Search Results for: Blackface Twin


Fender Amplifiers

Founded in the mid-1940s in Fullerton, California by Leo Fender, the legendary amps produced by this company have been heard on countless recordings and are influential on countless other amp makers. In the beginning Fender paired small combo amps with lap steels and electric guitars aimed at student players, but word of the superior tone and build quality quickly spread among professional musicians. In over seventy years of existence, Fender has consistently evolved and innovated its sound from the Tweed era through the Brown and Blackface eras and beyond.

Mercury Magnetics has built a massive collection of ToneClone® Transformers and Chokes for Fender Amps available from all eras of production. Answering the needs of players and amp-builders alike, our extensive catalog of audio transformers is the ultimate resource whether you’re looking to replace a worn-out transformer in a vintage Fender amp or looking to nail a vintage tone in a new amp or amp build. The engineers at Mercury have painstakingly documented every detail and nuance of the best-of-breed vintage transformers and can faithfully produce perfect clones using the same materials and methods used on the originals.

The ToneClone+ Series from Mercury Magnetics adds more utility and options without altering the original tone. Love your amp but want to change your speaker configuration? Mercury’s ToneClone+ Output Transformers give players more impedance options like alternate and multi-tapped secondaries. Power Transformers can benefit from the “Plus” treatment as well with alternate primary voltage, Higher or Lower B+ Voltages, added current capability, and more.

Fender Woodie Amp Transformers: The earliest production amps to come out of Fullerton, Fender ‘Woodie’ amps can be identified by their hardwood cabinets and fixed handles. We are proud to offer ToneClone® transformers from this short-lived and rare Woodie era including the Woodie Deluxe (aka Model 26) and Woodie Pro.

Fender Tweed Amp Transformers: The Fender Tweed era lasted from the late forties to early sixties and a vast amount of artists from all generations have crafted their distinct tone using these amps through all genres. Notable artists include: Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley), Neil Young, Larry Carlton, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. Mercury Magnetics has the largest catalog of vintage-correct Fender ToneClone® replacements transformers for the following models: Tweed Bandmaster, Tweed Bassman, Tweed Champ, Tweed Harvard, Tweed Princeton, Tweed Pro/Dual Professional, Tweed Super, Tweed Tremolux, Tweed Deluxe, Tweed Twin, and Tweed Vibrolux.

Fender Blonde and Brown (Brownface) Amp Transformers: Sitting on the timeline between the Tweed and Blackface Fender amps, the Blonde/Brown amps of the early sixties were most noticeably embraced by surf groups like the Beach Boys and Dick Dale. Our catalog of ToneClone® amp transformers for this era includes Brown/Blonde Bandmaster, Blonde Bassman, Blonde Showman, Blonde Tremolux, Blonde Twin, Brown Concert, Brown Deluxe, Brown Princeton, Brown Pro, Brown Super, Brown Vibrasonic, Brown Vibrolux, and Brown Vibroverb. Also see our transformers and choke for the 6G15 Reverb Unit.

Fender Blackface Amp Transformers: Easily distinguishable by their black control plates and white lettering, Fender Blackface amps began showing up on stages and recordings in the early-mid 1960s. Extremely popular among musicians then, the impressive build quality and versatile tones have kept these classic amps popular even 50 years later. Mercury Magnetics has hundreds of ToneClone® and ToneClone+ transformers and chokes for Fender Blackface Amps including: Blackface Bandmaster/Bandmaster Reverb, Blackface Bassman, Blackface Champ, Blackface Concert, Blackface Deluxe/Deluxe Reverb, Blackface Princeton/Princeton Reverb, Blackface Pro/Pro Reverb, Blackface Showman, Blackface Tremolux, Blackface Twin Reverb, Blackface Vibrochamp, Blackface Vibrolux, and Blackface Vibroverb. Also see our transformers and choke for the 6G15 Reverb Unit.

 

Ordered a Black-face Pro Tone Clone Guitar Amp Transformer

Fender designed and built more than one transitional, non reverb blackface combo amp that would soon acquire reverb and a new name, including relatively small numbers of blackface Princetons, 4×10 Concerts, 1×12 Vibrolux and 1×15 Pros. We acquired a 1×15 blackface Pro, and while it ultimately proved to be an extraordinary exceptional amp, we were also reminded of the potential pitfalls that exist when buying old amps sight-unseen, as well as the potential rewards.

We found the ’64 Pro listed on eBay and bout it from a dealer after requesting a detailed photo of the chassis and circuit. Proudly described as “the best amp in the store, “the rare ’64 blackface Pro is essentially a blackface Vibroverb without the “verb.” Do we have your attention yet? Three caps had been replaced, the original baffleboard had been professionally converted to plywood with the original grill cloth remaining intact, and an on/off pot had been installed for the tremolo intensity control that bypassed the tremolo circuit when rolled to “1” with a click, adding gain that would otherwise be missing in the Vibrato channel. We pulled the JJ power tubes and assorted Russian pre-amp tubes and replaced them with lightly used,“test new” RCAs from our stash, rebiased the amp and fired up the Pro….

Sounded like shit. We had been here before with a dead-mint ’64 Vibroverb bought years ago that had passed through a certain amp guru’s hands in Pflugerville, Texas.How could a vintage Fender sound so bad we wondered? Turned out that the value of the bright cap on the Vibrato channel had been changed on the Vibroverb, rendering a thin, scalding tone that would have given Ed Jahns fits, as it did us. Changing the bright cap back to spec immediately restored the Vibroverb to its rightful pace in history, but the Pro had other problems….

The baffleboard swap and added switch on the tremolo intensity control were clues that someone had also spent time troubleshooting the amp, probably trying to detect the cause of the Pro’s weak output, thin tone and curiously harsh edgy distortion. The amp just didn’t sound right. We pulled the original, reconed Jensen C15N dating to 1964 and subbed in an Eminence Legend, but the Pro still sounded choked-off, linear and wrong, so it was off to Jeff at Bakos Amp works on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend in a frog-chokin’ Georgia thunderstorm. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro…..Now, this is the difference between someone who really knows his craft and a hack….Jeff plugged his bench guitar into the Pro, hit a couple of chords, issued a single grunt of displeasure and caustically observed, “Something is definitely fucked up.” With the chassis on the bench, Jeff scowled at the choppy sine wave the amp produced on his scope as he checked voltages with his multimeter. “I think the output transformer is going down slow—it measures 11 volts and it should be reading 16….” He clipped in a substitute OT from a stout old Fisher hi-fi, plugged in and hit a chord… “That’s closer to what it’s supposed to sound lie….” And sure enough, the missing lows and mids were present, the raspy treble tones were subdued, and for the moment, the Pro showed promise. We called Paul at Mercury Magnetics and ordered a black-face Pro Tone Clone replacement trans-former, shut it down and wished each other a good holiday. A week later the Mercury Magnetics replacement output transformer had arrived. Jeff wired it up, and then turned his attention o three silver mica caps that had replaced the original ceramic caps in the phase inverter and tone circuits. Jeff: “Somebody probably read an article about how these would bring the high end up, but I prefer the ceramics—always have. Besides the effect of the voltage from the old output transformer being low, these silver mica caps were contributing to that brittle tone we were hearing. They are the wrong value, and they changed the entire sound of the amp.” Jeff pulled all three silver mica caps and replaced them with the correct ceramic disc caps, and since an on/off switch had already been installed for the tremolo, we mounted the 25K mid range pot in the back panel hole for the extension speaker jack. With the Pro now thoroughly put right and the midrange pot added, Jeff hit a few chords, moved the EQ and volume settings around a bit in both channels, smiled and said, “That sounds really good. Yeah, that’s it.”

Back in our music room, the final step was to re-bias the Proat 34mA with an AmperexGZ34 rectifier and our last pair of vintage RCA black plate 6L6s, which in unused, new old stock condition have soared to $400/pair. The re-labeled Tube NOS Phillips JAN 6L6 WGBs we had tried sounded good—but the smooth warmth, exceptional musicality and deep harmonic content of the RCAs just can’t be beat, and it is a difference you can definitely hear. Smoke ’em if you got ’em….

