Some Barefaced history
How a business was born, more by accident than by design - despite it being built on a product that's entirely about design, not accident!
The DIY days
Back in 2003, dissatisfied with the performance of the existing bass cabs on the market, I decided to put my engineering knowledge to good use and design a cab that did exactly what I wanted (within the bounds of physics!) In early 2008, having all but taught myself a second engineering degree in the process (and certainly spending more hours on this than I had on my first mechanical engineering degree - much of that time having been spent playing bass!) and been through countless different designs, I finally started building what became the Big One. I wrote about this process online, merely as a "here's my innovative DIY thing" and there was quite a bit of interest, so when certain components were going to cost more to ship than to buy singly I decided to buy more than needed for my personal cabs and to build a handful of cabs in my spare time for the interested parties.
2008-2010: A bloke in a shed...
Well it wasn't exactly a bloke in a shed. At first it was a bloke in a garage - that lasted for a handful of cabs. Then that bloke outsourced the woodwork to a team of carpenters, with the enclosures coming back to the garage to be finished off. We soon ran out of storage space in the garage and had to take on some more space. Then we added a second team of carpenters for some new models. And another bloke part-time helping finish off the cabs. And the boss quit his day gig and went Barefaced full-time.
2011: A proper business unit!
By 2011 the situation was a bit different! We moved into our first proper business unit, whilst ye olde garage became a spray shop. The model range had broadened further, demand increased with cabs go further and wider around the world. We gained our first full-time employee and then had to let the part-time employee go in the Autumn when the Greeks attempted to singlehandedly drive Europe back into recession, just when we'd moved into a larger business unit to handle demand... Thankfully that panic didn't last.
What started out as one model designed for my needs became now a range of cabs to suit the tonal, amplification, portability and loudness requirements of most bassists. We continued to stick to our guns regarding the importance of careful and accurate design, and to believe in local manufacturing and direct sales to provide a high quality product at an affordable price.
2012: The birth of the micro-factory
In late 2011 we came to the conclusion that despite our cabs not being inexpensive, now that we were having to pay VAT, spending more time than ever on making the cosmetics as perfect as possible, still dealing with the rising costs of running a business and the ever-present spectre of commodity price fluctuations (especially neodymium), that we couldn't continue outsourcing the woodwork to UK carpenters. I strongly believe in the importance of bringing manufacturing back to the UK - and also establishing global manufacturing where everyone is paid a fair wage - and so we weren't about to outsource production to the far-east. Instead we decided to purchase a CNC milling machine to cut our plywood and bring the production completely in-house. Anyone who bought a Barefaced cab in 2012 can tell you that's easier said than done, as our numerous very patient customers mostly ended up waiting months longer than planned!
The great thing about the CNC machine is not only has it allowed us to regain some profitability (which is fairly fundamental if you want us to continue providing great customer service, developing new products, and making a small dent in the balance of trade by manufacturing products in the UK and sending a fair amount back out around the world) but more importantly from our customers' perspective it allows us a lot of flexibility in how we design the cabs. So although our pre-CNC cabs look superficially identical to our post-CNC cabs they're actually very different in how they're built and braced. The final thing in 2012 was at long last finishing the '69er, which we (and its first few owners) are absolutely thrilled with. It sounds even better than we remembered and has turned out to be ridiculously light and rather cute for a pretty big cab. Very musical, real fun to play through whatever your amp, bass or genre preferences.
2013: CNCing at speed and Generation Three
We spent the earlier part of 2013 getting quicker at cutting and building cabs (upgrading the CNC machine helped a lot!) and working on LEAN manufacturing processes. We finalised the new designs and received the first run of 12XN550 drivers and started shipping Generation Three models out. Production is getting smoother and more efficient but we're running out of space here and looking to move to a larger unit early in 2014.
2014: Barefaced Factory Four
2018: Tolex Machine
2020: Barefaced Sound Lab
The model history - Compact - winter '08, Big One - spring '09, Vintage - spring '09, Midget - summer '09
The first Barefaced model to be launched was the Compact in the late winter of 2008. This was followed by the Big One in spring 2009. The Vintage then joined the party (at which point we started offering the silver cloth grill option on most of the range) before in summer 2009 the first Midgets arrived. Then came a shift to our unique dual-density plywood which further reduced the weight, and at the same time we switched over to metal corners and rubber feet from the previous plastic stacking corners (although all the Midgets had metal corners and rubber feet from the start despite the first few Midgets being the older ply).
Bracing improvements - Super Twelve - spring '10, Super Fifteen - early winter '11
The internal bracing has further developed as we've come up with cunning ideas for adding stiffness and/or removing excess mass. The Super Twelve (launched in spring 2010) uses the new bracing method (which was first applied to the Midget and since passed onto the Compact and any new designs), thus the Compact is on its third internal design and the Midget on its second. In summer 2010 a minor revision was driven by the incredible power and remarkably low weight of the latest micro-amps, whereby at full blast the amp has enough power to cause small vibrations in the top panel of the cab which have no audible effect but are enough to make the amp move about. Sorted. Then when we switched to CNC machining we changed the bracing completely - the cabs are now even stronger and stiffer.
At this point we were on the fourth version of the internal damping, where we focused our energies on reducing the backwave as much as possible (for maximum midrange punch and treble clarity) without killing the port resonance (keeping the lows as big as possible). That approach was quite unique but very effective. We were on Bracing v3.0 and Damping v3.0 from mid 2010 to early 2012. And then on Bracing v4.0 and Damping v4.0 thanks to the CNC machine - the damping is now raised away from the main panels in many spots which improves its ability to attenuate midrange bounce by acting on a higher velocity lower pressure part of the wave (as in TL designs).
An ongoing process has been improving the exterior details so the cabs look as expensive as they sound - things like matching corner and cabinet radii, improving the toughness and consistency of our textured polymer finish, changing the spraying process so it's the exact same finish colour behind the grill and inside the ports as on the outside of the enclosure and improving the appearance of the optional silver cloth grills (now with white piping). The cloth grill frames are now cut on the CNC machine as are the mounts for the steel grills, reducing the weight and improving the fit and appearance. If you're going to turn up at band practice with a comically small or light cab, the better it looks, the less sceptical they'll be. In the past we might have relied on the sheer force of tone to silence their doubts!
Discontinued products - Generation 1 and Generation 2
In January 2011 we sold the last example of the cab that started it all - the Big One. It remains an awesome piece of work, a tour-de-force that flattens most competitor's products if big clean sound is your goal. However we now have a bigger and a smaller version in the Big Twin and Big Baby which rather makes the Big One surplus to requirements. Thank you Big One, you did well, and may all those who gig with you enjoy your fatness, loudness and lightness for many years to come! Also, in summer 2010 we discontinued the Vintage, a Compact spin-off with two 15"s, variable port tuning and the first silver cloth grill we did. Ironically the last Vintage was an unVintage variant with a black steel grill! The aim with the Vintage was for it to be used with a valve amp but as the majority of owners didn't then the wide format enclosure didn't really make sense. We had two cabs replace it - the Super Fifteen, a narrower, deeper, shorter, stronger and stiffer 2x15" which sounds very similar to the Vintage and, for those using valve aka tube amps, the '69er.
In September 2013 the entire Generation 2 range (Midget, Midget T, Compact, Super Twelve, Super Twelve T, Super Fifteen, Big Baby T and Big Twin T) were discontinued as we launched the radical new Generation 3 models. The only pre-Gen 3 model that continued in production was the '69er.
Continuous research and development
We pushed the boundaries of what was possible with bass cab design when we launched our first model and we're not going to stop trying to push those boundaries - stay tuned!