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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.

 

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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Dumble-Inspired Guitar Amplifiers

Something very cool is happening the basement of Mr. Music, Boston’s favorite family-owned music store in Allston, Massachusetts.

After a lifetime of gigging, amp repair, studio building, and tone tweaking for stars like Joe Perry of Aerosmith, master technician Rob Lohr is building some of the finest boutique tone monsters to come along in a while.

I have always been impressed with anything I heard that was built in his shop, located in the basement of Mr. Music. Rob is a person of great detail. A technical question put forward to Rob usually yields a tutorial on the workings of electrons with respect to our favorite instrument, the guitar. Through the years, Rob and I  have had many conversations about what a practical amp should sound and look like. A veteran of the gig scene himself, Rob understands what the working artist needs. In my world, 50 percent of the reason why something sounds good is because it does not need a crew of roadies to transport it, set it up, and break it down. These days, as indie artists, even for high-profile shows in theatres, we usually show up with our own favorite rig. It had better be light and tone-worthy!

When I heard Rob’s Dumbalina, an amp inspired by the legendary Alexander Dumble’s Overdrive Special, I was instantly hooked. Here was an amp the size of a Fender Princeton Reverb that was a very high quality, point to point, hand-made tone machine that had a kick like amps twice its size. Rob Lohr had somehow managed to pack all of the essential features of the best Dumble-inspired amps into a space the size of a Fender Princeton Reverb. He did this with no sacrifice in power (45w) and the highest quality components!

There are many other great D-Style amps whose components are a cut below Dumbalina’s. Yet Rob charges a modest $1800.00 for the basic amp, with additional costs for any custom work. Okay, yes, I did have to pay extra for him to add my name to the front in vinyl lettering with Fender-style script. Don’t be confused though, this is not the “Thaddeus” amp!

With a switchable  4, 8, 16 ohm extension speaker output, the amp offered everything you might need to grow your rig. Small gig: use the onboard 12-inch G12-T75 and walk in with the amp in your right hand and guitar in the left. Large gig: take an extension cab and utilize all of the 45 available watts to rock the stage with two or more 12-inch speakers.

The footswitchable Overdrive channel sounded like the mating of a Dumble Overdrive Special and a Two Rock Custom Reverb Signature. Overdrive that sings without over-saturation and responds to tonal tweaks on your guitar or subtle finger ornaments. The quality of OD of this amp, I will testify, is simply one of the best I have played. The clean channel can be crystal, but if you push it, you can get a singe on the top notes and a roar on the power chords.

The +4 effects loop provides you with the opportunity to use the highest studio grade effects in the loop. Aside from being whisper quiet, plugging in a high-end effect processor seems to lend a three-dimensional quality to the amp that makes it sound much bigger than its physical proportions might suggest. Of course, you can use a dumble-ator or clone thereof to use line level floor pedals, but why not use some of the high-quality studio grade pedals that are coming out these days? TC Electronics makes a couple and so does Eventide. More and more pedal manufacturers are giving you the option of the studio level +4 signal, ready to plug into your D-style effect loop. (See previous post on Effects Loops).

The three switches that you normally find on D-clones for Bright, Mid, and Bass are neatly hidden in Dumbalina: Each  tone knob (Bass, Treble, Mid) has a hidden, whisper quiet, pop-less pull-boost feature which takes the whole thing up to a different kind of 11 heaven. The Volume knob has a presence boost. When the Tone Bypass is engaged (often called Pre-Amp Bypass or PAB in other Dumbl- inspired amps) the treble pull pot doubles as a bass boost. The result is the most useful “PAB” option that I have ever seen with a corresponding increase in low end that makes this feature a very practical and useful option for me. Usually I shy away from PAB because it might sound a little gnarly, or less friendly in lower volume settings, even though it works wonders for cutting through in the heat of the mix at high volumes.

