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  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    The amp I gigged with the most was a 1960 Pro. It failed once in the ~30 years I had it. A tube broke in transit. I didn't realize that happened, and I turned the amp on and started playing. It went bang, and smoke came out. The repair was about the same cost as regular servicing, IIRC. IME, pretty much any tube amp repair is an hour of a tech's labor (2 at most). Caps and resistors add few dollars. The big variable is tubes (and the willingness to pay extra for NOS)...John
    Mine was a mid 60's Pro 1x15 (no reverb). Never a lick of problems...and the fat tones! Oh my!

    Back when I gigged regularly ('60s - 70's) it lived in the trunk of my car, got banged around Los Angeles' chittlin' circuit bars n clubs, and toured overseas (twice) with the USO in SoEast Asia, shuttled around in Army Jeeps, Half-Tracks, Hueys and C130's, during the monsoon season...all with ZERO problems!

    I was a young and dumb kid to have EVER let that rig go!

  2. #32
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    Where actual clones are possible, I think it really comes down to how close you can get the specs/tolerances and whether suitable parts are still made/available.

    So, it seems like the market for 50's tweed fender clones has borne out a huge number of high quality, close spec clones, and I think there are great reasons to use one of those, over the originals. But properly, serviced I don't think there's any increased risk of failure, compared to new clone tube amp. So if you've got an original, go for it, unless you want to keep it safe at home.

    Now for something like my 1939 EH-185, even the clones are not remotely "exact". There's nobody making suitable field coil speakers, so the designs are already altered to account for the permanent magnet speakers that have to be used. So, there is a certain quality that is NOT replicate-able even with the good clones available.

    But, at 75% of my gigs, I use a clone: the Vintage 47 VA-185G. It's a modification of the Vintage 47 Valco-based circuit design that is designed to give a slightly earlier sound (more 1939 than 1947). It does NOT have a field coil, or the exact circuit or tube line up. So, it is a different amp. But, luckily for me, it is pretty much in the ballpark, and so much closer than any other suitable 12AX7 based circuit. And it's about 50% the weight of the original. So, at the gigs where I need portability of over exact reproduction, I bring the V'47. But the gigs where I'm already bringing heavy stuff, I bring the original.
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  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74 View Post
    My conclusion is that amps are no different than guitars in that what with one thing and another, what comes out of the factory may not be quite ready for Prime Time, but with a good set-up and a good going-over, can become reliable gigging machines, good for years, if not decades, of service.
    Not to quibble too much, but electrical failure does not occur much with old guitars, whereas with tube amps tubes and caps definitely deteriorate over time and with usage. So you could reliably plug in a 50 year-old guitar without *too much* risk, whereas a tube amp would be questionable. Plus of course the voltage issues with the amp, lack of proper grounding, etc.

    I don't have a lot of experience with old amps, but I just sold a 1970 Electra bass guitar I rescued from the garbage and which plays and sounds as well as the day it was made.

  4. #34
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    BTW, on a slight tangent, what killed Keith Relf? Was it a "badly grounded guitar" as has often been said, or a badly grounded amp? I'm guessing the latter...

  5. #35
    Hope I don't derail this thread, but I took the plunge and sold my 80's marshall stack (JCM 800) to aquire a Kemper Profiler.

    I have been quite satisfied with the capabilities of my fender Mustang III v2 (a $250 dollar amp) and still have a great stable of vintage tube amps.

    I am still learning the kemper. My favorite tube amp to date is the Rivera Era Concert amps (very under rated). I have princetons, deluxe's twins, etc. but I have a couple Fender Concerts 80's era (mainly as a backup).

    The fact that kemper lets you profile you amp collection or buy studio quality profiled amps (like a Dumble) for $10.00 is quite intriguing.

    It could be that some of my hearing loss from all those great 70's concerts (including George Benson Weekend in LA stuff) doesn't allow me to disertain a difference in sound but the kemper to me is a great investment considering what you might spend for a vintage or boutique amp. I am still not parting with my vintage amps but I love the notion of profiling an amps sound.

    Whether or not it is guitar, the amp, the effects, or the nut that exist right behind the guitar, we will be chasing tone until the day we die. The Kemper's take on how to address these issues is the most intriguing of all and the price of admission is about 2K or so.
    Last edited by rhoadsscholar; 09-15-2017 at 12:01 AM.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doctor Jeff View Post
    BTW, on a slight tangent, what killed Keith Relf? Was it a "badly grounded guitar" as has often been said, or a badly grounded amp? I'm guessing the latter...
    Neither. Back in the day, Amps/PAs were two-prong plugged affairs. If your guitar amp and the PA were inserted into the mains opposite of each other, you would get a tremendous, potentially lethal, shock when your lip hit the mic. This was obviated when all amps/PAs became three-pronged plugged. Only one way to plug in, and all amps are now always the same polarity.

