What to ask when buying a vintage Fender??

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by scotth, Apr 29, 2016.

  1. scotth

    scotth Member

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    This weekend, I might be going to look at a local '71 Fender Super Reverb. It's listed as all original. (only the tubes have been changed)

    The seller said it was gone over by a trusted tech, but how would I know? I've never pulled a chasis on an vintage Fender and wouldn't know what to look for if I did.

    Can you tell me what I should be asking/looking for?
     
  2. Heady Jam Fan

    Heady Jam Fan Member

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    Get the seller to take a pic if the inside & bottom of the chassis, then post it here!

    People can tell you if it appears to be the correct output transformer, if the circuit appears to be correct and well cared for, of the amp has been looted of the good parts, and if the electrolytic caps appear to have been replaced sometime in the past couple decades. The only thing you won't be able to see is if the filter caps have been replaced: those are the dangerous ones in the "doghouse" under the chassis - I wouldn't ask the seller to take a pic for me unless I was certain they know how safely. But if the electrolytics in the amp are newish, the filter caps probably are too. It is it actually all original and the caps haven't been changed, you might want to consider paying a tech a couple hundred bills to replace them.

    You may also want to consider what speakers are in there. I'm personally not concerned whether they are vintage correct: I'm not big on American speakers, so I would toss in some Celestions anyway, and often speakers that old are beat. That might be another expense if the amp is original and you want it in playing condition.
     
  3. dcbc

    dcbc Member

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    Look at the bottom of the transformers and the choke. If they're original, they'll have a number on them like 606-x-xx or 606-xx-xx. The x's represent week and year (you can google "dating Fender amp with transformer codes" to get an exact translation of whatever numbers you see. But if you see something that indicates late 1970 early 1971, odds are those are the original equipment for a purported 1971 amp. On the Super Reverb, the original speakers were AlNiCo CTS. There should be a number on the edge of the speaker frames. The first three numbers indicates the speaker manufacturer. These CTS speakers (Code beginning with 137) are excellent and worth keeping.

    As for the rest, if you don't know your way around a chassis, you can get a picture posted here, as suggested, but otherwise, keep your hands out of it. Lots of stored electricity that can kill you, etc.

    Play the amp. Test all inputs. Test the reverb and vibrato. Listen for scratchy pots by turning all the knobs through the range. Listen for buzzes, high pitched frequencies, etc. Run the amp loud. If it sounds good, it'll probably be good for the time being. Always plan on spending a couple of hundred dollars to get an older amp up to snuff. I bought a 76 Princeton Reverb last year represented to have been "just gone over." It looked mint. Still had the hang tags. Long story short, about $200 later, it sounds perfect. I paid the right amount so that spending that extra money to get it where it needed to be didn't make the deal a bad one.

    But in this case, it may be fine for the time being if it sounds fine. That's not saying that it might not have a leaky cap. But in my experience, when things start to go, you can hear it. But I'm not an electrical engineer or anything close to it. Sending an amp to a good amp tech (David Allen is my preference for old Fenders) is money well spent.

    Bottom line, if it sounds good, it's probably fine (at least fine enough to take home), and most anything that has been done to the circuit can probably be undone.

    The transformers are probably the most important original equipment that has the greatest effect on tone and value. And, on a Super Reverb, the original speakers are probably more important than on a, for example, Deluxe reverb of that era. People just love those CTS AlNiCo speakers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
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  4. zenas

    zenas Member

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    Ok "all original exept tubes" "gone over by a trusted tech".

    That tells me the tech didn't do a dammed thing. For one thing you can't set the bias on a 71 SR without at least changing a resister. But most guys do a little modification to the bias supply. I prefer to add a pot before the bias balance pot.

    Original exept tubes also means it's over due for electrolytics.

    Posting gut shots like the other guys said is a good idea. It's also a gamble if you have to buy it first.

    I can pretty much guarantee it'll need to see another one if those "trusted techs".
     
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  5. Stratonator

    Stratonator Member

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    I have a '71 SR. They sound fantastic.

    That "trusted tech" line is a cliche, now. I'd go so far as asking him who it was and whether he has documentation of the work that was performed on the amp.

    I've been had before when I was green and I'd rather it didn't happen to you. The gutshots would be best but my instincts tells me the guy will give you an excuse saying he's not a tech and won't touch it. He could be telling the truth or not. You'd never know.

    You could also contact a tech in the area who is quite familiar with vintage Fenders and ask the seller whether he's OK to meet you with a tech. Even if you can't find anybody like that, I'd still say it just to see what the seller's reaction would be to know the insides of the amp would be reviewed with a fine tooth comb. If the sellers refuses to open the amp up, you know there's something fishy going on and you don't even need to bother wasting any more time on that one.

    Honestly, Silverface SRs are everywhere. How much is he selling it for?
     
