Princeton Reverb Reissue vs Milkman build quality

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Justin Phuong, Jul 31, 2020 at 2:35 AM.

  1. jblake

    jblake Member

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    Service/modification concerns aside, build quality is more about overall reliability. The reliability of PCB versus PTP has been beat to death here, so I’d recommend doing a search on that.

    Electronics aside, cabinet build and speaker selection are also really important. Mass produced amps typically get a rather vanilla speaker. I’ve had a lot of luck over the years getting great sounds out of heads that weren’t particularly special by running them through a quality speaker cabinet.
     
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  2. Robot B9

    Robot B9 Member

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    I have vintage Fender amps, hand wired Fender clones and a few Fender reissues. The reissues are fine amps. They are mostly what I take to shows. Never had a problem.
     
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  3. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Member

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    The PCB reissues are good for about 10 years of use if you treat them decently. If you are on a budget that is where I will look for a used one. The Milkman Creamer used is about twice the cost of a used PRRI.

    You should also check out Vintage Sound 15 or 20, Louis Electric Columbia-price dropped recently, Wang Amp of Portland Oregon, Gries 12, Carr Sportsman. All turret-boarded hardwired. All between $1295 and $1995 new. Tyler Amp is hardwired and relatively low cost. It sounds good, too, if you don't really care about provenance.

    You could buy a used PRRI and send it to George Alessandro to have it gutted and hardwired with George's board with discrete components for about $600.

    Milkman amps are great and expensive. I would love a Creamer one day. However, there are alternatives.
     
  4. dB

    dB Member

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    The 65 PRRI is a great amp. I had one that I’d swapped in some NOS tubes and upgraded the speaker to a JBL K110. It was so close in sound quality to a few boutique PR’s I owned at the time...Headstrong, Magic and Carr Sportsman.

    I wish I hadn’t sold it. Same with the 65 SRRI that I used to own. They’re very nice sounding amps that come very close to the boutique clones. That said, if you can find a used Allen then I’d jump on that, for similar money.
     
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  5. Tiger Ted

    Tiger Ted Supporting Member

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    When the first Fender PCB based reissues came out there was much derision and many declarations by "experienced" gear heads that they would not last, be unreliable, end up in a landfill (which is said of every new piece of electronic musical gear announced). Well, they sounded great, have stood the test of time, and if you want to play music and not spend most of your time admiring your gear they are near perfect. I've owned a lot of amps. I used to have a '65 Princeton Reissue and gigged with it for about a year, two nights a week, every single weekend. It was fantastic. At some point I heard about the Victoria Ivy League and I'd always wanted a tweed Harvard. So I found one used. And it was perfect for what I was playing. So I sold the Princeton RI. But there was nothing wrong with it and I'd be happy to own one again if I find a good deal. You slap some good tubes in one, bias it properly, and maybe do a speaker swap and you can find tune it to taste. As far as reliable the little suckers are nearly bullet proof but I'm sure some folks have had a problem now and again. They're actually a good deal for what they are and solidly built.
     
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  6. Joe L

    Joe L Supporting Member

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    All the alternatives you mention, while much more expensive, are great amps..A used Vintage Sound can be had for Around $1000-&1200. Raul Malo and Eddie Perez ofbThe Mavericks use them and they have great tone.
    I also have a TRRI for 25 years and no PCB issues..I did have to replace the O/T which can happen to any amp, PCB or Hand Wired.
     
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  7. HotBluePlates

    HotBluePlates Member

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    Let's not hype too far in either direction. :D Anything with solid-core ribbon cables can hardly be called "bullet-proof." However, we can agree the predicted high failure-rate hasn't materialized.
     
  8. Justin Phuong

    Justin Phuong Member

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    I'm just curious, are people getting ripped off for paying over 1k for the quality, like labour attention to detail and the costs to build that thing?
     
  9. Justin Phuong

    Justin Phuong Member

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    What actually makes the PRri sound like the Prri? Is it the circuit board? Or is it the EQ that I'm paying for? If I get the circuit board replaced, will the princeton still sound the same? What's even going on?
     