My most recent gig was a power trio gig, a Hendrix tribute concert. I used Dumbalina’s overdrive channel for the solos that were not over-the-top, so to speak. When the band started really bashing, I could get away with using my Tone Bypass to cut through the mix. Really very flexible tones on this puppy! The 45w is just what you need to sing at lower volumes. Push the envelope a bit and you get great power amp overdrive without scaring the non-guitarists out of the room. In addition, there is a master volume/loop send level that allows you to get the tones you are using at lower volumes without changing the character of the settings. A well thought out amp for the working musician. At 34 pounds, the amp is welcome at any gig that I play!

In the studio, Dumbalina reigns supreme. I have just completed tracks for a tribute cd. R&B versions of Jimi Hendrix tunes. I used Dumbalina for many of the guitar solos and rhythm tracks and, well, tune in next year in the Spring to hear what I think are pretty amazing guitar tones.

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Rob builds every aspect of the amp. From the cabinet and grillcloth to the faceplate (painting and vinyl lettering)

the meticulously wired components inside this amazing amp.

Current wait time is only something like three months, since Rob is building each one by himself. I am sure as the word gets out, that list will grow and grow. It will still be worth the wait, I promise!

Here is the icing on the cake: roughly six months or so after you get the amp, after the amp has been broken in. Rob will sit there with you and do the final tweaking of the components WHILE YOU ARE IN THE SHOP! He will look at the levels and settings that you choose and tweak the internal components so that a great amp becomes an even greater amp, tuned to YOUR signature style of playing. This is an amazing benefit and it is the feature that pushes Rob to the front line of amp builders. (Isn’t that why Dumbles became so popular and expensive? Alexander Dumble would tweak them to the playing style of the owners). Rob recently spent 10 hours—yes folks, 10 hours in the basement at Mr. Music—tweaking an amp for client Alex Potts, so he could have it ready for his move to LA. In my Berklee Online course, Funk/Rock and R&B Soloing, I talk about signature tone. Folks like Robben Ford, who within a couple of notes, announce their presence on the recording whether or not you are even close enough to read the album credits. I believe that this amp can open a door to this concept, and with the post-build tweak, you just might be creating some new history.

Here is the latest version of Dumbalina that Rob is completing, with a couple of new tweaks and slightly different cosmetics on the faceplate, which include corresponding faceplate lights for the lighted footswitchable Overdrive and Tone Bypass features: Sweeeeeeet!!

Here is the scoop on Dumbalina, from the hand of the builder himself, Rob Lohr:

CABINET-The cabinet is Grade “A” pine joined with machine cut half blind dovetail joints and internally braced with poplar. I will cover the cabinet with any available tolex and grille cloth, and you have your choice of appropriate loudspeaker*. The standard faceplate is brushed aluminum with black letters, but I can do colors for a small upcharge and you have your choice of knobs**. The handle is a good quality faux leather that comes in brown, black, or blue, and I use 1″x2″  heavy duty rubber feet and stainless steel cabinet corners and hardware.

*speaker must be of appropriate power handling.

**knobs must fit 1/4″ shaft and comply with existing chassis hole spacing.

CHASSIS– The chassis is steel with welded joints and all hardware is stainless steel. The transformers are MERCURY MAGNETICS FBFVL-P 120v power transformer, FC-VIBROL choke and FBFVLR-OS Fatstack output transformer(4,8,16 ohm selectable). I can do selectable AC input for a small upcharge. The tube compliment is: 2x 12ax-7(pre), 1x 6sl7(PI) 2x 6L6GE(output) and a GZ34(rectifier). I use Belton tube sockets and retainers. I use a combination of Alpha, Clarostat, and Bourns potentiometers, Cliff and Switchcraft jacks, plugs and switches. All shielded leads are Mogami console cable. All unshielded signal leads are teflon coated solid copper core silver clad. All power supply wiring is PVC jacketed stranded copper.

ELECTRONICS– 100 percent hand-wired point to point construction. Hand made 1/8-inch fiberglass turret board, a combination of Metal oxide, metal film and carbon composition resistors, Oil and foil signal capacitors, and high quality electrolytics. There are some other solid state components, but they are related to the switching circuits and are not in the audio path.