    Rodies/Techs used to go around with a VOM and make sure that everyone was the same polarity and reverse the polarity of any offending amp, so that nobody got zapped. Still, in the 50s-70s plenty of performers got killed.

    When my playing/performing partner uses his Tweed Vibrolux (still has original plug) I run his amp and the PA on the same circuit and do the VOM check to ensure that I have his polarity identical to the PA. If not, I turn the tweed amp plug around and recheck. He's too good a blues artist to lose. I sure wish he'd let me put a grounded plug on the amp, though.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    ... Neither. Back in the day, Amps/PAs were two-prong plugged affairs. If your guitar amp and the PA were inserted into the mains opposite of each other, you would get a tremendous, potentially lethal, shock when your lip hit the mic. This was obviated when all amps/PAs became three-pronged plugged. Only one way to plug in, and all amps are now always the same polarity...
    That's not what happened to Relf (see The Day Ex-Yardbirds Singer Keith Relf Electrocuted Himself with a Guitar for details). For years, the rumor was that he died playing electric guitar in the bathtub, but the internet seems to have killed that one off.

    More generally, just because there's a three prong plug on both amp and PA, that doesn't mean you can't get zapped by the mic. This has happened to me many times. There are lots of improperly wired outlets out there.

    John

  8. #38
    Here's my amp reliability experience.

    1. 1964 Ampeg Reverberocket, purchased new. Worked without a hitch for about 35 years. I blew the speaker playing rock and replaced it. Recapped it due to hum at about year. Eventually it started crackling intermittently. Back and forth to techs, who did various things but never solved the problem. I later traced it to a loose RCA jack to the reverb spring unit. But, every now and then something crackles and I haven't figured it out. I wouldn't trust it on a gig, but it's the best sounded amp I've ever owned. I'd say that a Fender HRD was the best I ever played, but only at low volume.

    2. 1985 Mesa Boogie Mark III. Has worked perfectly all these years under very light use. No problems at all. Doesn't hum. Has never needed a new tube.

    3. A Yamaha JX40 -- probably from around 1980. Has always worked perfectly. Sadly, it never really sounded very good.

    4. A Roland JC55. Purchased used maybe 15 years ago. I've had to open it and resolder all the joints where the pots are attached to the board. Twice. I never want any electronic device where anything with mechanical stress is soldered into a PC board. Jacks, pots and tubes should be chassis mounted and attached to the board with wires.

    5. Roland KB150. Purchased used maybe 4 years ago. No problems at all.

    6. I had a Fender Twin silverface back in the 70s. JBLs. No problems but it weighed a ton.

    7. Crate practice amp GFX15. This is a great sounding amp, but both I've seen had same problem. No strain relief on the speaker wires where they leave the chassis. Eventually, the solder joint on the connector to the board gets iffy and the amp cuts out intermittently. Resolder it, add some strain relief and it works. This is an interesting amp. They sell used for about $40 and really do sound great. About 12 lbs. I do big band rehearsals with it. Not quite loud enough to solo over horn backgrounds, but works fine with just the rhythm section.

    I'm not sure there's a discernible pattern here with regard to tube vs ss being more reliable. I think maybe it's original quality of manufacture. Ampeg and Mesa built them like tanks. Roland and Crate, not so much. Yamaha gets credit -- I've never had anything from Yamaha that wasn't a good value.

  9. #39
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    RP, Intermittent noises are generally solvable but it takes time, many techs "on the clock" may be hesitant to do it all.

    Here are my experiences that fix the majority of noise issues... not in any order:

    Retention or replace speaker push connectors and clean / burnish the lugs, retention and clean (maybe even replace) tube sockets, retouch all solder connections (yup a PITA) , and retention or replace jacks, clean / flush thoroughly all pots. If the amp has edge connectors and ribbon wire connectors, burnishing the PCB contacts with a pencil eraser and or replacing the interconnecting ribbon cables. Look for metallized polyester caps with cracks on the covering at the wire bond ends, and replace them.

    Depending on the amp, it could take a few hours to go through all of this but it may bring an amp out of the bedroom or studio back into a gig :-)
    Regards,

    Gary

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    No.

