Other Amps

Amp advice…Deluxe Reverb, or other?

1

So, I'm looking into getting another amp....something in the Deluxe Reverb power range. I've got a '59 Bassman reissue, which is nice, but a little too loud to get into the "sweet spot".

I know vintage silverface DR's can be had for not a lot of money, but I'm also looking at some of the newer boutique makers, too. I've looked at the Carr Rambler, Magnatone Twilighter, and Dr. Z Z-Lux. Anyone played or owned any of those? Trying to figure out which one would sound the best with Gretsch guitars, of course, but also staying away from PCB amps...heard of too many issues with the newer Fender reissues.

I'm a little leery of buying a vintage amp, just because you never know how stuff has aged, and I don't know how to work on amps. Wouldn't trust anyone around where I live to work on them, either. Appreciate any advice/feedback. Thanks!

2

My first year silverface'68 DR has been dead reliable in the few years since I purchased, and I use it a lot. A terrific weight to volume piece, really only my '66 Vibrolux is a better sounding combo amp. Fantastic, versatile, plenty loud and excellent bass response with a good vintage Jensen C12N or modern Weber replacement. I run it on 4 in a 150 seat venue and it's more than plenty.

3

I too have the 59, I got the 68 Deluxe reverb, You will love it! Get one!

4

A vintage amp will need to be serviced by a knowledgeable tech. Then it should be at least as dependable as a new amp...usually more dependable than anything mass produced. What do you want it to do? What music do you play? Do you play out? If so... What kind of venues? Do you want trem? Reverb? Line out? Channel switching? Do you really like the sound of the Bassman? Do 10" speakers suit you.........?

5

They look way cool too!

6

something in the Deluxe Reverb power range

But also in the DR tonal range? Or are you curious about amps with Voxy, Marshally, tweedy, or hybrid character?

For an amp that sounds like black/silverface Fender cleans, in the DR power range...the DR is kinda the one. Y'know? A clone of it will be as similar as the clonester makes it - but note that boutique clones don't hold value as well as the thing itself. A properly serviced vintage DR is probably a better monetary bet in the long run.

Unless you're looking for things the DR doesn't do, and which some boutique builder builds in. Is that the case?

7

Lots of interesting stuff on Craigslist in Colombus or Pittsburgh.

$2000 Silverface Deluxe $1200 1981 Vibrolux Reverb $2500 EC Twinolux $550 Peavey Delta Blues $550 Traynor YGM-3 in Troy.

8

Pick up a used 68 DR reissue , they are imo the best amps fender has made since the late 70’s. I’ve had a couple of the ‘68 reissues, the DRRI is my favorite. You can pick one up for around 700 on Craigslist

9

A vintage amp will need to be serviced by a knowledgeable tech. Then it should be at least as dependable as a new amp...usually more dependable than anything mass produced. What do you want it to do? What music do you play? Do you play out? If so... What kind of venues? Do you want trem? Reverb? Line out? Channel switching? Do you really like the sound of the Bassman? Do 10" speakers suit you.........?

– charlie chitlins

I do play out...mostly small to medium-sized venues. I'd like to have reverb and tremolo, but it's not a deal-breaker if they don't have it. I guess one of the things that appealed to me about the newer amps is the ability to switch between half-power and full-power. Heck the Dr. Z is switchable between 22 and 40, if I remember correctly. Just would like a good clean amp that doesn't break up too early. My main complaint with the '65 DRRI was that it was too bright for my tastes...no bright switch like on a Twin. I like the overall tone of that amp, though. Also love the tone of the Bassman, but it's just so bulky to carry around...probably a tad too much power, too.

10

something in the Deluxe Reverb power range

But also in the DR tonal range? Or are you curious about amps with Voxy, Marshally, tweedy, or hybrid character?

For an amp that sounds like black/silverface Fender cleans, in the DR power range...the DR is kinda the one. Y'know? A clone of it will be as similar as the clonester makes it - but note that boutique clones don't hold value as well as the thing itself. A properly serviced vintage DR is probably a better monetary bet in the long run.

Unless you're looking for things the DR doesn't do, and which some boutique builder builds in. Is that the case?

– Proteus

That's a good point....I guess it doesn't necessarily have to be a DR clone, although I do like that tone. Probably a hybrid tone, honestly....Vox sparkle, but with more low-end, like a blackface Fender....something versatile, but medium-power.

11

It's true... leery of vintage amps, but if a GOOD tech goes thru it then the chances of trouble are greatly diminished. The new ones a ok cause they're new but years from now they'll be even more trouble. These days to me, a DR is a BIG amp. BTW going to unveil the latest amp aqusition in a while.

