old stock vs new transformers?

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by music321, Mar 13, 2015.

  1. music321

    music321 Member

    Oct 20, 2012
    Greater New York Area
    It's my understanding that transformers can last pretty much forever. I've heard that the transformers of decades ago used more iron than those of today. They're also cheaper than buying new. Is there any reason an old transformer, power and/or OT, (assuming it works) would not be a better choice than a new transformer?
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
  2. pdf64

    pdf64 Member

    Aug 9, 2008
    Staffordshire, UK.
    Perhaps because the variety of silicon steel used for the laminations was lower spec?

    Can the buyer be sure of the specs of an old transformer?
    It may have been designed for a lower line voltage.
    It may have been exposed to prolonged fault current and be walking wounded, ready to fail when next stressed.
  3. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2004
    That said, the transformers from tube Hammonds are generally pretty bulletproof and there's a few small companies repurposing Hammond chassis for guitar amplifiers with good results.
  4. J M Fahey

    J M Fahey Member

    May 22, 2009
    Hammonds in particular were very expensive high quality products and built with the best available.

    Leaving them aside as an exception rather than a rule, I agree with PDF64 that a lot of "general purpose" iron, as found in Radios, TVs , generic PA amps and the like must have been made with quite average quality steel, to say it kindly.

    Another problem I very often find with old transformers is that they use very thin , almost under rated wire, compared to what's common today.

    I bet drawing thin wire and later enameling it must have been an expensive and slow process, so it was sensible to minimize copper cost by using "just necessary".
  5. Silent Sound

    Silent Sound Member

    Jun 8, 2012
    I much prefer older transformers for two main reasons. First, the average transformer was better made back then. They still make good transformers now, but they also make really cheap transformers now that are far below, in terms of quality, anything that I've seen from the mid 70's and prior. And these are saturated all over the market. Fortunately, you can usually spot these pretty easily, as they don't even look or feel well made. The second reason is cost. They're used. They're a whole lot cheaper (usually). I also tend to think they sound better, but comparing transformers made in the 60's to transformers made now is rarely going to be an "apples to apples" comparison.

    I personally think the only reason to choose a new transformer over an old one is if you needed something very specific. That's just me. But overall, it's not like there's a bunch of new technology introduced into transformers in the last 50 years, nor has their been any technology lost over that time. There are still several companies making great transformers the old fashioned way. If new transformers have a bad rap, it's only because of the increasing availability and usage of substandard products by so many manufacturers of amps and other such products in an effort to cut costs. Of course, the problem with using vintage transformers is, do you really know what you have? The specs may be hard to come by and it could have some damage. So there are pros and cons either way.

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