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The joy of vintage tube amp ownership

bobcs71

Member
Messages
5,666
Is starting to wear on me lately.

I’ve always been a tube amp guy.

Starting with my first tube amp 30 years ago, a peavey bravo.
To this day I swear it comes as close to modded Marshall tone in a small package for $250 as you can get.

From there I graduated to a 1981 Marshall 2204 halfstack.
The first strum of an A chord with the preamp set around 6 and I said aloud,
“That’s the sound”!
And it sill IS THE SOUND.

After a ten year hiatus from buying gear(I know don’t hate me), I recently picked up a 1992 Marshall 6100LE halfstack to keep at the rehearsal space where I play in a hobby band for fun.
I was so geeked to get this grail amp from the early days of my guitar playing hobby.
It sounded great in the store where I bought it and at home but as soon as I need a little volume to keep up with a drummer, it obviously had an issue.

These things can be expected with older gear. It’s the price of keeping old gear in working order.
I just was not looking forward to replacing 10 vacuum tubes in an amp I just bought a month ago.
On top of that,
My trusty 2204, which had just been in the shop for new tubes, bias and to resolder the low input jack, was also acting up...AGAIN...
And so it goes.

So off to the tube amp fixer guy I send my son with both heads.
Everything comes back in good working order and sounding awesome.
Thanks tube amp fixer guy!

However,
This time is different.
Instead of having the feeling all is right in the world with my amps all dialed-in, I’m left with the feeling of wondering what/when will go wrong next.

I love these old tube amps, nothing sounds better when they work correctly but for the first time I’m having a wandering eye for the new simpler digital modelers that have come out recently like the strymon iridium.

I need an intervention,
talk me off the ledge TGP.

JE7YDey.jpg
I won't talk you off a ledge.
I have a vintage tube amp.
I have a newish tube amp.
I have a modeling amp.

I like each one. Why limit myself?
 

Vanilla Latte

Member
Messages
784
There are a lot of comments about "where will that digital amp be in 20 years", but chances are it'll still be working just as well as day 1. There's almost nothing to go wrong with them, but even if it did completely die at some point, getting 10 or 20 years out of a consumer product that was completely maintenance free the entire time is a win, not a loss.

Sure, I could buy a real vintage tube (whatever) and pay a premium for the privilege, then pay decent sized sums of money again every so often for tubes, and again for service to keep it running... but I could also buy the most current digital technology every 3-5 years, flip my old one, and probably come out ahead - to say nothing of having had no trouble in the meantime. :dunno

^^^^ This one hundred percent.
 
Last edited:

guitarjb44

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
842
Is starting to wear on me lately.

I’ve always been a tube amp guy.

Starting with my first tube amp 30 years ago, a peavey bravo.
To this day I swear it comes as close to modded Marshall tone in a small package for $250 as you can get.

From there I graduated to a 1981 Marshall 2204 halfstack.
The first strum of an A chord with the preamp set around 6 and I said aloud,
“That’s the sound”!
And it sill IS THE SOUND.

After a ten year hiatus from buying gear(I know don’t hate me), I recently picked up a 1992 Marshall 6100LE halfstack to keep at the rehearsal space where I play in a hobby band for fun.
I was so geeked to get this grail amp from the early days of my guitar playing hobby.
It sounded great in the store where I bought it and at home but as soon as I need a little volume to keep up with a drummer, it obviously had an issue.

These things can be expected with older gear. It’s the price of keeping old gear in working order.
I just was not looking forward to replacing 10 vacuum tubes in an amp I just bought a month ago.
On top of that,
My trusty 2204, which had just been in the shop for new tubes, bias and to resolder the low input jack, was also acting up...AGAIN...
And so it goes.

So off to the tube amp fixer guy I send my son with both heads.
Everything comes back in good working order and sounding awesome.
Thanks tube amp fixer guy!

However,
This time is different.
Instead of having the feeling all is right in the world with my amps all dialed-in, I’m left with the feeling of wondering what/when will go wrong next.

I love these old tube amps, nothing sounds better when they work correctly but for the first time I’m having a wandering eye for the new simpler digital modelers that have come out recently like the strymon iridium.

I need an intervention,
talk me off the ledge TGP.

JE7YDey.jpg


Simple: buy NEW tube amps. There are now so many great options- and buying slightly used will even save loads of money. You don’t have to sell the old ones, but you might decide to do so at some point after acquiring reliable modern-built amps.
 

Northerner

Member
Messages
1,944
Lumping “vintage” amps into a single category may be a bit misleading.
My mid ‘60s Ampegs and Fenders are solidly built, sturdy amplifiers.
They look good too.
Late ‘60s and ‘70s is when many things in the manufacturing world went to ****.
My ‘82 Mark IIB is also solid as a rock as are many of the modern small batch tube amps.
 
