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View Full Version : Why did Leo Fender start scooping mids with the blackface era?


Che_Guitarra
08-24-2013, 10:13 AM
Seems a curiosity to me that with the onset of the blackface era the Fender amp range began scooping the mids a lot more heavily from the baby amps to the big boppers.

Is it known why? Changing tastes (or a progression thereof) on Leo's behalf? Customer requests? To accommodate new speaker designs? Other reasons?

gldtp99
08-24-2013, 10:28 AM
The general trend with Fender amps is that the company worked to produce amps that would stay cleaner and cleaner at higher volumes from the Tweeds through the SF's----- the Brownfaces were cleaner than the Tweeds, the Blackfaces were cleaner than the Brownfaces, the SF's were cleaner than the Blackfaces.
They were building amps to what their customer base wanted at the time---- and the main customer base were clean pro players---- country, jazz, etc.
A lot of people still like the glassy, scooped mid tone of the 60's Blackface amps---- I know I do.........................gldtp99

My '64 BF Tremolux head that I rebuilt--- with Strat:

E9DT3zzplak

teemuk
08-24-2013, 10:39 AM
The tonestack circuit (which in Fender amps solely introduces the mid range notch) was, AFAIK, pretty much copied from competitors' products (namely Gibson amps).

2HBStrat
08-24-2013, 10:45 AM
The tonestack circuit (which in Fender amps solely introduces the mid range notch) was, AFAIK, pretty much copied from competitors' products (namely Gibson amps).

I've never heard that before.

guitarrhinoceros
08-24-2013, 10:47 AM
The tonestack circuit (which in Fender amps solely introduces the mid range notch) was, AFAIK, pretty much copied from competitors' products (namely Gibson amps).

Just because you say so, doesn't mean I believe you.

teemuk
08-24-2013, 10:52 AM
Ok, I knew it was sacrilegious...


Well then... Show me a Fender design using that tonestack that dates prior ca. 1953 and I might change my opinion.
I know for sure that Gibson was using pretty much similar tonestack design already in its early 1950's amps.


http://www.gibson.com/Files/schematics/ga-77.jpg

Figaro
08-24-2013, 11:05 AM
So Fender waited until the 60's to start using a tonestack they copied from the early 50's? :huh

riffmeister
08-24-2013, 11:06 AM
Scooped mids sit behind a singer very well. Tube Screamer type pedals put the mids back in when it's solo time. It's a great recipe.

gldtp99
08-24-2013, 11:14 AM
So Fender waited until the 60's to start using a tonestack they copied from the early 50's? :huh

The amount of "borrowing" that has and does take place in tube guitar amp circuits would boggle some people's minds.
I always thought that Fender came up with the BF tonestack themselves but the GA-77 schematic does show a very similar one way back in the 50's.
Thanks for the info, teemuk---:aok........................gldtp99


PS--- I was looking at files of old Gibson schematics and didn't see anything similar to a BF Fender tonestack----- but I hadn't worked my way down to the GA-77 schematic, either----- I wanted to have some factual backup before I doubted teemuk's info--- I wonder if Gibson "borrowed" it from somewhere else ?

Stu Blue
08-24-2013, 11:23 AM
Scooped mids sit behind a singer very well. Tube Screamer type pedals put the mids back in when it's solo time. It's a great recipe.

:rimshot We have a winner.... A lot of TGP member don't seem to think about altering their sound to "showcase" their vocalist, etc. This forum is all about indulging you tonal preferences regardless....

...when i suggested standing in front of your amp at stage volume and singing to it without a mike (setting the tone controls so you could hear the "breathy presence and depth" in your voice)... well most folk here thought I was mad.....:nuts

EDIT Bassman and early Marshalls are better from that point of view though... I'm not a Blackface Twin fan. If you dail the bass way lower than the treble and the mids way up higher than both then any amp will give the singer a hard time... it just makes life easy for the guitarist at the expense of the group sound......

flatfinger
08-24-2013, 12:00 PM
Scooped mids sit behind a singer very well. Tube Screamer type pedals put the mids back in when it's solo time. It's a great recipe.

:agree
Congratulations!!!

You win the spectral traffic cop award !!:bow

:agree

teemuk
08-24-2013, 12:12 PM
I wonder if Gibson "borrowed" it from somewhere else ?

I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Then again, Gibson at one point used a lot of those "notch T filters" (which is basically a mid-range notch filter) and the classic tonestack circuit is more or less derived from one. Many other amp makers also used the "Notch T" to implement a midrange control, and even today it's still used for the very same purpose in many amps.

But who invented and used this stuff first... I really don't know. Perhaps the stuff was simply introduced by some popular electronics magazines of those days.

