Other Amps

Oldtime users Fender Amp Question

26

"Presence-dome" (good term - never heard it before this thread) JBLs were such a part of the lore of amps for me, coming up in the 60s and 70s, that I have to remind myself they may be unfamiliar to some.

Till probably the late 70s, I couldn't consider an amp truly worthy unless it had those chrome domes gleaming behind the grillecloth. Before we (that is, the guys with whom I played guitar) even cared about how an amp sounded dirty, the crisp punch and headroom associated with those speakers meant louder-better-bigger. As I recall, no matter what was going on from the midrange on up, it was the solid mass of a punchy low end that told us an amp was loud.

We weren't going for a broken-up, overdriven tone. We could get that from the Webcor and Wollensak tape recorders we sometimes played through, pushing their preamps to desperation and flapping their tiny speakers. We got much the same thing from the little amps we used when we got lucky: Valcos of whatever description, Silvertones. We were kinda indifferent to that crunched-up tone; we just dealt with it and learned to use it (and sure, eventually appreciating it for its own merits). But what meant BIG was the strong, clear, percussive, air-moving clean sound that came from higher-power amps with JBLs.

And yep, they could be ice-picky. That was part of the package. It may be hard to believe, but we actually used tone controls on the guitars and amps to tame the worst of it. But in general we liked that sting and that clarity - because it just sounded (to our innocent and untutored ears) like the high-end component of the generally hi-fi response we liked about the whole range of those speakers. Sounded like we were hearing everything the guitar was producing - and, after all, electric guitar was by definition a magnificent thing. We wanted to hear every nuance.

I still have vintage JBL D-1somethings (I used to know...130s, I think) in my 2-12 Bandmaster cabinet, last reconed in the early 80s - and still healthy. When I hear it now, yes I recognize and acknowledge the extraordinary high-end crispness. By comparison to the generally much smoother palette of speakers we're now used to for guitar, they can sound strident, clanky - and, when fed unfiltered dirt - gritty and grainy. So you don't feed them dirt - or you EQ it appropriately for better compatibility with the platform.

But that's not what they're about. In their heyday - late 50s to late 60s - they represented something new and exciting for guitarists: the possibility of being LOUD and CLEAN at the same time. I'd venture to say that all electric guitarists from the 40s through the late 70s were well familiar with the sound of low-wattage amps driven past their design limits and overdriving in the way that has now become "iconic" - and a bit fetishistic. That sound was the normal condition of all our training years. We heard it every time we got a chance to crank up our small or improvised amps beyond 2 or 3 on the dial. I don't think it was what most of us wanted to hear. We just wanted loud, and dirty came along with it.

It was revolutionary and even radical when - thanks to higher wattage, big output transformers, and JBLs - we heard the pure emanations of electric guitar CLEAN, blown up to LOUD without turning to mush. Duane's and Dick's tones, and that of the surfers who followed, sounded literally larger than life. Having been used to naturally overdriving small amps, we instinctively knew that giant sound was a modern miracle. It was new and self-evidently cool: you can keep your fuzzy little amps, we're going for Big Iron. While country and certain restrained finger-pickin' players welcomed the high-power/JBL combination simply because they could get a little louder and stay clean, other guitarists found the combination downright rebellious and transgressive.

It wasn't so much about melting faces as caving in chests and blowing heads off. At anything approaching even club gig volume, dirt (at least around the edges) had been the norm; Clean was the novelty.

But revolutions in music rarely stay fresh for longer than 3-5 years, and by the late 60s distortion was novel again - but this time intentional and with a wide range of different characters, achieved either with pedals or by overdriving high-power amps for even more outrageous volume. The palette of the electric guitar has continued to broaden and deepen since then.

But there's still nothing quite like a clean-clean guitar with the hi-fi punch and full-range clarity the huge magnets, large-diameter voice coils, and aluminum domes of JBLs (and their current clones) make possible. Even at room volume, they have unique presence and a distinctive articulation; at larger-than-life volume, they're a singular experience.

27

It wasn't enough for me to see the presence domes through ragged old Fender grillecloth, so I put this hideous expanded on it in the 80s...

28

Good idea. Makes it easier for the beer to splash through!

29

hilosean, that ice pick is the exact thing I was talking about. A normal Fender amp icepick with a telecaster is nothing compared to an icepick from presence domes. Can you remember what brand they were.

– retnev

I played a '52 Tele reissue through it. Yes, it was harsh! The Edens made it go away without losing that pretty presence that a Twin has.

I'm pretty sure that there wasn't a sticker on the back of the magnet. I'll take a look in my creepy basement for them. If I find them I'll let you know.

30

hilosean, that ice pick is the exact thing I was talking about. A normal Fender amp icepick with a telecaster is nothing compared to an icepick from presence domes. Can you remember what brand they were.

