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  1. #1

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    I’ve been on the lookout for a “big bottle” octal amp. I play in a big band and while my little champ gets me the right sound in a small room at rehearsal, I realized it’s underpowered for any gig.

    The Epi Zephyr was one of the models I was looking for and this one popped up in Italy at a reasonable price. The seller was a knowledgeable and very, very nice chap, so I took the plunge. Got it today and barely had the time to unbox, check functioning, take some pics and play it a little.

    The sound is EXACTLY what I was looking for. And the amp looks beautiful, is not too heavy, and is very quiet. So I’m already quite a bit in love. I am not 100% sure that it has enough volume for my (amateur) big band gigs – which is what I bought it for in the first place. The opportunity to test will come very soon. In case I'm still underpowered, I’ll have to consider alternatives: (a) send it back with a broken heart (seller – who did I mention is a VERY nice chap? – agreed that “if not fit for your uses I’ll take it back”); (b) consider some very careful and respectful mods such as changing tubes or swapping the original FC speaker (I’m off to tech tomorrow for a general run-over and to discuss this); (c) just accept that on some occasions at least, it needs to be mic’d. I doubt very much that I’ll have the strength to send it back…

    Pics or it didn’t happen, right?

    1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7417-jpg1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-7-transformer-jpg1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-17-guts-7-panoramic-view-jpg1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7425-jpg1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7427-jpg1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7433-jpg1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7414-jpg1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7429-jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-transformer-jpg 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-guts-panoramic-view-jpg 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7433-jpg 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7429-jpg 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7417-jpg 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7427-jpg 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7425-jpg 1946 Epiphone Electar Zephyr Amp-dscf7414-jpg 

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  3. #2

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    Super cool amp! Congratulations, and play it in good health!

  4. #3
    Small update:
    - tech cleared it, while recommending to keep it stock and use a mic if needed. I think he’s right. It’s quite possible that the tubes are the original ones, at least the “JAN” 6SJ7 in the preamp and phase inverter.
    - the amp will not be sent back. It’s MIIINE. Bouhahahahahaha . I’ll buy a good case for it so I can shlep it around for gigs without overtaxing the über-frail handle.
    - tried it with a strat and tele. It sounded GLORIOUS, and I also realized the amp has got LOADS of volume and it’s the low output of my DeArmond that explains the lack of volume I felt at first try. I think I have the pickup too far from the strings so I’ll deal with that. Anyway, the 2x6L6G of the amp do a great job and I think it’s giggable.

    Yipee

    Little sample recorded at low volume with my Loar and FHC:


  5. #4

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    Great amp! You should be able to get yourself a hoard of 6sj7 preamp tubes and keep them around. I have done this for my octal tube amps. These amps burn through octal preamp tubes relatively slowly, so you should be in good shape.

    GT

  6. #5

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    Oh man that is a killer tone. Nothing beats these old octal amps.

  7. #6
    The thing that really suprised me is how fabulous it sounds also with strats and teles. TONE!

  8. #7

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    Tele -> Octal sounding good surprised you??? Everything* sounds good through these amps.


    *Especially guitars, lapsteels, and harmonicas.

  9. #8

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    Love to get one of these, or something like it, someday.

    A few years ago I was playing through an old Oahu at CME...the tone was just perfect. I would have bought it on the spot, but the thing literally started smoking as I was playing. Wasn't meant to be.

  10. #9

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    One of the nice thing about Ampeg amps is that they stayed with octal preamp tubes for an impossibly long time. Ampegs/Fenders/Gibsons. Great amps. Of course, all the Supro/Valco amps are great, too.

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by omphalopsychos
    Tele -> Octal sounding good surprised you??? Everything* sounds good through these amps.


    *Especially guitars, lapsteels, and harmonicas.
    Well… not surprised in those terms

    I expected goodness, especially western swing goodness and the like. Junior Barnard (he had one of these things!), Eldon… But then I started hendrixing around, and Albert Leeing, and just plain bluesin’, and then I pulled the strat out and in no time I had searing tone for a totally inspired Shine on … this, I did not expect.

    So, to put it more accurately, it sounded totally awesome in way more applications that I’d have thought looking at it. It looks ‘30s bandstand you know? But it can rock with the best of them apparently! HAHA. I am pretty crazy about it now, and it complements so perfectly the 64 Tremolux sitting beside it…

  12. #11

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    1946 is my birth year and I feel like a museum piece. Are you sure you want to subject such a rarity to serious use?

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Gitterbug
    1946 is my birth year and I feel like a museum piece. Are you sure you want to subject such a rarity to serious use?
    Pretty sure. It can go to the museum after I’m done with it

    But I’ll treat it not only with respect – with love and care. Promised

  14. #13

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    Congratulations1

    Good recording, sounds like you'll know how to use it.

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by rabbit
    Congratulations1

    Good recording, sounds like you'll know how to use it.
    This is really a nice compliment, thanks

  16. #15

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    FWIW, the "JAN" stands for Joint Army Navy, or equipment sold to and approved by both of the military services. There were only two back then. The Air Force didn't exist until the Key West agreements of 1947. The Marines belonged (and still do) to the Navy, and what became the Air Force was the Army Air Corps. Nothing magic about JAN, it just shows that the military could use it.

