Ile Kallio

I was going to Pori Jazz-festival in the summer of 2013. A week before the festival, my phone rang, and the caller was my good friend from Pori, a guitarist and sound-professional. He was asking, would I like to learn more about these amplifiers made by a local workshop and possibly contribute in showcasing them at a music shop during the festival. I was hesitant; what if the amplifier wouldn’t be any good? In my worst case-scenario, I would have been stuck trying to come up with praise of an amp, that I wasn’t sure even worked at all!

My friend convinced me that this particular amplifier would definitely be worth getting to know better for. His credibility to back up these claims came from his exquisite private collection of vintage-amplifiers. I asked him to give my number to the guys at Hehku and looked forward to their reply.

I got a call the next day. It was Markku Penttilä, who was very grateful for my interest. We agreed on that he would deliver a Hehku 15W combo for me to check out once I got to Pori. If I wouldn’t like it, we would forget the whole thing ever happened. So, we met the next Wednesday evening in a parking lot somewhere in Pori, and Markku presented me a flight case that read “Hehku Custom Amplifier” in bold font. Excitedly, I took the hood off – I wanted to see what these Hehkus looked like, and let me tell you the first impression was one to remember. The quality of craftsmanship was immaculate and the design was distinct and seductive!

We had an agreement that I would test Hehku on Thursday before noon and let them know how I felt about it after that. The schedule was quite tight, because the possible showcasing would take place on Friday afternoon. We stuck to the plan and I carried the amplifier into the living room of the place I was staying on Thursday. Thankfully the place in question was a detached house, otherwise there could have been some beef with the neighbours. I took my guitar out and connected it to the Hehku. Just the right amount of volume and there it was! Love at first chord!

I let Markku know that I would be delighted to be showcasing Hehku and that they had built an amazing machine. The showcasing-session was going to be so that it would still be a bit of a learning-process for me as well; it would have been impossible to completely get to know the amplifier inside and out within such a short period of time. However, the most important thing was already clear as a day: the sound was incredibly good and versatile! The power of this amplifier was the mentioned 15W, but it felt like it could have been at least twice as much.

We met with Jarmo Välimäki - the builder of Hehku amplifiers and the “Gyro Gearloose” behind them - on Friday. He told me about why these amplifiers don’t have circuit boards, but the technique operates on reliable point-to-point-base and how all components on them are carefully selected. My personal technical expertise is rather limited, but the most important thing is that Hehku delivers an excellent amplifier, bottom line. It gets the guitar sound damn good.

A month after this encounter I got myself my very own Hehku Little Bighorn 15 Combo. It has two 10’’ speakers: Celestion G10 Greenback and Eminence Legend. As it so happened, we had the first gig to promote a new orchestra called ‘Ile Kallio Big Rock Band’ immediately after I got it, so it got in on the action straight up and met all the expectations and promises. The gig was recorded and can probably be found on YouTube.

I can’t recommend these amplifiers enough. The craftsmanship is excellent, it looks extraordinarily good and pardon me for repeating myself, but it gets the guitar sound damn good.