  10. Justin Phuong

    Justin Phuong Member

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    Do you also know if the Princetom Reverb ri 65 is double sided? Like they don't cheap out during the manufacturing process for pcb
     
  11. Tiger Ted

    Tiger Ted Supporting Member

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    Well, here's my *personal* benchmark for bullet proof. I take an amp to a gig for upwards of 8 hours of stage time a week, every week for 3 years and never have to give it any maintenance or attention. For me that's "bullet proof". And I never once was bothered or thought about "solid-core ribbon cables". You could equally claim that any one of the many super cheap parts in the originals somehow rendered them less than reliable because there were better options available. For a gigging musician they are essentially bullet proof unless you're talking about actually trying to shoot them with a gun. In that case, no, they are not bullet proof.
     
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  12. Steppin' Wolfe

    Steppin' Wolfe Member

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    Milkman does not say what type of trem circuit is there in that Creamer other than it is in the tube domain. That said, bias vary trem is done in cathode biased circuits. The Vibrochamp you mention is a cathode biased output with a bias vary trem circuit...as is the much earlier 5E9A Tremolux.
    https://schematicheaven.net/fenderamps/tremolux_5e9a_schem.pdf
     
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  13. HotBluePlates

    HotBluePlates Member

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    That is something individuals have to decide for themselves, whether any particular amp manufacturer offers an appealing value-proposition for the product they're selling. For me there's not a compelling reason to buy boutique, but I'm not the average guitar player & can build my own amps. Even so, I've chosen over the past few years to buy vintage amps rather than a new/used reissue, a boutique, or build myself.

    I can tell you that if I bought all the parts to make a Princeton Reverb as a reasonably-high standard of quality, it will still cost me ~$800 plus my labor to put it together.

    When I made my Standel 25L15, it cost me over $1300 to gather parts for the build (even though I already had some from buying in bulk for prior projects). I was working with raw-metal chassis, and the pretty cabinet was a donation from a friend I'd helped before, so he only charged me the cost of lumber.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Neither of the above count labor time/cost, nor overhead. A cheaper amp can always be built if you shift the labor to some part of the world with a lower cost-of-living. Frequently (though I won't say "always"), the choice is made when moving production to a low-cost part of the world to also reduce the quality/cost of the product to maximize profit and/or lower the retail price-point.

    "Double-sided" does not always mean "better" or "didn't cheap out." Usually, the traces on one side of the board make some connections, while traces on the other side of the board make different connections.

    That said, the photo I posted in my first reply, as well as Fender's service manuals for the reissue amps, show a single-sided board. Components are on the top and traces are on the bottom.

    The Princeton Reverb sounds like the Princeton Reverb due to the circuit, speaker, cabinet, and to a much lesser extent the parts used (though power & output transformers do matter).

    IMO from having made, sold, and installed handwired boards into reissue amps (like the PRRI) the amp will sound mostly the same. There can be a light tonal shift, though this IMO/IME is hyped by the amp owner somewhat as their excited about the move to handwiring & so they tend to "hear what they expected to hear."

    I made a choice in the early 2000's to not continue making handwired circuit boards, or expand into building/selling amps. It was my opinion that in order to pay myself a living wage in the US that I'd need to charge very high prices (the price of boutique today is obscenely-high compared to typical prices in the amp-market of 2004), and that I wasn't comfortable pushing snake-oil B.S. to justify high prices to potential buyers.

    I'm not saying any particular boutique builder is pushing hype or snake oil; many make very fine amps. They charge high prices because that's what it takes for them to sustain themselves & stay in business, and perhaps some make the best amp they can make to deliver real value to their customers while also earning a living.

    100% fair statement right there. I agree, and experience the same with my "unreliable vintage amps and tubes" where I've never had a overt failure of any kind in 30 years, apart from 1 tube failure that blew a fuse. Replaced the tube, replaced the fuse, and the amp was 100% again (the tube was a blackplate RCA 6L6GC which kinda made me sad, lol).

