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  1. #1
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    Old guitars yes, old amps maybe

    I was watching a Youtube about and old amp being recapped and general maintenance. The person making the video was a guitarist as well as what seems like a good electronics repairman. All thru video he was talking about attitudes toward recapping and replacing parts in old amps and made a statement that sticking with me. Guitars get better with age, but amp don't alway get better. Amps capacitors leak as some point, heat affects other parts, and some parts just fail over time, replacing parts even with same part can sound different.

    Then guitar amps are mashup of parts of within the specified tolerances, some parts on the low side of the spec, others on the high, and other floating around center. That great old amp had a sound because of the magic combination of parts in range of spec. Another amp could even be the next one made was just a so-so amp or even a bad sounding amp due to it combination of parts wasn't so magical. So fixing an old amp can be a crap shoot on if it will sound the same afterwards.

    So is spending a lot of $$$ on a vintage amp worth it. Would a clone of a vintage amp be better because the clock is just starting on the parts lifetime. Better paying the price for a boutique amp built with very tight spec's on parts so a replacement part will have very little difference.

    Kind of an issue in these days of most sales moving to the internet and you can't always try before you buy.

    Just curious how you all view this topic.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  2. #2
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    Both require maintainence. Some of the charm of an old amp comes from the now unavailable components and old wood of the cabinet. IMO, boutique amps do not get you to the promised land and neither do historic reissue guitars.

    Like old guitars, each old amp sounds different. Playing before you buy or having an approval period is wise.
    _____________________________________________
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass

  3. #3
    Its kind of the same with old guitars too. Frets have to be replaced, fingerboards leveled etc, magnets loose power and any number of other things that will effect tone/playability. Id rather have a well made new amp or guitar thats just starting life then one with old age issues. Thats just my feeling on the subject. All in all, if it sounds good or plays good regardless of age , Im a sap, Ill buy it. Bob

  4. #4
    Old Fenders and old Ampegs are great.!!! Especially old Princetons and old Ampeg Jets or Reverberockets. There's nothing made today like those old octal preamp Ampegs.

    Have seen posts from collectors looking for original components capacitors and resistors to restore an old amp for collectible purposes knowing the amp would never properly function and would not be safe to operate

    I would never buy an old amp as a collectors item but for playing I absolutely love my 73 Princeton and my late 50's Ampeg Jet. I have the power cords changed to three prong, replaced electrolytic caps and they function fine. if there's a problem I replace parts that need replacing.

    P.S. I wouldn't gig with a vintage amp (they would need more components replaced to ensure gig reliability) but for home use I love them.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxTwang View Post
    Old Fenders and old Ampegs are great.!!! Especially old Princetons and old Ampeg Jets or Reverberockets. There's nothing made today like those old octal preamp Ampegs.

    Have seen posts from collectors looking for original components capacitors and resistors to restore an old amp for collectible purposes knowing the amp would never properly function and would not be safe to operate

    I would never buy an old amp as a collectors item but for playing I absolutely love my 73 Princeton and my late 50's Ampeg Jet. I have the power cords changed to three prong, replaced electrolytic caps and they function fine. if there's a problem I replace parts that need replacing.

    P.S. I wouldn't gig with a vintage amp (they would need more components replaced to ensure gig reliability) but for home use I love them.
    JS played Ampegs on the Roost recordings. Nuff said!

  6. #6
    my regular gigging amp is a '67 blackface Twin.
    once I played through a reissue and it was like night and day, the orig. smoked it.
    I thought it may have just been a bad example until I played a festival that had one in their backline.
    after a minute of playing it I went to my car and pulled out the '67.
    we're doing another festival this weekend and it's coming w/me again....

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Top of the Arch! View Post
    Its kind of the same with old guitars too. Frets have to be replaced, fingerboards leveled etc, magnets loose power and any number of other things that will effect tone/playability. Id rather have a well made new amp or guitar thats just starting life then one with old age issues. Thats just my feeling on the subject. All in all, if it sounds good or plays good regardless of age , Im a sap, Ill buy it. Bob
    Strings wear out, tuners loosen, pots get dirty.
    -- Isn't it ironic that "archtop" is a spelling error on this forum?

