Other Amps

The Nocturne Moonshine ‘39 amp based on the prewar Gibson EH-185, t…

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Too much info was lost in the GDP crash about the vintage pre-war Gibson EH-185 amplifier recreation I started on several years ago and have in production now. The Moonshine '39 1x12 combo and Moonshine '39 shinebox head to be exact. A late 1930s, early 1940s Class A, octal tube based tweed amp.

(vid of Nico Duportal, He loves this amp)

I wanted to start a new ongoing thread about it because it is the first authentic American recreation of the vintage Gibson EH-185 in production. (correct me if I am wrong I dont want to toot a horn that isnt to be tooted) There are some variations out there but I think I can fairly say that I began prototyping based off the actual vintage Gibson EH-185 amps that I own and play almost 4 years ago, not just a schematic I found online that I interpreted without the actual amplifier in my hands connected to my guitar. I had to live with the actual EH185 in various live environments with the band and a variety of guitars just as I did with my blonde fender style amp builds. It was a natural extension of the Blondeshell amp that I've been producing for some time as I reached out for something even older that I was passionately involved in as a player and lover of Charlie Christian and Texas Playboy's Junior Barnard & Eldon Shamblin.

I dont share this to be cocky but rather to be clear that I'm a player first, perhaps utilitarian in my line of work but I do at least have a fantastic ear for taking something tangible and recreating that, upping the workmanship for hi fi practicality and dependability for long term performance.

Here is one of my Blog posts about it in detail: http://thenocturnebrainselt...

the website page about it: http://thenocturnebrain.com...

(Paul Pigat gigging with it for a few so cal gigs) https://instagram.com/p/zZU...

Kid Ramos sat in with Amberfoxx and dug it

It got a chance to be featured at several events this last week at Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender along with the blondeshell, when Nico Duportal was in town again.

I'll be sharing more as I go along.

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Wonderful work Tavo. Inspiring to know that someone is carrying on the great legacy of classic tube amps in general and the EH-185 in particular.

One quick question. Are the 6SQ7 preamp tube and the 6N7 driver/phase inverter readily available, by that I mean still in general production, or do you think that they will become harder (than normal) to replace as years go by? If so, what would the life expectancy be for this type of tube?

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I had the good fortune to hear a couple of really great players, NIco Duportal and Ashley Kingman, play through Tavo's amp at Viva Las Vegas last weekend, and it is all that Tavo says it is. Really top-notch. I didn't get to use it myself, but right after my band's set on Friday night, Nico and Tommy Harkenrider played a short set, Nico through the Nocturne and Tommy through his Quilter Aviator. Then Ashley Kingman came to back up another singer, and since his only alternative was to use a Twin Reverb reissue or a Hot Rod Deville, he grabbed Nico's Nocturne and put it up on top of the Twin, and plugged into it.

I had the good fortune of sitting near Tommy Harkenrider while Ashley was playing and at one point between songs, Ashley walked over to the edge of the stage to tell Tommy how great the Nocturne amp sounded. Kudos, Tavo. If you'd have just put some cactus on the front of the cabinet, he might have bought one from you.

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nice post t..good clips…some heavyweight players...killer amp

cheers

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Cool. I spotted the amp in a pic my friend Ricky Fabian posted from VLV. (Nico & him were room-mates in Vegas if I got that right.) I'll talk to him in the next days for a full report.

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Tavo - if I had the coin I'd buy one of everything you make, man. Awesome sounds.

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In today's amp-glutted universe, I'm quite surprised more builders haven't attempted the EH-150/185 design, and am glad Tavo tackled it! It is a unique sound for sure. I wonder if we'll now see other builders coming up with similar "old school" designs? (like Vintage47 has done with Valco, for example)

This tone is definitely one I love, and one that I'd love to have in the stable. And no- turning down the treble on the amp and the tone control on the guitar is NOT the same thing :)

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The one major problem to reproducing the old school amps is a lack of octal tubes. All vacuum tubes are rarities anymore, and octals even more so. Who else uses tubes aside from musicians---mostly only guitarists at that? Even single transistors are hard to find now that chips are in most everything. Tubes are a technology that's over a century old. Don't get me wrong---I'm a dinosaur and love my tube amps. I started out with these old school style amps---that's the tone I hear in my head. It's sad how so many of these amps were relegated to the trash when the newer, shinier ones came out. I'm glad that there are guys like Tavo and others keeping the flame lit.

