Questions about Fender Bassman heads

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by trumpus, Oct 12, 2006.

  1. trumpus

    trumpus Supporting Member

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    Hey all,

    Well, after playing the same Mesa Boogie DC-3 amp for basically all of my electric-playing history, I have really started to look into getting a new amp for a cleaner, chimey-er sound. I've got a little Blues Jr. that i've used as my bedroom/practice amp, and because of my current living situation, i've been playing it more and really digging the difference from the Mesa. As a result, I have been looking into getting another Fender amp, mainly focused on the vintage Bassman heads. I want tsomething with that classic, bell-like, chimey clean tone, with some decent headroom, but not so much that I can't get a decent tube breakup at a reasonable volume. I've been told the Bassman is the way to go for this, and as a bonus, i've noticed that vintage Bassman heads don't cost an arm and a leg.

    I know literally nothing about Fender amps, so as a result, i've got some questions as I set out on my quest...

    What should I be looking for with regards to the vintage Bassman heads? Are any years better than others? I've read a small amount about differences in circuits, whats the deal with this? What are the differences between the silver and blackface amps? Is there "the one" that I should be looking for? There is a '65 Blackface head in a local shop by me for $550 - what should i be looking at to determine if this amp is good or not?

    I've never played a head/cab combo, and never had an amp without reverb. What are people doing for reverb with these (separate free-standiung unit or pedal/rack unit)? Are there any mods that are recommended? Is there anyone that can build a reverb circuit in it? Is it worth rehousing as a combo?

    Really, i'm interested in any info you might have on these amps, or conversely, suggestions for other, quality clean-sounding amps that are reasonably priced.

    Thanks so much!!

    Brian
     
  2. Calloway

    Calloway Member

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    I had a 66 Blackface Bassman for a while and it was a wonderful amp. I let it go and it is one of those I wish I kept kind of deals. Really killer amps, probably not as much headroom as you might think, but you can always roll off your volume knob to make up for it. Whenever I did need verb I pretty much just used an analog delay, but I never really missed it all that much. There is something just so rich sounding about an old Bassman that makes up for anything missing. I used it with a 2x12 Avatar Greenback cabinet and it was a wonderful sound.
     
  3. Kiwi

    Kiwi Silver Supporting Member

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    I want tsomething with that classic, bell-like, chimey clean tone, with some decent headroom, but not so much that I can't get a decent tube breakup at a reasonable volume.

    It's still a non-master amp, so you're gonna have to turn it up with humbuckers to get breakup. A lower-powered alternative would be a blackface Tremolux.

    What should I be looking for with regards to the vintage Bassman heads? Are any years better than others? I've read a small amount about differences in circuits, whats the deal with this?

    The first thing to find out is if the Bassman (or Bandmaster, or Tremolux, or whatever) has been modded. Because they are plentiful and cheap, they have often been used for many science experiments (normally to increase gain). Try to find out if it's been mucked with.

    Second: Google on the AA165 circuit vs. AA864 circuit. It's quite common (and generally thought of as a good thing) to mod the circuit to AA864 specs, and/or to blackface a silverface circuit.

    If you're a collector type (it doesn't sound like it) you will want to know if the transformers are original, too, plus the chassis serial number. www.tcguitar.com has reference articles on dating your vintage Fender amp by serial number, plus lots of other info.

    There is a '65 Blackface head in a local shop by me for $550 - what should i be looking at to determine if this amp is good or not?

    Price is about right for a working, well-maintained one in decent condition. Check the serial numbers, check the transformers, and play the amp to be sure it works. Most old amps need 1) a grounded 3-prong plug and 2) new caps. Both of these are not even deemed to be mods, just safety and maintenance items. If it needs maintenance or further work, back off the price by $100-$150 and take it to a tech.

    Remember, when you play a BF Bassman, plug a guitar into the Normal channel. The Bass Instrument channel can sound bad for guitar (unless it's been modded or changed).

    I've never played a head/cab combo, and never had an amp without reverb. What are people doing for reverb with these (separate free-standiung unit or pedal/rack unit)?

    Reverb pedal ... or none. You might not miss it.

    Are there any mods that are recommended? Is there anyone that can build a reverb circuit in it? Is it worth rehousing as a combo?