  6. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    First, Heady Jam Fan's suggestion that you get detailed photos and post them here is a great one!

    The most important thing about the buying decision is whether or not you like the way it sounds and performs in its current state. If it doesn't really sound great to you, the rest is pretty much academic, no?

    It's not really a collector piece per se...but it unquestionably still has value that's going to be affected by its condition and originality of its parts. So, beyond how much you like the amp, everything else has to do with determining a fair price. The kinds of things that "make it worth more" include:

    - originality of all major parts: transformers, speakers, chassis, cab (including the speaker baffle)
    - originality of all electrical components (resistors, caps, pots, jacks)
    - originality/integrity of the circuit (has it been messed with)
    - condition of the speakers

    As you can guess, the closer it is to completely untouched, the more it's worth. Some will argue over whether or not lack of essential servicing (e.g., replacing the filter caps) hinders or increases the value... But if you're going to play the thing, then you will want good filter caps in there.

    So the problem for you is...since you don't already know how to identify the originality of the components, it's going to be hard to learn all that real fast. You should at least learn how to read EIA codes (google is your friend!!) and recognize different types/brands of speakers used by Fender in SRs of that era (maybe CTS alnicos? Oxfords, Jensens, Utahs(?)). So if possible post some good shots of all those components and TGPers will be falling pile on with all kinds of info about the originality of this or that part.
     
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  7. Steppin' Wolfe

    Steppin' Wolfe Member

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    +1 on detailed pics IF this deal has to be done soon.
    In order to inform yourself, go here...

    http://www.ggjaguar.com/biblio.htm

    Print the 6 articles entitled 'Dating Fender Amps'. Study them. You will learn how to read codes. And....now more than ever before, is is a buyer beware situation. I have a friend who bought a BFTR and a BF Vibroverb
    1 x 15 SRV amp. Both amps looked to be in excellent and original condition from all outward appearances....all transformer and speakers codes were correct and the tube charts were there and correct. However, upon pulling the chassis, the amps were revealed to be no more than player amps because someone had replaced every component on the board and all of the potentiometers except for the bias pots. I am convinced that the same person did the work on both amps, and the work was superior work and actually was better than the factory work. However, that work ruined the vintage value. In my estimation, my friend lost about $3K on those two amps.
     
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  8. swiveltung

    swiveltung Member

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    As mentioned, original transformers are important.... for value anyway. Original speakers are important to some people.... and the alnico CTS quad are worth probably $300+ alone.... if it had/has those. The 71 cab is rabbeted and prone to cracking at the corners... check the tolex for cracks.
    Part of the magic to SR's are the original speakers to me... but not everybody. They are crisp and inefficient which allows you to let the amp breathe volume wise. I have tried many replacements and never found the equal except the Weber CVC,CTC 10's. (built with paper voice coil formers like the originals) With 4 x 10, any heavy duty speakers will make the amp huge on the lows, and it gets hard to dial it out without losing other things. JMHO.
    A '71 super shouldn't be much money, a very clean one certainly under $1000.
     
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  9. scotth

    scotth Member

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    Thanks for the help so far, TGP.

    I've the contacted the seller. He doesn't have any pictures. I've gone so far as to tell him that I won't see it in person without pics first.

    He said that he's put $700 into it. He said that electrolytics have probably been changed, but he doesn't know for sure. There's also a 3 prong cord in it.

    He also has no record of the amp being gone over by the tech. He did mention th tech by name, though.

    It's priced ok,and the guy seems honest enough, but there's lots of red flags so far.

    I be he'll probably find someone who knows better to sell it to. Someone that's not asking as many questions, anyway.

    I'll let you know if I hear from him again.
     
  10. zenas

    zenas Member

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    $700 bucks makes you wonder what he spent it on. All nice NOS tubes could eat up a big chunk of that. But he evidently didn't say anything about new tubes.
    Speakers would also be anything from a little over $200 to all of that. But again he would have said something. I'd think.
    Transformers are the next expensive part but no mention of those being changed.

    If I had to guess I'd say the trusted tech screwed him.
    Or he just hasn't got a clue.
    Maybe both ?

    Also maybe it was a real mess when he took it in. Who knows.
     
  11. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    One look at the face plate on a Silver Face Fender and you can pretty much figure out if the tech knew his way around vintage Fenders or not.
    If the bottom or edges of the control panel look all dented to hell, as if someone pried it loose with a screwdriver, then you know the tech was a hack.

    Arbitrarily replacing good American vintage preamp tubes tells me the tech did not respect original integrity.
    Or he just stashed the tubes for himself.
     
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  12. swiveltung

    swiveltung Member

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    The dents in the lower edge of the faceplate have nothing to do with a tech likely, most often they get that damage from being bumped etc. The plate edge is vulnerable and aluminum.
     