  8. #8
    Yeah, agree, old guitars easier to understand what you are getting into old amps much harder to gauge. Like the reissue Fender amps lots great value especially used.

    Sent from my SM-J320V using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    I think vintage amps are often best owned by folks who can repair & maintain them themselves. You have to have a certain level of knowledge to have any idea if it's worth anywhere near its asking price, you have to know what original and replacement components look like, what is OEM vs what has been stripped and replaced. I think a fair number of people (and one of my close friends) blindly buy a 196x vintage ______ amp only to find out or sadly remember, that those old amps were not as quiet or great sounding as they read about on the net or remember from school days.
    Ignorance is agony.



  10. #10
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    "So is spending a lot of $$$ on a vintage amp worth it. Would a clone of a vintage amp be better because the clock is just starting on the parts lifetime. Better paying the price for a boutique amp built with very tight spec's on parts so a replacement part will have very little difference. "

    If the new amp is truly a clone of the vintage, and the two truly sound the same the same points in their parts lifecycle, than the rational buyer would say buy which ever is cheaper. OK, all you rational buyers in the class, raise your hands ... I thought so.

    John

  11. #11
    I think "it depends"--there are some amps that can't realistically be cloned accurately--especially when you start talking tubes that are rarely used, field coil speakers, etc. Many of the so called "clones" might be superficially close, but the end result isn't always accurate--often this is a result of cost cutting or unavailability of vintage correct parts. IMO that's not always a bad thing, but rather a "different" thing. All of the amps that I gig regularly are vintage 1940's and 1960's amps (I recently sold all of my 50's era amps--go figure!). They are overall reliable, but they've been gone through by my tech and I don't gig them heavily (I'm more of a weekend warrior). The one modern amp I own is a Quinn Octal Derby--it's a clone of a Brown Era Fender Deluxe, and it is amazingly close to my genuine '62 Fender Deluxe--you'd be hard pressed to tell any difference, and it has some added features too. Any of the other "reissue" amps I've had have been fine, but again "different" from the originals. In general I think that the amps made 50's on can be more accurately cloned, with the advent of 9 pin preamp tubes and permanent magnet speakers. I've yet to hear a 40's inspired amp that accurately captures the sound/feel of my old Gibson's. That said, I'd buy a new amp in a heartbeat if it got me where I needed to go!

  12. #12
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    Solid-state amps are simply not as hard on components as are tube amps. I have been building both for a long time and I can tell you that this is true. To be sure, electronic components age, but the heavy load placed on tube amps (one-half of the energy placed on a tube amp circuit is dissipated in the form of heat--that's how inefficient tubes are, even though they sound GREAT) causes them to accelerate the aging of tubes, capacitors, resistors, etc. By comparison, I have solid-state amps with components that are 45 years old and are within spec.

    I do gig with both vintage amps and clone amps that I have built. Then, again, I am able to repair an amp if it fails, _and_ I have multiples of all of the amps that are my serious gigging amps, i.e., Fender tweed Deluxe, Polytone Minibrute II, III, and IV. I haven't experienced a failure, but if I do it won't be a problem. I am too wedded to the sound of tweed amps and the Polytone MiniBrute for jazz to do without.

    If the reverb fails on one of the Polytones--this IS a possibility during a performance--I have an Electro-Harmonix HOF Nano in the pocket of the amp cover waiting. (Polytone MiniBrute amps have a vertical placement of the reverb springs, but use a spring set that is sometimes a set that calls for horizontal placement. This is a vulnerability.)

  13. #13
    I have a 1964 Fender Princeton - non reverb. Most of the amp is original except for the output transformer, power supply multi-cap, and a few other caps.