    If you find a '65 blackface Bassman that has not been modded, please leave it alone. They are getting rarer. Live with it as is. Get a decent reverb pedal if you must. One trick: Plug into the Normal channel, then jumper in from the Bass channel. You'll get a low, growly bit of gain that's quite cool.

    Other mid-60s blackface heads are in the $500 range as well. Tremolux head has less power, gives up the goodies at lower volumes. Bandmaster is even better than the Bassman (IMO) 'cause it's as loud, but has two great guitar channels, clean plus the compressed tremolo channel.

    They're bargains now, and they all have that classic chime. My only plea: If you find an all-original one, please don't hack it or mod it.

    Speaker cabs: Most of the blackface amps want to see 4 ohms, not 8. 2x12 is standard - but try them into a good 4x10 and hear the magic.

    I'm no authority, just a fan of the old blackfaces. Run a search on the topic - Many Internet authorities are out there, and they should chime in here.

    Kiwi
     
  4. trumpus

    trumpus Supporting Member

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    Thanks! That was great!

    Keep that info coming!!

    Brian
     
  5. trumpus

    trumpus Supporting Member

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    Also, how would I be able to tell which circuit it has? Is this a matter of what year it was produced or is there some other way to tell?

    Second, with regards to years - is there a preferred year or years to look out for? I checked again and the shop actually has a '64, '67 and '69 head. If there is a preference, is this a matter of which circuit it has?

    Third, with regards to BF vs. SF - I assume the preference is BF - again, is this a matter of which circuit it has?

    Brian
     
  6. AL30

    AL30 Member

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    You have to open them up and look. You can't go by the year or the tube chart. There is no given year for the circuits and the tube chart are usually wrong.

    Head over to here http://www.ampwares.com/ffg/ and print out some chassis layouts for the AA864 and AB165 (common).

    AA864 circuit seems to be the preferred circuit. I like it better as do many. But, as said earlier a lot of bassmans have been modded to this circuit already. They're easy to mod.

    Yes, the preference is BF BUT some of the early SF models (starting in '67) are BF circuitry. You may get lucky that's why you need to open it up. SF Fenders are usually cheaper than BF and some have identical guts. If you're planning on modding get the later years - silverface. Actual AA864 and AA165 are rare and shouldn't be messed with.

    AL
     
  7. martins3325

    martins3325 Supporting Member

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    I dont want to derail this thread but have a quick question the original poster might find valuable as well. If you had 2 fender amps one with reverb and one not..like say a Super Reverb and Bassman head would a stand alone reverb unit sound as good as the built in reverb of the Super? Or not really because its in a different place in the amplification chain? Like Front end versus between the pre-amp and power amp --Im just guessing that might be the case on a Super/Bassman w Reverb Unit--
     
  8. billyguitar

    billyguitar Member

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    I wouldn't classify a Bassman head as "bell-like and chimey". Those are descriptives used with Vox style amps. Any Bassman head is a good sound but has always been to me rather unremakable. Dimed they will distort nicely, I believe a Bassman has one more gain stage than a Bandmaster. To my ears the Blonde Bassman heads have the best tone and a 1961 even has a tube rectifier. These are pretty rare, I know, I have one and rarely see others.
     
  9. Kiwi

    Kiwi Silver Supporting Member

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  10. gkelm

    gkelm Supporting Member

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    Kiwi = BF Head Master (school us, my friend) :AOK
     
  11. SteveStrat

    SteveStrat Member

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    I've got '66 Bassman and it's not what I would call "chimey" nor would I give it props as being some of Fenders best clean sounding amps. They work great for low-med gain tones, clean up very well, again not the best "Fender clean" but not bad, with the volume knob, and get crunchy fast. I have a '68 as well and at four they are both crunchy. Running them wide open doesn't really make them sound any better, just more compressed and more into the "weeee weeee" zone of overdrive. I run mine at 7-8, jumper both the bass and inst channels together, and just ride the volume on the guitar.

    Steve
     
  12. gretsch58

    gretsch58 Member

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    Get a 1962 or 1963 Brown face bassman with a solid state rectifier. That's what I've used for years and they sound great!! Turn them up to 10 and they have that First Van Halen record sound. Awesome... Setzer uses them as well.
     
