Other Amps

Any Valco experts out there?

1

I'm not sure if I'm looking for enablers or someone to talk me out of it, but checked out a really cool National/Valco amp locally that I really want. However every amp I own is 4 -10 watts and this is also in that range. I really don't need another amp, especially a low wattage one. When playing through the mic input there's a touch of breakup and probably not as loud as my Laney Cub 10. Through the instrument input, it's clean, but closer to my Vox AC4 volume wise.

The seller doesn't know the model number, guesses early '50s. He's only seen one other like it for sale and that seller also didn't know anything about it. But after seeing it I have a few questions (or potential ways to rationalize the purchase).

What strikes me is the power tubes are two 6L6's, there is a master volume/attenuator in the back, and one of the transformers (I don't know enough to know if it's power or output) is enormous!!! The other is small in comparison but not that small in absolute terms.

So I'm wondering - do you think this could be a 30W amp but resistors have drifted so much over time that it sounds like a 7W amp?

But then again, 2x8" speakers doesn't really seem like a high wattage choice either.

I can't decide if I want it cause it's awesome or want it cause it's bizarre. If anyone has any clue what this is, or insight to what it could be, let me know!

If it had the Valco tremolo I'd have bought it in a heartbeat.

2

Control plate

3

Guts:

4

Master gain:

5

How's it sound to you? That's the main consideration. Early amps may not have pushed tubes to their limits as they did in later models. That components might have drifted or broken down is likely. It'd probably like a cap job. The big transformer is the power, the smaller one is audio. Early tubes---1950s for sure.

It looks tres cool. Cosmetically, it looks good for it's age. I'd replace the drawer pull for a leather handle of some ilk. The 60+ year old hang tag being still attached is cool, as is the master volume. If it sounds good, and the price is right (figure on a trip to the amp doctor), then grab it up.

6

It sounds great to me, but not that much different than what I already own. I know ultimately only I can decide if it's worth my cash or not. I could really use an amp that could keep up with a drummer more than I need this, but tres cool is right.

It already has seen the amp doctor and has 3 prong cable and caps replaced a couple years ago which is a major bonus. Perhaps he checked for other components drifting but since it's such a rare beast and he likely wouldn't have had a schematic, I don't know if that means drifted components could sneak through.

Yeah the drawer pull is definitely not original, you can see the previous screw holes. Cosmetically it's good but structurally the cabinet has a bit more wobble/flex to it than I'm sure it did 60 years ago. But it's not bad and I don't care about originality to the extent that I'd feel bad about gluing in a few corner braces to stiffen it up.

7

Terry Dodds may help, he’s a great source of knowledge about Valco...have a search for his site and include ‘valco amps’

8

6L6G or 6L6GA would probably date it to postwar to early 50s. A pair of those might put out 25 watts, or around 15 if cathode biased.

9

Early master volume! Athough I don't have any use for 8s still I think twin 8s are sort of cool. That control panel style of course is what was used up to mid 60s. I may have to go trolling for a small Valco/Supro/Gretsch/National myself.

10

That looks really cool! That must be one of the earliest master volume/gain controls. The model number may be on the control panel. The low volume may be tired vintage speakers, there are a lot of replacement 8" speakers available.

It looks like it might use an odd octal preamp tube - check out the cap on the metal one.

I'd keep the drawer-pull handle!

12

Normally Valcos have a little brass tag on the back with the serial number, that would date it. I think I see one in the center back, at the very bottom. Looks late 40’s early 50’s to me. http://www.oldfrets.com/Val...

13

When playing through the mic input there's a touch of breakup and probably not as loud as my Laney Cub 10. Through the instrument input, it's clean, but closer to my Vox AC4 volume wise.

Maybe a dumb question, but was the master gain turned up? It seems like for whatever reason, this amp wasn't giving you all it should be capable of.

Very cool. If they aren't asking much, I'd be very tempted to snatch it up and see what I could do with it.

14

When playing through the mic input there's a touch of breakup and probably not as loud as my Laney Cub 10. Through the instrument input, it's clean, but closer to my Vox AC4 volume wise.

Maybe a dumb question, but was the master gain turned up? It seems like for whatever reason, this amp wasn't giving you all it should be capable of.

Very cool. If they aren't asking much, I'd be very tempted to snatch it up and see what I could do with it.

