Lectrolab was the primary brand name for amplifiers made by Sound Projects Company in Chicago Illinois, Cicero Illinois and/or Venice Florida. For the purposes of this website, “Lectrolab” and “Sound Projects Company” can be used interchangeably. Identical amps have been found with both names on them, and many Lectrolab amps have a Sound Projects Co. logo as well.
See cool 1960’s catalog advertising here: Branding and Andvertising
Sound Projects Company began making electric musical instruments and amplifiers in the 1930’s at the latest. We do not know when the business began. The earliest evidence of their existence is:
- A few Sound Projects Co. Troubadour lap steels which have similarities to the well-known Rickenbacker “Frying Pan”. The shiny tail plate says “Sound Projects Company/Chicago, Illinois”. “Troubadour” is inked on the front under the strings. Lap steel collector Robert Lurvey estimates this guitar as “probably mid-thirties, maybe late-thirties” in this video.
- The Troubadour Lap Steel was sold with a matching amplifier, also marked “Troubadour”. This sad example is the only one found to date, and almost certainly is from the mid-1930’s:
- The bad boy below was found in a barn, and is probably the oldest amp with the Lectrolab brand you will find on this website, or anywhere else. Probably built in the 1940’s, maybe earlier.
Lectrolab/Sound Projects produced a wide range of amplifiers over the years. Twenty-four amplifier models have been identified as of this writing, and there are surely more. The amps range from 3 watt combos with a 6” speaker and one volume control, to 25 watt heads with two channels, reverb, tremolo, and matching 2 x 12” speaker cabinets. See a summary of these on the AMP MODELS page. Lectrolab also made a Fuzz pedal, PA cabinets, and guitar or steel pickups, there are photos of those items on this site.
Lectrolab produced products that were attractively priced. They were sold to consumers through department store mail order catalogs. This site displays example catalog pages from the Aldens catalog and the Bennet Brothers Blue Book of Quality catalog. They may have been sold within department stores (Aldens operated stores), and/or music stores, but there is no information yet to support this.
The people who started, owned, and managed the Sound Projects/Lectrolab business are unknown. 1960-era amps often have handwritten initials inside the chassis, probably from an assembler or inspector. This is as close as we’ve come to knowing the people affiliated with the company!
Lectrolab amps are typically labeled with the location of the company on the control panel, usually Chicago, Il. or Cicero, Il. Cicero is a suburb of Chicago. At one point in its history Chicago “annexed” part of Cicero, so Lectrolab may have changed their address but not their location! Sometime in the mid to late 1960’s, Lectrolab amps began to display both Chicago IL and Venice FL on their labeling. Nothing else is known about this additional location. Perhaps they outsourced some production to a company in Venice, or opened a facility there.
After their beginning in the 1930’s or 1940’s Lectrolab made amps up to and into the 1960’s, but it is unlikely they survived beyond that decade.
It is probable that transistors and the rise of Japan Inc. killed the Lectrolab. Before 1965 transistor musical instrument amps were rare. By the end of the 1960’s transistor amps dominated the guitar amp market, especially at the lower price points. Even Fender was making transistor amps. There was one reason for this: Cost. Transistor amps used lower cost materials than tube amps, weighed significantly less and were thus cheaper to ship. Also, by the mid 1960’s Japanese companies which had honed their solid-state production skills on transistor radios were able to take advantage if that experience, leveraging lower labor cost and improved business processes. Not incidentally, they had also created distribution channels into the United States. Many smaller American tube amp manufacturers went down in this “Teisco Tsunami” which reshaped the American musical instrument business landscape. Lectrolab was probably one of the casualties. Too bad Detroit didn’t notice…
In recent years, someone in the Midwest attempted to market and manufacture reissues of a few Lectrolab amp models. That endeavor ended in litigation with customers, and the shuttering of the business. There is currently a company called Sound Projects located in the Netherlands which has no connection to the American company discussed here.