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Silent Sound

Member
Messages
5,806
You make a good point there. Amp techs are hard to find these days. They're charging more and more all the time, and I think some of the people putting their hands into amps may not be as expert as we'd like them to be.
Well, there's not much money in it anymore. Back in the day, you weren't an "amp tech". You were an electronics repairperson. So you made your money by repairing all kinds of electronics. As electronics have become less and less repairable (due to decreasing value of repair over replacement costs and manufacturers not supporting repair people with schematics and parts), you see less and less people who were properly trained in electronics willing to continue in this business.

Thus entered the "amp tech", which is someone who doesn't know that much about electronics, but thinks they know a lot about guitar amps. Guitar amps are fairly easy circuits, for the most part. Especially tube amps and older SS amps. So someone can train themselves to be an "amp tech" in about three to six months, and probably do a decent job 75% of the time. And if all else fails, they can just keep replacing parts on your dime, until it's fixed. It's an easy field to fake it until you make it. And since these guys are self taught and not usually highly skilled, they're not expecting to make a decent living at it, like someone with 4-8 years of training would. Hence they're the only ones willing to continue on in the field. I mean, a decent electrician can make a whole bunch more money than an amp tech. And an actual electrical engineer... well, you can imagine. So unless you're an amp tech to the stars, chances are, you're just someone trying to turn a hobby into a job.
 

Alpione

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,114
It's not just vintage tube amps. My <10 years old tube amps feel like they're always in the shop. Just got one back that needed a new output jack and a preamp tube. And it's already making a different funny sound intermittently. Drives me crazy. I might go solid state and get a Henricksen Blu 10.

This is what drives me nuts. You think you've finally got it all squared away and then there's "something" that starts bothering you. Maybe the overdrive all of a sudden sounds farty or a reverb tube goes microphonic or there's something that's just "off". Then you have to restart the diagnosis process. I'm there right now. Sigh.
 

erikzen

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,700
I plug my Ampli-Firebox straight into the front of my Pro Junior as well as into a Headrush FRFR 108. Best of both worlds. If I had a bigger tube amp I'd use that. If the tube amp goes, the Headrush is plenty loud enough and/or can go direct to the board.
 

drewl

Member
Messages
8,561
I've never had a tube amp die or go bad.

Thought I did, but the pilot light on my 67 Pro Reverb burned out.

Hooked up spare head and played the gig.
 

BADHAK

Member
Messages
9,921
Is starting to wear on me lately.

I’ve always been a tube amp guy.

Starting with my first tube amp 30 years ago, a peavey bravo.
To this day I swear it comes as close to modded Marshall tone in a small package for $250 as you can get.

From there I graduated to a 1981 Marshall 2204 halfstack.
The first strum of an A chord with the preamp set around 6 and I said aloud,
“That’s the sound”!
And it sill IS THE SOUND.

After a ten year hiatus from buying gear(I know don’t hate me), I recently picked up a 1992 Marshall 6100LE halfstack to keep at the rehearsal space where I play in a hobby band for fun.
I was so geeked to get this grail amp from the early days of my guitar playing hobby.
It sounded great in the store where I bought it and at home but as soon as I need a little volume to keep up with a drummer, it obviously had an issue.

These things can be expected with older gear. It’s the price of keeping old gear in working order.
I just was not looking forward to replacing 10 vacuum tubes in an amp I just bought a month ago.
On top of that,
My trusty 2204, which had just been in the shop for new tubes, bias and to resolder the low input jack, was also acting up...AGAIN...
And so it goes.

So off to the tube amp fixer guy I send my son with both heads.
Everything comes back in good working order and sounding awesome.
Thanks tube amp fixer guy!

However,
This time is different.
Instead of having the feeling all is right in the world with my amps all dialed-in, I’m left with the feeling of wondering what/when will go wrong next.

I love these old tube amps, nothing sounds better when they work correctly but for the first time I’m having a wandering eye for the new simpler digital modelers that have come out recently like the strymon iridium.

I need an intervention,
talk me off the ledge TGP.

JE7YDey.jpg
The 6100 isn't a vintage amp.

Ive had my 1980 JMP 2203 for about 6 years, my 79 JMP 2203 for about 5, and my 82 JCM 2203 for about 4.......never had an issue with any of them. My 82 4104 combo last week stopped working after about 3 years of working perfectly. So what, it's a guitar amp, it's gonna need maintenance at some point. It's not as if I'm playing Madison Square Garden without a backup !!

In comparison my Marshall TSL Combo and Mesa LSS combo spent more time on the bench than they did me playing through them.
 