LIMITED LIFETIME WARRANTY– I don’t warranty speakers, tubes, or output transformers for obvious reasons …but if anything else ever breaks I will fix it for free for ever and ever. Or until I die, which ever comes first.

Here is the bullet list of Dumbalina Specs:

Output power———–45 watts

Tube compliment——–2x 6L6GE, 2x 12AX-7, 1x 6SL7, 1x GZ34

Output Impedance——4,8,16 ohm selectable

Effects loop———— post pre/ pre power half normalled break out with send level.

Foot switches———-Over-drive and tone bypass(PAB). Both can also be controlled by front panel switches and are indicated with both front panel and foot switch mounted LED’s. The footswitch over-rides the front panel switches.

Controls—————-Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Overdrive, Level (ratio), send level.

Pull Pots:

Pull Volume————-Bright

Pull Treble————–Hi mid boost

Pull Mid—————–Lo mid boost

Pull Bass—————-Bass boost

Speaker Celestion G12T75, 8 Ohm

Rob Lohr can be reached at Mr Music in Allston Massachusetts at 617-783-1609 or at  robmadoak@hotmail.com

Here are few demo videos that I just did:

OVERVIEW:

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Brown Era — 4, 8 and 16 Ohm Taps

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Brown era — Smaller size: 1-1/8″ X 1-1/4″ Mounting Centers

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Brown — single ended — 8Ω tap

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Brown — single ended — 8Ω tap — UL tap

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Brown — single ended — 2.6Ω tap

FBPP-240

’60s Brown — 220V, 230V & 240V primary

FBFRT

Brown, Blackface & Silverface Spring Reverb Transformer — #022921

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Early ’60s Brown — #125P1A

Custom-Wound Mercury Magnetics Transformers

Like the pedal business, the number of amplifiers being built by smaller builders has mushroomed into a garage and basement Skunkworks industry that is constantly changing. New guys pop to the surface and ride the momentum created by chat rooms and social media, while others quietly slip beneath the surface in an unfortunate imitation of Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, never to be heard from again. The desire amongst certain guitarists and collectors to own the latest, supposedly greatest new amplifier is a power drug, and for some, a hard habit to kick. We enjoy discovering small batch alternatives to familiar archetypes and affordable production amps, too, but since we’re doing so on your behalf, our initial evaluation process lacks the unbridled enthusiasm of a new owner who has already made the plunge financially and emotionally. Still, when a giddy reader calls or writes asking us to review their new killer amp, we routinely hit the builder’s website, send an introductory email and wait for a response. Such was the case with the Tungsten Cremawheat and builder Adam Palow

Ultimately, the Cremawheat turned out to be another exceptional amplifier as our review reflects, but as is so often the case, the story behind the name on the face plate is as interesting as the amp. Listen….

TQR: You mention on your website that you were inspired and intrigued many years ago by your first tube amp. Do you recall what it was?

It was a 1965 Fender Vibro-Champ that was missing the face plate, and the grill cloth had been replaced with a red and black check material that looked like it had been on a sofa. I think I was around 16 when I got it, and no matter what I played through it, the amp sounded very musical compared to the solid state practice amps had used before. It was the beginning of an obsession. I started chasing down vintage Fender amps wherever I could, and I met a guy who showed me how to safely drain the stored voltage in an amp, how to use a soldering iron, and he explained how bigger caps produced more low end. From that point forward I was on my own, and everything I have done since has been the result of trail and error and experimentation. I’m limited in some areas because I don’t necessarily understand all the theory, but in another sense it’s empowering because I am chasing feel and working in an intuitive way rather than strictly by the “book.” My favorite part of the build is constructing the board and wiring the chassis. If there is any artistic expression in building an amplifier it’s in the way the board is constructed. Of course, in the larger picture, it’s completely meaningless.

TQR: What were the most significant things you learned through hands-on experience working with guitar amps, and the five years you spent working on Hammond organs with Bob Schleicher?