  17. #16

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    Thank god you didn't mess with the field coil speaker! As soon as I read that at the beginning of the thread my heart dropped.

    I find the same issue with the very low output of my 1937 ES-150 and old octal amps. I plug in my ol' 1996 Les Paul and it sounds SOOOOO loud. My FHC is actually quite a bit louder than the CC pickup in my ES-150, so I notice a huge bump even there. But the original pick up is just soooo low output, and it can make it seem like an amp has no power. I used to think I was stuck with it unless I re-magnetized the pickup, but I went another route....

    So, here's what I've started doing: using a boost pedal on it's lowest setting.
    I picked up one of these TC Electronic Spark pedals - https://amzn.to/2PUzsn3 - and on it's lowest setting it provides just enough output boost to help noticeably.
    I don't use it always, but when it's practical I find a get a lot more sound out of the amp, and without slamming the input stage unduly.

    But otherwise, congrats on the amp! Octal tubes and field coil speakers have a really magic relationship. Enjoy!
    Last edited by campusfive; 09-07-2019 at 01:51 AM.

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by campusfive
    Thank god you didn't mess with the field coil speaker! As soon as I read that at the beginning of the thread my heart dropped.

    I find the same issue with the very low output of my 1937 ES-150 and old octal amps. I plug in my ol' 1996 Les Paul and it sounds SOOOOO loud. My FHC is actually quite a bit louder than the CC pickup in my ES-150, so I notice a huge bump even there. But the original pick up is just soooo low output, and it can make it seem like an amp has no power. I used to think I was stuck with it unless I re-magnetized the pickup, but I went another route....

    So, here's what I've started doing: using a boost pedal on it's lowest setting.
    I picked up one of these TC Electronic Spark pedals - https://amzn.to/2PUzsn3 - and on it's lowest setting it provides just enough output boost to help noticeably.
    I don't use it always, but when it's practical I find a get a lot more sound out of the amp, and without slamming the input stage unduly.

    But otherwise, congrats on the amp! Octal tubes and field coil speakers have a really magic relationship. Enjoy!
    Ah, you know, it’s the kind of thing you muse about when after first try you think it won’t have enough juice for its intended use. “Oh no, I just spent 800$ and it won’t do the job… what can I do now?”. Then you cool down, play some more, and see the light. So there never was a real risk I’d carve out the ROLA speaker

    Now the clean boost thing is not something I’d have thought of but I’ll certainly try it. THX!

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Gitterbug
    1946 is my birth year and I feel like a museum piece. Are you sure you want to subject such a rarity to serious use?
    For anyone who might be interested in buying prehistoric electric musical instruments, I’ve gained a bit more insight and experience… It turns out that Gitterbug was onto something ;D


    a) Very old amps DO put out less volume. We’ve all come to expect a 2x6L6 amp to put out between 20 and 50 watts. Not this one: rudimentary circuit and very low plate voltages (round 270V my tech said) mean ?10W. It’s still plenty loud if you sit in front of it, but I can't gig it with a big band unless I can mic it (which I usually can, so…).
    b) The cab is flimsy, the handle ill-designed and unreliable, the chassis vibrates, the tubes rattle. Finding good tubes is a bit of a challenge. And the amp can act up, badly. Did it in the middle of its only gig so far, too, the little old bastard. Off to tech, then a period at home and … oops, tube died (strange noise… back to tech). Then huge rattle. Back to tech. I just got it back today, and my tech did a great job to make it quieter but said: it’s old stuff… you have to treat it gently. Gig it, but a backup is mandatory. And don’t push it too much (… about which… see again point a) about volume )
    c) It’s undeniably one of the (in not the) best-sounding amp I’ve ever come across. Today I went out to try a 1963 Brown Princeton – the first 6G2 I play. It sounded lovely with a strat, and I understood why everyone raves about them, but so-so with my archtop. Then I’ve picked Zep up from the tech and brought it home. I had forgotten. It sounds FABULOUS with both my archtop and strat, and very good with my tele and Casino. In my limited experience, nothing really compares. My backup (Jr. Barnyard into very clean SS amps or PA) is very nice, but it’s not the same feeling.


    So… my expectations were too much (“Hey, I got me a big bottle swing amp, I’ll gig it no problem!!”). What I have is in fact a wonderful-sounding, fragile, quirky amp. If I can use it at gigs, great. if not, I once thought that I should flip it to “make room”. No more. Even as a home and recording amp, which is what it might become eventually, it can stamp a big smile on my face, and that is priceless.

    PS: I happen to have a TC electronics mini Spark around the house, and I haven’t tried the Stout trick so far… hmm…

  20. #19

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    Amps like these may be fragile, but are wonderful sources of inspiration in the practice room and the studio. I've gigged with my wide-panel Deluxe, and it held up fine, and I was grateful. That field-coil speaker has a sound of its own! Enjoy that beautiful little amp, and always carry a backup!