    That said, take a poll of repair techs and ask them what will fail in an amp. Solid core ribbon cables will place high on the list as they use very thin conductors inside that will break from repeated handling/movement. That is not an issue if you never have to remove the p.c. board to replace a part (solder connections are on the underside), but does present an inevitable failure point when part-replacement becomes necessary.

    The other side of this same coin is most vintage amps had solid-core wire running throughout (it stays where you put it better), and have the same potential for breakage. This is offset by the use of thicker-gauge wire for most of those wires. It is also offset because the solid-sore wire from board to tube socket (or pot) doesn't usually have to be moved to replace a resistor or cap on the eyelet or turret board in the vintage amp.

    Do know I'm not arguing against the reissues. I said in my first post they are plenty durable.
     
  14. Steppin' Wolfe

    Steppin' Wolfe Member

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    Re: cathode biased output and bias vary trem.... The Tone King Imperial II is such an amp.
     
  15. Muttlyboy

    Muttlyboy Member

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    I think with the Vibro Champ, the tremolo varies the bias of the 12ax7 and not the output tube...but I guess it's still bias tremolo if not output tube bias tremolo.

    Can you do output tube bias trem with cathode biased output tubes?
     
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  16. oneblackened

    oneblackened Member

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    The primary issue with the Fender reissues is that seemingly regularly plate resistors fail. Luckily it isn't super hard to replace them but it is something to keep in mind. Otherwise however they are well built amps and avoid the most cardinal of sins which is cheap PCBs with heat producing components (i.e. tubes) on them. The other issue they seem to have semi-regularly are less than stellar electrolytic capacitors. Again, not stupid expensive to replace.
     
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  17. Steppin' Wolfe

    Steppin' Wolfe Member

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    here is the Imperial MKII circuit. Note that the trem circuit, which is solid state, varies the bias of the cathode biased power tubes.
    https://elektrotanya.com/tone_king_20th_imperial_sc200hb_rev.b_sch,pdf_sch.pdf/download.html
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020 at 9:35 AM
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  18. aeolian

    aeolian Member

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    PC boards are repairable if you know what you are doing. I've been an electronics manufacturing engineer for 40 years. It's not the best thing for constantly swapping parts around on but if you just need to replace one or two defective components it's no problem. The tag boards used on old Fenders are miserable to work on. Eyelet strips like old Voxes or the turret terminals in the Milkman are slow to build but can handle a lot more abuse with soldering irons. There aren't many machines out there for stuffing leaded components into PC boards any more but you can still find used ones around. Wave solder machines can still be had. So you can stuff a board in a minute or two of machine time and wave solder it in another minute (takt time not end to end) and get very solid and consistent results. Hand forming leads, hand stuffing and hand soldering parts takes much more time, maybe an hour or two, and is very dependent on operator skill and attention. It's those half way amps that I'd be worried about. Things like the Milkman are at the complete other end of the spectrum. Not only are they slowly built by one person, that person is thinking about everything they do having their name on it. Testing is more than just turning it on to see if smoke or sound comes out. It's playing though it, comparing it to the prototype and critically evaluating the tone.
     
  19. HotBluePlates

    HotBluePlates Member

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    The Fender-style tag boards are seen by most repair people as very easy to work on; however, I can see how they would be viewed as miserable to manufacture.

    My overall impression is that whatever is saved in time/effort during manufacturing & assembly during initial production often winds up shifting the time/effort burden to the repair & maintenance side of the product's lifecycle.

    - I've seen extreme cases of this where is was more cost-effective for the amp owner to throw away an amp & buy a new one rather than repair a single broken pot in a new Fender amp. Replacing the one pot required complete disassembly of the entire amp just to access the one part: the labor time involved x the tech's labor rate then exceeded the amp's used market value.​

    The above does not mean it's impossible to have the best of both worlds, but that the trend is towards lowest price point while failing to consider repairability.
     
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  20. Justin Phuong

    Justin Phuong Member

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    So as long as its easy to repair, then I technically wouldn't care how hard it is to manufacture right?
     

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