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Ah, right. Octal tube supply. Guys like Vintage47 seem to find plenty... I wonder what the REAL situation is, with the availability of the octal tubes used in these vintage designs?

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NOS only, as far as I know. Possibly, you can find an old school TVS/radio repair guy with a stockpile of old tubes in his workshop. A lot of amps went by the wayside because tubes or other parts, like varistors, weren't available anymore. It's akin to trying to find leaded gas for an old high performance car.

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In today's amp-glutted universe, I'm quite surprised more builders haven't attempted the EH-150/185 design, and am glad Tavo tackled it! It is a unique sound for sure. I wonder if we'll now see other builders coming up with similar "old school" designs? (like Vintage47 has done with Valco, for example)

This tone is definitely one I love, and one that I'd love to have in the stable. And no- turning down the treble on the amp and the tone control on the guitar is NOT the same thing :)

– ruger9

Vintage47 has built an amp that "looks" like an EH185 but he's not interested in spec'ing anything and sees the valco amps similar to the gibsons. He didnt get specific but isnt going to try to get the tubes right either. I love what he builds, he just has different ideas of why things are, and may feel that if it looks like a duck and has webbed feet, its good enough for the water. It certainly is marketable and reproducible for a mass market. For me, thats not enough.. Maybe I'm too punk rock and cant fathom a factory full of amps yet. Maybe I need to.

My goal is to give the player the same experience I had when I first got to play a Gibson EH185 and a 150, but not be limited to having to in a jazz/swing quartet gig. Nor have to be tethered to a mic'd cab needing to have a monitor feed to hear yourself over the band.. You can just adjust the amp for big stages or small, and still get both the tactile feel, texture and dynamics of the original yet the versatility of modernity is there making no compromise to the original design and response.

Another thought comes to mind.. why spend the money on an amp that is a replica of the original if its only based on schematic layout alone? Thats not going to cut it.. you also have to layout an amalgamation of many different component mediums to achieve the broken in "sound" and "feel" of a 75 yr old prewar amplifier. Or at least get very close to it... Thats that funny place that ol 'curmudgeon builders start hmm'n and hahhh'n about because they get irate about amps that brag about using this brand or that. Which is okay, let that be the case because it takes somebody that cant sleep at night over trying to figure out how to coax ancients sounds out of modern materials. Thats half the fun for me.

btw.. to answer Gen Lee's question.. no, there are no current 6SQ7 tubes produced but Sovtek offers the 6N7. I dont think it will be a problem for a small company to keep using NOS for such a build, those tubes are plentiful.

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"you also have to layout an amalgamation of many different component mediums to achieve the broken in "sound" and "feel" of a 75 yr old prewar amplifier. Or at least get very close to it... "

THAT, my friend, is something very few people do. That is the problem with all the Fender Reissues. They probably DO sound like a 65 DR when they were NEW, but they do not sound like a 50-year old amp, which is the tone everyone loves. V47 uses hemp cone speakers to try to get that old speaker sound, I agree with him on that... I think hemp cones are the greatest thing in the speaker world since alnico magnets.

I don't think I've ever heard ANY builder espouse what I quoted you as saying above, and it's a shame... because that is EXACTLY how these "reissue" / "remodel" amps should be thought of and built, imo. Kudos to you, sir!!!

...to add: FWIW, it seems to me that Fender is KIND OF trying to do this with their new "68 Custom" series.... warmer tone stacks, warmer speakers, so they sound like VINTAGE amps instead of brand new ice-pick-in-the-ear sonic weaponry. I'm very interested to check out the new 68CVR.

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yes the hemp cone is a real bonus IMO, especially how tonetubby makes theirs for my Moonshine application at least. I would like a tonetubby hemp cone 6x9, as I'm using the weber 6x9 in the shinebox headcab. You can hear it has a cleaner snap to the sound albeit still vintage bouncy, in this instagram clip

https://instagram.com/p/pIP...

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This intrigues me. I always figured that building a vintage repro was about replicating the stock form. I mean, the amps were new when they made the old records right?

Obviously you know more about it than me Tavo, it's just interesting cause I've never heard that perspective before.

