Other Amps

A tale of two Deluxes

1

Soooo....

As part of my foray into ejummicating myself re: tube amps’ function and sonic variations along with their interaction with different guitars within a recording environment....[deep breath]...,

It began to look like a good idea to score a Fender Deluxe. Lots of sounds that I like on records were, I found out, made using Deluxes. So a few months ago, I lucked into a close-as-dammit-to-museum-condition Deluxe of ‘78 vintage. Being a ‘78, it has, of course, the [gasp] pull-volume.

Further research begat a curiosity, thanks to reading stuff written by some guys who are probably keyboard commandos all the way to fellas with impeccable pedigrees. Across the board, there were guys on both ends of the spectrum (around half or so, maybe) opining that pre-‘78, i.e. minus pull-volume, are better sounding Deluxes than latter specimens.

Sooo....

A couple days ago, I luck into a ‘77-vintage example of the Deluxical persuasion. Not as clean as my ‘78 (few are, in my own experience). Y’know, sometimes you can tell if an amp belonged to a former beer-guzzling monied frat boy who got career serious after university. Their amps see (and experience) stuff from which calm, sober adults tend to shy away. But the battle scars are albeit kinda odd but relatively minimal so there ya go.

Thing is that part of lightening the shade of green to my horn is actually something that’s ancient hat to youse guys, and that is the quirkiness of TUBES! CAPS! OTHER TUBE AMP-TYPE STUFF THAT HAS ME EQUALLY BAFFLED!

In other words, just coz they’re behaving when you check ‘em out and cough up the cash does NOT mean that they’re gonna STAY that way.

The ‘77 did have a tiny bit of very quiet, very occasional static when I fired ‘er up at the fella’s house so I figured it would need addressed at some point. And the pilot light wouldn’t light up, which was a good bargaining chip, if necessary. (It was.) Get ‘er home, push in the tubes, power up, static GONE, with the coincidental bonus of a bright red pilot light. Woohoo!!!!!

Meanwhilst, the oh so pristine ‘78, outta no place, began serenading me with a rather loud and relentless hum after I’d been A/B’ing the pair for about an hour. And now the ‘77’s static is back. (Pilot light’s still on, tho’.)

Sooo... Looks like they both need to visit my amp-type cat. [sigh]

Hope y’all’s respective worlds are beautiful.

2

Hum, likely filter caps. Good to get done and probably needs it. Cheap insurance to keep your amp happy. I'm envious you have a pair of late 70s models. I can't afford old ones so I have to make my own.

3

Hum, likely filter caps. Good to get done and probably needs it. Cheap insurance to keep your amp happy. I'm envious you have a pair of late 70s models. I can't afford old ones so I have to make my own.

– Toxophilite

I sincerely appreciate the benefit of your experience and knowledge that comes from building your own amps. I’m quite envious.

As far as the cost of mine: once in a great, great while, the gear-deal gods smile upon us all. I was about to abort my search coz I just couldn’t rationalize the going rate when, in separate instances, they just kinda materialized so I thought I’d better grab them as they flew by.

4

Have one worked upon by your local feller (who is...whom, exactly? Because, you know, Uncle Albert's in Indy is the electronics repair hideout of the grandson of the guy who helped Lee DeForest develop the wacuum tube, by no coincidence also the son of the guy who developed Silvertone amps (and other stuff) for Sears...and who is no slouch himself at any amp/electromechanical keyboard repair/mod/etc.)...

... but send the other one to JB Josh and have him work his Deluxe Deluxification on it. This comprises several choice and juicy mods which I now (and ever) fail to recall, but trust me they're goooood.

Because, see, since no two identical or near-identical tube amps are ever terribly alike anyway, and since they are subject to random good and bad days, you may as well have Deluxes which are intended to be different.

(And y'know...you'd think SRV in his touring prime probably had the best Fender amp-techin' a feller could afford...and when I saw him in Athens he had a seeming wall of Fender combo amps, not all of which were being played through. I was given to understand that he'd take each one's temperature every night and plug himself through the two or three that were working best. I guess their conditions varied that much. Could be coppypock and lore, I dunno. I'm just saying it on the internet so it becomes true.)

5

Have one worked upon by your local feller (who is...whom, exactly? Because, you know, Uncle Albert's in Indy is the electronics repair hideout of the grandson of the guy who helped Lee DeForest develop the wacuum tube, by no coincidence also the son of the guy who developed Silvertone amps (and other stuff) for Sears...and who is no slouch himself at any amp/electromechanical keyboard repair/mod/etc.)...

... but send the other one to JB Josh and have him work his Deluxe Deluxification on it. This comprises several choice and juicy mods which I now (and ever) fail to recall, but trust me they're goooood.

Because, see, since no two identical or near-identical tube amps are ever terribly alike anyway, and since they are subject to random good and bad days, you may as well have Deluxes which are intended to be different.

(And y'know...you'd think SRV in his touring prime probably had the best Fender amp-techin' a feller could afford...and when I saw him in Athens he had a seeming wall of Fender combo amps, not all of which were being played through. I was given to understand that he'd take each one's temperature every night and plug himself through the two or three that were working best. I guess their conditions varied that much. Could be coppypock and lore, I dunno. I'm just saying it on the internet so it becomes true.)