We lit up the Pro with the ’63Fender Reverb unit and reverently smiled at the jaw-dropping tones pouring from the big Eminence Legend 15. Imagine the sound of a slightly kinder, warmer sounding 40 watt Super Reverb void of the sharp, penetrating treble presence that has sooften left our ears ringing for hours after a tumble with a blackface Super. The sound of the ’64 Pro is all Fender, with solid bass that doesn’t fall apart at high volume as the smaller blackface combos can,sweet, singing treble tones, and now… a mid range control that can gradually push the amp beyond its original, clear and liquid “scooped” mid range voice to an exceptionally thick, “mid-Atlantic” roar that unleashes heavy sustain and rich, musical distortion as only a Fender can. The Pro brilliantly complements every guitar we own, producing the essence of classic Stratocaster, Tele, P90 and humbucker tones with clarity, depth and lush fidelity that literally fills the room. Yes, there are different and equally worthy tones to be had from the British classics,but we have never heard a more beautiful sounding or versatile Fender amp—one that can range from crystalline, blackface clarity to the full burn of an early blonde Fender Bassman at much friendlier volume levels. The Pro can get plenty loud, but it’s a loud that doesn’t kill you in the style of a Showman, Twin or a Super Reverb.

The irony in this unexpected discovery has not escaped us,and perhaps the weight of it is now becoming clear to you, too. This project did not begin well, and we confess to experiencing some remorse when the Pro arrived with a few bad mods, weak and thin from the original output transformer going down, and generally just sounding very wrong. Our dismay was soon displaced by genuine enthusiasm; however, as we were reminded that this is indeed what the quest for tone is all about it. We’ve acquired absolutely bone stock amps in perfect working condition that just couldn’t tote the note, so why should we expect to buy a 44 year old amp that’s been played without it needing a little repair and restoration work? The end entirely justifies the means.

Having finally experienced the Pro’s singular, exceptional sound, we wondered what had caused it to be relegated to such obscurity among all the Fender black face amps. Like the Vibrasonic and Vibroverb, perhaps it was doomed by the presence of the single 15” speaker. Like the Pro, the blackface Vibroverb 1×15 was produced for less than a year, and with the introduction of the 2x12Pro Reverb in 1965, Fender would no longer produce a 1×15 combo until the introduction of the silver face Vibrosonic in 1972. Yet, the earlier 1×16 Pros had been Fender’s flagship amps during much of the tweed era, and in 1960 the 1×15 brown Pro ranked second only to the1x16 Vibrasonic in the Fender catalog. Somewhere along the way, the 1×15 combo had clearly fallen out of favor with Fender, guitarists, or both, and given the short life span of the Vibroverb, even the addition of reverb couldn’t save it.

Twenty years later, Stevie Ray Vaughan elevated the Vibroverb to hall of fame status, otherwise, the 1×15 com-bos seem to have been perceived as “uncool” for anything bug jazz and blues, as if wearing a jacket and tie were required to play them. The Pro is a great blues amp, but it’s also a great rocker, and equally well-suited for jazz, pop and country. With far more clean head room and power than any tweed Pro and much stronger distortion, sustain and dynamic character than a brown Pro, the blackface Pro reflects Fender’s ongoing pursuit of more powerful, cleaner sounding amps, but unlike the black face Bandmaster, Tremolux and Showman, and Pro can really rock the house cranked. We suspect it’s a single 15 and missing ’verb that throws people off today, yet in’64 Pro shares its DNA with the ’64 Bassman and all the highly prized blackface combo amps, including the Deluxe Reverb, Vibrolux Reverb, Super Reverb and the heavily prized and hyped Vibroverb.

The contrast between the Vibroverb’s Holy Grail status versus the lowly blackface Pro simply underscores how easily we can be blown off course by what isn’t hyped on the Internet or in print, and by the powerful logic that suggests if anything 44 years old is truly noteworthy, “we” would already know about it. Well, apparently “they” don’t. But you do. Blackface Pros can be found for $1 500–$2,000,with originality and overall condition driving prices accordingly. Like the Deluxe, we wouldn’t buy one that has had all the blue molded capacitors or Allen-Bradley resistors replaced, but the transformers available today from Mercury will sound every bit as good or better than the originals, and as we have said so many times in the past,the Eminence Legend 15 is spectacular. Add some good,current production or NOS tubes and you will have been delivered to a place well beyond the common man’s limp and shriveled imagination. Now Quest forth….

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FC-TWIN

Blonde, Blackface, Silverface

Original Power Transformer in our ’73 Super Lead

While Michael Bloomfield was playing cranked up blonde Fender Bassman and blackface Twin Reverb amplifiers, Marshall 100 watt stacks suddently appeared thanks to The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Led Zepplin. Throughout the ’70s, rock was dominated by the sound of a Les Paul and Marshall amps, but despite its reputation as the ultimate rock machine, all four-input, 100 watt Marshall model “1959” heads are not the same….

The first 100 watt Marshall amps appeared in late 1965,and despite Marshall’s decision to drop tube rectifiers for the less forgiving, harder sound of solid state diode rectification, the “Plexi” 100 watt heads remained more closely related to earlier Marshall amps inspired by the tweed Bassman than the Super Leads that would follow. In the early ’70s, the 50 watt model “1987” head and 100 watt Super Lead were gradually modified to produce more gain faster, and the bright channel was pushed to a punishing level of thin, ear-shattering brightness, while Channel II remained too dull and bassy to be used alone.

We acquired a 1973 Super lead—the last year before Marshall switched to printed circuit boards—for the modest sum of $1,000, made possible by a recent Dagnall replacement output transformer. Two .022 mf caps had been replaced with Orange Drops and another removed altogether in a futile effort to reduce brightness and gain—other-wise, the original Super Lead circuit remained intact and unmolested. Our plan was to run the amp at approximately 60 watts with just two EL34s, requiring the amp to be set at half the rated speaker impedance of our 8 ohm 4×12 Avatar cabinet, loaded with two Celestion Gold Alnico 12s and two “Hellatone” 70th Anniversary G12H 30s.

As we discussed this project with Jeff Bakos, he mentioned that the 100 watt Super Leads not only sound very different from the 50 watt heads in ways that transcend a mere increase in power, but he also felt that the 100 watt Super Lead amps sound better with just two powertubes instead of the full compliment of four…“That’s very common down here—I know a lot of layers who prefer that sound.” We also consulted with Sergio Hamernik of Mercury Magnetics on a suitable replacement for the modern Dagnall OT, and he suggested the ToneClone’69 Marshall self-leaded version. “Self-leaded” means that the actual wires wound within the transformer are extended to connect directly to the amp, rather than smaller diameter lead wires being attached to the transformer internally. Installing a self-leaded version is a bit of a bitch, since you are cutting and bending much heavier gauge wire to fit in tight spaces, and the insulation must be scraped off the wires before soldering. But Jeff had been here before,and all was taken in stride.

We also noted that the original power transformer in our ’73 Super Lead was similar to those found in the early Plexi100 watt amps with plate voltages well above 500 volts.

Our amp measured 522 volts, while the plate voltage on most post-plexi 100 watt “1959” amps are usually lower—around 460 volts. The “hotter” transformer in our Super Lead produces a comparatively higher and less compressed distortion threshold, and if not for our pair of NOS MullardEL34s, we might need to be more selective about choosing current production tubes that can withstand +500 volts on the plates. Jeff was confident that JJs would hold up, less confident of Svetlanas.

We took the Marshall home and initially ran it with three spare Telefunken 12AX7s just to see if they sounded as sterile in a guitar as we had recalled in the past. They do. We could hear a distinct improvement in the mid and bass tones with the new transformer, but the bright channel remained far too bright to be used alone, even with a Les Paul. While we could manage to knock down some of the treble and acquire a decent tone with the bright channel set on “3” and the bass channel patch with the volume on “6,”pushing Channel II so far above the level of bright channel introduced an indistinct woofiness we didn’t care for. The next day we returned to Jeff’s shop for his standard Marshall 4-banger input channel mod, which simply involves moving the original .005 mf bright cap on the bright channel to the basier Channel II. We had done this before with our ’69 50 watt and a vintage PA20, and it unerringly transformers the sound of the notoriously dull Channel II to a fat, warm, musically rich and bright sound that works perfectly every time. We also replaced the two Orange Drop caps with Mallory 150s and pulled the super hi-fi Telefunkens, replacing them with NOS RCA 12AX7s—the warmest, creamiest pre-amp tube ever made.

With the Super Lead thus optimized and tweaked, its voice was transformed from an angry soprano chain saw to a classic Marshall with all of the requiste thick,rich, historic hall of fame tones at our fingertips. We could mine brilliant clean tones on “3” at a usable volume level that revealed all the gorgeous detail of the vintage patent number pickups in our Historic Les Pauls, and our Stratocaster, Nocaster and Les Paul Junior all sounded equally good. Add Fender outboard reverb and you do indeed have the Twin from Bloody Hell.As Jeff predicted, the big power supply in the Super Lead also produced a much more formidable and impressive presence than a typical 50W. Yes, the Super Lead is still a beast, tamed for your consideration and our enjoyment. But if classic Marshall tone is the sound you crave, a properly groomed Super Lead is hard to beat, and given today’s boteek and vintage amp prices, it’s a solid steal.

