Other Amps

5e3 Deluxe Recommendations?

1

Hey GDPers--

I've got a craving for a Fender Tweed Deluxe style amplifier and I have recently liquidated some gear to go about satiating it.

I did some forum diving just now and it seems that many agree that the official Fender reissues are overpriced. I've noticed a bunch of smaller builders' handwired versions on Reverb and the like, but I can't seem to find many, if any, reviews of the various examples. There's enough variety (speakers, tubes, mods/features, etc.) at a common price point ($500-$1000) that I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Does anyone have any experience with a "small batch" 5e3 Deluxe build? I'd like to avoid any kits or trying to marry a cabinet and a chassis from different builders.

If not, does anyone have any recommendations for desirable features?

A few questions that I have so far:

  • What speakers pair best with this circuit?
  • What effect do the various rectifier tubes have on the tone/performance?
  • I see some have a "Ground" switch vs. a standby switch. What's the difference?

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated! Thank you much!

2

I'd build one myself from a kit. But if you aren't so inclined look for a kit built one on eBay.

3

Everything about a 5E3 is subjective. Speaker, tubes, caps, cabinet.... I’ve built many of them, no two the same. No one uses the ground switch anymore, and with a tube recto the standby switch is kinda pointless. That leaves a switch for some cool mods. Stiffer rectifiers will give you some headroom, but not tons.

“Classic” 5E3 is carbon resistors, 5Y3 recto, an alnico speaker in a pine box. The sky is the limit for modifications to suit your taste.

4

I had one from L'il Dawg. Great amp that compared very favorably with my old '56. Jim treats his customers like family. I think he uses Mather cabinets now, which are beautiful. A Weber 12A125A is a great speaker and as close as you will get to a vintage P12R, IMO. Although...I've been buying old organ and stereo pulls on Ebay. Under $20 and have found some real gold. Magnavox (CTS), Rola, Motorola...and some names you never heard of. Great old Alnico speakers for chump change. My build had a transformer that gave me the option of 6V6 or 6L6. Different rectifiers give different amounts of "sag" which is like a small delay in the immediacy of attack. More sag, like with the stock 5Y3, gives that compression, sustain and note bloom that I love in a tweed. A ground switch is left over from the old 2-prong days. If you got a spark and a jolt when your lips hit the mic, you flipped the switch. Eventually I learned the trick of touching the strings to the mic and looking for a spark(!!). It's no longer necessary, so people use the switch for a standby which is probably useless as well (and may be harmful to output tubes), but hey...you gotta do something with that switch. A negative feedback (NFB) switch would probably be more useful. I've never had one (NFB switch), but there are people whose opinions I trust who would never have a 5E3 without one. If you want name brand from a music store, Victoria is probably your best bet. Pricey, but not like Fender.

5

I had a "Clark" version for several years. Outstanding build quality, and it had a great sound to it.

Used several different speakers in it, and like others have stated, different speakers all have their own thing going, along with tubes and other components in the build.

Clark, Victoria, and several builders use "old style" or old components in their builds. Other builders do not, including Fender.

IMO, most custom builders like Clark and Victoria, and others, use higher quality componts than the Fender unit, but Fender has the Fender name tag on the amp, and that will cost more, just because of that.

Best of luck deciding

7

If hi were to buy a built kit I’d buy it off a reputable builder. I bought one once on ebay which was down right dangerous

8

Mission Amps Volume Tone Mod is great for 5e3 builds

9

I have had 2 different 5E3s from Jim at Lil' Dawg Amps. The one I have now is a 25-watt-transformer version in an extra deep tweed cabinet. It would be my go to amp but, as a home player, it's a little too loud for me. If I found a buyer for it, I'd probably downshift back to one of Jim's 12 watt versions.

10

Bruce Collins is a great guy, makes a great product.

11

The deeper cabinet...I had that. It's nice. Makes the amp sound bigger. More bass. Eventually I put the chassis in a 1x15 Pro-sized cabinet. Killer amp. If I had more time & money, I'd love to hear a 5E3 with a 4x10. No way am I rewiring my Bassman to get the right impedance ;)

12

IMHO, the 5E3 is pickier than any other amp for a speaker match. Probably due to the lack of negative feedback, and low end that can get really ugly with a speaker with lots of low end.

Some people really like the alnico blues, or their clones. I prefer something a little more traditional sounding. The best speaker I've found for my amp, after trying about a dozen different "British" and "American" voiced speakers in alnico and ceramic, is an early 60's C12R with the tiny magnet.

14

IMHO, the 5E3 is pickier than any other amp for a speaker match. Probably due to the lack of negative feedback, and low end that can get really ugly with a speaker with lots of low end.

Some people really like the alnico blues, or their clones. I prefer something a little more traditional sounding. The best speaker I've found for my amp, after trying about a dozen different "British" and "American" voiced speakers in alnico and ceramic, is an early 60's C12R with the tiny magnet.

– Kap'n

Like I said, it’s all subjective.

My current 5E3 has a 12AY7 in V1, a 5V4 recto, a Weber 12F125S with the 8 rib pulp cone and a Walnut cabinet. I also tweaked the bright channel a little and added a voice switch. This amp has a lot of headroom for a Deluxe. No need for NFB.

16

I can second Charlie Chitlin's recommendation on Lil Dawg, since I now own his Dlux amp described above.