Stu Blue
08-24-2013, 12:37 PM
My father (naval radar during WW2, BBC afterwards) had books of amp circuits provided by the valve manufacturers Mullard and Western Electric which they gave away to help people use and buy their valves.... and I seem to remember something about Leo "licensing stuff from Western Electric"..... people who really invent thing often get no credit for their efforts.

wgs1230
08-24-2013, 01:32 PM
and I seem to remember something about Leo "licensing stuff from Western Electric"..... people who really invent thing often get no credit for their efforts.

That's right- most of the tweed Fender circuits are derived from the Western Electric tube manual, though there were some obvious tweaks in the last-gen "narrow panel" models to take advantage of, e.g., bigger iron and the shiny new GZ34 rectifier.

For the OP: in terms of circuit design, one of the issues with modding the bf/sf circuit for thicker midrange content from the tone stack is increased probability of overdriving the reverb-send stage of the small & mid-sized combos. That definitely wasn't something the country/western swing market wanted, and Fender definitely catered to them in the FEIC days. With the exception of the 2x10 Vibroverb, of which I believe a whole dozen were made, that problem didn't exist before the bf amps.

teemuk
08-24-2013, 01:55 PM
That's right- most of the tweed Fender circuits are derived from the Western Electric tube manual

True.

Though it should not be overlooked that probably about 99% of all tube amps are also derived from those manuals since those manuals covered pretty much all fundamental circuitry in making a tube amp.

A&T and its subsidiaries, and subsidiaries of subsidiaries (e.g. Bell, Western Electric, etc.), also owned patents to just about all those fundamental circuits so it was pretty much mandatory to license their technology if you wanted to make amplifiers for commercial purposes.

wingwalker
08-24-2013, 02:02 PM
He started pulling down the midrange way before the blackface amps...

Narrow panel tweeds have less mids than wide panel and TV front stuff...browns and blondes have less mids than narrow panel tweeds and so on.

Midrange is loud and where the distortion lives..pull it back a bit and all the sudden your amp is cleaner and that is what most players wanted at the time.

xjojox
08-24-2013, 02:35 PM
Also important to remember that Gibson amps were designed for Gibson guitars, which had hotter pickups than Fenders. Typically P90's and later hummers. So they tended to have a bit less front end gain. And as noted before, the bulk of the market wanted clean headroom.

bluesjuke
08-24-2013, 05:03 PM
I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Then again, Gibson at one point used a lot of those "notch T filters" (which is basically a mid-range notch filter) and the classic tonestack circuit is more or less derived from one. Many other amp makers also used the "Notch T" to implement a midrange control, and even today it's still used for the very same purpose in many amps.

But who invented and used this stuff first... I really don't know. Perhaps the stuff was simply introduced by some popular electronics magazines of those days.





RCA & Western Electric to name a couple.

They had many circuits available to the public.
The reasoning was to enhance the market for their products.




Oops just saw this had been posted earlier, I turned the page too soon!

27sauce
08-24-2013, 05:26 PM
I think it was to stay cleaner louder. Wasn't that Leo's goal with everything?

Onioner
08-24-2013, 05:31 PM
So Fender waited until the 60's to start using a tonestack they copied from the early 50's? :huh

What is strange or confusing about this idea?

335guy
08-24-2013, 06:16 PM
I think it was to stay cleaner louder. Wasn't that Leo's goal with everything?

Yeah, I believe I heard that Leo would talk with the C&W players around LA and listen to their comments about how his amps sounded. He was trying to achieve what was called a "hi-fi"( louder and cleaner ) sound back in that era.

In the interests of more clean headroom (volume before distortion) to please his country players, Fender moved to the brown and blond amps in 1960.

By 1963 Fender wanted more power, less distortion and less cost, so the amps changed to what is commonly known as "blackface" cosmetics. These amplifiers had a black Tolex covering, silver grille cloth, and black forward-facing control panel. By reducing the amount of midrange frequencies in the signal, Fender was able to increase volume without increasing distortion. This resulted in the classic Fender "sparkle"-a bright clean tone most beloved by Fender's favorite country players

Guinness Lad
08-24-2013, 09:42 PM
I thought he hated distortion and his crowning achievement was the Twin Reverb.

RJLII
08-25-2013, 06:12 AM
I think it was to stay cleaner louder. Wasn't that Leo's goal with everything?

That pretty much covers it. Here's an interview with Mark Baier of Victoria Amps where he offers some historical perspective.