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ToneClone – Tonelux transformers

It’s no secret to any of us that Fender’s Deluxe Reverb has long been considered the guitar player’s ultimate desert island amp. It’s lightweight, compact, incredibly sturdy and dependable, and it captures the essence of classic ’60s Fender tone. Blackface models built between 1964 and 1967 can cost as much today as a clean vintage Super Reverb, and Silverface Deluxe reverb amps built from 1968 through the mid ’70s remain a bargain, selling for $600-$900. There is very little difference between unmodified amps built during the two eras, except for a couple of caps connecting the output tube grids to ground in the Silverface amps, and a variety of stock speakers, including JensenCTS and Oxford. There is absolutely no reason why a Silverface Deluxe Reverb can’t sound every bit as wonderful as any Blackface amp, and some of the Silverface amps will sound better than some Blackface Deluxe’s you’ll find. Local amp wizard and advisory board member Jeff Bakos has observed that some of the exceptional Deluxe Reverb amps he’s heard (and he’s heard hundreds of Deluxes) seem to have “hotter” power transformers, and the slight inconsistencies in the way some transformers were wound can make a big difference in tone. Earlier today we heard as much in Jeff’s shop in a ’66. Unfortunately, it all comes down to the luck of the draw when finding those special amps. If there is fault to be found with the sound of a Deluxe Reverb (and it really isn’t a fault), it’s the speed at which the amps begin to break up. The clean threshold of the Deluxe is pretty low, and while this characteristic feature is an irresistible attribute to many players, we wondered what could be done to make the Deluxe Reverb even more versatile without losing its unmistakable tone. The modifications we describe here are very simple as modifications go, and all of them are easily reversible. We encourage you to try some and let us know how you like the results.

We started with a beautifully preserved ’68 Deluxe Reverb acquired on eBay for $900.00. The owner had replaced the original particleboard baffle board with pine, recovered it in vintage Blackface-era grill cloth, and installed a repro Blackface plate. We also received the original baffle board covered with the original blue and silver grill cloth, the aluminum trim, and the Silver face plate. We had acquired a replacement output transformer from Mercury Magnetics, and although the original transformer seemed to be working fine, we wanted to see what we might hear by swapping transformers. The Mercury ToneClone series transformers is the result of years of testing in which Mercury blueprinted some of the best sounding output transformers that could be found in vintage amps and painstakingly reproduced them in every detail. At first, the new transformer didn’t sound starkly different from the original – it sounded exactly like the original. But over time, it became increasingly apparent that the amp was behaving with more dynamic response. Notes and chords were imaging differently than before. Individual notes within chords were better defined, the amp responded faster to touch, and harmonics were more pronounced and complex. We’re the first to subscribe to the “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” school of amp maintenance, but in this instance, the fix was a good one.

One of the easiest things you can do to Deluxe Reverb amps is rebias them for 6L6 power tubes. The outcome is predictable and sublime — more power, more headroom and better lows that won’t fall apart. Call it the “Beano”” treatment for your farting DeluxeJeff Bakos rebiased the amp after we had installed a pair of RCA black plate 6L6s, and we were mighty pleased with the results. You lose some of the compression and darker character of the 6V6 tube when you switch to 6L6s, but there is very little downside to the trade off — just big, bloomy 6L6 tone, and lots of it.

After installing the RCA 6L6s, we opted for an NOS RCA 5751 rather than the 12AX7 in V2, and it really smoothed out the tone to silky perfection. We also experimented with a Chinese 5AR4 rectifier tube, a new Sovtek 5AR4 and a Mullard 5V4. The Mullard pulled the volume back down ever so slightly, but it also seemed to sweeten the tone, rendering a throaty voice that fell nicely in between the “old”” amp with the 6V6s and the “new” one with the 6L6s. Either tube is a good choice — you’ll just have to decide which sound you prefer. Among the 5AR4s, we actually preferred the sound of the Chinese tube over the Sovtek, although the Chinese 5AR4s aren’t quite as robust. Our Deluxe came with an absolutely dreadful (recone?) non-original Fender “blue label” Oxford ceramic magnet speaker that was commonly used in the BassmanTwin and Pro Reverb. We replaced it with n Eminence Legend V12, and this speaker turned out to be a “best buy.” The V12 features a British cone, and the tone is extremely round, well-balanced, and warmer than the Jensen C12N. It’s rated at 80W, and as usual with Eminence products, value and tone are absolutely unmatched for a speaker that sells for under $50.00. Jeff also likes the Legend 125, which is rated at 50W and built with a 1.5 inch voice coil and a slightly lighter magnet. As we observed in Eminence founder Bob Gault’s interview, the low price of an Eminence speaker is no indication of cheap construction or tone. The speakers rock, and they are voiced to appeal to a wide variety of players. We continued experimenting, and our next choice was a new Jensen C12K. We had seen this speaker in Victoria and Fender Twins, and it’s a massive thing. Built in Italy, and rated at 100W with a 2 inch voice coil and 50 oz. magnet. The C12K in a Deluxe with 6L6s yielded huge clean tone from top to bottom, with more high frequency emphasis than the Eminence speakers, and no speaker distortion whatsoever. The Jensen C12K in a Deluxe won’t be everybody’s idea of the perfect match, but it you crave a wide-open, big sound with nothing but clean speaker, the Jensen is a worthy contender at $90 retail. The last speaker we installed was a paper (not hemp) Tone Tubby from A Brown Soun. The paper-cone Tone Tubby is voiced a little brighter than the hemp cones, and we were floored by its rich, smooth character and charm. Jeff described it as being “silky smooth,” and just what he expected, with great lows, stout midrange, and creamy, creamy highs. Now, do you really need a $200 speaker to sound great? Of course not, and the price of a Tone Tubby is not for everyone. But if it’s the speaker for you, you won’t rest until you get one, and nothing we’ve heard can touch it. Enjoy yours, Eric, and enjoy milking some more of the good thang out of your Deluxe, gang. Hey… if not now, when?

 

British Tone in an Amplifier

Following up on the successful introduction of 65 Amps’ flagship London 18W, the company has launched its second model — the Marquee. Named for the legendary Soho music venue where every ’60s British band of note once honed their craft, the Marquee is a bigger-sounding, louder version of the London 65 in some respects, endowed with great headroom and presence. We asked co-founder of 65 Amps and Sheryl Crow guitarist Peter Stroud to describe the musical intention of the Marquee, and our review follows….

TQR: What inspired the development and design of the Marquee, Peter? What did you want to accomplish specifically?

Peter Stroud: We had guitarists loving the sound of the London, but still needing either more volume or clean headroom. Personally, I wanted an amp to replace the Super Reverb in my live rig with that Fender clarity, but more of the openness and touch sensitivity of an amp like the London. Our initial idea with the Marquee was to create a more powerful version of the London 18 watter using 4 EL84s. But we also wanted something with the midrange clarity of the British amps and the clean sparkle of the American Fender Blackface sounds — just not as hard sounding as the 6L6 cleaner tone can be. On top of that, it has a higher gain tone that really roars.

TQR: To what extent were some of the design features in the Marquee such as the cascaded twin-triode operating in pentode mode and the 6-way Color control inspired by vintage amp designs?

Peter Stroud: Our initial intention for the Cascode (note spelling) configuration in this amp was to find a sound similar to the pentode type EF86 tube we use in the London, but more quiet. Due to vibration and noise issues inherent with EF86 tubes, we were apprehensive using it in a higher powered combo. The cascode circuit, which utilizes a 12AX7, was popular in early hi-fi preamplifiers. It has a harmonic content similar to the pentode circuit but produces more even-order harmonics. Randall Aiken helped us greatly with this circuit and we’ve continuously tweaked it’s current configuration in our amp. The end result is a distinctly different sounding channel from the Treble-Mid-Bass channel — very warm and rich sounding. It sounds beautiful with single coils and 12-string electrics. So, the Marquee initially came from many inspirations. Dan (Boul) and I are big fans of the Selmer amps. A few years ago while on tour in the UK I had picked up a Selmer Treble & Bass 50 MkIII, which is the early ’70s silver metal front — the ugly one. But that amp sounds awesome, like a “British Fender Blackface” with two EL34s. We’ve since found a Mk I Treble ‘n Bass from the first year they were built.