That oversized, Mather built 1x15 cabinet is indeed all that. Matches perfectly with the amp circuit. I'd never tried one of the "deluxes on steroids" types, 5E3 builds with larger transformers allowing 6L6s to be used, possibly other mods. I have played tweed deluxes, owned other sorta tweed deluxes - notably a Fender EC tremolux (similar, not quite a 5E3) and a Victoria Trem de la Trem. That Victoria is a 1x15 variant on one of the fender tremolux models. Anyway, I have a decent frame of reference for the smaller tweed sound,

So for me, the Lil Dawg Dlux was an experiment. Came to me set up with 6v6s. I put in all NOS tubes, tried both 6v6s and 5881s. Found that I much preferred it with 6v6s. The NOS tubes further refined a very large, useful set of sounds. This Dlux turns out to be far better than the Victoria TDLT. That's a bit of a surprise, as that Vicky had some sweet tones. There's more clarity in the Dlux, better definition in the low end, more volume. An extremely useful contrast between the two channels, which makes voicing via jumpering quite effective. This amp has the same Legend 151 ceramic the Victoria came with. So I can only guess that the bigger iron and whatever circuit changes Jim used are the critical factors.

Hard to say why, but this Dlux is really a spectacular amp. A much bigger sound than I expected from a 14 watt class of tweed. MD

17

No gut shot? Tons of headroom? I'm sceptical.

– charlie chitlins

Looks like quality transformers. How bad could it be? It's a 5E3....not a lot going on under the hood tech-wise. If I were in the market for a tweed Deluxe (especially with the huge space I have already devoted to combos) I'd get something like this and just use another amp's speaker for the cab. More speaker versatility that way. At least in my case with all these combo amps already lying around. Cheaper on the wallet that way.

18

I can second Charlie Chitlin's recommendation on Lil Dawg, since I now own his Dlux amp described above.

That oversized, Mather built 1x15 cabinet is indeed all that. Matches perfectly with the amp circuit. I'd never tried one of the "deluxes on steroids" types, 5E3 builds with larger transformers allowing 6L6s to be used, possibly other mods. I have played tweed deluxes, owned other sorta tweed deluxes - notably a Fender EC tremolux (similar, not quite a 5E3) and a Victoria Trem de la Trem. That Victoria is a 1x15 variant on one of the fender tremolux models. Anyway, I have a decent frame of reference for the smaller tweed sound,

So for me, the Lil Dawg Dlux was an experiment. Came to me set up with 6v6s. I put in all NOS tubes, tried both 6v6s and 5881s. Found that I much preferred it with 6v6s. The NOS tubes further refined a very large, useful set of sounds. This Dlux turns out to be far better than the Victoria TDLT. That's a bit of a surprise, as that Vicky had some sweet tones. There's more clarity in the Dlux, better definition in the low end, more volume. An extremely useful contrast between the two channels, which makes voicing via jumpering quite effective. This amp has the same Legend 151 ceramic the Victoria came with. So I can only guess that the bigger iron and whatever circuit changes Jim used are the critical factors.

Hard to say why, but this Dlux is really a spectacular amp. A much bigger sound than I expected from a 14 watt class of tweed. MD

– mad dog

Such a great amp. I'm glad you're still digging it!

19

Looks like quality transformers. How bad could it be? It's a 5E3....not a lot going on under the hood tech-wise. If I were in the market for a tweed Deluxe (especially with the huge space I have already devoted to combos) I'd get something like this and just use another amp's speaker for the cab. More speaker versatility that way. At least in my case with all these combo amps already lying around. Cheaper on the wallet that way.

– guitarcapo

If the lead dress is really sloppy and the solders are crappy, it could be a big pain to make it right. Then, all you're getting is parts and a bunch of work to un-do. All the seller would have had to do is flip it over and take a pic. Conspicuous absence.

20

If the lead dress is really sloppy and the solders are crappy, it could be a big pain to make it right. Then, all you're getting is parts and a bunch of work to un-do. All the seller would have had to do is flip it over and take a pic. Conspicuous absence.

– charlie chitlins

I guess if you're paranoid you could ask the seller for a gut shot. Maybe I'm just used to fixing stuff like that blindfolded.

A typical 5e3 kit with quality transformers might set you back $250 anyway so it's not that risky.

21

Thank you for all of the helpful information everyone! My hunt continues...

22

My home brew 5e3 came with uprated Hammond xformers and will run both 6v6 and 6L6 tubes. It sounds best with 6v6s though. Another addition was a VVR unit that cuts the voltage down to the power tubes. It's not exactly the same as a master volume; you still can't get Neil Young crunch at apartment levels, but the VVR does allow another level of flexibility. With a Weber alnico, this has become my go to amp. Nothing else I own comes close.

23

Since I'm a hobby musician, I'll be honest here. I've never heard a vintage 50's Fender tweed live in action, so I have no point of reference. However, I've had a Swart AST Pro for about 4 years and it's got everything that I need. Great term/reverb, good headroom and it can get as dirty as you want. May be worth a look.

24

Personally I like the sound of a brownface or blackface Deluxe better than the tweed version. Less woolly and raw sounding at low volumes. Tweed Deluxes do that overdriven blues sound well....but not other types of music like country, pop, jazz, rockabilly as much. Check out some youtube demos.


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