The thing that blew my mind the most once I had acquired multiple identical models of the same amplifier like the Fender Blackface Bassman and Bandmaster was how different they could sound from each other even though they were built with the same components. That also carried over into my work with Hammond organs, because every large Hammond console also had its individual voice, and I attribute that to the accepted variance in parts values, and individual and very unpredictable drift in these values over time. You also see random parts stacking where some of the capacitors may have been oriented the correct way and others not. When all the caps are pointing the right way you can have an amp that sounds faster, and when they are oriented the wrong way the amp can sound slower. On the old caps there was usually a band marking the outer foil, and whether or not they were oriented correctly often just seems like chance. Some companies paid strict attention to that and others did not. Even if I am building ten identical amplifiers in my own line, there are going to be variances between them – not only in the tolerance stacking, but in the way the tubes bias to the cathode resistor. I have an absolute minimum standard – it has to inspire me or I’m not going to ship it out, but every once in a while you drop in the right rectifier and the right power tubes and they just match up perfectly with the cathode resistor and it makes your hair stand up on end. Magical. Yet that same amplifier with a different set of tubes may not do the same thing.The Hammond organs are unique because not only do they have an extremely rich and harmonically complex signal, but they have infinite sustain with no transient attack unless you’re using the percussion feature, so when you’re dealing with Leslie power amplifiers you’re not dealing with sag. You’ve got compression going on because you’re driving it with a very wide band signal, but because there is no transient, you’re not experiencing sag, compression and release in that order. I spent a lot of time rebuilding Leslie amplifiers, and there was a very specific type of distortion coming from those 6550 Tung-Sols – a low, grinding, wooly distortion kind of like the Marshall of the organ world in a lot of ways, and I caught that sound in my head. It was very musical, and it had a lot of clean qualities, but also an outrageous amount of overdrive on tap, and even when it was driving hard there was still enough clarity to retain a musical quality in the distortion. You could really hear the notes and the intervals between them, and that’s the complaint I had with a lot of amplifiers outside the vintage world…. They swung so far into breakup and distortion that you lost the clarity of the notes. There was more noise than tone, and the place I’m coming from is a more musical place. The other aspect of my work with Hammonds is that I gained a huge amount of experience with vintage Jensen Alnico speakers.

TQR: We have always wondered if the Jensen speakers used in Hammond cabinets were similar to those made for guitar.

In the Leslie, the Alnico P15LL and later C15NLL bass driver that shoots down into the rotating horn were definitely not guitar speakers by any stretch. The 12 inch Jensens I’ve seen bear all the same markings as standard Jensens for guitar, the differences being that they have black frames with no Jensen sticker, and the Hammond code starting with the letters “AO” have been silk-screened on the frame. I have pulled P12Ns out of old Hammond A100s, as well as P12Qs, and if they were specifically designed for organ, they are also the best sounding guitar speakers I have ever heard, and I have used them to base my own speakers on made by Weber.

TQR: Which prompted the development of your own line of proprietary speakers?

Yes, and I didn’t really have to start from the ground up because they had already come close to the mark, but I wasn’t hearing the same extended frequency response that I was hearing from the vintage speakers, and it was just a matter of developing a different recipe. Fortunately, when Ted was still alive we went through the process of mixing and matching components, just trying to get that sound. I didn’t care if the parts were period-correct – I just wanted them to sound right. I tried to do the same thing with the ceramic line, but we just never nailed it and I never put them into production. Of course, the goal in developing the Alnico speakers was to produce the low-wattage, medium fidelity, $6 replacement speakers that they were originally.

TQR: Looking at the different models you build today, it’s obvious you prefer the sound of tweed-era amplifiers.

Yes, I cut my teeth on blackface amps, but when I built my first tweed Champ I became one of those guys that ditched my pedalboard and plugged straight in. For me it’s all about that very alive midrange, and the dynamic response you get out of the power section. I was instantly hooked. I also have a fondness for the lower power brown amps as well, but when it comes to what I personally want to plug in to and play, I really need to feel the response of a tweed power section.