– retnev

I played a '52 Tele reissue through it. Yes, it was harsh! The Edens made it go away without losing that pretty presence (actual tone) that a Twin has.

I'm pretty sure that there wasn't a sticker on the back of the magnet. I'll take a look in my creepy basement for them. If I find them I'll let you know.

31

Good idea. Makes it easier for the beer to splash through!

What's gig gear without beer, after all?

At the time something had to be done. The original cloth was not only hideously stained and discolored, it had multiple rips. The expanded was much less expensive - and it matched the industrial aesthetic of some PA gear that was going around at the time.

Now I'd like to re-do both pieces in utterly a-historical tan tolex with oxblood cloth, or vice versa. But it would just be to improve its look as home decor, as it's hard to imagine when it will ever be gigged again. And then the new look would be A) too nice to take out, and 2) a source of derision by those who would mock its historical inaccuracy.

For a time, the real guitarist in the band and I both had 2-12 Bandmasters. As guitarists, we were proudly and resolutely non-reverb.

32

Bluecap, those are ridiculously handsome JBLs. I don't suppose they're for sale?

33

I realize that the OP question was about the speakers but this is a neat piece on the ELK amp.

https://en.audiofanzine.com...

I've never met a "clueless" penguin. They're very smart birds! Well understood by the Norwegians and the Scots! Adapted flying techniques to swimming as there's a lot more food in the Antarctic Ocean than in the air!

34

Yes just to re-clarify

The 'presence dome speakers' you keep referring to (and I have to admit I've never heard that term before and I've bought and sold a lot of vintage speakers) are likely vintage 50s and 60s JBLs. Though the Altec guitar speakers I've seen had smaller aluminum dust covers as well. Neither JBL or Fender makes these speakers anymore though some people claim to make sonic copies (Webber California?)

They really are, build quality-wise a huge step up from the pressed basket speakers more common in fender amps, though those speakers sound good too.

– Toxophilite

"Presence Dome" is a British term afaik. That is what it was called in the 70s and 80s when I encountered them, or that was the term that was thrown around. It is a very accurate description though. I wasnt born in the USA, only live here the last 20 years.

35

I realize that the OP question was about the speakers but this is a neat piece on the ELK amp.

https://en.audiofanzine.com...

I've never met a "clueless" penguin. They're very smart birds! Well understood by the Norwegians and the Scots! Adapted flying techniques to swimming as there's a lot more food in the Antarctic Ocean than in the air!

– Yavapai

The one on my pickguard definitely is.... Or he/she doesnt like my music....or both. Priceless video.

36

@retnev - These are not reissues, they are original with original cones. They are pulls from a Twin Reverb. The original owner found them too clean for his taste and pulled them immediately. They sound as clean as they look. There is clean, then there is WAY TOO CLEAN. The video below is a perfect example of what to expect when playing a Tele through a Twin Reverb loaded with JBLs. When running these in a Twin, you'd want to kill the bright switch.

Not for sale, Tim. If and when I do want to offload them, I'll drop you a line.

37

Bluecap; Thats sounds just like it! I turned it up loud and I got the same headache I had in 1979 during the entire show with this dude and his blasting ELK! Just above my left brow half an inch to the center. Lol !!!

I dont mean this negatively, I am sure if I use presence domes, I will really make it work for me. It is just that a telecaster on bridge pickup and those speakers creates a neurological problem for me. Thats me, does nothing to other people .. I hope.

You need 335s Gretches Les Pauls and the sort for those speakers in my opinion. Then they will shine.

Due to that fatal gig, with the ELK, I could never look aat Fender amps again. I played Vox/Marshall/Magnatone my entire life afterwards and always passed up on Fenders, due to the icepick experience.

It is only the last 5 years that I am getting very interested in Fender Amps. They are truly amazing in the right hands and I sure missed a lot due to that experience. I played them a bit on and off but never bought any so I am familiar with them.

Most of my favorite players use Fenders.

I just love Bassman, Pro Reverb and Deluxes. My small box 50W plexi is very very close to a Bassman and that is what I basically used for decades. I always found Vox a difficult amp, and I have a very good one. Cant wait to get a pro Reverb and a good Deluxe.

38

It is just that a telecaster on bridge pickup and those speakers creates a neurological problem for me. Thats me, does nothing to other people .. I hope.

Oh no. It's painful for anyone. That's a truly atrocious tone, and not at all what I have in mind (or ear) when I wind out some JBLs. And yeah, they're great with humbuckers. (Having said with that, I played with a guy who got dangerously close to that territory with a humbuckered Tele Deluxe and a Twin.)

