Tube Distortion on Mid 50s Amps?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by LadOfEastPoland, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. LadOfEastPoland

    LadOfEastPoland Member

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    Hey. I was looking to buy a vintage Gibson Amp. A lot of them I was considering were made 1951-1956. Now, my question would be:
    "Do these amps get good tube overdrive?". I was wondering about that, because back than people weren't using the overdrive from the amps. So my understanding would be, that they might not have a very natural overdrive, in other words it would sound very artificial. Of course the overdrive I am talking about is the one caused by turning up a volume knob (captian obvious).
    Also, how do these amps react with one or two pedals?
    Looking forward to your feedback!
    Cheers! :munch
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  2. pete100199

    pete100199 Member

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    These amps get great overdrive! A combination or power tubes and smaller output transformers saturating. They'll take pedals just fine. I have a two tone '56-57 GA-40 and a tweed '60 G19rvt.

    Here's a vid of a 60-61 Gibson.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xzr_GBa8qk
     
  3. LadOfEastPoland

    LadOfEastPoland Member

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    I like your amps! I love the tweed Gibsons. The '56 GA-40 is also from a great era of Gibson amps!
    Sister Rosetta Tharpe is amazing, always rockin'!
    Some people say that she used a GA-8/GA-8T and a GA-18T Explorer (Sweet Lord, I want these amps).
     
  4. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Member

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    While they sound great, the thing that people don't tell you about these old amps is that they're ungrounded (bzzzzzzz and ZAP!) and require considerable ongoing maintenance to keep them in playing shape. That's why I've got 2 vintage Fender amps sitting in my closet.

    I'd recommend looking into either buying a good modern day clone (Victoria, Buffalo) or, if you're electrically handy, building your own. The circuitry on them is relatively simple and schematics and parts are available.
     
  5. zenas

    zenas Member

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    Old amps have a more natural overdrive or distortion to them than new ones IMHO. For some reason when people started building distortion into amps it got artificial.

    A lot of things play into that just one is speakers got more effiecent. (louder) Just that little change has an effect because when you turn up it gets louder. Maybe too loud to get the amp doing it's thing.
    When that happens clipping diodes, master volumes, added gain stages, attenuators, pedals, come into play and the sound goes from natural to unnatural.

    Just MHO and judging from all the amps with that crap on them, the attenuator and pedal market I'm in the minority.
     
  6. zenas

    zenas Member

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    You could get those Fenders serviced and upgraded to grounded cords. Or leave them in the closet because without some maintance vintage amps really aren't worth owning.
    Maybe just sell them ?
     
  7. bullet6759

    bullet6759 Silver Supporting Member

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    Wrong. also if you had "old fender amps" they would not be in the closet and if they are whats wrong with you?
     
  8. bullet6759

    bullet6759 Silver Supporting Member

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    Dont tell this band that. They dont know what they are doing.:bonk
     
  9. Ugh

    Ugh Supporting Member

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    Calm down dude. bgmacaw has a point. Old amps can be expensive to acquire and often do require a good bit of maintenance to make them safe/reliable. He didn't say they don't sound good. A modern repro is a viable alternative.
     
  10. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Silver Supporting Member

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    The problem is when he said they need considerable ongoing maintenance, which is simply incorrect. They require no more regular maintenance than new amplifiers.
     
  11. Rydell

    Rydell Member

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    Schematics are available for most of them and a grounded power cord is a very good idea. Save any parts you swap out in case you want to sell it. Old amps are generally worth more in their original, un-modified condition. Any decent tech should be able to help you with it.
     
  12. Ugh

    Ugh Supporting Member

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    Good point. It just seemed like dude was getting bent out of shape for no reason...
     
  13. zenas

    zenas Member

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    Yeah you can't just buy a 50 year old amp and expect it to work and not shock you. The shocking part is easy but most guys now days don't know how to set them up right. I do but I still upgrade to a grounded cord crazy not to.

    If the amp shocks you turned on it'll shock you turned off. Or your barefoot little girl after seeing my little girl get a shock, my wife yelling at me to throw away my old Vibro Champ I started upgrading cords.

    Service isn't hard either first thing is 50 year old electrolytics may still "work" but they ain't working right and they're noisy. Replace them all and if the amp was "working" pretty good before you're probably done.