TQR: What’s your approach to specific types of capacitors used in building your amps?

You have to let your ears be the guide, and everyone hears things differently. Every quality capacitor has its place, but I personally prefer the sound of Mallory 150s in tweed amps. Other people feel that they are too bright in the upper mids until they break in. I tend to break in my amplifiers for 72 hours and when I take breaks from building I’ll plug into every amp that’s burning in. The truth is, everything matters. In the Cremawheat, for example, there different capacitors are used in the tone circuit to color the tone in a certain way. It’s one recipe. I also use custom-wound Mercury Magnetics transformers in everything. Some of them are custom-wound because I wanted a different gauge of wire, and others because I wanted a different secondary voltage. When we’re talking about power transformers, voltage that you’re sending out to the circuit makes much more difference than the brand you’re using. With output transformers it becomes more critical. Some people want to hear a darker transformer, others high-end clarity…. Some people want a smaller core so it saturates sooner, and others want enough iron so that it never saturates. All of those factors play not only into the sound, but they hugely affect feel.

TQR: Can you briefly summarize each model you build?

The 8 inch version of the Mosaic comes with either the stock 5F1 (Champ) output transformer or the oversize version, which nets you perhaps an additional 2 watts. You get more punch rather than volume. I also build a 12 inch Mosaic Mark II with an additional tone knob, which gives you more bass.

The Cortez was intended to be my flagship model until the Cremawheat came out. The name was inspired by Neil Young’s Suma album – you can just hear the tweed all over it. Its 12W-15W with 6V6s and it bumps up to about 18W with 5881s or 6L6s. It’s basically a straight-ahead 5E3 design.

The Cremawheat is my attempt to retain the tone and feel of a great 5E3 Deluxe, while giving you the dynamic range that would otherwise be lost in the output transformer and speaker with that amp. Those were two choke points on the 5E3, and the third being the massive amount of bass that’s being sent through the circuit, which causes it to distort so early. The other significant feature in this amp is the British-voiced Scumback speaker. It adds punch to the dynamic range, and enough bass, but not the ragged and loose 5E3 style low end.

The T35 covers the 5F4, 5E5-A and 5E7 circuits for the Bandmaster, Pro and Super. They were basically the same chassis with a couple of minor resistor changes and three different speaker configurations, and I tend to prefer the 1×15 and 3×10 versions. It’s the only fixed bias amp I offer. I like the T35 series, but I tend to gravitate toward the cathode biased amps and most of my customers seem to as well.

If you took the 2-input ’55 Bassman, which shares a lot with the Super, Bandmaster and Pro amps of that era, and cathode biased it in a 2×12 speaker format, that’s kind of where the Blue Point sits. When you pay it clean, it sounds very American in the style of a mid-’50s Bassman, and as you turn it up, you get more coloration from the British-voiced speakers. It starts to cross the Atlantic into that early JTM-45 Bluesbreaker tone, but stops short of a later Plexi amp.

The Buckwheat is the follow up to the Cremawheat. It’s a 6L6-based, 30 watt with the Scumback H-75, which is their version of the pre-Rola G12H. It has a significant amount of headroom over the Cremawheat, and the speaker produces a glassier, high-headroom tone with a bigger transformer and a larger cabinet that leaves more air around the notes. If you’re a Telecaster player, for example, who wants more headroom with just a little hair, this is that amp.

TQR: Will you build specific amps with different speaker configurations as a head or combo, and what is the current lead time for an amp?