0RlXl6GIUnk

mad dog
08-25-2013, 09:30 AM
Everybody borrowed. Jim Marshall borrowed the tweed bassman. I've heard that same GA-77 was the source of the Vox top boost. No need to reinvent the wheel. Adapt and adopt.
MD

vain_guitarist
08-25-2013, 09:47 AM
I found the comment about BF and reverb interesting.

Stu Blue
08-25-2013, 10:01 AM
Of course we are forgetting something of fundamental importance.... human hearing is very sensitive in the mids/high mids but surprisingly insensitive in the true bass and very high treble.... building an amp with all mids is like taking a wire brush to your girlfriends G spot.... boosting top and bottom is what you need to have equal sounding notes (for humans) particularly as you get quieter.....

Tone_Terrific
08-25-2013, 11:01 AM
Gibson looks like it was already heading the same way, but the values chosen and implementation, were different.
I don't know that it would sound the same as Fender's take on how an amp should sound.
GA-77 vs BF Fender...any users have an A/B report?

drbob1
08-25-2013, 12:52 PM
True.

Though it should not be overlooked that probably about 99% of all tube amps are also derived from those manuals since those manuals covered pretty much all fundamental circuitry in making a tube amp.

A&T and its subsidiaries, and subsidiaries of subsidiaries (e.g. Bell, Western Electric, etc.), also owned patents to just about all those fundamental circuits so it was pretty much mandatory to license their technology if you wanted to make amplifiers for commercial purposes.

I think there's a fundametnal misunderstanding of how things worked at the time showing here (and with other posts). Fender didn't truly "license" the schematics or ideas from WEstern Electric because they were freely put out into the marketplace-no cash or written agreement needed. So, everyone borrowed heavily and tweaked from there. And yes, historically the guys Fender listened to were country players, so louder and cleaner was the order of the day. Gibson amps were, I believe, originally heavily influenced by the Jazz guys, with more midrange perhaps, but much harder to get to overdrive even with humbuckers. I think the crowning achievement of the Gibson amps in the 50s and 60s was the stereo GA79RVT, which was a clean monster with reverb and tremolo!

It's kind of funny that the National amps are loved for their overdrive/distortion characteristics, which it would be easy to argue are the result of more primitive circuits and underspec'd parts that wouldn't tolerate a loud guitar like the better built Fender/Gibsons of the day!

blackba
08-25-2013, 06:07 PM
I found the comment about BF and reverb interesting.
Me too, pretty clear in the video which he prefers between blackface and tweed. I was surprised he didn't mention anything about the brown and blonde era amps.

matchless
08-25-2013, 06:14 PM
ask Dick Dale-he talked to Fender alot

Figaro
08-25-2013, 09:00 PM
What is strange or confusing about this idea?

I don't think it was a "Gibson" circuit that Fender copied.

335guy
08-25-2013, 09:15 PM
That pretty much covers it. Here's an interview with Mark Baier of Victoria Amps where he offers some historical perspective.

0RlXl6GIUnk

Mark makes a couple of not quite correct statements re: the tweed era cabinets and the black face era cabinets. 1st, he states the tweeds were plywood and the black faces were MDF. Well, this is wrong. In both eras, the cabinets were constructed of solid pine boards. I think he initially forgot to mention that he is specifically speaking about the baffle board ONLY, and not the rest of the cabinet.

He then goes on to say that the tweed era baffles were 5/16" plywood, which is correct. That is what they were and are. But he then states the black face era baffles boards were 3/4" MDF, but that is incorrect. The baffles were 1/2" particle board, at least in all the combos. Now, I'm not absolutely sure about the larger separate speaker cabs, like the Showman or the Bassman. MAYBE in the Showman when a JBL speaker was ordered and installed, Fender did use 3/4 material, but it was still particle board and not mdf.

It is a minor point, to be sure. And the point Mark is attempting to make about the baffle boards in tweed era amps being more resonant acoustically than the blackface era amps is certainly true.

teemuk
08-26-2013, 02:20 AM
He also fails to address the point that when Fender switched from tweed covered amps to tolex covered amps and relocated the control panel into the front the method to mount the baffle board was completely revised.

Tweed amp: Baffle board attached to cabinet from inside of the cab
Tolex amp: Baffle board attached to cleats from outside of the cab

jay42
08-26-2013, 12:24 PM
ask Dick Dale-he talked to Fender alotI think if you do that, Dick will tell you he alone was the reason. He'll probably also tell you that he invented desktop fusion and pants, but it takes all types.

killer blues
08-26-2013, 01:45 PM
The tonestack circuit (which in Fender amps solely introduces the mid range notch) was, AFAIK, pretty much copied from competitors' products (namely Gibson amps).

Gibson and Fender both used circuits developed by Western Electric Corp. These designs date back as far as the late '20's. So this is incorrect.