Other Amps

Gretsch-like Cabinet with Filmosound Amp

1

Anyone use a Bell & Howell Filmosound amp conversion for guitar? I have two, designed by Dave Robinson, who has done about 50 of these to date. My first one was a model 385, with a 12AX7 preamp tube. This new cabinet will house the second one, and older model 285 with octal preamp. I'm waiting on a Jensen C12N.

The cabinet was made by Derrick Bell at Veteran Guitar Cabinets in Trenton, Ontario, about an hour and a half east of Toronto. He does great work.

4

I sorta remember those amps...also kool old PA amps, Stromberg Carlson, Bogen, etc. had some models that were great for guitar w/ a few mods done. Good looking cab!

6

Octal tubes? At least this isn't sitting around collecting dust, or worse, junked and rotting in a landfill somewhere. Cab looks great and ought to sound as good as it looks.

7

Cabinet looks awesome! I wasn't familiar with using the Bell and Howell amplifier. Cool !

8

That's a terrific looking cabinet! That shade of green with the cream really goes together well.

9

Right up my alley. Looks killer.

10

cool cabinet, and cool amp with some serious iron!!!

11

cool cabinet, and cool amp with some serious iron!!!

– Daniel Weldon

Thanks. Yes, the transformers are the thing. Lot's of available power as they had to run an oscillator tube for the film and one extra 6V6, neither of which are needed for the guitar amp. These things really put out, and a good amp tech can rebuild them to be like mini Plexis, Voxes, or early Fender amps. My amp tech, Dave Robinson (brother of the Eastwood Guitars owner) built my 385 to be like a tweed 5E3 circuit, but with more clean headroom and a tighter bass. This 285 has a lot more gain.

You can find these in flea markets, yard sales, etc., and they really are worth converting as long as they can be had for small money. Any more than $200 is too much and $25-100 is good. The models suitable are the 179, 279?, 285, 385, and another one that I can't remember the model number of. Some of the 285s did not have the transformer attached to the chassis, so they are generally not suitable; easily identifiable because the off/on switch is located between the volume and tone knobs instead of to one side.

I see a couple of companies charging very high prices, but there is nothing to justify it. A fully rebuilt amp, with cabinet, speaker, labour and parts is roughly $800-1000, give or take. That's assuming about $300-350 for parts and labour for the conversion, and not overpaying for the raw amp. Some people use the projector case for the cabinet, and some projectors have a 12" Jensen speaker, usually 16 ohms. Bell & Howell manufactured these in different countries, and almost every school and community centre had at least one. As Wabash Slim posted, better to repurpose these than send them to the landfill. Another plus is that they mostly have the original tubes, usually RCA or similar. One of mine had a Mullard 12AX7 in addition to the RCA 6V6s. So, for under $100 you can get a chassis, good cloth covered wire, tube sockets, a full set of vintage tubes, really good power and output transformers, a fuse holder, volume and tone pots, and salvage a few resistors or maybe even some capacitors. With a decent amp tech doing the conversion, the result is a great sounding and giggable amp.

12

As soon as I saw your pics I thought - that looks like Powdog's work!

I've built 5E3s as you describe - bigger iron so more headroom. The circuit I like with bigger iron is the tweed Bandmaster/Pro/Super - 5F4 - and it sounds killer with the extra headroom.

Your amp looks fantastic.

13

Memories.... my first-ever amp was an old, turquoise, 16mm Bell & Howell projector. I wonder if it had anything in common with Film-o-sound?

It came with an oval speaker in the lid, that you connected to the projector with a long-ish cable (the idea being that you could have the sound at the front of the room along with the picture).

Dad helped me remove the film bits (lamp, drive motor, lens and belts), then rigged up an input jack, and voila!- a "free", working guitar amplifier for my newly-pickup'd Aria 12 string! It was even portable, and in the end, controlling the volume/tone from the pickup at the guitar end almost made up for the lack of controls on the "amp", plus the cabinet looked kinda cool.

And it lasted about three months, too! Something was out of whack, however, and one day it began smoking. A liberal coating of baking soda killed the flames before they really got started, but the verdict was -terminal. And I was on to the next homemade amp- a 1940's vintage RCA console radio with a huge (15") speaker... Wonderful, full rounded tone, but not so portable, though.

Ah, to be 14 again.

15

I have an old Filmosound and cab but sadly it's not one of the ones that work well for conversions. I've been thinking about having an amp builder gut the amp and build something common in it (5F1, Harvard, 5F2, etc).

It for sure LOOKS cool!

16

Cool thread. Shuggie, thanks for posting the links to your articles. Getting me thinking (like I need another project..oh boy).

What's funny for me about this discussion is that I worked in the AV department in college, and then for two AV rental and staging companies for a number of years after that. I can't tell you how many Bell and Howell 16mm projectors I've handled, tested, and run for meetings. Most of them were of the green variety with the speaker in the lid like Kevin mentioned.

I had my "hazing" at one of the companies by being assigned to operate a B&H 16mm projector for a group meeting at the hotel, where we were based. I believe it was only my second day on the job and off I go with a screen, cart, and projector, to find out the group was the "Philadelphia Region Funeral Directors Association", and someone hands me a film reel called "Modern Embalming Techniques"! I threaded it, made sure it was focused and framed, and pretty much waited for it to end without watching. When I got back to our office, the guys were all laughing... Guess that's what happens to "the new guy"... Ha!