– Proteus

Tim, how I love ya.

Bless ya for your input, bud.

One of the local go-to guys ‘round these parts is Randy Atkins. He’s done a lot of work for Eric Johnson (Eric’s what?) He’s the fella that did the workover on my Custom Vibrolux Reverb that I had the thread about before the crash. In fact, the second time I was married, at that point we were distantly related.

Anyway, another is a nice fella named Pete Wickham who also does nice work. His shop is out by Buckeye Lake.

I’ll have to give Josh a holler and see what his world is like. I’m guessing he’s busier than a pair of jumper cables at a trailer park wedding. You have me curious about his mods.

You also have me curious about your guy in Indy.

6

He’s done a lot of work for Eric Johnson

EJ is famously fastidious about his "tone." But I don't suppose his amp guy is to blame that EJ bores me to stupefaction.

There are, of course, "amp guys" everwhere. I guess I spread it around. Dude in Indy (Kevin...why can't I remember his last name?) also does work for Famous Persons, consulted with Peavey on a project, etc. But he does excellent work. (I also respect him because he's owned and played through ONE Les Paul and ONE Marshall amp since 1978. And them's ALL he plays through in his Indy-fixture classic rock band.)

I guess I spread it around: I sent my Bandmaster head to BZ for a go-through (and Bassman transformer), and it's good. But the set of Josh fixes on the Deluxe turn into a Deluxe Deluxe. (For a time there was a Seymour Duncan pickup called the Custom Custom Custom. I don't know.)

7

I kind of like them as they are..when I build my own I can do some things I like but it's either because it's easier (I don't have to make or source new parts) or because it's what I'm used to.

On mine I always use the same 3 band EQ circuit my super has, I like a mid control and I use a bias vary tremelo because I don't have to make or source an opti bug also I'm getting used to the sound.

A nice silverface deluxe would be a fine thing, they were one of the least modified after the cbs change so no point in having them 'blackfaced' which I'm not so keen on doing to silverfaced amps anyway.

Having the filer caps (and any leaky audio caps) changed is good practice. They definitely have a shelf life and if they go they can take down more expensive hard to get parts, like transformers. Electrolytic caps are cheap too.

The old fenders also benefit front having 1 watt flame proof resisters on all the preamp plates. safer and makes the amp have less hiss. Carbon comp resistors drift in value, can catch fire and usually add hiss to your amp. Some people swear by them though.

I'm still envious, put me in your will!

8

I've got two deluxes (both newer vintage, I think one is from the 90's and the other is a 2017 or 2018).

The 90's one has been black face modded (best guess) and the newer one is more or less untouched, they both sound amazing and completely different when I A/B them - I don't envy your ear in trying to decide which one of yours you like better. LOL

9

Tubwampus---Proteus is spot on about Kevin/Uncle Albert. The best I've come across. At the theater we availed ourselves of his services often.

He's also a hardcore Batman fan. He just donated his entire collection to Indy's Children 's Museum---4,000 pieces plus. Nice guy, too.

I just sold my old '78 Deluxe Reverb, with a Celestion in it. As long as you don't pull out that damned switch, it's perfect.

10

Toxophilite has already said a lot of what I was planning to. Let me just add that in my experience, there are four 100K carbon comp resistors in the pre-amp circuit (load resistors, I think) that can contribute lots of noise. There are great sonic benefits to replacing them with film.

11

Toxophilite has already said a lot of what I was planning to. Let me just add that in my experience, there are four 100K carbon comp resistors in the pre-amp circuit (load resistors, I think) that can contribute lots of noise. There are great sonic benefits to replacing them with film.

– seadevil

Thanks for clarifying, that's just what I was talking about. The 100k resistors supplying B+ to the plates of the first 2 preamp tubes. Might as well replace them all, there's ones on the 12AX7 of the reverb return too.

i didn't know the deluxes got the pull master volume. It's really easy to disconnect. I did it on my super reverb.

12

A good amp tech is a friend for sure, and not always easy to find. The guy in the Toronto area that did all my work for decades has passed on, unfortunately, may he RIP. Since then I met a great guy, Dave Robinson (Dave's Tube Amp Repair) who does things like bias adjustment while I'm playing through the amp to hear where I like the sound best. He also explained how simple it is to do a myraid of mods that techs often charge big bucks for. During the process of working with Dave, I've learned a little bit about how things work inside; I do mean a little bit, and the standard things to do are: [1] filter caps [2] check voltages for leaks, drifting values on resistors and capacitors [3] check tubes; rotate if there is sputtering or red plating, and [4] replace the bias cap on all of the older Fender amps as the values are borderline as far as handling the voltages, especially upon power up where a voltage surge usually exceeds the value of the cap. I've had three old Fenders that were red plating the tubes and the cause was blown bias caps. A higher value cap insures the bias will remain stable and prevent damage. It is a 5 minute job once the amp is on the bench.