The font end of the Marquee Treble-Mid-Bass channel was initially inspired by the Selmer, but it branched off quite a bit. We just aimed for that sound. There are also similarities with the Selmer front-end circuit and the early ’60s brown-Tolex Fenders. I know one of your favorite amps is that killer Vibrolux 1×12 you have. The (Marquee) power stage is a fairly typical British-style 4-EL84 circuit. From there we spent months tweaking the tone circuit. We wanted the Treble-Mid-Bass tone configuration for more control with a higher powered amp.

TQR: You’ve played just about every conceivable guitar amp and for years your rig consisted of a Super Reverb and Marshall 50W. To what extent does the Marquee succeed in giving you both the clean and overdriven tones you need at usable state volumes, and how do you use it specifically?

Peter Stroud: On the latest tour I used both a London and a Marquee and A/B’d between the two. The two together worked perfectly for our stage volume. I’d set the London for a slightly driven rhythm sound playing through an EF86 channel and would use the gain boost for leads. The Marquee took the place of my Super Reverb as my clean sound, and it proved to be better since the mids are more pronounced and you get the nice dynamic saturation of EL84s. It’s much more touch sensitive, which is hard to get with a clean sound without using a compressor. The only time I’d kick on both amps was for Led Zep’s “Rock N Roll,” which we play as an encore. I’d crank the Marquee to 6, hit the gain boost and boost the mids. It totally hit the “Pagey” kind of sound. You can dump the mids and boost the bass and highs and get a chimey sparkling clean tone — settings around 4 on the volume, treble and bass around 6 to 7 and midrange around 4. For a cranking rhythm I’ll set the volume around6, boost the mids to 8 or so, drop the bass around 4, treble at 5. There’s also a footswitchable gain, like on the London, so you can set a rhythm tone on the T-M-B channel and kick in the boost for lead. If you turn the amp up to 10, look out!

TQR: You mention “mustard” caps on your web site being used throughout the amp — are these modern reproductions of the original “mustard” caps used by Marshall in the ’60s?

Peter Stroud: Yes, we use the SOZO caps made by John Gaynor. John’s a Marshall enthusiast who has totally nailed (and surpassed, in our opinion) the “mustard cap” tone where you get the nice smooth mids and bell-tone clarity.

TQR: What else are you working on?

Peter Stroud: We have two new models in the works — a smaller “grab n go” 1×12 combo which actually incorporates a master volume with two EL84s. It has a great sounding master volume that has a sound of its own that can be disengaged so that the amp ha a non-master function. Sort of a “British Fender” vibe again. The thing screams, it can get chimey clean, and it’s incredibly versatile. And over the past six months, we’ve been developing a KT77 head using our Marquee as the springboard with a KT77/EL34 power stage. We had a handful of pro level artists who wanted extreme volume and headroom, where they were used to their 50 and 100 watt EL34 hears and quite a lot of volume. Plus, Dan is a big fan of the Vox AC50 and I’m the Marshall fanatic, so we got into that mindset again. We sent a prototype out for a test run with Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes and he ended up using it as his main amp for the entire last month or so of their tour. When we got it back, all the knobs were dimed. Couldn’t ask for better testing in the field! We’ll introduce both of these amps at Winter NAMM.

REVIEW — 65 Marquee

We spent a lot of quality time with the 35W Marquee Club, and it impressed us as a feisty chameleon that can gracefully move between big, jangly clean tones and an impressive roar with a deep palette of voices available from two very different input channels.

EL84 amps typically produce a distinct, musical compression characteristic that is absent in amplifiers using 6L6 output tubes, yet the Marquee produces gobs of clean headroom — albeit British headroom rather than the trademark 6L6-fueled fidelity of a Fender amp like the Twin or Super Reverb. As far as we’re concerned, British tone in an amplifier denotes rich harmonic depth and chime, often augmented with a dominant midrange emphasis, while Fender amps (Blackface models in particular, sound scooped in the mids by comparison with a wider, broader, looser feel and toner not unlike the difference between the sound of oooh and ahhh. In the Marquee, individual strings seem “closer together,” yet still well-defined throughout its range of clean settings. EQ coloration is accomplished in the “Classic” Channel bass/mid/treble/cut controls, and in the “Normal Channel via six EQ presets on a rotary switch. This “color switch” progressively thickens tone with gradual increases in lows and mids, but the Marquee’s chime and sparkle remain audibly preserved in every setting.

The Marquee produces moderate levels of smooth, overdriven tone at higher volume settings (+6) in the Normal Channel that can be neatly managed from the volume on your guitar, while the footswitchable Boost feature in the Classic Channel yields scorching distortion and sustain that nearly rival that of a Marshall JCM 900 Series Mk III. However, the Marquee delivers a chimier crunch rather than the more linear and cutting, laser beam focus of a high-gain Marshall. It’s a prettier brand of mayhem, if you will. And unlike many vintage British amps, the Marquee succeeds in delivery an enhanced range of both clean and overdriven tones, as well as a more versatile and varied range of EQ emphasis. Overall, we found it to be an inherently bright amp with the EQ controls in neutral settings, but you are also given plenty of room to shape the voice of the Marquee, from brilliant and clangy, to thick, heavy and imposing. We had no trouble dialing in great tones with all of our guitars — thickening the Teles and Stratocasters, planting a wet kiss of treble emphasis on the humbucking Gibsons, and alternatively mining the jangly clean chime and perfect meltdown of P90s. A potent rock amp that can cover a lot of ground, the Marquee is handwired with point-to-point construction that meets the high standards we have all come to expect from custom builders today, the transformers are custom-made by Mercury Magnetics, and the fit and finish of the cabinet work were flawless. As the name implies, the Marquee is steeped in the tones that defined modern rock & roll, viewed through a properly British perspective. And as Fender’s Ritchie Fliegler is fond of saying, “If this is what you like, you’ll really love this!” Quest forth, mate.

Source: https://mercurymagnetics.com/pages/news/ToneQuest/_2007/TQRJan07-2.htm

FBFRT

Brown, Blackface & Silverface Spring Reverb Transformer — #022921

FBFTO-100-UL

Blackface “Evil” Twin — 100 watt with UL taps — 4, 8 & 16 Ohm secondary taps

An Excellent Choice Transformer

We always maintain a steady flow of gear arriving for review, but sometimes we also employ a fascinating if time-consuming research strategy that involves logging onto eBay, picking a broad category such as “guitar amplifiers,” and settling in for as long as it takes to patiently scroll through every page of listings. Yeah, that’s often 50 pages or more, but since we can’t possibly think of all the items that might interest us and search for them by name, it’s far more revealing and productive to just hunker down and scroll. Rarely do we fail to find something intriguing that would have otherwise been missed, and such was the case on a morning in August when we stumbled on a listing for a 1959 tweed Deluxe. Were we looking for a tweed Deluxe? Nope. Wouldn’t have crossed our mind at the time…. We had already reviewed 5E3 reproductions from Fender, Clark and Louis Electric within the past 3 years, and we have frequently referenced our 1958 Tremolux as being our desert island #1. Isn’t a Tremolux just a tweed Deluxe with tremolo in a bigger box? No… not even close. That would be like saying you wanted to date a blonde – any blonde. For the record, our fixed bias Tremolux possesses a cleaner tone with a bigger, booming voice created by the taller Pro cabinet. The Two Fifty Nine is a completely different animal….

Sporting a February 1959 date code on the tube chart, the ’59 had been listed by a seller in Arkansas who turned out to be Tut Campbell, formerly a well-known guitar dealer in Atlanta. Still buying and selling gear, Campbell had described the Deluxe as being in original condition with the exception of a replace output transformer – a big old mono block Stancor dating to 1957. Given the otherwise original condition of the Deluxe, which included the Jensen P12R, we made Campbell a “best off” below his asking price and scored the amp for $1,850 shipped. We wouldn’t say we stole the Deluxe, but it seemed a fair price of admission for the opportunity to experience and explore still another rare classic and supremely worthy piece of Fender history on your behalf.

