Gretsch Amps

Do Transformers In Vintage Amps Last Decades?

1

A friend wants a vintage Fender amp and says he wants it as original condition as he can get it. He's looking at wanting maybe a vintage Fender amp from the '70s. He said that he doesn't want one with a replaced transformer or replaced speaker. I can guess speakers lasting decades but a transformer being an electronic piece of equipment I would think would need to be replaced eventually. I see transformers being sold after market all the time so I can imagine many vintage amps do have replaced transformers. If you get an amp with a replaced transformer I can imagine the price of the amp being less since it's not all original but how big of a deal is it to have a replaced transformer in a vintage amp since it still is vintage with point to point wiring and of that era. Yes the transformer is changed but is that a big deal when buying a vintage amp?

My friend is in NYC, he grew up with me and not sure how the vintage market is back east though. Not that that matters when wanting an amp that is all original.

Thanks

2

There are still lots of vintage amps around with the original transformers.
I don't know if everyone agrees with this but my amp tech told me that he thinks the output transformer is more important to the sound than the power transformer.
He does like them all to be original of course but he won't buy a vintage amp with a changed OT. With a changed PT he will.

3

I'm trying to convince my friend to buy a vintage amp that he likes as long as it sounds good to his ear and the price is right. I understand what you are saying about the OT and PT. But if he can get it for a good price vs a reissue that is just a little less he'll still get a cool vintage amp. Anyway a reissue does not have vintage parts so the vintage amp with some parts changed is still cooler and as good if not better than a reissue depending on price.

4

I agree. A vintage amp might need a little work when you get it but if it is taken care of well it can last a life time. And if he decides to sell he will never loose much or if he's lucky he can even make a profit. Just try that with a new amp.....

5

like DAnman said, the OT is the one that matters the most but even a different PT changes the character of the amp a bit.

The transformers should last forever on amps, but too often they rust over from being left out in the elements.. or in the case of not taking care of them by having the electrolytic/filter caps replaced and bad luck stage incidences ranging from power surges to improper speaker loades.. blah blah.. the Output transformers blow and at times the Power transformers...

that said I can tell you that if a vintage fender amp like a blonde bassman doesnt have its original schumacher Output transformer and has been replaced with lame blackface output transformers (not that blackface is lame, it just ruins the way a blonde amp does its thing at volume). Far too many bassman blondes have had their OT's ruined and replaced with generic goods. They sound very nice still but have far too much grunt and a tech will usually stiffen up the amps filter section to match plus then put large bottle 6L6 in the amp. Totally changes the character and charm of the amp... therefore LESS valuable unless its a collector and you have the original transformer to hand him along with the modified amp.

The Blonde bassman does have an aftermarket savior, with mercury magnetics making a replacement Blonde 6G6-B output transformer that is as close as it gets. I wont say that about all their stuff because there is a huge amount of fluff and hyberbole regarding many of their products but I swear by their blonde fender transformers.
In addition they have original transformer /repair rewinding service and can help you keep your original iron which is preferable..

my 2 cents.

6

OTs should be able to work almost forever. Heavy load, wrong speaker impedance, bad amp design and extreme humidity: such things can hurt it.

The PT is just a power source. If a new one has the same specs, the amp doesn't change.

7

All I know, from experience, is that it's really not that easy to kill the transformers in an old Fender.

8

Ideally, a transformer has no moving parts and all it =really= is is 100s of yards of copper wire wrapped around a fair bit of iron. Except for bad luck or abuse (like Tavo said), transformers will not wear out.

Speakers on the other hand are very prone to aging. That process starts the first day the speaker is plugged in. Treated badly, the process accellerates. And treated gently, the speaker material will still age and wear out from the vibrations of the cone. Eventually the cone will have to be replaced.

Your friend is right in wanting to get the original transformers on a vintage Fender.

9

I have 2 Fender Twins, bought new in '72. I travelled and lived out of my car for 8 years and only took one with me. That one has been totally rebuilt, new caps, tubes, speakers, and the grill cloth has faded to a brownish tint. The other is 100% original ... still works just fine.