BTW, those pull pot Deluxe Reverbs are great, and a fantastic deal on top of it. I found that the taper on the volume pot was quite abrupt, with most of the volume increase between 1 & 3. This could have been a marketing trick to make it appear that the amps were louder than the previous Deluxe Reverbs. Potential buyers would try one in a store and think, "Wow, if it's this loud at 2, it must be really loud at 6." Past 3 though, the volume didn't increase that much. One suggestion is to replace that pot with one with a more gradual taper; two birds with one stone; nice taper and no pull boost.

Other VERY simple mods are [1] reverb and trem on both channels [2] tweak the negative feedback and tone stack slightly in channel one for a tad more gain (why have two channels that sound exactly the same?) and of course [3] only if needed, experiment with different speakers.

13

Toxophilite is correct in saying that that third pair of CC resistors, just to the left of the two pairs I circled, can also contribute a good amount of noise when the reverb is engaged. But in general, the earlier in a circuit the source of noise is, the more times it gets amplified. The middle pair is most important if you only use the Vibrato channel.

14

Another HUGE factor, often overlooked, is the phase inverter tube. Microphonics are not an issue with this tube, but the wrong PI tube can create a ton of noise and really mess with the push-pull of the power tubes. That tube should be perfectly balanced, at least if the power tubes are. I've had very good luck with NOS Philips JAN tubes in this position.

15

Man, all of this input is fantastic and SO appreciated!

Please don’t be shy and feel free to impart anything that you’d consider helpful!

Again, thank you all SO much.

16

All of the parts mentioned above cost literally pennies, and the labor involved is probably about fifteen to thirty minutes. Good stuff to address when you're already paying a bench fee and hourly rates. You can always go back later.

17

Yes, hissing and intermittent pops are usually plate load resistors. Not a big deal.

Here are my mods that I did to my amp, then Tim's as well. Thank you for the kind words, Tim!

Deluxe Reverb “Nashville Homecoming” mods Install Blonde Bassman preamp in Normal Channel with correct 350K/70K tapped treble pot Route both channels through Reverb/Trem and correct phase so jumpering is now possible Install switch on Intensity pot to recover 6 db of gain when trem is not in use Fix ticking tremolo Install Vibrato Channel Midrange knob in place of unused “Ground” switch Tame Deluxe's shrill “icepick” highs (a Dumble mod) Install new 12’ 18 ga power cord Clean pots jacks, switches Check bias Install UK made Celestion Vintage 30
18

TOW, Any of the Pre-1982 Deluxe Reverb would be a great amp. The pull for distortion is an easy "feature" to remedy: just don't pull it. Simple as that. When not pulled it is out of the circuit. I have a 1980-81 that had the second round of cosmetic blackfacing. But it is the same as a silver face DR. Put a great speaker in them and they will be super amps for you. Didn't you just get an Executive? That's one of the best Deluxe Reverbs around.

There is very little difference between any of the 1964-1982 Deluxe Reverb. They did change a couple of component (resistor, capacitor, etc) values through the years bt nothing like the changes made on other amps.

19

Carbon comps hiss. Apparently it's actually due to humidity and age. Replace as many as you can. Contrary to vintage mojo, they are inferior electrical components. They drift out of spec and fail more often under heavy loads.

As for hum, You of course want to check filter caps but also replace tubes to see if that's the source of the hum.

Hum can also be caused by a failing power transformer exhibiting "magnetostriction" ...about the only way you can test for this short of replacing the power transformer and listening (expensive and devalues a vintage amp) would be to use an oscilloscope. If your amp hums on standby, suspect this, though.

Hum can also be caused by poor lead dress, an imbalance in the filament supply, ground loops, and possible communication between the output transformer and power transformer due to proximity and orientation issues. There's also the possibility that the amp is amplifying RF hum from an outside source like neon signs and street lights due to poor shielding.

A good place to start would be the filter caps and tubes, though. Mainly because it's routine maintenance to replace these in a 40 year old amp anyway, and it doesn't devalue the amp any. It's often the source of the problem. If the hum still doesn't go away entirely....it's probably best to have a good tech look at it.

20

Yes, hissing and intermittent pops are usually plate load resistors. Not a big deal.

Here are my mods that I did to my amp, then Tim's as well. Thank you for the kind words, Tim!

Deluxe Reverb “Nashville Homecoming” mods Install Blonde Bassman preamp in Normal Channel with correct 350K/70K tapped treble pot Route both channels through Reverb/Trem and correct phase so jumpering is now possible Install switch on Intensity pot to recover 6 db of gain when trem is not in use Fix ticking tremolo Install Vibrato Channel Midrange knob in place of unused “Ground” switch Tame Deluxe's shrill “icepick” highs (a Dumble mod) Install new 12’ 18 ga power cord Clean pots jacks, switches Check bias Install UK made Celestion Vintage 30
– JBGretschGuy

My 72 super Reverb has always had ticking tremolo. What’s the fix?

21

My 72 super Reverb has always had ticking tremolo. What’s the fix?

– jalexanderdixon

Easy!


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