The Deluxe arrived with the big Stancor dangling from the chassis despite Campbell’s careful packaging. Wasn’t his fault, really – in a feeble effort to avoid any additional holes being drilled in the chassis, the fellow who installed the Stancor in the ’60s had merely tightened set screws over the small tabs at the base of the heavy tranny, which was designed to be mounted upright – not hanging upside down in a guitar amplifier. Of more concern was the fact that while the amp was lighting up, there was no sound…. Well, we’ve been here before, so we made a call to God’s Country and the Columbus, Indiana domicile of Terry Dobbs – Mr. Valco to you. We had already set aside a spare output transformer (Lenco, McHenry, IL) that had been the original replacement installed in our ’58 Tremolux when we first received it, replaced with a Mercury Magneticsfor our June ’07 review article. Mr. Valco cheerfully answered his phone and as we explained the situation with the Deluxe he agreed to walk us through the installation of the new replacement – a simple process involving four lead wires being connected to the rectifier and output tube sockets, and the speaker jack. As long as you put the correct wires in the right place, a piece of cake, and we had the new tranny in within 10 minutes. Pilot lamp and all tubes glowing, still no sound…. Valco patiently guided us through a series of diagnostics with the multi-meter and the Deluxe was running on all cylinders, pumping 380 volts. Stumped, and with the hour growing late, we called it a day. Leaving the mysteriously neutered Deluxe chassis on the bench until tomorrow.

Morning came with a whining voice delivering a plaintive wake up call – “It’s got to be something stupid and simple….” Inspired by a huge steaming mug of Jamaican High Mountain meth, we sat back down at the bench, tilted the innards of the Deluxe chassis forward beneath a bright halogen desk lamp and peered in for answers. We began slowly examining the chassis in sections, looking for broken or dull solder joints, loose or broken wires, while gently pushing and prodding wires and connections with the eraser tip of a #2 pencil as we had seen Jeff Bakos do so often at his bench. After ten minutes or so we were about to give up, when we turned our attention to several places where the circuit was grounded to the chassis adjacent to the volume and tone pots, and damned if a solder joint for one of the uninsulated ground wires hadn’t separated from the chassis. No ground, no sound, and as soon as we had restored the solder joint the Two Fifty Nine arose from the dead with a mighty A major roar.

The amp was indeed remarkably well-preserved in all respects, with the typical amber patina of old tweed. The burnished chrome control panel remained bright and clean with no corrosion, the original handle remained intact, and a couple of small ciggie burns on the edge of the cabinet added a stamp of historic legitimacy to the Deluxe’s pedigree. The top half of the Jensen’s frame was coated in a fine film of red clay dust from the Delta, and while the cone was in remarkably good shape with no tears, an audible voice coil rub called for a recone. We would send the speaker to Tom Colvin’s Speaker Workshop in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, requesting that he leave the original unbroken solder joints for the speaker wires intact if possible.

Meanwhile the first order of business was to listen to an assortment of NOS tubes from our stash, and audition no less than a half dozen speakers. Different sets of power tubes and individual preamp tubes will sound surprisingly different, so we started out with a matched pair of NOS RCA 6V6s, a GE 5Y3 rectifier, and an RCA 12AX7 and 12AY7. From there we subbed in a dozen different RCA, Amperex, Tesla and GE 12AX7s, noting varying levels of brightness, warmth and intensity among them all. For an edgier, more aggressive voice, the GEs and Amperex typically deliver the goods, while RCAs produce a slightly warmer, richer, fuller tone. We also experimented with a 12AT7 and 12AX7 in place of the lower gain 12AY7, and while those tubes ramp up gain and distortion faster and with more intensity than the 12AY7, they seemed like overkill for us. Our Deluxe possesses a tone of gain using the stock 12AY7.

Rather than repeatedly reloading the Deluxe with different speakers, we used a Bob Burt 1×12 cabinet built from 100-year-old pine for our speaker tests. The original Jensen had never been pulled from our amp, but multiple speaker replacements in an old Fender inevitably cause the speaker mounting screws to loosen in the baffleboard, making speaker swaps unnecessarily clumsy and complicated. When we do run into loose mounting screws, we simply run a few small drops of Super Glue around the base of the screw and surrounding wood. Allow to dry and your screws will stay put provided that you don’t torque the nuts on the mounting screws like an idiot with a socket wrench. Don’t be that guy,

We tested a range of speakers that included a Celestion G12H 70thAnniversary, Colvin-reconed ’64 Jensen C12N, Eminence Wizard, Private Jack, Alnico Red Fang, Teas Heat, Screaming Eagle, Red, White & Blues, and Warehouse Green Beret, Veteran 30, Alnico Blackhawk and Alnico Black & Blue. The Alnico speakers generally produce a tighter, smoother, slightly more compressed tone, with a variable emphasis on upper mid-range and treble frequencies, while the speakers with ceramic magnets possess a wider, more open sound. Higher power ratings of 75W-100W offered by the Red, White & Blues, Screaming Eagle and Warehouse Blackhawk typically translate into more graceful handling of bass frequencies, and in a 20 watt Deluxe, zero speaker distortion, for a clean, powerful voice.

Let’s cut to the chase with speaker evaluations, shall we? It has become clear to us that even after reviewing a dozen speakers in as much detail as mere words allow in a single article, many of you remain uncertain about which speaker to choose. No kidding. We would absolutely love to hand you a single magic bullet when it comes to speaker swaps, but here’s the dirty little secret about choosing speakers…. The overall character of the amp you will be installing your new speaker in is critical, and to some extent, the type of guitars and pickups you play most often are important, too. Tailoring your sound with the unique gear you play is not a one-size fits-all proposition – you have to invest some thought into the process. Are you going for a classic “scooped” American Fendery tone, or something more British, with a bit of an aggressive edge and upper midrange voice? Are you playing guitars with single coil pickups or humbuckers? Is there a specific, signature tone you are searching for, or are you playing a wide variety of musical styles that requires a broader range of tones? Do you like the more open sound of speakers with ceramic magnets, or the smoother compression of Alnico? What are you not hearing from your amp and the speaker that’s in it now? Do you want a brighter tone, darker, better bass response, or fuller, more prominent mids? Do you want to really drive the speaker and hear it contributing to the overdriven sound of your amp, or do you want a big, clean tone with no speaker distortion in the mix? The truth is, if you don’t know what you want, you are far less likely to get it. On the other hand, nothing is accomplished with paralysis by analysis. To be perfectly honest, there are lots of speakers made by Celestion, Eminence, Warehouse and, if you can wait long enough for them to break in, Jensen, that we could and would be perfectly happy with, but we would also choose them carefully, taking into account all the factors mentioned above. After a couple of days spent swapping speakers, we ultimately concluded that we preferred the ’64 C12N for a classic tweed Deluxe tone, and a broken-in Celestion G12H 70th Anniversary for the most mind-altering 18 watt Marshall tone we have ever heard. Seriously. More on that in a minute….

Having split more than a few hairs with our speaker swaps, it was time to start picking nits off of gnats with some output transformer evaluations. We first contacted Dave Allen of Allen Amplification, who also stocks Heyboer transformers built to his specs. We found a variety of appropriate output transformers on Allen’s site that offered subtle variations on a stock original Deluxe OT, and we asked Dave to describe the TO26 model we wished to try in the Deluxe:

“The TO26 was intended as a hot rodding upgrade to a stock Deluxe Reverb OT. While maintaining the stock 3-1/8” mounting centers, its fat stack of hotter core steel and multi-tap secondary make it a good choice for builders wanting to maximize the performance of a pair of 6V6s and who may also want to push the envelope with 6L6/5881s while still being able to clear the speaker in a stock cabinet. There are physical limitations in small amps, so its short low profile is welcome. The orientation of the laminations is also good for low hum pick up from the power transformer. I found that an OT mounted the tall way (like my TO30D) picks up considerably more hum simply due to its orientation to the power transformer, so, shoe-horning a ‘tallish’ OT into your amp may cause it to pick up hum from the power transformer – not much of an upgrade. “The TO26’s 7K to 8 or 16 ohm rating makes it ideal for a pair of 6V6s as well as 3,500 ohm to 4 or 8 rating for 6L6/5881s. Notice you always have an 8 ohm option with both types of power tubes. An impedance switch could be wired (I use a blackface grounding switch) as a power tube type selector for an 8 ohm speaker to go between 6V6s and 6L6s. The TO26 will typically give slightly more output with 6V6s due to its more efficient low-loss core steel and will keep the bass clean longer for more perceived clean headroom. As it takes the most watts to reproduce the bass, you notice distortion there first, and since Fender-type amps are so bass heavy, you can quickly hit the wall with headroom, so a noticeable increase in clean bass response certainly feels like a more powerful amp with the TO26. It is kind of like you installed a new speaker with a larger ceramic magnet that is more efficient than the old speaker. The amp is a little louder and the bass a little tighter or cleaner.

