Gretsch Amps

My tricked out G5222 (mod alert!)

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been happily modifying my G5222 for better tone, stability and looks and I love the results. For your amusement I am presenting my amp here, listing all mods and reviewing their effects. Although I’m almost done I have still one electrical change pending (replacing the volume potmeter) and two visual mods (leather handle and new front logo) pending. I will add pics of the interior and the final finished amp when the parts arrive here. First a listing of all the modifications I did: Sound/voicing: - Jensen Mod 6/15 speaker - NOS GE 5751 and JJ 6V6S or ‘50s RCA 6V6 valve - Replaced speaker cloth - Tonestack removed, amp circuitry modified to 5F1 Champ specs Noise reduction: - Improving the screening of the cabinet by adding copper foil to the front of the amp and at some spots where the stock foil was missing or damaged - Three different noise reduction modifications from the Alnicomagnet mod kit Stability/durability: - Standby / Pentode / Triode switch and H.T. fuse added (Alnicomagnet kit) - Soon: replacement volume potmeter Looks: - Lacquered the cabinet with nitrocellulose - Translucent brown chickenhead knob - All chrome hardware aged with sanding paper and a gas lighter flame for some soot and rust-like discolouration (- Soon: New Gretsch logo upfront) (- Soon: Leather handle)
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About the sound/voicing modifications: As soon as I got the amp I started trying out different tubes in it. Knowing it’s a very simple circuitry and that you can’t expect a budget amp to be fitted with the best I expected there would be significant effect from changing either tube. I am mostly playing this amp clean in my living room so I wanted to lower the gain. I tried an old 12AY7 but it sounded a bit too woolly. However a NOS GE 5751 did a great job at lowering gain a little, adding some treble and smoothing the onset of overdrive. While they don’t reduce gain I also got some nice sounds with a NOS Telefunken ECC803 and it’s current production sibling from JJ, the ECC803S. Compared to the stock 12AX7 I noticed a thicker tone with more sensibility to attack. Different 6V6s also have their own thing going. My alround favourite is a JJ 6V6S which I choose first because valves run pretty hot in the 5222 and this larger sized 6V6 is known for it’s ability to handle higher voltage. It also offered more headroom than the stock EH and a TAD 6V6GT I tried briefly but pulled out because I found it too dark. There’s one drawback which is the quicker onset of overdrive, when it goes it goes and in a snarling and slightly fuzzy way. In that respect the two different 50’s NOS RCA 6V6s I have are a lot nicer, they overdrive smoother and with a warmer sound. However the JJ has an addictive hi-end sparkle played clean so I’m sticking to it for everyday use. I replaced the speaker just to experiment really. The Jensen seems to handle the lows with a bit more authority and seems a bit more efficient than the stock speaker. The difference is not huge ‘though, it’s still a 6”. What really made it shine ‘though is the changed speaker cloth. The cloth seems so heavy there’s barely any sound travelling through it. I fitted some fender-like yellow/golden tweed-era material and it really makes the amp project forward more and allows higher frequencies to pass through. I had to spray the baffle black to get a nice uniform result (it’s plain wood upfront). After some not so nice attempts I put a strip of 1 cm of doublesided tape on every edge of the baffle, allowing the cloth to sit exactly right and tensioned before stapling it down. This helped a lot and resulted in the look like in the pics. Finally the 5F1 mod. The G5222 is really a blackface Champ in disguise with a tone-stack that limits gain a lot and enhances lows and highs. I found my amp was a bit lacking in the mids and sounded too boomy with my 6120 and CC at times. The 5F1 mod does away with the tonestack altogether, replacing it with a single coupling cap. This raised preamp gain a little, brought some beautiful singing mids in the mix while retaining treble and made the bass somewhat tighter although still very much present. This mod is part of the mod kit Alnicomagnet sells on eBay for the Champion 600. Another reason I like this mod is that I like the sound of the amp at lower volume a lot better.