  13. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    ^^^ Not when you see a series of screwdriver marks all along the bottom.

    For the OP

    This is a really good general reference seeing how he evaluates a '74 DR.

     
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  14. crazyneddie

    crazyneddie Member

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    Hmm, here's how I do it. I plug in and play it for a while.mif it sounds f'in unreal, I buy it. If it needs TLC, that's the brakes with an old amp. If it doesn't sound fantastic, I pass. Some of these guys can take an amp apart and see everything they need to see. I find
    A: most sellers you meet are not going to let you disassemble the amp.
    B: people are usually throwing money at people selling vintage a Fender amps where I live, so speed is part of the equation too. If you don't buy it someone else will be right behind you to take it home.
     
  15. keithb7

    keithb7 Member

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    Bring a flashlight, cell phone with camera and a screw driver. A '71 Twin is not a collectable amp. Let's start there. It's a f-ing great sound players amp though. I have a '73 and love it to bits. In terms of going over every little thing to confirm if it's original
    or if the transformers have been changed, that not too big of a deal with this amp. If you have no experience with amps, I am not going to suggest you open it up and check the chassis and
    post pics.

    Plug it in. Turn it on. No guitar plugged in. Turn all the knobs to zero. Start on channel 1. Turn up volume. At least to half. Spin up the bass, treble and middle knobs on that circuit. Any crackling?
    Loud hiss. If so start thinking about price reductions. Do the same with the second channel. Be sure to turn up and down every knob including reverb and vibrato controls.
    Then plug in a guitar and try each channel again. Repeat all steps. Play lots of notes and chords. Turn it up. Does it fart out? Crackle? Buzz? A quieter hiss is fine at idle. Do all tubes light up?
    Now turn it off and lay it down. Take the upper rear panel off. Look around up there. Take a few notes of the transformers. Do to the speakers look ok? We know how they sound now.
    No loose wires hanging anywhere? Lastly look at the overall condition of the tolex and grill cloth. Decent enough? Do you like how it looks?
    If those things check out, its a buy for a decent price.

    If it sounds and looks good. I'll say for a 71 SR, good enough. I'd certainly be in the chassis as I'm an amp hoarder and eat this stuff up.
    Tell us what the asking price is and we can tell you to run over there, or pass. Even from way out here where I can't see it.

    Here's a couple of early 70's Twins that I recently serviced and tuned up:
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
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  16. zenas

    zenas Member

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    Price dictates how close you look in my opinion. Some idiot thinks a blackface Deluxe or Princeton Reverb is worth 3,500 bucks. Had better expect buyers going over it with a fine tooth comb and a magnifying glass.
    See one of those at a yard sale for 500 bucks you look at the back make sure it's not a reissue, fork over the cash and leave quickly. If it turns out it's got the full Torris amp rebuild kit in it, changed transformers or its really a silverface you're still ok.
    (Hell even a reissue is worth 500 bucks to a lot of people. I'm not one of them.)

    Point is it's your money so get what you pay for. Don't wind up like that guy Steppin Wolfe talked about.

    And rember the odds of buying a vintage Fender amp that's really in "perfect working order, gig ready" aren't very darn good.
    They're well built amps and bullet proof but they're old and need to be checked out by someone who knows what to change and what not to.
     
  17. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    It's down to two factors for me: price and "do I need the amp". If it's an amp I'm going to play with for a week and decide it's too loud or too heavy, then pass unless it's such an incredible bargain you're guaranteed to make money when you trade it in. If you really want it, you can afford to pay a little more, but then how it sounds will be the most important question.
     
  18. stratotastic

    stratotastic Member

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    I love when guys do this. As if they think their tech is some sort of "celebrity tech" that everyone knows. I always see it in emporium ads as if it's a selling point: "recently serviced by Joe Shmoe." Who?
    Or, most likely, he's exaggerating the cost of the service to try to get a higher price out of the OP. On these deals you just have to focus on what you're looking at (and hearing) in front of you and take any lore about the amp's past or service history with a grain of salt. Obviously the "all original" claim is BS by the fact there's a 3-prong in it. Guaranteed over the course of that amp's life, someone's been inside tinkering around.
    Yeah, another "hidden cost" of these amps is you'll need to take it to your own tech for a check up.
    That's great that you're asking so many questions so as to not get hosed. Yes, there are lots of red flags with this. Post the gut shots you get from the seller, otherwise if he won't provide them then keep your eye out for a different amp from a more transparent seller. These come up for sale all the time.
     
  19. kwicked

    kwicked Supporting Member

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    700 bucks worth of tech work with no receipts?? But its a player grade amp- if you check the stuff mentioned in this thread and pay the right price with the assumption of a couple hundred bucks worth of work needed, you should have a fantastic amp!
     

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