“There seem to be a lot of 6L6-based 5E3 amps out there now to get a little clean headroom from a circuit normally not known for much of that. The TO26 is a good choice for that type of amp as it will fit typical available chassis and cabinets. It has extra long 12” topcoat leads ready to strip and solder. I would reckon it would handle up to about 30 watts before starting to saturate and compress – plenty of cathode-biased 6L6s. I find that the Heyboer paper stick-wound and interleaved output transformers with premium core steel and heavy core stacks have typically better clarity or definition than ‘stock’ OTs. Call it fidelity or whatever you want – just clearer distorted and complex tones and better separation of notes in chords, etc. I use the TO26 in the Allen Sweet Spot, Accomplice Jr. and Hot Fudge with Nuts amps with excellent results. All of these amps can use either 6V6 or 6L6 power tubes. You know how a 5F6-A or Super Reverb has that huge 4 bolt OT for a pair of 6L6s to get the maximum clean bottom end? That is sort of what the TO26’s OT is to a pair of 6V6s. It just doesn’t even come close to saturating.

When we informed Dave that we planned to run the Deluxe with 6L6/5881 power tubes as well as 6V6s, he recommended that we try the TO26 since it had been specifically designed for such applications. He also sent a smaller TO20 transformer, described as being designed with a wider 1-1/4′′ lamination “fat stack” that provides 60% additional core mass than typical ¾′′ stack units for improved performance. The TO20 is a direct replacement for Blues Jr. and Princeton Reverb amps, and also suitable for dual EL-84 amps with an 8 ohm load.

Mr. Valco also sent us a replacement 5E3 output transformer he had bought on sale from Clark Amplification a few years ago made for Mike Clark by Magnetics Components in Schiller Park, IL – a company that has been producing transformers since 1943, having been the primary supplier for Valco and various Gibson amps in the ’50s and ’60s. A call to the company revealed that ToneQuest ReportV12. N1. Nov. 20104the transformer Valco sent was essentially their replacement for a Deluxe Reverb, model #40-18002 without bell ends per Clark’s request. We also learned that the company offers a complete range of Classic Tone vintage power and output transformers, including a reverse-engineered clone of a ’55 Triad 5E3 output tranny, model #18022.

We also contacted Paul Patronete at Mercury and requested a ToneClone “brown Deluxe” output transformer, since Larry Cragg had provided them with specific measurements from original OT in Neil’s ’61 tweed Deluxe, confirming that it was indeed a ’61–’62 brown Deluxe tranny. With a total of 6 output transformers to listen to, we took the Deluxe to Jeff Bakos, who set up a rig on his bench that enabled us to clip in each transformer and very quickly switch back and forth between them as we played a guitar through the amp. Are we having fun yet? Here’s what we heard:

Lenco – An excellent authentic “vintage” vibe for those that prefer the classic, if somewhat murkier sound of a tweed amp being pushed, lots of sag in the low end and a jangly pop in the top. And “old,” rather “lo-fi” sound indicative of the ’50s era amps.

Magnetics Components Clark Deluxe 18002 – Similar to the Lenco, but stronger and more robust, with a prominent growling character and voice. Thick, wooly and willin’ with better treble presence and clear string definition then the Lenco, yet an entirely “vintage” character. This tranny is comparable to those found in Deluxe amps from the brown era through silverface. Excellent power, punchy and fat with exceptional clarity and tone.

Magnetic Components 5E3 Clone – Percussive and dynamic with a faster attack response than the Clark/Deluxe Reverb version, this transformer was reverse-engineered from an original ’55 Deluxe OT. IT imparts an intense, throaty tweed character with enhanced mid and treble presence, remarkable clarity, and an authentic vintage ’50s vocal tone with softer bass response and slightly less volume and power than the Deluxe 18002.

Allen/Heyboer TO20 – An interesting variation with a much more modern, percussive dynamic character. The sound was not as heavy and imposing in the vintage style, and with this transformer the Deluxe reminded us of the more refined sound of a Fender Princeton, with excellent dynamic punch for slide and Allen/Heyboer TO26 – As advertised, the low end held up loud and proud with very little sag and an audibly higher threshold of clean headroom, although beyond 6 on the volume control the Deluxe was still holding nothing back. Overall, this transformer imparts a cleaner, high fidelity tone with more clarity and stout bass response than a typical stock 5E3 transformer. An excellent choice for enhanced low-end and maximum volume.

Mercury Magnetics brown Deluxe – Immediately recognizable, the Mercury displayed a trademark sound that is smooth, exceptionally musical, warm and balanced. Sounding more “high fidelity” than the Lemco or Magnetic Components transformers, but still seductively unruly enough to get yer ya-ya’s out. Sweet, rich, detailed and sticky.

Now, you may be wondering why we would bother to audition so many output transformers…. How much difference can it make? Well, forty-odd years ago when someone rigged that old Stancor tranny in the Deluxe, the only choice available to most repair shops was whatever was on hand in the scrap pile. Today we can shape the tone and dynamic response of an amp with a variety of “vintage” or more modern, custom transformers that allow us to recapture the original sound and feel of the amp, or improve upon the original design. Why did Cesar Diaz install output transformers for a Twin Reverb in Stevie’s Super Reverb amps, and Bassman transformers in his Vibroverbs? Because the first thing that chokes and overwhelms a smaller output transformer are the bass frequencies, and Cesar wanted Stevie’s amps to produce a rock-solid, thundering low end that could handle his massive wound strings. The tone we’re celebrating with our ’59 Deluxe is quite the opposite…. The raucous sound of the amp teetering on the edge is the key to it’s exploding tone, but if you wanted to go in the opposite direction with more headroom and a tighter low end, transformers like the TO26 have been specifically designed for that purpose. We once replaced the output transformer in our Pro reverb with a bigger MercuryToneClone Bassman, and the Pro grained a tone of clean headroom and unyielding bottom. Wanna make it even harder still? Use a plug-in diode rectifier in place of the 5AR4 rectifier tube. No saggy britches now. As with so many choices we make in the Quest for tone, the final decision comes down to your mission and individual taste, and Jeff agreed that between the Heyboer TO26, both Magnetic Components trannies and the Mercury brown Deluxe, the question wasn’t which one was “best” – all four were exceptional, but different. Some players would prefer one over another for different reasons described here, but all of them represent stellar examples of just how far we’ve come since the day that old Stancor tranny was used to put the Two Fifty Nine back into service.

One last detail needed to be addressed…. Could we safely run the Deluxe with 5881s or 6L6s if we preferred that sound over 6V6s? Once again, we asked the prescient Mr. Valco for some Hoosier insight:

“The impedance mismatch in this particular amp using the 6L6s is really not a big concern, it won’t hurt the amp and will either sound good or it won’t. The 6L6s draw 1.8 amps and two 6V6s draw 0.9 amp, so using the 6L6s will add about 1 amp more current draw that the power transformer needs to supply from the 6.3 volt heater windings. On some small 6V6 amps, using 6L6s can and does cause the power transformer to run hotter because more current equates to more heat. The concern is that the power transformer in the Deluxe, not being a large one to start with, has the extra 1 amp of heater current capacity to safely use the 6L6s. One way to determine if the power transformer is really stressed out with the 6L6s is to measure the AC heater voltage on pins 2 and 7 on the power tube sockets (or on the pilot lamp) and see if the AC voltage drops significantly from the reading using 6V6s versus 6L6s. It should be a bit over 6.3 volts AC with the 6V6 anyway (since the wall voltage is higher these days than in the early ’60s) and with the 6L6s you sure don’t want to see a large drop in voltage below 6.3 volts AC. If there is a large drop it means the transformer is having trouble supplying enough current for the 6L6 heaters if given enough time with the 6L6s could damage the power transformer. If the drop is only a few 10th of a volt, and doesn’t go below 6.3 AC, then it would indicate that the transformer is supplying the demand for the heater current and should be OK. Most Fender amps used power transformers that could handle some extra current demand.