    Old amps are at least as robust as new ones. I have both new (small modeling) and old (for most of my music life 2-3 different tube amps, now one 78 PR). The new ones are getting much more use outside of home/studio lately, but that's for reasons of portability, not age (well, my age, but not the amp's). Whenever I have an opportunity to use my old amp I carpe that diem. I love my little modeling amps; they're practical and sound really good for their size. I don't mind using whatever amp is provided by a venue when I don't want to schlep gear. But nothing beats the real thing. With the exception of the Champ I bought new in high school, my tube amps have happened to be old, as opposed to clone or reissue. But they sound great and they're not delicate, so it's nuts not to use them (and now that my son is approaching roadie age...)

    John
    Cool... Yeah fine for little jazz gigs around town. I wouldn't want to tour with something like that though. I wouldn't take me old Gibson either, TBH...

  11. IMO, boutique amps do not get you to the promised land and neither do historic reissue guitars.
    This has been my experience which most of what i 've played too. Great sound, but different. On the other hand, i have a friend that has built a few fender clone amps, as close to the original specs as he could find, and i thought they sounded pretty similar.

    Thing is, an old tube amp is quite roadworthy, if serviced by a knowledgeable technician. It's a pretty basic circuitry. I think i 'd rather get a vintage piece and restore it, rather than get a new reissue if the price was about the same.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter View Post

    Thing is, an old tube amp is quite roadworthy, if serviced by a knowledgeable technician. It's a pretty basic circuitry. I think i 'd rather get a vintage piece and restore it, rather than get a new reissue if the price was about the same.
    That's what I like about those old amps: eyelet and turret boards are sturdy and easy to work on. With basic knowledge, a chopstick and a soldering iron you can solve most problems yourself!
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  13. #43
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    That a good point. Hand wired is much easier to fix.

  14. #44
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    +1 hand wired circuits are a breeze to work with.

  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    That's not what happened to Relf (see The Day Ex-Yardbirds Singer Keith Relf Electrocuted Himself with a Guitar for details). For years, the rumor was that he died playing electric guitar in the bathtub, but the internet seems to have killed that one off.

    More generally, just because there's a three prong plug on both amp and PA, that doesn't mean you can't get zapped by the mic. This has happened to me many times. There are lots of improperly wired outlets out there.

    John
    According to Wiki, he was playing in the basement studio of his flat in England when he died. It's 230 volts--don't know enough about English wiring (or electricity in general, for that matter...) to know about the polarity and plugs. In any event, I think the issue wasn't that his *guitar* wasn't well grounded. It was just a conduit for the voltage coming through the amp.

    On a side note, when I was a kid I read a Reader's Digest article about a guy who electrocuted himself playing electric guitar at a poolside. I have never ever played a guitar within 300 feet of a pool since that time.

  16. #46
    Old archtops are just as 'needy' as an old tube amp. Potentiometers, glue, wood, plastic and metal all can and will deteriorate.

    I also play clarinet. It is interesting that clarinets are considered disposable items. Not considering the unplayable historic pre-Boehm and pre-Oehler clarinets, there is not a vintage clarinet market like the vintage guitar and amp market.

  17. I 've also had a fair share of problems with boutique amps over the years. I think there 's something to be said about popular builders that have been building amps by the thousands for decades. They 've kind of faced every possible problem already and many times have found the best solutions. Things like handling heat, high volume, the road, etc..

  18. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    +1 hand wired circuits are a breeze to work with.
    Repairing, absolutely!

    Restoration is a different issue.

    Cutting, and forming new cloth wires in the same positions that the original wires were placed and doing real tweed (as opposed to tweed naugabeast) and wood restoration / stabilizing are definite time consuming projects. I've done a few for myself, I don't think many would want to pay to have it done.
    Regards,

    Gary

  19. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    Neither. Back in the day, Amps/PAs were two-prong plugged affairs. If your guitar amp and the PA were inserted into the mains opposite of each other, you would get a tremendous, potentially lethal, shock when your lip hit the mic. This was obviated when all amps/PAs became three-pronged plugged. Only one way to plug in, and all amps are now always the same polarity.
    A couple weeks ago I was checking out a recent 2-pronged acquisition and comparing it to my 2-prong Ampeg Jet. I went to unplug from one and and into the other and had my hand on the Jet chassis while pulling the cable from the other amp - ZAP!!! The new acquisition now has 3-prong and updating the Jet is my next soldering project.

    Luckily no damage to me or the amps, and the jolt brought back some great memories of early jams and gigs (where getting zapped was not uncommon)!

  20. #50
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    My first tube amp was an old Harmony H303 with a two-prong. Early into owning it I learnt that if I kissed the mic, it could well kiss me back.

  21. #51
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    The older I get, the more I believe old amps and old instruments sound better. Is it a symptom of getting old?
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  22. #52
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    For prospective vintage amp buyers, as well as vintage amp sellers, FWIW, I've said it before and I'll say it again, replacing electrolytic caps and installing a 3 prong AC cord are two "mods" you can make that have no negatives associated with them.