But really, if you dial down the treble (and, as WB says, stay away from the presence or bright switch), they're manageable. They're just rarely at their best with the bridge pickup of a Tele.

Given your taste, it's likely presence domes aren't for you. Weber Speakers does builds that are JBL in every way - except a nice paper dome instead of the aluminum. They're full-bodied and authoritative, and bright enough up top, without going fully ice-pick.

39

Thanks for all the answers. I learned a lot. I will sure try them again as my bias against them as a teen might just be because of a players use of them as I described before. In the right hands it must be pretty unique and useful.

40

Dick Dale used them, and frequently blew them up :)

41

It is a really great idea, especially if you've been deafened in the audience when some wanker has his amp pointed at his knees and the treble cranked so he can hear it... I don't know if it was Leo's idea though, From what I understand he wasn't a guitar player.

– Toxophilite

Last time I saw Brian Setzer, he had a Twin Reverb alongside his Bassman and my ears were bleeding. I've seen him 20 other times, and he was never icepicky, even when he used to bury the Treble and Presence on his Bassman in the early 2000s. (before HE got tinnitus)

42

“Cone cry,” came with those aluminum JBL covers.

I loved JBL’s for clean hi-fi headroom. Back then my $60 beat Showman heads had old tubes that needed a bias job. The only speaker that gave them life were JBL D120 or K120.

With a Tele, compression was key on BF era amps. Leo’s tweed circuits were mushy enough for his guitars, but with the advent of the power wars he tried to make them more full range with a negative feedback circuit (vs presence control). Even with JBL’s they weren’t ever as hi-fi as Ampegs, which were like McIntosh stereo power amplifiers.

So, but in the day I used a Tele with an Ampeg V4 head and a JBL. Still sounded better with compression, to fight the ice pick-in-the-ear effect of cone cry.

43

I saw this on reverb advertised as an Oxford, second photo shows the cone, so I thought its not right. Looked at the manufacturer code and it came up as a Becker. It is claimed that it was the original speaker in a bassman, but I doubt that Fender ever issued Beckers from the factory. I just mention this as it has a presence dome and an oddball example. The link is here. hms-1967-bassman" rel="nofollow">https://reverb.com/item/877... I have no interest in it, but it looks rather nice. Becker makes nice efficient speakers.

44

Wow. Learned a lot in this thread.

45

Thanks all for helping out in this thread. It has been spot on information as usual from the Gretscherati. What I found: Players who used Presence Dome: (Other than already mentioned.) Gilmour, Knopfler, Gatton, EVH, Betts, Allman and the list goes on forever. I now know what I have been missing the last few decades tonewise. I basically always played Celestion, both Ceramic and Alnico.

Again thanks to all for the insights.

46

Eminence and good old CTS made chrome cap speakers in the 70's too.

Did you ever watch or hear Roy Buchanan torture his no pedal telecaster into a "warm sounding" tweed?

47

Just found out today Chet Atkins used a JBL D130 in most of his recordings since about 1957... Go figure. I sure missed something.

And among others Grateful Dead ..

48

Just found out today Chet Atkins used a JBL D130 in most of his recordings since about 1957... Go figure. I sure missed something.

And among others Grateful Dead ..

– retnev

I got to hear The Dead's Wall of Sound a couple of times. You could hold a conversation anywhere in the room with someone, and still hear every note perfectly. The Dead's PA was the first multiple semi rigs used in music.

Note---the 12" units are D120, and the 15" versions are D130, and the 15" bass versions are D140.

Those domes brightness could be mellowed somewhat by Beam Blockers. They are "crisp" speakers.

49

15" was Chets favorite if it was around. Modern Version of what he used. http://www.standelamps.com/... . Clearly 15" JBL. It completely solves my almost lifelong puzzle of the huge sound he got on the Chester lester album.

Tell me about it... Modern PA systems are so daft. It is a step backwards. There is nothing like a wall of sound unless it is Status Quo of course back in the 70s. They peeled the paint off the walls. Was way too much. I swear I could feel my kidneys rattle against my liver.

50

JBLs are fantastic speakers for loud and clean, though you do have to manage the high end ice pick, especially with a reverb laden signal. That being said, if you turn up an amp loud enough to compress the signal, the ice pick rolls off. I had the chance once to use an early 70s Twin Reverb with D120s and good grief that amp sounded amazing with the volume north of 6.

As Bluecap said, this thread needs pictures, so here's a glamour shot of (L-R) my Parts-rite w/hack spray can burst, '67 Twin Reverb piggyback conversion, '63 Reverb, '63 Showman, and '66 Ventures model Mosrite.

Actually, one of the great things about Mosrite guitars is that the pickups are so hot the treble is rolled off just enough to avoid ice-pick, which is great for twangy bridge pickup lead.


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