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This intrigues me. I always figured that building a vintage repro was about replicating the stock form. I mean, the amps were new when they made the old records right?

Obviously you know more about it than me Tavo, it's just interesting cause I've never heard that perspective before.

– PseudoMan™

Good points.... however, keep in mind, old recording techniques aren't what they are today either... so a new, bright amp back then wouldn't have sounded like that on the record anyway....

But we're talking more about the love for vintage amps- people love vintage amps because of they way they sound NOW. People don't buy a vintage amp and put a brand-new speaker and brand-new components in it (well, filter caps eventually need to be replaced)... but in general, old tubes are kept until dead, speakers are re-coned instead of replaced, etc.

Regarding the Moonshine '39, and any other EH-185 type.... we're talking Charlie Christian tones here.... recording gear back then was even older and less "Accurate" than Sun Records.... we're talking 1939.... while none of us actually know what CC's amp sounded like FOR REAL, we know and love what it sounds like on all his recordings. THAT is what we're chasing.

SO- the video comparing the M'39 and EH-185.... sounds like Tavo did an amazing job to me!!! The M'39 sounds like a 70-year old amp. Which is what you'd be getting if you were buying a vintage EH-185.

And another "good news" part to go along with this concept: these amps don't ever have to "break in", or change.... if you replace an aging part with a new part, it just goes back to sounding like it did off the production line.... "old." Perfect.

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Back in the early days, records were actually "cut" on a lathe live at 78 RPM. Sound quality wasn't nearly what we have today, or with the reel to reel tape of the Sun era. Mikes were likely carbon/crystal/piezo types, not the dynamic or condenser types. There were a few ribbon mikes around, but, then, as now, they were frightfully expensive. The studios were different then as well. The sound recorded often depended on the room itself. Often, a single mike recorded the entire group. The earliest tape recorders, such as the one used in the Hindenburg crash had wild changes in speeds. The WLS reporter we hear in that recording was actually a baritone, not a tenor. There were no AC frequency controlled motors then.

The materials in the amps were totally different as well. No orange drop caps or the like. Condensers, as they were known, were paper and foil constructs, and like the resistors of the day, probably had a 20% variance. Speakers were likely field coil, and likely had a 1" or less voice coil. No hemp cones, either. The top frequency was likely 8KHz---or, 8,000 c.p.s. as they called it then---or less. Even the speaker cabs were different. Lightweight plywood, usually 3/8", with little thought as to bass response, were more considered as luggage to haul the amp around in instead of aart of the sound producing unit. Handles and latches rattled as well. The tweed coverings that we all love was replaced by leatherette and Tolex because they lasted longer, wore better, and didn't show stains from beer bottles and cigarette butts.

Even the connecting cables were different than what we have today. the AC circuits that they used also fed the lights and fans and refrigerators and every other circuit in the building. There were no effects on the amps as well, and often one tone control, if any. the amps were as likely to be used for PA as well as an instrument, so, the frequency response was different than what we use now for guitars.

Still, there is a special magic that you get from all of these antiquated products. Octal metal jacketed tubes, tube rectifiers, cheap components and simple circuits made for a sound that we can't quite get from all of our modern computer driven chips and modern circuitry. I can get my vintage sounds from a 1949 David Bogen PA head and an early PM Operadio speaker. Tavo and Vintage 47 and some others are giving folks the most accurate version of the early sounds of electric music---something that you'll never get from a computer or stomp box.

Sorry about going all Proteus like on this. I'm just a fan of most things old school, being a dinosaur and all.

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good post ws and totally right on…which is why it is important that guys like tavo and david b are using their ears as well as the original schematics..schematics arent enough to duplicate old amps..too many variables multiplied over time

as for 6x9 speakers..weber has the sig models in ceramic and alnico…and vintage47 has theirs, but with a ribbed cone tweak..very clever..is tone tubby sellin their own 6x9's? not listed on their site

cheers

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Tone Tubby doesnt make one sadly and I even hounded my supplier about it.. Regarding the weber the ribbed cones might eek out a bit more low end but the smooth cone sounds better. I'm working with a guy at the moment that makes his own hemp cones and have had him recone some field coil speakers for me, so I'm tempted to just start having him recone weber speakers because they are just to big now to focuse much for their small wholesale accounts. I feel like I'm talking to wind in dealing with them these days. Tonetubby on the other hand is an excellent company to work with. I'll also be offering a self powered Field Coil speaker option for my Moonshine'39 combo if this prototype measures up to the same performance of the Tonetubby Alnico 50w 12". More on that soon.

