CLEVELAND - Dr. Z, aka Michael D. Zaite, starting playing around with tube amplifiers when he was only 13 years old. His father owned a TV repair shop, which meant there were plenty of parts and tubes to experiment with.
Zaite was also a drummer. Whenever fellow musicians were around he would always tinker with his bandmates' amplifiers. He always had a desire to make them sound better.
"My natural curiosity was to fiddle with them. Little did they know what I was doing to them," laughed Zaite, owner of Dr. Z amplifiers.
Joe Walsh was one of the earliest big name artists to become a fan of the Z amplifier. Since then, other artists have joined the Dr. Z bandwagon. John Mayall, Walter Becker, Steve Earl and Steve Miller have all used various Dr. Z amps.
All of the amplifiers use older style vacuum tubes that tend to have a "warmer" sound compared to solid state amps.
"This is basically 50s technology and that's when rock and roll started," said Zaite.
Dr. Z amps are now considered to be one of the most successful of the "boutique" amp manufacturers around.
"We're in Cleveland, Ohio hand building amplifiers like it's 1959. It's unheard of," said Michael Purkhister, Dr. Z technician.
Dr. Z amplifiers are sold all over the world. China, Japan, and several European countries stock these made-in-Cleveland amplifiers.
"We send skids and skids abroad every single month," said Zaite.
Dr. Z amplifiers are made entirely in Maple Heights, Ohio – a suburb just outside of Cleveland. They are all hand made by 15 Dr. Z employees. It takes almost eight weeks to build one amplifier.