Friday, December 24, 2010

From parts to Tweed Deluxe in four days October 2010

This is a Tweed Deluxe 5E3 chassis I built in four days

I built this amp for a friend that I have built Tweed era amps for. It takes time to get parts from the various mail-order companies to build these amps, and this time I had just one week to get the amp together for the customer, a situation I have had many times when building custom gear

I built the amp with vintage Good-All coupling caps after testing them for one day with 300 volts arcoss them and vintage 1-watt and 1/2 watt carbons and vintage pots and toggle switches 

I like finding vintage toggles that have a great look, like the chrome-plated ones on this amp rather than using Carlings, so the amp is as vintage a possible, including the 50 year old knobs

Classic Tone transformers were used for a Big Tone Vintage sound 

I tested the amp by listening to classic Xmas music through my Vintage Wharfdale and everyone in the shop enjoyed the nice smooth Hi-Fi tone, unlike most bright, hot amps
This amp has Metal-Oxide 5-watt resistors in the cathodes of the 6V6 tubes as the M-O resistors are non inductive and give a much smoother, no grain tone

It has a big, bold sound, almost as loud as a amp with 6l6 tubes, using the classic 5E3 circuit with a few very early special circuit tricks that I have found on early version tweed amps

I also have built 20 watt versions with 6L6G tubes, the Classic-tone output and the right power

Here is a pic of some of the Tweed amps I have built and a pic of a typical Tweed High Power chassis I built back just before 9-11 happened and a lot of small businesses stopped

These amps have been in service for over five years with no repairs or complaints

We used Sovetk 5881s and orange drops, but went to Russian Paper-Oil as they have the best sound, more sustain, and much more clarity on chords. These amps ran 100 volts less than everyone's else so they could run four 6V6 tubes as well and were very quiet and Hi-Fi sound

When we were building Tweed amps I sometimes had to get a entire amp together in a week as holdups with parts and other events can cut your time down. You have to be ready to work in a very steady manner so you can get the job finished and tested in time for your customers order

The surprise Fender Deluxe

The surprise amp for Xmas, 2010

This Fender Deluxe Reverb, solid state amp, model SR 1025, was brought to me by a young guy from Argentina who plays acoustic guitar and blows a blues Harp. I was very surprised to see the amp as I had worked on them in the 1970s and not seen one since.

Back around the late 1968 era, I was working for NET Electronics in Downey, CA. This business was in a old Newbury building that is still on Firestone Blvd. One day, the owners came in with a huge pile of these amps and parts from a Fender auction.

This is the 32 watt amp above and the preamp below

The preamp has FET first stages and is very well designed

Fender had given up on "SS amps" and sold all off, including some very cool Fender spinning echo units that are very rare now. I took the amp parts and built 100 watt heads and four-ten combos with the parts for bands in LA and Long Beach, one of the hot music scenes back then.

I set up a space on the floor and had a "Guitar Amp store" that I ran as I built gear upstairs

I have a low voltage power supply that is used for many things, including to re-charging electrolytic caps. I took the amp apart, cleaned it all out, and re-charged every cap before bringing the amp up slowly on my variac. I know older SS amps can be full of leaking caps and just blow up if plugged in and turned on. I was pleasantly surprised to find all the caps in this amp to be of very high quality and in mint condition. The whole amp was very nicely designed. As I worked away on a rainy Sunday, I started to get antsy as I worried that the amp would have some bizarre problem that was unfixable or would sound awful, and then no pay.

I was amazed when the amp came up like a baby and sounded great. It has a big warm clean sound like VOX SS amps that puts a lot of tube amps to shame.

This amp was one of the many pieces of gear I have worked on DOA, hoping that whatever genuis I have could get it to come alive again without some un solvable or fixable problem that would mean time spent without pay. When your rent money each month depends on bringing sometimes very rare gear back to life, with no way to find extra parts or info, life can be exciting, or just plain scary as your time to make the rent gets closer each day.

I was really jazzed when the amp came right up and sounded great!
Also massive amounts of deep reverb sound, great for Jazz or Country Western playing.

I had been interested in the older SS circuits as they could have a real smooth tone and more of a Hi-Fi sound than usually grainy harsh new gear. The older vintage amps I work on sound great, but Fender amps after the Tweeds, and Marshalls etc. are very hot and bright, and no bass.

Most amps now have "Overdrive" or "Lead Gain" type preamps, and are very high gain and harsh.

Robert Allen Rissi of worked on these amps when he was at Fender and has info and parts for them, and also builds great custom amps.

The best vintage Transistor amps made back then were the VOX amps like the Defiant, and Conqueror amps. You can and should visit the Vox Showroom and find all the history there.