And now we arrive at the moment of truth. We’ve been steadily reeling in a parade of new and classic amps for review in these pages for 12 years now this month – Marshall, Fender, Magnatone, Hiwatt, Vox, Valco, Silvertone, Ampeg, Gibson, Gretsch, Mesa Boogie, Park, Supro, Dickerson, Traynor, Budda, Western Auto, Standel, Dumble, Cornell, Clark, Crate, Divided by 132, Reeves, Bad Cat, Gabriel, Fuchs, Koch, Star, Category 5, 65 Amps, Balls, Bakos, Callaham, Blankenship, Reinhardt, Grammatico, Siegmund, Chicago Blues Box, Roccaforte, Headstrong, Rivera, Mad Professor, Talos, Maven Peal, Reverend, BC Audio, Savage, Goodsell, Fargen, Carol-Ann, DST, Two Rock, Germino, Matchless, Louis Electric, Swart, Demeter, Juke, Aiken, Bluetron, DeArmond, Carr, Victoria, and Dr. Z, with more coming. Lots of amplifiers, multiple models from the same builders, and among the foremost classics – Fender, Marshall, Vox, Hiwatt, Gibson, Ampeg and the entire Valco catalog, we have acquired, optimized and restored dozens of amps considered to be among the most desirable vintage models ever built. In the 20 watt wheelhouse occupied by the Two Fifty Nine, it has no equal by a mile. Game over.

After a lot of back and forth testing with different sets of output tubes, we became hooked on the thundering sound produced by a pair of Philips small-bottle 6L6WGBs. Thanks to Larry Pogreba’s talent for scavenging rare tubes (in Montana, no less), we are flush with several outstanding and stout pairs of RCA 6L6s, but the brighter Philips really lit up the Deluxe with a fresh and lively attitude that mirrors the bounce of a newer amp. With the ’64 Jensen C12N loaded, the Deluxe spookily nails the tones of Neil Young’s rig on Ragged Glory – a “studio” recording cut live with the Deluxe and Old Black in a barn on Young’s ranch with Crazy Horse. With the volume backed off to 4-5 a bluesy jangle emerges anchored by solid low end, rich midrange, the sweetest treble tones imaginable, and variable levels of sustain and edgy distortion that can be controlled both by the volume on the guitar and pick attack. The Deluxe does not discriminate between single coils or humbuckers, ravaging both with equal fervor, and the responsive dynamic character of this amp simply is not of this world. Rotating the single tone control sharpens treble without dumping lows or mids, while also subtlety increasing gain, as if you were using a boost pedal. A “Y” cord plugged into the Instrument and Microphone inputs enables the two channels to be mixed with great effect. As Neil Young described, bringing the mic input volume up with the instrument volume set between 6-8 gradually deepens the tone while slowly igniting an intense explosion of thicker second order harmonics and distortion as the dynamic character of the amp softens. Pushing the Instrument volume level up into the 8-12 range brings the volume up to a perceived level that exceeds 20 watts, while provoking an angry, pissed-off cascade of astonishingly rich musical distortion as the notes swerve into controlled harmonic feedback.

Switching from the Jensen to the Celestion transforms the Deluxe into the most stunningly toneful 20 watt Marshall you could possibly imagine. To be honest, you probably can’t imagine it, because we have never heard anything like this ourselves, even after owning a couple of vintage Marshall PA20s, a rare Lead & Bass head and 1×12 cabinet, and a Balls 2×12 18 watt. We could easily live with either speaker, and the Deluxe also just kills pushing our 8 ohm 4×12 pinstripe cabinet.

For those of you who appreciate a somewhat tamer vibe, we can assure you that the Deluxe loaded with a fine pair of 6V6s is equally mind-altering. The overall sound is a wee bit smaller in girth and less imposing, yet abundantly overflowing with vivid harmonic depth, a supremely touch-sensitive response, and brilliant combination of fidelity, clarity and bloom. Compared to a black or silverface Deluxe Reverb, the ’59 presents a more musically complex soundstage, less harsh, stiff and linear, and it lacks both the sharper treble of a blackface amp, and the scooped midrange character. The tone is rounder and meatier, the treble sweeter and less dominant, with an enhanced 3-D image.

Now, if you’re the type that skeptically requires a qualifier to add a stamp of legitimacy to such an over-the-top review, here it is, Mr. Been There-Done That…. The Deluxe doesn’t and won’t spew big clean tones at stage volume. Our ’58 Tremolux produces a cleaner tone with a higher threshold of clean headroom by far at comparable volume levels, and the taller tweed cabinet encourages a stronger, cleaner resonant bass and low mid response. The Tremolux is also equipped with a Mercury ToneClone Tremolux output transformer, which creates a tone that is less wooly, raucous and indistinct.

The busted-up sound of the Tremolux above 5–6 is gloriously righteous indeed, but with more clarity and less provocative intensity than the Deluxe. Taken in context, what we’re suggesting here is that in our experience, the Deluxe has no equal as both a Fender and Marshall style 20 watt rocker (depending on speaker selection), and we’ll add “blues” to that description equipped with 6V6s and the Jensen C12N. During our 2-month test period, we also routinely used our Lee Jackson Mr. Springgy reverb, Analogman-modded Boss DD3 digital delay, and a very cool, versatile (and cheap) Flip tube tremolo pedal reviewed here. Can a modern replica of the 5E3 Deluxe deliver the same inspiring tones as the Two Fifty Nine? The closest thing we’ve heard is the Louis Electric “Buster,” but no, magical happy accidents like this Deluxe can’t be reproduced today – and that is as it should and shall always be. Quest forth…

 

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FBFTO-85M

Blackface Reverb — 4 & 8Ω taps

Transformer Replacement

Article: Let’s Ask Budda with Jeff Bober of Budda Amps

Q: I’ve got an SR Blackface ’66 amp, all original. The sound is very thin, weak and trebly. There’s nothing wrong with any of the tubes, and it has been biased correctly. I’ve tried the amp through different speakers but found the same result. The amp hasn’t been played very much over the years. Can it be old, dried-out capacitors that make the amp sound like this? Can a complete replacement of the capacitors really improve the sound – meaning to give it more twang and bottom end, or “life”? – Tobbe Sweden

A: Beautiful amp. One of my favorites… except, of course, for a Budda!

I’m assuming both channels of the amp are thin and weak. If it were only one channel that sounded bad, I would tell you that the 100K resistor in the tone stack of that channel was probably open. This would also disable the Middle and Bass control, but I’m going to assume that all the amplifier controls function properly. Since you also mentioned that the amp has been properly biased, I have to assume that the primary sections of the power supply have the correct voltages.

Considering the amp’s age and the possibility that it might have been sitting idle for some time, a power-supply cap job is probably a good idea. This might not be the source of the problem, but once any other repairs have been made it will make the amp sound stronger and tighter. Make sure the values of the power-supply resistors are checked after the filter caps have been removed. A power-supply resistor that’s substantially out of tolerance can cause degradation in tone, but usually it won’t be as drastic as the symptoms you’re describing. And don’t forget to have the bias supply cap replaced. A weak cap in the bias supply will give the amp some additional unnecessary hum. You might also want your tech to do some normal maintenance on the amp, such as cleaning all of the tube sockets and controls while he’s in there. A very dirty tube socket, especially in the phase inverter, can really suck the life out of the amp. If the amp still isn’t right after the maintenance and power-supply build, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

Okay, let’s look at some other possible causes for an anemic Fender amp. The first thing I’d look for would be the ground connections from the circuit board. These are the buss wires that come off the circuit board behind the controls and solder to the brass grounding plate that runs under the control panel. I’d check all of these connections, but there’s a particular one that seems to be the most frequent offender. It comes off the board in the area of the tremolo and phase inverter circuits behind the tone controls for Channel 2. For some reason this solder connection tends to break, causing the phase inverter to lose its grounding. That makes the amp lose substantial power and sound thin. If any of these ground connections is broken, it takes a good deal of heat to re-solder them. So, you’ll need to use a high-wattage soldering iron or gun. If all these ground are intact, the next thing to check would be the 100-ohm (brown/black/brown) resistor in this same area. It’s the only resistor in the area that is positioned horizontally on the circuit board. It also typically suffers from a broken solder connection and will yield the same low-power situation. Re-solder the resistor, and you should be good to go. If not, it’s time to start looking at the other major cause: a bad output transformer.

The best way to determine if the output transformer is bad is to simply substitute it with one you know is okay. A good way to check it is to simply unsolder the leads coming from the original transformer and attach a replacement using clip leads. If you can’t come up with a Super Reverb transformer to try, a Twin Reverbtransformer will work well for the test. If you need a replacement transformer, I have to recommend (as I have in the past) Mercury Magnetics. Their Axiom line of transformers should have just what you need. They can be found at www.MercuryMagnetics.com.

I hope you can make your Super super again.

Source: https://mercurymagnetics.com/pages/news/PremierGuitar/MusiciansHotline-2.htm

FBFTO-100

Blackface — 100 watt — 4, 8 & 16Ω taps

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Blackface Reverb for ’65 reissue — 220V, 230V & 240V primary — #049181 — Drop-in Upgrade!