    I also have a clone I've built. Running both through the same 12" cabinet there is almost no difference, and IF there is how much is "vintage perception"?? In a band situation I doubt anyone could tell the difference.

    I've had people come up to me between sets when I was gigging and tell me the amp sounds great "Is that a real BF?" Thanks, but no it's a BF clone.

    Purchasing a reissue version of an oldie but goodie may be different but from my experience there's really a LOT of hype built into the whole BF & SF amps. Except of course if you can't do you own electronic repairs, then perhaps I'd be inclined to get a boutique clone or original if the price was right.

    Old guitars? Yes, they will need work. I had a LOT of Fenders back in the 70's and NONE played as well as the Squier Cabronita Neck made in Indonesia that I have. On the flip side, with some work.....YES...there's a cool vibe about old guitars that I like. I have a '62 Jazzmaster (not a reissue) that has a wonderful neck that needed a refret that plays better than ever. It's NOT a collector piece but one that was abused before I got it a long time ago so I wasn't worried about having some work done to it.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    my regular gigging amp is a '67 blackface Twin.
    once I played through a reissue and it was like night and day, the orig. smoked it.
    I thought it may have just been a bad example until I played a festival that had one in their backline.
    after a minute of playing it I went to my car and pulled out the '67.
    we're doing another festival this weekend and it's coming w/me again....
    The Fender re-issues are not clones and are usually the weakest examples of amps inspired by vintage Fenders. The good clones or tributes from the small builders can usually every bit as good as a real vintage amp that's been well maintained and serviced. On the other hand, they're often just as pricey as a good vintage amp. I think if that's the sound you're after, you can usually do pretty well with either.
    My CD "Bare Handed" is available as a download at Bandcamp.com
    http://jimsoloway.bandcamp.com/album/bare-handed

  15. #15
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    The clones I have built over the years sound about like the vintage amps. I play them on stage along side the actual Fender amps. Generally, they sound the same; sometimes better. This isn't an exaggeration. The guy that collects and owns the actual Fenders would corroborate this.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    Both require maintainence. Some of the charm of an old amp comes from the now unavailable components and old wood of the cabinet. IMO, boutique amps do not get you to the promised land and neither do historic reissue guitars.
    Except that when those classic tones that we try to emulate with old guitars and old amps were made... the guitars and amps were new. The wood of the guitar and the amp cab wasn't old. The caps and resistors hadn't baked for years in the heat of the tubes and 300V running through them. Even the electricity is different now compared to then (120VAC versus 110VAC, 60 Hz vs. 50 Hz, etc.).

    And those classic tones were at least as dependent on the recording studio's room, mics and tube-driven desk; for a long time, each desk in each studio was a custom-built job. "Brands" and "models" of mixers and other electronic stuff in studios was more a product of transistorization and the boom in recording in the 60s-80s that gave a leg up to manufactured desks. Prior to that, studios had their own electricians and electrical engineers to design and build their own stuff. Now anybody with an eye-phone can make CD quality, hi-def videos. But they won't- can't- sound the same as the Blue Note board.

    Trying to chase Tal's or Barney's or Johnny's or Les's or Jim's tone from 1959 by buying old guitars and old amps is probably a hopeless task. And we probably shouldn't, anyway- jazz is supposed to be a forward-facing art form, not one trying to go backwards. The sound of the times is different now, unless one aims to be a nostalgia act (which can be a lot of fun). I love listening to those old recordings, but the current guys I dig now don't try to sound like that- Pete Bernstein, Jonathan Kreisberg, Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, etc. Joe Pass already did Joe Pass. Time for something new.

    To go back the the original premise, though. Yes- old guitars, new amps unless you can fix your own amps rather than having to pay bench time to a tech. It's like owning an old classic car- more fun and cheaper if you can do your own work.
    Last edited by Cunamara; 09-13-2017 at 07:17 PM.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  17. #17
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    Tube amps, old amps.... oh boy. Out of necessity I learned how to maintain my own tube amps: replace tubes, set bias, replace caps and resistors.... it's actually quite fun, but it does detract from playing and practising.