12

For under-the-radar deluxe tone, check out the point to point, brown deluxe circuit Ampeg J-20. These were made in the late oughts and soon discontinued. You can usually pick them up between $500 and $700. I upgraded the stock speaker to a Celestion and added a variable bias. They sound like a Fender, no joke. There's no reverb, but reverb isn't everything (unless you're in a surf band). That's my $0.02.

13

Mid-Wattage Non-DR Amps I Like (which is what these threads generally become anyway...)

Peavey Classic 30, pre-redesign. Always and forever. I just can't find an amp I like better overall. Great cleans, as much bottom as a DR, doesn't get spiky. Good dirt channel too. No really. 30 watts is a lot; you won't get breakup at any lower volume than on a DR. But a great...you know...pedal platform. It doesn't scream Vox OR Fender, and I don't suppose it will nail the tone of either. But it works for anything I've thrown at them; kind of a balanced, neutral platform - with a touch of character. At least try one.

Music Man RD110-50. 10" speaker, maybe a little light in the bottom, but very balanced and less boxy/small-amp sounding than Blues Juniors and the like. Great clean headroom. They're old by now, but mine's been dead reliable for 30 years. Just a sweet amp. Light and portable.

Peavey Delta Blues. If you like a 15 (or 2-10s). Otherwise similar to the Classic 30. I like a 15 in a combo, just for the sense of more sound at the same (or slightly lower) volume pressure.

Vox AC-10, the new one introduced a few years ago. After being nothing but disappointed by a heavy, too-loud, clanky AC-15, I dismissed this amp for too long. Then, based on lots of great user reviews, I tried it. Love it. All the Vox a guy could want, great size and weight. Excellent clean tone, nice reverb, very effective master volume setup, and it's a screamin' loud 10 watts. Again, one to try before dismissing it.

In the same power range as the DR, I had a Matchless Lightning Reverb for several years. I thought I loved it - but I never found myself using it. Finally did a back-to-back play comparison with my other amps, and just wasn't impressed. (The reverb was gorgeous, though.) Also, it wants to be real loud. While it's a great gig amp - for its particular tone, and in loud enough venues - I wouldn't recommend it for gigging if you care about keeping it nice, because the "tolex" is actually just vinyl upholstery material, and it tears if you look at it sharply.

I also had a Victoria-built 3x10, 45-watt Gretsch Variety - a great amp, but just too much of everything for any sane purpose. (As Birdman says, a DR is a big amp these days.)

But ultimately my adventures into boutique amps (at least off the shelf) didn't satisfy me more than mass-produced amps. Maybe I have shallow ears.

But. If you know exactly what you want - or close enough to have a cogent conversation with a builder about it - and the market doesn't provide it, I encourage you to talk to Jer DeLisle at DeLisle in Indiana (one of our sponsors). He has a range of really superb boutique amps at more-than-fair prices, and is adept at listening to your tone-talk; if he doesn't have an amp that meets you where you are, he can tailor his circuit into a custom that suits you.

Ethan Meyer, of Cave Valley Amps in California, also does custom builds in ridiculously beautiful cabinets - and at very fair prices. Same thing: he can combine elements from various amps to get to the tone you want.

Before I bought anything boutique off the shelf - or any amp costing more than 600.00 - I'd talk to one of those guys about building just want I want. (As it is, I'm happy enough with my amp stable for my current mostly non-gigging purposes.) Both are tonal sculptors, and both are great to work with.

14

I owned a blackface DR for many years, and a DRRI too. The DR is this almost perfect amp for me. Yet not quite.

I've tried many other amps in the DR zone. Some very good ones too. The best by far is a Pure 64 Mean Streets Classic head and cab. Similar in some ways. 2 x 6v6, 22 - 25 watts, fixed bias. Very different in EQ. A "curve" switch offers presets that quite noticeably revoice the amp, and can be further tweaked with bass, mid and treble knobs. A very well done bright switch, an equally tasty boost switch on the back.

Hard to describe sound, but this is one of the great cleans to me. The ported cab and custom speaker play key roles no doubt. Very modest size. Not greatly larger than the DR combo. Yet the sound is huge. I suspect voltage to the power tubes is a bit lower than in the DR ... the Mean Streets is warmer, smoother drive. It's that rarest of amps in which the JJ 6v6s tubes are perfect.

If you ever find one, give it a listen.

15

A shameless plug for Ethan of Cave Valley Amps.

As Proteus stated, his cabinet work is second to none.

What's under the hood is even more rewarding. Tone, tone, tone. He just does it right in every way on the inside too.

If if ever need another amp, Ethan will get the phone call.