The one AV company had an older inventory, and I remember some old B&H projectors sitting on the shelf that were past their prime to be used. I'll bet some were the Filmosounds that are being described for conversion. My guess is their destiny was a dumpster, as that company is long gone now. I'll be keeping an eye out for these now..

17

Cool thread. Shuggie, thanks for posting the links to your articles. Getting me thinking (like I need another project..oh boy).

What's funny for me about this discussion is that I worked in the AV department in college, and then for two AV rental and staging companies for a number of years after that. I can't tell you how many Bell and Howell 16mm projectors I've handled, tested, and run for meetings. Most of them were of the green variety with the speaker in the lid like Kevin mentioned.

I had my "hazing" at one of the companies by being assigned to operate a B&H 16mm projector for a group meeting at the hotel, where we were based. I believe it was only my second day on the job and off I go with a screen, cart, and projector, to find out the group was the "Philadelphia Region Funeral Directors Association", and someone hands me a film reel called "Modern Embalming Techniques"! I threaded it, made sure it was focused and framed, and pretty much waited for it to end without watching. When I got back to our office, the guys were all laughing... Guess that's what happens to "the new guy"... Ha!

The one AV company had an older inventory, and I remember some old B&H projectors sitting on the shelf that were past their prime to be used. I'll bet some were the Filmosounds that are being described for conversion. My guess is their destiny was a dumpster, as that company is long gone now. I'll be keeping an eye out for these now..

– Metman

I was the AV kid from first grade on. Even ran them for Commander's Call while in the Air Force. Wound up as an IATSE stagehand/projectionist. I retired doing what I learned from my Dad when I was five. Go figure. I wish I had a nickel for every foot of 16mm film that I ran thru a projector. B&H dominated that market, tho the first ones I used had the brown wooden cabinet long before the green plastic units. The best 16mm PJ I ran was an Eastman 25 (as in Kodak). It wasn't portable, tho. It was pedestal mounted and used a carbon arc lamphouse. It could actually handle a fully loaded platter of three standard reels. They wound up selling all 6 of ours to the Academy Award folks. The things just wouldn't stop running. Gotta love '50s American tech.

IO didn't run stuff for funeral directors, but, in high school, I ran lots of health class movies, and for driver's ed, it was the accident aftermath stuff like "Signal 7" and "Blood on the Hiway". One that I'll never forget is "Shoah"---15 hours (over two days) of WWII death camp stories.

I still have my Dad's Ansco sound PJ. He did home movies back in the '50s. PJ still runs but it's impossible to get lamps for it anymore. If I can't find them, no one can. Odd bayonet base 500 watt lamps haven't been made since the '60s.

18

Oh my God, WS; "Blood on the Highway." I remember watching that in grade 7 and there was a girl in the class who threw up at the sight of the blood. The ones about the perils of smoking pot were even more ridiculous. No doubt the projector in the school was a Bell & Howell Filmosound.

Looking forward to reading your articles Shuggie.

There have been attempts to create some kind of mythology around some of these conversions; I won't mention names, but one of the reasons I like my amp tech so much is that, not only is he a great engineer, he has reverse engineered a couple of these upon request and explained what was done to achieve a certain sound and operating response. From his point of view he just says, "Yea, you can do it that way, but this will sound better for this, or I can do it another way for that...no big deal either way."

19

I just finished up this fun little setup. It’s a model 385 converted to a ‘Bernie’ circuit with EL84 tubes and a Power scaling circuit the cabinet is loaded with to fantastic old JBL D208 8 in speakers. I have converted more than a dozen Filmos with quite a few different circuits. They are loads of fun to do if you can get past the ‘ship in a bottle’ type of assembly

20

I just finished up this fun little setup. It’s a model 385 converted to a ‘Bernie’ circuit with EL84 tubes and a Power scaling circuit the cabinet is loaded with to fantastic old JBL D208 8 in speakers. I have converted more than a dozen Filmos with quite a few different circuits. They are loads of fun to do if you can get past the ‘ship in a bottle’ type of assembly

– GaryE

That looks like some serious artillery; beautiful workmanship!

21

All amps should look as cool as these posted above.

22

I have an old Filmosound and cab but sadly it's not one of the ones that work well for conversions. I've been thinking about having an amp builder gut the amp and build something common in it (5F1, Harvard, 5F2, etc).

It for sure LOOKS cool!

– Mark Nason

That looks like one of the 285 models with the power transformer located somewhere off the chassis. You could probably convert it, but it would be more work. At least you have a few tubes, a chassis and an output transformer to start with.

23

Unlike the 385, Marks 285 generates B+ from wall voltage, no power transformer. Fondly referred to as a “death amp”. You can build it up and use an isolation transformer, or just save the chassis and cool control panel and get a set of transformers.

24

I just finished up this fun little setup. It’s a model 385 converted to a ‘Bernie’ circuit with EL84 tubes and a Power scaling circuit the cabinet is loaded with to fantastic old JBL D208 8 in speakers. I have converted more than a dozen Filmos with quite a few different circuits. They are loads of fun to do if you can get past the ‘ship in a bottle’ type of assembly

– GaryE

The Premier Twin 8 cabs are cool. You made them?

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The Premier Twin 8 cabs are cool. You made them?

– Powdog

Yes, my homage to the amps of yesteryear!You are one of the very few who recognize the look I went for!


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