    Bought my first tube amp in '94, a Fender Blues Deluxe. Not vintage and with a PCB. I was quite thrilled because it sounded soooo much better than the cheap solid state amps that I was playing at that time.

    First troubles were power tubes failing. It was before the days of google and online shopping so it was quite challenging to find and buy tubes thru local music stores (actually hifi radio shops were best providers back then).

    The real trouble began after a tour through the south of France: cutting in and out, volume loss and random channel switching. Fortunately I had a colleague in the office - elder guitar player - who had knowledge of tube amps and he tought me were the high voltage was, how the basics worked and how to solder and repair things (broken solder joints on the PCB caused all the troubles btw).

    After that I felt a bit more confident and after experiencing playing thru an old Silverface Twin I wanted one, but couldn't afford one. But I could affort an old beaten and modded 70ies Guyatone Twin copy. Almost like a Fender, but the eyelet board is an old style PCB with thick copper traces, lay out almost exactly as a Twin. I turned that into an AB763 circuit and replaced almost all the pots, caps and resistors in the course of the years. Put some old Pyle speakers in it and I still have not come across any solid state amp that can compete with it's sound! (Or weight, for that matter...).

    So.... old amps? Only if you like soldering and maintaining them (or if you have a good amp tech and are willing to spend a lot of cash.....).
    :: Jazz, Funk, Soul, Groove & Boogaloo: My group ::
    :: Listen to Hip Jazz a Go Go! ::

  18. #18
    BFSR amongst others is a holy grail amp, go ahead and spend 3-4K on your favorite boutique brand, it won't sound any better.. Changing caps is basic maintenance.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagelove View Post
    BFSR amongst others is a holy grail amp, go ahead and spend 3-4K on your favorite boutique brand, it won't sound any better.. Changing caps is basic maintenance.
    To be fair I'd like to add that once I got my (Gutayone) Twin up and running, it's been running faithfully without any need for maintenance for some years now (okay, my used old stock PI tube failed some months ago....). Fender BF and even SF amps are put together very well, if you have a good one with fresh tubes and caps it can last for years and years without maintenance. It's often just the initial startup when you buy an old amp to get it up and running.
    :: Jazz, Funk, Soul, Groove & Boogaloo: My group ::
    :: Listen to Hip Jazz a Go Go! ::

  20. #20
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    I think old amps are for the studio, no?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think old amps are for the studio, no?
    Mine are.
    Best regards, k

  22. #22
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    I rehab old guitars but haven't gotten into amps...yet...

    There are so many hobbies where to get into them you pretty much have to learn how to repair and even build the thing yourself--vintage furniture refinishing, vintage handplanes, fly-fishing...

    Currently I'm working on putting oldish small amps in vintage radio cabs--have a Pignose that runs off AC but not batteries that I'm going to put into a vintage tweed-covered farm radio.

    Old guitars yes, old amps maybe-img_8466-jpg

    Collecting and rehabbing vintage radios...that's another rabbit hole I haven't gone down just yet...

  23. #23
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    If you play for a living, you better be using new amps on stage and vintage amps in the studio.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think old amps are for the studio, no?
    I dragg my 40 year old Guyatone Twin to as many gigs as I can!

    Last night for example
    :: Jazz, Funk, Soul, Groove & Boogaloo: My group ::
    :: Listen to Hip Jazz a Go Go! ::

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I think old amps are for the studio, no?
    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

  26. #26
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    I dare to say that modern PCB amps are more prone to technical failure because of transportation than old ones!
    :: Jazz, Funk, Soul, Groove & Boogaloo: My group ::
    :: Listen to Hip Jazz a Go Go! ::

  27. #27
    I gig at least a few times a week w/the '67 Twin I mentioned above.
    it's been on so many gigs I can't even count and has only failed twice in the 17 yrs I've owned it.
    when you buy a vintage amp, if you take it to a >good< tech and have it properly serviced and retube it w/nos glass you should be good to go for 10 yrs or so