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About noise reduction: The stock G5222 suffers from permanent mains hum at any setting that can be a bit unnerving when playing at lower volume or trying to record the amp. It was the thing that annoyed me most when I got to know my G5222. This is where the Alnicomagnet mod kit really pays it's dues. I don't want to ruin his business by explaining his three mods in detail but suffice to say is they are well thought out and the overall result is superb. Up till volume at ten I get almost no discernable noise at all, and past there it's just a bit of hiss that comes in. This really makes it a better amp for my living room. Another thing that I found slightly annoying was EMR interference. In my house there are some light dimmers and the TV set also sends out a lot of garbage (in more than one way that is :grin:). In an attempt to improve the shielding I used copper foil to expand the existing shielding to the upper front, partly behind the speaker baffle. I also taped over some tears and improved contact between the upper and side shield. Although not really 100% gone the interference is noticably lower, not bad for a 10 minutes mod for about $1
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About stability/durability: An amp with a valve rectifier wouldn't really need a standby as the power valves will always get a gentle start-up and will only get full voltage when already warmed up. In the 5222 with diode rectification the 6V6 already runs pretty hot but also gets the full whack as soon as you hit the switch. Since I wanted to use NOS 6V6's without burning them out on a weekly basis I gladly fitted the combined standby/pentode/triode switch from the Alnicomagnet kit. This was the hardest mod I did and I guess you do need some experience and some guts to do it as it involves cutting and adding wires to thin PCB trails. Triode mode is interesting, apart from less power there's also a change in tone to a darker and smoother tone. Very useful late at night or when the neighbours are at home. The potmeter on my amp is a bit buzzy so I'd like to replace this as well with an oldskool fullsized CTS 1M pot. Because the stock pot is tiny and stuck directly to the input pcb I'll have to remove part of the pcb and wire the new pot to the pcb trails. I'll shoot some pics when I get to it.
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Cosmetic changes: As much as I like the look of the 5222 I thought it looked a bit too new so I played around with it a little. My '58 Gibson GA-20T with it's lacquered yellow tweed cabinet inspired me to lacquer the cabinet with nitrocellulose. A befriended guitar builder suggested to try some of his Clou sealing lacquer, tinted slightly with brown pigment. Apart from the killing acetone odour this stuff handles well, I just brushed it on and allowing 15 mins. to fume out between coats I put on three coats in one go. Although dry to the touch within an hour or to it took a few days to set completely. I like the result, the lacquer coating enhanced the contrast between the two colours in the weave and the overall look is darker but shinier at the same time. I am glad I didn't overdo it with the pigment, especially considering the lacquer will age over the years and will probably get somewhat darker still in time. Having lost the logo when I replaced the speaker cloth I asked Paul Setzer if he could help me out with a new logo on a metal badge to be fitted above the baffle. After some emails he came up with this nice design and it's on my way now through the snail mail. Thanks Paul for helping me reGretsching my amp! :grin: I will add some pics when it's fitted. Finally some minor things: When ordering some other parts I encountered a leather Champ handle for $12 here http://www.marshallparts.com/products/678/Leather-Handle-Tweed-Style.htm so I thought why not, definitely nicer than the stock plastic one. I also fitted a brown translucent chickenhead knob from my parts box and aged all chrome hardware because it looked too shiny IMO against the lacquered tweed.
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In the end I am glad I went this far with what could be considered a very much low-budget amp. All these mods really enhanced the good things of the G5222 while taking care of some annoying defects, making it altogether more usable to me at any volume. I am not implying that a G5222 is useless without mods or that Fender/Gretsch came out with a bad amp and I'm sure that many people will enjoy theirs in it's stock configuration. However through all this I learned more about how it works and how to do electronics work on pcb amps, which was a nice learning experience. Again I'd like to praise Alnicomagnet's ebay Champion 6 00 mod kit for it's good quality parts and clear instructions, making these mods accessable to anyone with some understanding of electronics and soldering skills. I love the sound I am getting now, especially with my Gretsches or a Telecaster. Clear highs, lush mids, nice compression past halfway volume before audible overdrive at managable sound levels for home use. It makes practicing with my Gretsches at home much more fun and addictive than just plucking away unplugged on the couch like I used to do. The overdrive side is a bit of a two edged sword to me. Through any decent guitar cabinet the amp overdrives wonderfully now (I tried a marshall 1960 cab, and a combined 10/12" cab fitted with Jensens), but the 6" speaker just spits, barks and gnarls a bit too much to me. But it goes with the territory I guess and the clean and slightly overdriven sounds are beautiful so I don't mind. I have two nice 15W/1x12" combos so I don't really need a bigger amp anyway, and I can always get a pedal if I want overdrive at lower levels. So there you are! Thanks for sitting with me through this long story, hope you enjoyed it! I will add pics of the final pending mods as they come along, probably within the following two weeks.