  13. Kiwi

    Kiwi Silver Supporting Member

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    Nahhh, just a recycler of Conventional Internet Wisdom - and it's worth what you paid for it. I got all these references (amp and chassis dating, circuits etc) with some Net sleuthing, then applied them to my amps. I'm no expert.

    I got on the blackface bus a few years ago with a very clean Bandmaster head ($400 with the original GE 7025 tubes!). Added an all-original BF Tremolux head recently, thus my love for its lower-powered tone. They're in the sparkle-and-chime camp, and the trem channels are particularly lovely. Natural compression, with or without the trem actually going.

    I acquired a rebuilt BF Bassman (non original transformer) this year, and I agree with other comments - it's a bit more rock than chimey clean, especially when you jumper in from the Bass channel.

    I've posted before: These amps are the last bargains left, in vintage-dom. You seek handwired vintage blackface clean tone? It's $500 a head.

    =K
     
  14. Texsunburst59

    Texsunburst59 Member

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    I've got 66',67' and 69' Fender Bassman heads which are all Allen modded. I've also got a 67' in original unmodded conditon. The modded Bassman heads are Perfect tone machines for guitar compared to the stock. I've got some clips here if anyone wants to hear an Allen modded Bassman tone. They are on my son's soundclick page. I just recorded some quick 45 second soundclips cause another forumite wanted to hear clips of my modded Bassman heads I have in the amp and cabs emporium. This was done with the Blonde Bassman head.

    http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=453803
     
  15. lannyhall

    lannyhall Member

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    You should try out a few vintage Fender amps to get a first-hand feel of what you want. I have a blonde Bassman (6G6B) and it is great at what it does- warm vintage tone with cool break up. If you are really used to reverb, you may miss it (for 'The Wind Cries Mary' kind of stuff). However, for what you are describing (clean chimey headroom), I should consider a Pro Reverb. They are a really good buy and they are great amps. If the extra cost for a blackface amp is a problem, get a silverface from the early 70s.

    I've had many vintage Fender amps, and most people really enjoy the sound of those that have been serviced by a knowledgable tech.

    [My current Fender amps include the 6G6B Blonde Bassman, a '66 Princeton Rreverb, a '66 Pro Reverb and a '67 Deluxe Reverb.]
     
  16. Dr Rico

    Dr Rico Member

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    Bingo. My thunks X-actly. The Bassman is a very cool amp, but not the first one I'd grab if "bell-like" and "chimey" were the adjectives I wished to caress my earholes with. But I like em fine!
     
  17. guitarcec

    guitarcec Member

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    kiwi, i've got a '65 bassman head/cab, all original, with the aa165 circuit. i love the sounds i get from it...very rock 'n roll - not very fendery clean. i'd like to try the jumper thing you're talking about...could you walk me through how to do it so i don't screw anything up? thanks, man.
     
  18. Kiwi

    Kiwi Silver Supporting Member

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    Blackface, right? Plug your guitar into one of the Normal channel inputs. Then take a 6" patch cord, and run it out from one of the Bass Instrument inputs into the second Normal input.

    You can now experiment with blending and balancing the two channels' volume knobs, as well as the two sets of tone controls and the Bright and Deep switches.

    The Bass channel will add some growly bottom end to the Normal tone. Lots of different tones to be had. Enjoy!

    =K
     
  19. Dezzy

    Dezzy Member

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    I have the 1973 aa165 bassman 100, it freaking rocks hard, mine is very jangle on the 2nd channel, and when I hit the bright switch things start to get sparkle as hell ( nice man ) It is like I have just plugged my sustain pedal in, I have to say I disagree with some of you, as when my bassman is like I mentioned it is more bell like than my DR was, It is the reason I sold my DR, and it was reissue lol I love the bassman, and U can pick a blackface up in the UK cheaper than a silverface deluxe reverb, I am going to buy one every 6 month till I have 5 or 6 blackfaces, and maybe a blonde, as in 10 years these will not be cheap, they will be like PRs and DRs I bet U, they are the best bang for the buck, hand wired vintage for under £500
     

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