Sure, I’ll absolutely build variations on the stock models – I actually really like the 16 inch Mosaic and I have built several of them. I want to know that I’m building exactly what a customer wants. The lead time right now is eight weeks, and I always try to keep it under three months. I sell direct, and through a small dealer network, but I do enjoy working directly with customers. Depending on what a customer wants, I may suggest a specific change to the stock circuit, and I find that interaction very rewarding Introducing another 15W–20W amp in these pages is nothing new – in the past year we’ve invested a log of ink highlighting amps like Jeff Beck’s choice of a Pro Junior, our vintage ’59 Deluxe and ’76 Princeton Reverb, the Retro-King 18W and the Trace-Elliot Velocette. Why? Because we understand that such friendly decibel levels offer adequate volume for use in small clubs, mic’ed on bigger stages, yet till fill your house, studio or practice room with a mighty roar when needed. Small amps just make more sense today for most players, but like us, you might be wondering just how many ways a smallish guitar amplifier can be designed and built to produce a genuinely unique voice and vibe. You know what you’ve already got, but what might you be missing, and at what point does your quest to discover the ultimate low power amp become redundant, at best? A fair question, and given the nearly infinite variables created by the marriage of different components within different circuit designs, we are happy to report that we haven’t reached the end of the road in the quest for tone quite yet.

Viewed within the board context of the booteek amp landscape, the Tungsten Cremawheat emerges from the box as an uncommonly attractive natural blonde. Offset with gold grill cloth, it scores big in style points without even being lit up. Nor will you find any self-conscious bells and whistles added to an otherwise classic design, as if the builder wanted to get noticed by adding the kind of stuff we seldom really use – like Selmer-style rotary tone switches, pentode/triode modes and toggled boost switches (although Carr has always done those right by bypassing the tone stack). Indeed, this amp is so outwardly attractive, approachable and comely that pulling the back panel off might inspire distant memories of an anticipation experienced in concert with a one-handed thumb and forefinger bra removal technique. (We now pause to allow a moment of fond reflection. Please take your time.) Adam Palow’s skill in assembling and soldering up a circuit board culminates in nothing less than a work of art. Flip the chassis over and the custom-wound Mercury Magnetics trannies provide further evidence of Palow’s commitment to following his muse. In practical terms, you get four inputs into two channels (bright and normal), volume/volume and tone, plus a standby switch and extension speaker jack.

Our first session with the Cremawheat was agreeable enough, but repeat visits left us with a nagging impression that something was either missing, or perhaps technically present, but not being fully reflected in the sound of the amp. Naturally, we used our tweed Tremolux and Deluxe for benchmarks, and the Tungsten sounded subdued and restrained by comparison. We tried different tubes first with no appreciable change, and that’s when we focused our attention on the Scumback speaker. Admittedly, we had suspected it from the beginning, so with the original tubes back in the amp, we connected the Celestion G12H30 70th Anniversary in our ’59 Deluxe cabinet to the Cremawheat, fired it up, hit a big E chord raking a heavy Pyramid pick over the strings slowly, followed by ten minutes of unbridled delirium. Paired with the Celestion, the Tungsten bowed up with increased volume, clarity, dynamic punch, and a gloriously rich tone that easily rivals that of our Deluxe, but with a little more added sparkle. Swapping the stock Electro-Harmonix 6V6s for a pair of RCA 6L6s brought the Cremawheat to climax with an even bigger, more imposing voice, precisely in the style of our ’59. If anything, the Tungsten offered a slightly more defined and chiseled tone as a new amp should when compared to one that has undergone a half century break-in period.

To be fair, we called Adam Palow to inform him that while we absolutely loved the Cremawheat, we were not feeling the Scumback. He agreeably acknowledged that the Scumback was indeed somewhat more subtlety endowed than the Celestion, which is why he offered the G12H as an alternative for players desiring maximum girth, power and growl. Any number of modern speakers would surely sound outstanding in the Cremawheat – but we clearly preferred the more vivid soundstage created by the Celestion when the choice is narrowed to one of the two stock speakers offered. Would we buy and play the Cremawheat? Absolutely. It now reigns among the best on temporary boutique twenty watters, and in four important respects (tone, overall clarity, availability and price), the Tungsten impressed us as an irresistible alternative to a vintage Deluxe and any and all modern replicas

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Early ’60s Brown

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