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Thanks for such a thorough and detailed thread, complete with pics. This will probably help a lot of people. I wish I had your electronic ability ! Well done !
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WOW! That's a heck of a write up, great mods as well. I have to give you a +1 up for such a comprehensive editorial. Well done!
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Vink, that last pic is exceptional. Muy bueno. Spot on, mate.
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Good stuff, Vinkie; thanks for the completeness and clarity! Sounds like you know this little amp pretty intimately now, too.
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Thanks guys I'm glad you found the write-up useful. I hope it will inspire others to play around a little with their 5222s. I like the fact that some of the simpler mods have quite noticable effects so even without touching any electronics anyone could try some (mostly easily reversible) mods. Regarding the logo pic: It's wonderful I agree but credit where credit's due: Paul Setzer made it to show me my soon-to-be new amp logo. I should have mentioned that in the first place, sorry I forgot. My pictures tend to be functional at best :twisted:
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@ Chrisp: I'm curious if you have changed your amp to 5E1 or 5F1 spec or left the tonestack in place. Can you maybe comment on the sound of your amp with your Gretsch(es)? Bedankt en groeten uit een halfbesneeuwd Holland!
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OK I fitted the new volume pot tonight so I'll do a quick howto with some pictures. It sure feels better than the teeny weeny stock one, which was on the verge of breaking. I have to admit that changing knobs around didn't do a lot of good but I am sure it would have failed quite soon anyway. So here we go! First the interior of my amp:
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I talked about additional screening earlier, here's the inside of my cab with added copper foil upfront (behind the baffle) and on some other spots:
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By unscrewing the bolts of both inputs and the volume control the little sub-board came loose.
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I sawed of the right side of the board holding the potmeter because all the board does is connect the potmeter contacts to the connector pins. I figured I could connect the pins of my replacement potmeter directly to the connector pins using a short but very flexible (but not too thin) triple-core wire.
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After checking for continuity across all my solder points I lacquered the contacts to insulate them (shrinkwrap isn't very practical here, too big) and put the pot and board in place. I had to enlarge the "pothole" upfront a bit with a round file to get my larger diameter pot in. After a final check I blew out the chassis with compressed air to remove any stray metal particles and went for a test run, which showed I managed to wire the pot backwards :grin: Reversing the outer wires on the pot solved this and my G5222 runs fine again!
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Final testrun on my bench before tightening all the screws again :nice: and we're back in business.
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Rocketman said: kutweer kutland
I'm not sure I agree with your second statement there Rocketman but it's getting very hard to dispute the first. Snow storms during Easter is just plain ridiculous :omg:
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Vinkie, thanks for documenting all this here for us! Good luck with your final mods. I'm still enjoying my stock 5222. I wanted to do some cosmetic changes possibly like the jewel light to a whilte Valco and the knob changed out to a old Valco style, Or a Gretsch Chrome G & Arrow. Might make a new baffle and cover it in some open grille material like you have done. Mine rattles a bit. And try a different speaker with it. But I think I'll hold off for now. Lots of other modding and repairs going on elsewhere.
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Thanks Paul! I am sure you have a lot of projects going on :D btw. A very simple but often effective cure to the rattling is to remove the metal cage around the 6V6 (if you haven't done so yet). You can also check if the baffle board is mounted properly by tensioning the four screws upfront.
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Nice amp story. Interesting to read. Yeah sorry about me cursing my country for the horrible, uninspiring, suicidal, shite weather. I have thought of leaving it and go to a mediterreanean country. But I have no idea how I could survive there, yet. But I have been looking at it several times.

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