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finishing this Moonshine '39 combo up, some "artsy" pics of the process.. installing the hemp cone Tonetubby alnico 50w speaker and handmade codina leather handle, its gonna last. The vintage gibson EH-185 handles seemed to make it to about 70 yrs before they started breaking down

Matt Codina makes some seriously good leather products and is using a particular horsehide here so it will fair better than steerhead in its treatment (horween / chromexel?) .

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that speaker is "smokin!"

i'm "green" with envy

matt codina really has a "handle" on working with leather

cheers

ps..lookin great t

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This intrigues me. I always figured that building a vintage repro was about replicating the stock form. I mean, the amps were new when they made the old records right?

Obviously you know more about it than me Tavo, it's just interesting cause I've never heard that perspective before.

– PseudoMan™

The posts above this have some great perspectives and awesome elaboration to boot! To answer directly to your question in regards to my build perspective, its simply that recordings and archived sounds of the past are just that.

I feel that I dont need to build and recreate an amp based on those things, for one because they are not substantive enough and second, more importantly.. I'm building a recreation of the actual amp here with me that is 76 yrs old. I am tangibly and tactilely (is that a word) modeling my Moonshine '39 from not just one, but several original EH-185 that I own. I know that I've said that repeatedly but it bears saying because you shouldnt be building or selling something billed as a "repro" or "based on" unless you'd done the physical research on the actual item youre attempting to recreate. If you take artistic license to vary from the actual thing or for the sake of copyright infringement, then that is by all means acceptable but you'd better have started your work with a lump of clay at your side and a live model next to you. (caveat: I design my amps, but contract the chassis and cabs .)

In building mine, the goal is to allow the player to own a model of an amp that is as rare as hens teeth, and to be able to gig with it on any stage. The bonus is that its versatile enough to then be used for recreating the same environments of the past using elemental tools such at what was shared above (78rpm disc, crystal mics etc) to achieve the sounds that we love from various artists recorded at the time this amp was being circulated to; ie. Charlie Christian, Junior Barnard, Eldon Shamblin, George Barnes, Django?,etc

I can't see my perspective as original because I learned this from Brian Gerhard of Tophat amps with his focus on Vox AC30 and Plexi amps that give you all the vintage coolness but totally are in the now and versatile on any stage. His King Royale is the ultimate example of this.

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I have a moonshine 39 amp, I've had it for about a week now and I've played it everyday for at least and hour or longer especially when I'm playing with my band. This amp doesn't sound like a new amp. I've been playing guitar since the 70's like a lot of people here, and I've played amps from the 50's to modern. I played classic amps like the vox AC-30, Marshall JCM800, and many fender amps, tweed blonde, etc. I've never played an early Gibson amp like this before but, I can tell you the moonshine 39 has a pure beautiful guitar tone. It's the sound I've been trying to get out of an amp for as long as I can remember. The amp can get a great clean sound but not dead like a modern amp gets when you turn it down to clean up. It also has an incredible break up when you push it. I'm not a tech, and I don't really understand all the voodoo that's under the hood of amps. I do know that this amp has the feel I've been looking for from an amp along with the tone. It's the kind of amp that even if I don't have time to play , when I see it I have to plug in. And once I start playing I just can't stop. It's like the amp just makes you want to play more. The sound is not brittle, it's warm with a real singing quality to it. The break up is smooth but raw when played hard. it just has this real musical quality to it. I'm a blues player, I love Freddie King. His early stuff and his later. But it's that early sound that I've always wanted. I read earlier in this thread about recorded sounds. His recorded sound was good but I know that live it sounded bigger. Not just concerts but in the room while they were recording. Freddie pushed his amps hard, he was known to be loud. So it's that raw early Freddie live guitar into amp sound that I've been wanting. Early BB King used a fender champ, Class A tube amps and there was a certain quality to that sound that was different then his later stuff. Less compressed maybe, more open sounding. It also will get a great rock/rock n roll sound. Joe Walsh, early Zeppelin, stones, etc. with my Gretsch hot rod into a brain pedal it's a very versital machine that I just don't want to walk away from

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