10

My Traynor head is over 40 years old and still has the original Hammond transformers. It works just fine, as does my Burman head (circa 1980) with two Partridge transformers the size of housebricks.

Providing they haven't been ill-treated, decent transformers will last for ages. Here's the backside of the Burman.

11

Ditto for the transformers in my 72 Twin. Locally sourced for the amp when made under license here in NZ, so they add about an extra 2.5 kg to the weight, but still singing. :)

12

sligo ray: Is it just me, or do amps get heavier with age? These days, mine somehow put on a few kilos between 8pm and 11.30pm.

13

A hernia convinced me of that! 8-o I chopped the Twin into a head and cab, got myself a Delta Blues 115, I've even considered chambered guitars.... but, yes, it's just age :) . Still, it could have been worse; I could have been a bass player... or (shudder)... a drummer! ;-)

15

A transformer is a coil of wire around a magnetic. Like the old question. How many grooves are in a record? One. Same thing. If that wire breaks, burns, or shorts at any point the transformer is shot. But luckly generally only misuse or mis-storage causes this. I'll usually pass on a vintage amp if the iron isn't right.

16

A transformer is a coil of wire around a magnetic. Like the old question. How many grooves are in a record? One. Same thing. If that wire breaks, burns, or shorts at any point the transformer is shot. But luckly generally only misuse or mis-storage causes this. I'll usually pass on a vintage amp if the iron isn't right.

– Johnny_Atomic

A transformer is a coil of wire around a magnetic. Like the old question. How many grooves are in a record? One. Same thing. If that wire breaks, burns, or shorts at any point the transformer is shot. But luckly generally only misuse or mis-storage causes this. I'll usually pass on a vintage amp if the iron isn't right.

– Johnny_Atomic

Trick question. How many grooves are in a record? All of mine have two. One on each side. :D

Monty Python put out a record with 3 ("Matching Tie and Handkerchief"). One side had two side by side grooves. You never new which one you were going to get when you dropped the needle.

17

Nobody knows how long a vintage Fender transformer should last. I would guess a few centuries at least. It's nearly impossible to blow one, and it can't be done unless you have the wrong size fuse in the amp to begin with. Modern amps can blow transformers because they're crap, but older Fender transformers were good quality and designed with at least a 200% safety margin. The only exception was the Bandmaster output transformer. Those will blow if you play the amp loud, but then you get to replace it with a Bassman transformer, so it's a win/win situation.
BZ

18

last night at the dinner table we were talking about how it was hard to keep the kids (when they were in diapers) away from the chassis'sssszzz (like saying waspsss) and how one time my oldest was crawling around a silver face bassman I had that was plugged into my marshall 412 cab, and he'd pulled the speaker cable out only for me not to discover this until that evening.

I had a big old pantie fit about it but that amp was perfectly fine. :) Diaper man on the other hand needed some lessons on never ever never never touching daddy's holy vintage gear. ...which is probably why he plays upright bass now and noodles on the guitar when I'm not looking.

19

i have a 1953 Fender Deluxe Tweed...re capped..new resistors...all the rest is original.... runs fine....

20

I have an 80 year old Gibson amp with all original transformers that works just fine.

21

I've got an pre-cbs Princeton that's still going strong ..

22

sligo ray: Is it just me, or do amps get heavier with age? These days, mine somehow put on a few kilos between 8pm and 11.30pm.

– Dave_K

sligo ray: Is it just me, or do amps get heavier with age? These days, mine somehow put on a few kilos between 8pm and 11.30pm.

– Dave_K

Hmmmm. . . are we talking about THEIR age, or YOUR age?

23

I don't think in terms of sound there's any special "magic" in an old original transformer over a new one. Some amps might even be improved with a new OT over the original. But in terms of collector's there's no doubt that original is valued more.

24

My 1972 Bassman 100 is completely 100% original. Rusty corners and all.

25

I wonder about other amps. I have a 67 Marshall JTM-45 with a mercury magnetics PT, and an old Vox with original Haddon transformers. The Vox is 50 years old and runs super hot, I would guess the life of these transformers may not be as long? Its kind of ironic we are wondering aloud on about how long our old amps will last when the fact is many tweed amps have already out-lived their original owners--they will probably out-live us all.


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