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drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
29,553
The 6100 is a GREAT amp! The first Marshall where they really thought about the clean channel. But it's a problematic SOB-the midi switching circuits are heat sensitive, not a great thing in an amp with 10 tubes! Eventually they will die. Luckily there's a fix for it available now. There's even a thread about it here somewhere! So, enjoy that amp in good health.

I'm having a little trouble with $200? If all he did was replace power tubes and rebias, that seems high? If he replaced all the tubes (which is kinda silly, the preamp tubes don't work too hard) it seems low? Hmm, maybe not. Looks like you could do it with JJs for around $150 for tubes, so $50 to clean sockets and rebias isn't terrible...
 
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bluegrif

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,169
Also, keep in mind you don't have to go modeling unless a particular modeling amp really speaks to you. If you're into Marshall tones, the Bluguitar Amp1 is pretty hard to beat and the only tube is a tiny Russian nanotube that's soldered in and will probably outlast most of us. Plus, it's all analog other than the reverb and sounds unbelievably close to big, heavy, vintage Marshalls.

My problem is I'm on the fence between an actual modeling amp (the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb) and the Amp1. Two very different beasts but either would address my needs. I've been fighting some chronic pain issues for the past few years and I simply need to cut the weight way down but refuse to sacrifice quality at all. For decades I've bounced back and forth between old school Marshall tones and blackface Fender. I still don't know where I'll land, but if you're after one or the other, I think those are probably the best non-tube choices available without going full "menus and tweaking" modeling. Also, for me, the high end, do-it-all modelers are not only overkill, but they require carrying more gear than I want to (unless maybe you're into the "straight into the PA with in-ears" thing, which I am not). I'm thinking two trips to the van for most gigs. Guitars in one hand (I use a Mono double bag), amp in the other; one more trip for my pedalboard and stands, done. IOW, something featherweight and manageable. My days of hauling a Super Reverb are over I'm afraid. We're very lucky to live in a time where that truly isn't necessary anymore.
 
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jcs

Member
Messages
8,093
Stick with OLDER tube amps that are simple in design and use pedals for gain tones. Why?

Simple circuits rule imo....Case in point, my 64 Epi Devon i finally got sorted out (cold solder joints), NO reverb or tremolo and a bud gassed up the preamp a bit...the 6 volt preamp tubes have their own sound (like my 67 Ampeg Gemini II) and this amp has a thick distorted sound but very chimey from the EL84s...harmonics all over the place.
 

jb4674

Member
Messages
6,840
What I do not have an interest in doing is exposing myself to risk of electrocution via 475 volts.
That’s just a line I won’t cross, particularly when there is available people who will do this work for me for a reasonable fee. Add to that the area I live in is blessed with a relatively large number of excellent tube amp techs.


I guess you rather pay someone $200 instead of spending $25 and doing it yourself?

https://www.stewmac.com/Pickups_and...nufferStick_High_Voltage_Discharge_Stick.html
 

jcs

Member
Messages
8,093
Also, keep in mind you don't have to go modeling unless a particular modeling amp really speaks to you. If you're into Marshall tones, the Bluguitar Amp1 is pretty hard to beat and the only tube is a tiny Russian nanotube that's soldered in and will probably outlast most of us. Plus, it's all analog other than the reverb and sounds unbelievably close to big, heavy, vintage Marshalls.

My problem is I'm on the fence between an actual modeling amp (the Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb) and the Amp1. Two very different beasts but either would address my needs. I've been fighting some chronic pain issues for the past few years and I simply need to cut the weight way down but refuse to sacrifice quality at all. For decades I've bounced back and forth between old school Marshall tones and blackface Fender. I still don't know where I'll land, but if you're after one or the other, I think those are probably the best non-tube choices available without going full "menus and tweaking" modeling. Also, for me, the high end, do-it-all modelers are not only overkill, but they require carrying more gear than I want to (unless maybe you're into the "straight into the PA with in-ears" thing, which I am not). I'm thinking two trips to the van for most gigs. Guitars in one hand (I use a Mono double bag), amp in the other; one more trip for my pedalboard and stands, done. IOW, something featherweight and manageable. My days of hauling a Super Reverb are over I'm afraid. We're very lucky to live in a time where that truly isn't necessary anymore.
I get that! Otoh, a local kid just bought a 64 BFSR, he is so mesmerized with the tone playing small clubs and in church....my SFSR has casters and is easy to roll around and sounds great at low volumes.
 

jcs

Member
Messages
8,093
I guess you rather pay someone $200 instead of spending $25 and doing it yourself?

https://www.stewmac.com/Pickups_and...nufferStick_High_Voltage_Discharge_Stick.html
Im lucky, i do have electronic skills but have a bud/technician that just retired from his day job....guess what, he's BORED with plenty of time on his hands and loves to work on amps, especially older simple circuits, plus i hang out with him and assist a bit...he's actually looking forward to working on old amps again now that he is retired.
 




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