  28. #28
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    This thread has brought to mind my experiences with amps new and old. It seems that all the tube amps I bought new, with one exception, had to be taken back for service almost immediately. Two Marshalls, an Artist and a Studio 15, had to be re-soldered, after which they were fine. My Vibro Champ kept blowing fuses. Got it serviced and it's still going strong (the tech noted on his last invoice "Very nice vintage amp" and I quite agree). The Peavy Classic 50 developed a short. Got it fixed and religiously looped the input cord through the handle to stabilize the input jack. Schlepped that 66lb beast into more dives than I care to remember (hand truck!) and eventually gave it to my Grandson, who still gigs with it. Oh yeah, it did blow a fuse once. NBD. My Princeton Reverb, though purchased used, was from a reputable dealer, and when I got it home and smoke started rolling out of the #2 input jack, back it went to be repaired, and I used it for practice and many, many gigs before idiotically letting it go. The exception mentioned above was the MusicMan 112RD which was perfect from Day One and just got better with age and is probably still working (another fit of idiocy) wherever it is.

    All the tube amps I got used were fine. 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. I strongly believe that nothing shortens an amp's life as mechanical/thermal shock. Bouncing around in the trunk, being taken outside in freezing weather, being slammed around by incompetent roadies - all these things are not going to do your amp any favors. I very quickly learned to move all my stuff myself. Amp covers are de rigueur. Amps ride belted into a seat, or on as many inches of foam rubber as can be gotten hold of, vehicles are pre-warmed, spare tubes packed in foam or cotton batting, spare fuses taped to the amps innards, etc, etc. What can go wrong, will go wrong, probably sooner than later. Be prepared. Your tube amps are as vulnerable as your guitars.

    Is it worth it? It is to me.
    Best regards, k

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    I gig at least a few times a week w/the '67 Twin I mentioned above.
    it's been on so many gigs I can't even count and has only failed twice in the 17 yrs I've owned it.
    when you buy a vintage amp, if you take it to a >good< tech and have it properly serviced and retube it w/nos glass you should be good to go for 10 yrs or so
    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).

    I've had good luck getting bargains on tube amps, so, my experience is a little skewed. But looking at tube and service costs alone I've not found it expensive to own tube amps. Play 'em a lot cranked, and they need tubes and service every couple of years. Play 'em less at lower volumes and you can go many years without needing anything. It's not $0, and the total number is bound to be higher than for a SS or modeling amp (even factoring in having to replace rather than repair some SS and modeling amps). But service and tube costs annualized over the full life of the amp for me have been negligible. Round-off error considering life's $20/day walking-around tax (lunch, coffee, a snack, a doo-hickey for the kid here, flowers for the wife there ...)

    John

  30. #30
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    Tube amps are no different than cars, or motorcycles both of which we gladly accept the costs associated with some wear / tear and then maintenance.

    As with cars and motorcycles, buying quality parts goes a long way to making it stay correct and working. I once bought a good deal chain for my crotch rocket and it was stretched in a month, nevermore now I gladly buy the best.

    Anyway... I think that if a player spent proportional to an amps initial cost over 25 or 35 years of what a car cost to keep running that amp would look and play like showroom new forever.

    SS likely will need little maintenance save for replacing a shit speaker or input / output jacks. I have a precious few SS and no plans on buying more, if for nothing else, tubes just look cooler all lit up in back of me :-)

    Docbop, regarding tolerance stacking. I have yet to find a Twin, Super or other classic Fender model that sounded different than another same model from its own generation if it had the same speakers . If tolerance stacking were so critical to sound in the 50's through the 60's Fender would have used close tolerance mil spec parts, but they did not.

    Can a set of replacement parts in the tone stack, power supply, or bias circuits affect sound? Sure, maybe, but even if so it's correctable.
    Regards,

    Gary

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