16

If you want to stay with tweeds, try out a quality tweed Super Amp clone. Volume is more manageable than a bassman, and they sound killer. about 30 watts and two 10's.

17

A Gretsch Executive would be an excellent, if heavy, alternative. It is basically an upscale Deluxe with a 15" speaker. I'm not sure what tricks Mark Baier pulled with it but they seem magical. There is a 3D quality that seems to envelop you in the sound. A bit pricey but not much if anything more than a silverface DR would be and much less than a blackface (can you say that any more?).

The Peavey amps would be good choices and less expensive than the DR. A Music Man 65 watter has a 1/2 power switch.

Another amp you might want to consider is a '63 Vibroverb reissue. Great little amp with nice reverb and an outstanding tremolo.

I too really like the work that Ethan does and he is great to work with. Allen Amplifiers have some really intriguing options.

The amp I keep toying with in my mind is a brownface Deluxe with reverb on board.

18

If you like the punch of a Bassman (my '58 is one of the world's best sounding amps, but doesn't make it to every gig), a 2x10 can scratch that itch.

Although mass-produced, PCB, the Peavey Delta Blues 210 is a great sounding amp that's stone-hammer dependable.

A Vibrolux is great, too. I sold mine to a TGP member for under a grand. Pretty sure Fender reissues the VR.

Think twice about 15" speakers. I have a tweed Pro that has God's own tone, but it's so beamy, if I go to the other side of the stage to hang out with the sax player, I can barely hear it. 10's disperse sound quickly and fill the room.

20

For fabulous clean tone, my vote is for an Executive - which I have - and it's room-filling sound. A loud 22 watts if needed. Hard amp to beat! Peavey Delta Blues with a 1x15 is also worth looking into and much cheaper than the Exec.

My other votes go to [early] SF era Fenders. The BF's are great too but command more $$ due to reputation as opposed to actually being any better. The 2x10 VR's are terrific and often overlooked. They'll give a DR a run for their money. There are always various SF's available due to the fact so many were made and if you shop around, and don't go for the cheapest or one showing lots of road wear, you should be fine. They still warrant a good checkup though.

Some recommend reissues but the fact is, they aren't as well built as the vintage versions, and some new boutiques don't sound that much better to my ear compared to vintage SF's to warrant the big increase in costs. I'd order a custom build from one of the builders around here before I'd go the commercial boutique route.

As for not having a good amp tech nearby, I'd say it's worth it to travel to a very good tech to have it checked out. You do that and it should be good for another 50 years.

21

And yeah to all who mention it - the Executive is a grail amp. If you live and die by clean tone, and get to turn it up to 2 without eliciting complaints, you'll be a happy man. But it's biggish, and it can be mondo loud - and for me it's too nice an amp to be schlepping around much.

(As an aging weakling, I can handle big and bulky if I have to, and I can handle heavy(ish) and small. But if it's big AND heavy, I'm gonna beat the hell out of it just in transport.)

22

I admit the Exec is all that, Tim but sure is a special amp. It is 50 lbs BTW, and moving it out of the house is a rare event these days!

When my sister shipped the one I bought across Canada, her husband and her build a special container for it leaving a slot to expose the handle so that was how it was moved when shipped and it arrived in perfect shape. The container added exactly 10 lbs.

23

Thanks for the input, everyone! Lots of great suggestions, and good points...especially about the whole boutique vs. vintage thing. I like the idea of supporting small businesses, so if I do decide to go the hand-wired, boutique route, I’ll definitely consider DeLisle or Cave Valley. A couple of people mentioned the ‘68 DRRI....I actually had one of those a few years back. It was ok, but I think I liked the ‘65 version better....seemed to have more headroom and better trem/reverb. Who knows, I may give the ‘65 another go....it’s been about 10 years since I had one, and I didn’t have a Gretsch at the time to play through it. It’s PCB, but that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, if it sounds good.

24

An out-of-the-box suggestion: MUCH less expensive than a new amp,but does require a learning curve.Get a good volume pedal and trim up your Bassman so it's in the sweet spot when the pedal is about 3/4 in.Then run the VP about half in.After a bit of work you'll figure out that you can play quiet,clean rhythm at the same time as you're driving the bejabers out of the song and not getting in your lead singer's ear.When it's time to solo,you can do it with some muscle and still back down when you need to.

25

I just got a used Traynor YCV40WR. It’s about 9 years old telling by the serial number. I have a 1977 Deluxe Reverb and can say the Traynor sounds better. It’s a matter of opinion of course. It’s 40 watts but sounds great on low volumes. It was used at $399. Great amp for the money. If I didn’t get it I would have bought the new Supro Blues King.


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