How to select amp?
Our amp section contains information about blackface and silverface Fender models produced between 1963 and the late 70′s. We like the other Fender amps too, but in our opinion the blackface and silverface amp are the most versatile, robust, simple, best sounding and most value for the money-amps of all Fender amp eras. They are simple and basic point-to-point wired amps with built-in reverb and tremolo.
Picking the right tool for the job
We will share a story about drummers and guitar amps. We play many gigs with smaller amps such as Princeton Reverbs or Deluxe Reverbs, and most times we enjoy cranking these low wattage amps. Our usual drummer is a careful and steady drummer who does not play awfully loud like some punk rock drummers. Our drummer keeps the stage volume low and we love him for that. At one gig at a corporate party in a 150 seat club, a friend of the band stepped in for our drummer for a couple of songs, starting with Jimi’s version of All along the watchtower. Our friend drummer happens to be twice as loud and we couldn’t practically hear anything on stage except mr. “Mitch Mitchell” furiously banging his snare and crash. The Princeton Reverb amp was already set at volume 6 with no more headroom left and could not go further without delivering too much distottion. On the stage the band had a terribly bad tone experience, and who knows how the music sounded out the PA. The poor Princeton Reverb even had an upgrade 10″ speaker but still couldn’t cut through the mix. The whole day after we regretted not bringing a bigger amp, either a Vibrolux or Pro Reverb. Or perhaps a 1×12″ or 1×15″ extension cabinet We are the kind of people who like to feel the guitar in our pant legs. We want hear the beautiful soul from our closely selected bouteeqe speakers and not from the monitors. We doubt that a Deluxe Reverb would have been powerful enough unless it had 6L6 and a loud speaker. Not even a hot rod version of the Princeton Reverb with all the mods (Deluxe OT, 12″ speaker, Stokes, Paul C, diode rectifier) would have stood up against such a drummer and gotten away in an elegant manner. What you need is pure, clean headroom and speaker areal. This is where extension cabinets come in handy offering a better stage monitoring.
What do the Fender blackface and silverface amps sound like? Listen for yourself. Here are a few of them:
One amp to rule them all
We need our stuff to perform and adapt to varying environments for practice and gigs, outdoor, indoor, alone or in a band. Any tube amp player should be aware of the importance of dialing in the sweet spot to achieve sustaining harmonics, tube distortion, rectifier sag and transformer sag, aka. the tube amp mojo & magic. So how do you achieve all this with your specific amp not beeing too loud, too low, too muddy, too clean or too brittle? Wouldn’t it be nice to bring your favorite amp at most gigs and have the knowledge to tweak it before each gig?
It’s a constant in our universe – as long as man possess gear, man will mod gear. It’s like GAS. You just gotta have that amp or that guitar. Even if you already own plenty. New peace of gear rarely brings anything new to the table. Man will never stop coming up with ideas and rationale for why he constantly needs to aquire more gear. Man convinces himself, the wife and all who stands in between the gear and himself – the only responsible thing to do now, is to go get that gear. Man needs, man deserves. So, why constantly seeking for changes? A no-brainer! You want something else, either less, more or differently out of your amp and you don’t want to buy another amp. For many players it’s more affordable to mod than to buy something else. Your amp may have a sentimental history and and a character that you already like and that you might not get in another amp. But if your amp is a mint vintage peace of gear with high collector value, be careful and think through what you do. Modding collector amps will most likely ruin the amp’s value – in this case it’s more affordable to sell it and rather get the a player’s amp.
You may get asked – why mod a classical tube amp to be some other wanna-be amp? Why not just get another original amp with the characteristics you desire? Because, most likely, one amp already exists that is closer to what you want. You might get told, by the great and the wise, that by modding you don’t understand nor appreciate the intention behind the original amp design.
What we believe, by own experience and after talking to and reading several other player’s confessions – man often perform mods to prove to himself he is actually able to perform mods. Man wants to confirm to himself he can alter the tone of classic tube amps. This means more to man than to get closer to the actual tone he seeks and that has been ringing inside man’s head for some time. If an amp is low-wattage and breaks up comfortable at low volume, then man will mod to increase headroom. A big amp with lots of clean headroom? Be sure man will mod to reduce that big headroom and make the amp suitable at lower stage volumes. Clean amps will be hot-rodded, crunchy and sweet amps will be cleaned and tightened up.
We find that some amps have more rationale for mods than others. A general trend among players is to lower the clean headroom in large amps to get earlier break up and sweet tube distortion at lower volumes. Smaller amps are tuned to increase the clean headroom allowing players to bring reasonably sized amps to small/medium gigs. You’ll recognize these trends reading about the amps on the web.
After performing mods and trying them out for a while, you may find yourself reversing some mods, maybe even put the amp together to complete original spec. Was it worth it? Hell yeah. A good thing about modding is that you get to learn how amps work and are put together. You learn what it takes to tweak tone. Maybe more important – you learn what your own preferences are after having checked out a million different kinds of mods and resulting tones. You also experience that the tone you are seeking is a moving target. It changes as you develop new styles and preferences, as you get inspired by newly discovered guitar players, as man grows as a human being.
We have a special interest in mods that satisfy one or more of the following criterias:
- can be enabled in just a few minutes
- easy reversible without ruining the value of the amp
- does not significantly change the key characteristics of the amp
- makes the amp more versatile and able to cover more ground than in original state
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