Michael Fund, for the benefit of Michael Giampa and his wife and kids. Michael is a wonderful studio tech who spoke at the meeting at Jim Tulio's Butcher Boy Studio in 2010 and did most of the tech work there. He was recently diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. We hope you will consider taking Harry up on his generosity and help out. Donations should be in the form of a Check made out to "Miracles for Michael Fund" and mailed directly to:

Harry Brotman
4378 Meadowlark Ct.
Gurnee, IL 60031

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