– Afire

Yeah, that was with the master all the way up. If you turn the master down, you can have a conversation over it. That's part of what makes me think it's not giving up the goods - if I can't even get any breakup with the regular volume knob on the instrument channel, then what's the point of the master volume?

15

Back then distortion was that last thing anyone wanted out of an amp -- but still some did that quite well. The master vol had to be there for other reasons -- at least such as they were back then

16

Distortion may not have been desirable back then, but I've never played through any amp from that era that didn't overdrive pretty easily - too easily for my taste. I would wager that with a tune-up from a competent tech, this amp will open up to do much more than it's doing now.

17

On Vince's advice, I sent an email to Terry Dobbs and he very kindly replied with some good insight. He said it may very well need some work as it should probably be louder than I described, but they weren't overly loud to begin with. Similar to what a couple others have already mentioned, he said back then overdrive was something to be avoided, so the circuit would not have used all the gain available to it. Also, the master gain allowed them to keep preamp levels down and volume up to maintain the fidelity they were going for. Another point he made is these amps were likely used with lap and steel guitars which have much hotter pickups than modern electric guitars.

I'm still on the fence with this amp. Definitely a cool little beast, but you know, that whole wants vs needs aspect of being an adult gets in the way sometimes.

18

Glad you checked with Terry, wonder if he’d seen one before? His advice would be excellent.

The antiquity of the amp is a consideration I guess. Some people have a great respect and are in awe of old pieces like this. Especially when they can still be used, but that’s down to getting it serviced and paid for.

Then again, be objective. Is it a sound you’d have a use for? Maybe check out similar models from that period, perhaps terry could suggest a comparable model.

I see your concerns. It’s old, but is it good? Would it be something special when serviced? Depends on cash too. Or think about the price...do you know what the seller paid? I’d think about what price you’d definitely buy it for, have a limit and make an offer. As it needs work and expense, that’s reasonable

19

Glad you checked with Terry, wonder if he’d seen one before? His advice would be excellent.

The antiquity of the amp is a consideration I guess. Some people have a great respect and are in awe of old pieces like this. Especially when they can still be used, but that’s down to getting it serviced and paid for.

Then again, be objective. Is it a sound you’d have a use for? Maybe check out similar models from that period, perhaps terry could suggest a comparable model.

I see your concerns. It’s old, but is it good? Would it be something special when serviced? Depends on cash too. Or think about the price...do you know what the seller paid? I’d think about what price you’d definitely buy it for, have a limit and make an offer. As it needs work and expense, that’s reasonable

20

Or think about the price...do you know what the seller paid?

I'm guessing $100.

https://www.tumblr.com/sear...

His current asking price of $500 might not stay as firm as he claims it is if he's only got $100 into it and it doesn't move quickly. I wouldn't think $500 is exactly a screaming deal for a Valco of dubious working condition, though $100 certainly was.

21

Or think about the price...do you know what the seller paid?

I'm guessing $100.

https://www.tumblr.com/sear...

His current asking price of $500 might not stay as firm as he claims it is if he's only got $100 into it and it doesn't move quickly. I wouldn't think $500 is exactly a screaming deal for a Valco of dubious working condition, though $100 certainly was.

– Afire

You said exactly what I was thinking. I’d think about what I wanted to pay, make an offer and see what happens

22

I suspect he's fairly firm on his price, as he said he's not too upset if he doesn't move it, and he has the space, etc. He had some very nice gear when I went to check it out.

Also, just to clear things up a bit - he did have it recapped and a 3 prong plug added, so guessing that's an extra $150-$200(?) he's in to it for, and it's not like it wasn't working or seemed 'dubious', it just seemed way too quiet for what I was expecting with two 6L6 and a master volume. But after comments here and info from Terry, the volume could be explained by the fact that at the time the circuit would have been designed to avoid overdrive and likely used with hot pickups.

If he was asking $300 I'd snap it up, but $500 is enough to make me really consider whether I want it that bad or not. I guess with something as rare as this, it really proves the point it's only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. There aren't really any other sales of this amp to use as a reference to establish a "going rate".

I may make him an offer less than his asking, expecting him to turn it down, but maybe if it sits unsold for another week or two then maybe he'll reconsider. I'm also in a bit of a 'spring-cleaning' mode lately and thinking I have too much stuff sitting unused (a few pedals, a Classic Vibe strat, and a Vox AC4TV I never really bonded with) so I'm not sure I want to bring any more equipment in till I sell off a few things first.


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