    But maybe you aint done and that's where the problem lies. There can be other issuies get the wrong guy inside and he'll make a mess chasing his tail around the problem on you're dime.

    There's alot of real bad techs out there and that's why I started doing my own stuff 25 years ago. If I hadn't started doing my own I probably would have given up on vintage amps 20 years ago because dragging an amp from one tech to the next gets expensive.
    Or maybe I would've found the right guy who knows?
     
  14. bullet6759

    bullet6759 Silver Supporting Member

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    Well its advice like this from someone I can almost grantee you that has no real experience with vintage amps because if he did he would of not posted what he did. And could keep someone from buying a less expensive vintage alternative that to me sounds and works just as good or better. I once listened to advice like this and wasted time and money on a DRRI and New Vox AC30c2. When a lectrolab r800d $250 and Kay 506 $300 did the job fine and sound 100%. Is that a good reason for you TGP cop.
     
  15. wyatt

    wyatt Member

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    The old Gibsons are great for a tube overdrive, that's the bulk of their tone. Kind of lo-fi and swampy. Think '50's blues (Howling Wolf), they really don't stay focused and tight enough for the kind of overdrive you might associate with hard rock.

    bgmacaw isn't too far off the mark when discussing old Gibsons. To begin with components in the early '50's weren't near as good and reliable as what they would be by the early '60's, and the parts I come across in '50's Gibson amps were noticeably worse than average. I wuit working on them, the component drift of the resistors and leakage of the caps always left a dilemma...keep as many original parts as possible and leave the amp weaker and out of spec or replace half the parts or more to get it up to spec (maybe mod it for a little more "umph!").

    If I were going to recommend a Gibson amp, I would want it to be late '50's and at least a GA-40. But after working on several, I won't buy anymore old Gibsons or Valcos when I can build my own out of much better parts. I get no joy out of owning stuff just because it's old, it's got to provide use as a tool.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  16. LadOfEastPoland

    LadOfEastPoland Member

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    Please, people, let's not have a flame war going on here.
    My understanding was, that when I'll have a vintage amp restored and renovated, it will most likely need the same maintenance as a brand new amplifier.
    Very interesting. I guess that is good news for me. I like pedals, but I surely won't pedal up a 50-60 year old amplifier. I think that would be kind of a cripple to the original sound and natural overdrive that it has to offer. I mean, now as I am thinking, that is how these amps were played at the time. I'll definitely give pedals with that Gibson a try and we'll see how that works. Considering the fact that I will be running it double-mono with a Fender Vibro Champ, I could run an OD from a pedal to the VC, keeping the Gibson's signal clean.
    That is what I was looking for. Exactly Hubert Sumlin tone!
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  17. wyatt

    wyatt Member

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    Most players use the Mic inputs on the old Gibsons, they are relatively hot. The Inst inputs are tamer, cleaner and IMHO...pretty anemic and bland sounding.

    The real core of Gibson amp users are harp (harmonica) players who rely on it for thick, lo-fi OD.
     
  18. LadOfEastPoland

    LadOfEastPoland Member

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    Don't worry, Zenas. There is a great amp technician in my city that has 35+ years of experience of working with vintage amps. He recently restored an original 1959 Silverstone 1434 "Twin Twelve" that was in a terrible condition. Now it is perfectly working and howlin' the blues. He is very professional. He used to build fantastic Dumble clones. That being said, the condition of the amp I'll get is not an object, as most of the things can be proffesioanly repaired.
     
  19. LadOfEastPoland

    LadOfEastPoland Member

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    Yes. That is what I've heard. I've been talking to my friend, who is a harp amp junkie and he used to use Gibson amps. He was especially happy with a BR-6 from 1949.
    Now he switched to vintage Silvertones/Danelectros, they also sound sweet. Have a look. He is first playing thru a tweed bassman clone, than the Silvertone.
     
  20. zenas

    zenas Member

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    If you got a good tech your all set. They're out there I just couldn't find one back then.

    Wyatt makes a good point on early 50s amps. Unlike say a blackface Fender where electorlytics is about all they ever need the early 50s amps may need all the capacitors changed.
    Did a "50s Newcomb last year. Guy said "I think it needs new tubes". Well the elctrolytics were bulged and bubbling and the paper tube coupling caps had the stuff that should be inside sticking out.
    It left with the tubes it came in with but all new capacitors.
     

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