    Any prospective buyer who balks at an amp which has been correctly updated isn't worth discussing it with, and it's certainly NOT an issue that a seller needs to lower the price on an amp because it was updated.

    There "may" be some argument on a buyer's point with THEM being the one to do it "correctly" on an original unmodified amp but if this is the case, they can just as easily check the updates themselves to assure it WAS in fact done correctly.
    Regards,

    Gary

  23. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by GNAPPI View Post
    For prospective vintage amp buyers, as well as vintage amp sellers, FWIW, I've said it before and I'll say it again, replacing electrolytic caps and installing a 3 prong AC cord are two "mods" you can make that have no negatives associated with them.

    Any prospective buyer who balks at an amp which has been correctly updated isn't worth discussing it with, and it's certainly NOT an issue that a seller needs to lower the price on an amp because it was updated.

    There "may" be some argument on a buyer's point with THEM being the one to do it "correctly" on an original unmodified amp but if this is the case, they can just as easily check the updates themselves to assure it WAS in fact done correctly.
    If I were to sell a vintage amp nowadays, those mods would happen first. The last thing any of us need is a lawsuit.

  24. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thumpalumpacus View Post
    If I were to sell a vintage amp nowadays, those mods would happen first. The last thing any of us need is a lawsuit.
    I hadn't thought of that, I will now.

    I read that the U.S has ~5% of the worlds population and that around 70% of the attorneys in the world reside in the U.S. If that's even CLOSE to accurate it's sad.

    I guess that the intention of contingency fee not only made the court system available to those who could never afford it, but also made it a haven for those who would pursue a frivolous lawsuit. Imagine suing an owner / seller of a 50 year old amp that they didn't even design.
    Regards,

    Gary

  25. #55
    I have had many old amps, and I think that a quality newer amp will sound just as good. I don't skimp on equipment. My 2 main amps (Carr Rambler & Bogner Shiva) are in the $2000+ category, but I am a pro and need the best in terms of tone and reliability. Neither has ever let me down, though I can barely lift the Bogner anymore!

    So, it's old guitars and newer amps for me.

    I get a lot of compliments from other guitarists on my clear, full tone. Nothing mysterious: good equipment, play cleanly, use the minimum of effects between guitar and amp.

  26. #56
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    One problem, for me, is that newer amps are far too encumbered with gee-gaws that make it harder to get a great, basic tone. I say this as someone who has designed and built many amps through the years. Too often, the stuff on an amp to "enhance" tone does exactly the opposite. For the most part, the cascading preamp stages and multi-frequency tone knobs are a big PITA.

    You want to hear some "sing" and "grind" from your amp? Take a smaller amp and turn it up. Listen to Joe Walsh whipping a 5f1 Fender Champ with his Telecaster on Funk 49. One knob/volume/UP.

    You want to hear superb tone? Take an Ampeg Echo Twin, or a Polytone Mini Brute II or IV, (or better yet, a Baby Brute), or an old Fender 5f6a Bassman and just drown in great, luscious guitar tone.

    With old amps you keep it very simple. So, it's old amps, for me. (or, new recreations of old amps)

  27. #57
    [QUOTE=Greentone;803865]One problem, for me, is that newer amps are far too encumbered with gee-gaws that make it harder to get a great, basic tone.

    I've run into this problem too, when I sit in and have to use somebody else's amp. There's no baseline to build a tone off of. That's why my newer amps are pretty much Vol, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Reverb.

    I used to use a Mesa Boogie and got some nice tones from it. But it had about 10 knobs on it, and every time I plugged it in it sounded different!

    I guess I understand the appeal of modeling amps for those who enjoy tweaking, but I've never needed a sound that I couldn't get with a good basic amp and a few pedals.

  28. #58
    [QUOTE=Gilpy;804012]
    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    One problem, for me, is that newer amps are far too encumbered with gee-gaws that make it harder to get a great, basic tone.

    I've run into this problem too, when I sit in and have to use somebody else's amp. There's no baseline to build a tone off of. That's why my newer amps are pretty much Vol, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Reverb.

    I used to use a Mesa Boogie and got some nice tones from it. But it had about 10 knobs on it, and every time I plugged it in it sounded different!

    I guess I understand the appeal of modeling amps for those who enjoy tweaking, but I've never needed a sound that I couldn't get with a good basic amp and a few pedals.
    The complicated amps scare me. I'm preoccupied enough on a gig that I don't want to have to think too hard about how to adjust my sound. I have a Boogie. Dialed in properly, it's a terrific sounding amp. But, if you want, say, just a little more treble, get ready to adjust every knob on the amp.

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