Great Bedroom and Studio Amps

CATEGORY 5’S ANDREWAND Typhoon Joe are all-tube, handwired two-channel amps with top-of-the-line Mercury Magnetics transformers, JJ and Tech-Cap electronics, Analysis Plus speaker wire, and silver-tinned Teflon wire, all attached to a two-millimeter aluminum chassis in an 11-ply Baltic birch cabinet fitted with Jensen Neo speakers.

Both amps have multiple-impedance capability, two speaker jacks, a line-out, and an adjustable line level.

There are controls for two non switchable channels on the front panel, with Volume and Tone controls for the first, and Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass for the second. A section labeled Global affects both channels, with a single control for reverb.

Using a reissue Gibson Les Paul Special with P-90 pickups and a kit guitar with Rio Grande single-coils, the 45-watt Typhoon Joe (with four 12AX7s, two EL34s and a solid state rectifier) sounds great and is a snap to control in terms of volume. Adjusting its overall output via the Wattage control lets the amp maintain its tonal characteristics no matter how many picture frames fall from the walls! There is a slight increase in headroom as voltage is dialed up, and a softening of the edges on the distortion as the voltage goes down, but it’s very subtle. And the EQ is remarkably consistent – a relief for those who’ve played amps that require channel-volume adjustment and tone-knob tweaks if they touch the Master. An A/B comparison confirmed the characteristic was common to both amps.

With its dual EL34s and 100-watt/12” speaker, the Typhoon Joe pushed out gorgeous tones with a distinctly British voice. Channel one gives a straight-up Marshall JTM45-like tone with single-coil pickups that help it produce a combination of mid range throatiness with high-end chime. The Typhoon is relatively clean (for a Marshall-type amp) to just past half-way on the Volume dial. Keep it below that, though, and it’s oh-so-easy to get Robert Cray-style cluck. Channel 2 has a late-’65s Marshall plexi tone at lower volumes, but the distortion become screamier as the Volume knob is dialed up. Even at upper settings, there wasn’t a hint of harshness, just more sustain.The P-90s had Channel 1 singing with the Volume knob halfway up. Using the bridge pickup with the Volume at three-quarters brought out a tight, rich, distortion, while turning down the Tone smoothed out the edge without killing the highs. The neck pickup was warm,even when driven hard, but did not become muddy, revealing the sound Larry McCray described in a recent interview as “woofy.” The P-90s were pure velvet in Channel 2 from about 40percent on up – rich, with just a bit of edge to keep the notes distinct.

Although the Andrew is rated at a few watts less than the Typhoon Joe, its two 100-watt 10” speakers make it seem louder. Its two 5881 tubes give it a more American sound and, if that’s not to your liking, a bias circuit allows the Andrew to run a variety of octal power tubes, including 6V6, 6L6,EL34, KT66, and even KT77 tubes,without re-biasing. Channel one has a pre-blackface Deluxe tone, if only the Deluxe weighed about 400 pounds.Clean(er) Fender tones prevail up to about halfway on the Volume, and after that it has slightly scooped mids with hair. The bridge-pickup tone was remarkably smooth, with no brittle highs. Channel 2 continued the Fender tones and sounded like a Super, but a little cleaner, like it had mated with a Twin. While the neck pickup was glassy, the middle pickup was called into service more than usual, Channel 2 bringing out the usual warmth of a middle Strat pickup, but with more clarity and aggression.

If you like P-90s, plugging into the Andrew is going to have a serious impact on the amount of sleep you get and how often you get out of the house.The neck pickup had a slight glass-on-steel sound like any good Strat pickup, but the Andrew emphasizes it while bolstering the added mids of a P-90. With the Volume at about 60 percent, the slightly under wound neck pickup was warm, full, and just a little edgy. Combining both pickups with the three-way switch in the middle gave a B.B.-type tone, only a little darker and more menacing. The bridge pickup by itself had more snarl and bite than with the Typhoon Joe.

Though neither Category 5 amp offers channel switching, their channels are in phase, so an A/B/Y footswitch allows for days of tonal exploration. And because of the Wattage control, both amps make great bedroom and studio amps that produce full-bodied distortion at low volumes. – Bob Dragich

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Blackface Reverb — #125A29A

FBFTO-100M

Blackface — 100 watt — 4, 8 & 16Ω taps — smaller stack

FTWIN-RI-P

Blackface Reverb for ’65 reissue — #037610 — Drop-in Upgrade!

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Blackface — 4, 8 & 16 Ohm taps — Upgrade!

FBFTO-85MT

Blackface — 4, 8 & 16 Ohm taps

FBFTP-U

Blackface — Universal Voltage Primary

Output Transformer Changed to a Bassman

Hey, Jeff.

I love your column! I look forward to reading it every month. I have a ’67 blackface Super Reverb that I gig with. Really an awesome-sounding amp!

I just realized that the output transformer has been changed to a Bassman reissue or a Super reissue OT (output transformer). I’m not really big on keeping it original — it doesn’t really matter to me because I will never sell this amp — but like every other tone searcher out there, I want the best possible tone that this amp can achieve. I am curious about changing this out for a higher-quality OT. I heard the Mercury transformers are really good vintage replacements. What kind of differences in sound/tone will I hear by doing this, and is it worth it? Also what kind of tubes do you prefer in these amps? Thanks so much, and keep the awesome columns coming!

Ben

Hi Ben,

Thanks for reading PG, and thanks for writing in. It’s the much-appreciated support of the readers that enables all of us to write for such a cool publication. Now… on to that horrible amp you’re forced to gig with. I kid, of course. The Super Reverb is absolutely one of my favorite amps. The multiple 10″ speaker configuration helps give it a unique voice and sets it apart from most other combos using the ubiquitous 12″ speaker. It’s a shame that the output transformer needed to be replaced, but occasionally these things happen. A reissue Bassman or Super Reverb transformer, since they both have an output impedance of 2 ohms, will certainly get the amp working properly, but yes, you can do better.

Mercury Magnetics offers a couple of different lines, and they are some great-sounding replacement transformers. Their ToneClone series transformers are replicas of the original transformer designs, and the Axiom series takes them to the next level with design modifications for tonal improvement. Which one you choose will depend on whether you desire to have the amp sound as good as a great-sounding Super Reverb can, or to, as Emeril Lagasse says, “Kick it up a notch!” Either way, you should notice tonal improvements. Some may be very noticeable, and some may be subtler. Things like tighter, extended bottom end, smoother top end, more harmonic content and better note definition are all improvements you might expect. These attributes can all be affected by the quality of your output transformer. Whether it’s worth it or not is completely dependent on any cost limitations you put on your search for the ultimate tone.

You also asked about tube preference. This is always very subjective and depends on the type of music you play and your expectations of the amp. In general, my preferred preamp tube for amps that were not designed with heavily overdriven preamp sections is the Sovtek 12AX7LPS. Its large plates seem to make it a very full-range tube, so your guitar or effects will be very full bodied. In amps with major front-end gain, this extended frequency range can become too much of a good thing, but that’s certainly not the case with a Super Reverb like yours.

Also, here’s a little helpful tip to remember: Even new tubes can be microphonic. If you install new tubes in your amp and you experience ringing or feedback when the volume is turned up with nothing plugged in, try swapping the positions of all the tubes of a same spec. (In this case, it would be the 12AX7s. The 12AT7 tubes in Supers are in locations that are generally not too susceptible to microphonics, so they shouldn’t be an issue.) Certain locations in the circuit are more susceptible to microphonic tubes than others, so moving them often clears up the ringing, or at least minimizes it.

Preference for output tubes is much more dependent on the use of the amp and style of music. If you play mostly blues or classic rock, I would recommend going with a smaller-bottle tube that will have a nice, smooth breakup that occurs sooner — making it easier for the output stage of the amp to be pushed into clipping and achieve that glorious nirvana that is output-tube distortion! Recommendations might be the new reissue Tung-Sol 5881 or Groove Tubes GT-5881C. If you’re more into big jazz chords or country twang — or if you get your signature tones from stompboxes and prefer that the amp be as big, loud and proud as it can be — you’ll probably want to go with a larger-bottle tube. This generally yields the fullest, cleanest performance. Recommendations here might be the JJ/Tesla 6L6GC or the Ruby 6L6GCMSTR. Another suggestion here might be the new reissue Tung-Sol 6L6GC-STR. I just installed a quartet in a Twin Reverb and it was surprisingly loud ‘n proud. I hope that helps you on your way to a more super Super.

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