Amps

seismic luke-1x12TR speaker cab to amp cab

Seismic Speaker Cab Becomes Amp Cab For Laney Tube Combo

Laney Cub 12R gets a new home

amp cab conversion

conversion done

Ever since I found out the Laney was basically made of cardboard (read about it here) it’s been buggin the shit out of me. So I fixed it. It would take too long to build a custom amp cab from scratch so I decided to convert an existing one to fit the Laney. And I found a perfect cab to use: Seismic Luke-1x12TR. These are solid built cabs made from 1/2″ birch plywood. It was too deep for an amp cab so I reduced the depth by 6″ and it was as close to perfect as you can get. I was originally going to keep the factory orange Tolex but in the process of peeling it back to make the cuts it got a bit stretchy from the heat gun so it was all goofy looking. No problem. I had some snakeskin left from the Laney recover and removing the rest from the Laney was a breeze since the thing was cardboard it just pulled right off. After some clever cutting and fitting it was done. It turned out to be a little heavier than the original by about 2 pounds and it feels rock solid. The original Laney steel mesh back was a tricky fit because of the angled offset around the power cord and extension speaker jack, but I got it in there with a solid panel on the lower half and about 4″ of mesh above that. And I managed to keep my transformer cooling fans undisturbed. I rear-loaded the Celestion V-Type and I love it! I still have some fitting to do on the solid half panel but it’s minor. Now when I look at it I don’t see a cardboard shoe box, instead I see an honest to goodness for real amplifier. The thing is that it never sounded bad, in fact it sounded awesome but it sounds even better now. Warmer and fuller. But just knowing what was under the tolex created a mental thing that I just couldn’t get past no matter how hard I tried. The new box stands a little taller too and it just looks good. Actually the Seismic came with a Celestion G12L which I might use in the Laney amp cab as an extension speaker, I’m just not sure if the cardboard thing will bother me in that application too. We’ll see. All in all it was $80 and two days well spent.

amp cab back

laney cub 12r snakeskin tolex

Laney Cub 12R Made With Cardboard

Looks like the GAS still has it’s hooks in me because I’ve been eyeballin the Laney Cub 12R tube amp for a while now. Judging from the demo clips on line it’s pretty versatile with great tone and it’s a combo which is something I haven’t had in a while now because I’m a head and cab guy in general. But a combo was in my future (if one came along at a good price). Thanks once again to Craigslist one did. Quality was not an issue mainly because I didn’t see any reviews with any mention of quality as an issue, plus it’s a Laney, and the name has a top level reputation so I never thought that it might be shit quality, but I was soon to learn a name does not always equal quality. I realize it’s a Chinese made budget model but I STILL expected more from something Laney put their name on.

Laney Cub 12R guitar amplifierAfter a week of playing I decided I didn’t like the brown Tolex, the tan colored weaved grill cloth or the angled opening. So I gathered up some snakeskin Tolex from Antique Electronics, some black grill cloth, a heat gun, contact cement etc. and proceeded to strip it down.
Up to this point I was very pleased with the performance of the little combo so that wasn’t an issue but alarm bells went off when I realized the corners were plastic, and the worst was yet to come. I was shocked to find out what the cabinet was actually made of because it ain’t wood. That’s right, no wood to be found anywhere on a Laney Cub 12R. You probably think “must be particle board” right? Wrong. In fact particle board would have been better.

Laney Cub 12R combo cabinet

Fucking cardboard!

This is made of some type of compressed cardboard similar to Masonite. 1/8″ thick on the face and 9/16″ everywhere else. It made me sick to see that a company like Laney would even think about using this crap. In fact I’ve never seen an amp or cab made of this shit material. WTF Laney?

I did the only thing I could think of which was to finish recovering it and put it back together. At least I wouldn’t have to look at that crap. It looks not too bad with the snake Tolex, black grill cloth, steel corners, and a vintage Eminence speaker (which sounds much better than the HH that came with it)* but every time I look at it I still see cardboard. Un-fucking-believable. But I gotta say it sounds great! So at this time I’m planning on building a solid wood replacement. I’ll document the build and post it when it’s all finished. As it sits right now It’s still a keeper based on the tone and versatility alone. A solid wood cabinet will make it even more desirable. We’ll see.

Laney Cub 12R covered in snakeskin Tolex

AT least it LOOKS better.

What’s your experience with what’s hiding under the Tolex? Leave an answer in the comments below. Click here for details on the Cub 12R hot transformer issue (and a solution)

Update on the speaker change (Celestion V-Type)

Blackstar HT-1RH Ultimate Low Wattage Tube Amp

ht-1rhIn our quest for tone we all try different things. I do it, you do it, we all do it because it’s in the blood. We couldn’t stop if we wanted to. You find things that you think, at the time, are just what you were looking for only to find later there’s something even better. My quest has bounced from mega-high wattage amps like my Ampeg SVT monster (300Watts) down to Mesa Boogie (100Watts) down to a 50watt Soldano then 30watts, then 20watts (my beloved Jet City), then a 15watt Orange, a VHT Special 6, and then an Ampeg GVT5 watter. I gotta say that all of my previous amps were great sounding units with the amps below 15watts were able to deliver tone at reduced volume. It’s nice to be able to rock out without having the cops called on me or blowing out an eardrum. The crazy part is the tone was better and better as the amps got smaller and smaller. And this has led me to a truly awesome little tube amp that’s perfect for getting an enormous range of tones  at really low levels. The Blackstar HT-1RH. I got the head and run it through a 1×12 cab. It’s a 1 watt tone monster! I believe it’s due to Blackstar adding a patented technology in the controls. It has a clean channel and an overdrive channel that’s switchable from the front panel along with the usual Gain, Volume, and Reverb but instead of a tone stack it has what’s called an “ISF” control which stands for “infinite shape feature”. Instead of me rambling through a half assed explanation I included a video from Blackstar to tell you all about it below. The first thing I did is what we all do: open it up and probably change tubes to my favorites. Not this time. I mean, I opened it up alright but when I saw it was already loaded with Tung-Sols I just closed it back up. That’s another thing: the topology of this amp is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It uses a 12AX7 preamp tube and a 12AU7 for the power tube in push-pull configuration. This lets the amp produce the harmonic overtones of a 100 watt unit while reining it in at 1 watt. Clever idea that just happens to work. This amp can go from sparkling, chimey cleans to crunch to grind with ease. And it does it all at levels that everyone can live with. It can get loud when you crank it but you don’t have to do that with this little gem. It also takes any speaker from 4, 8, or 16 ohms so it’s damn versatile in that respect. There are only two minor negatives: It has a digital reverb that sounds pretty damn good to my ears although it gets a bit slushy  at higher settings, but I rarely play with a clean tone and that is a big part of it. I also find it a bit trebley until you crank the ISF past 12 o’clock, but that’s controllable from the guitars tone knob so it’s no big deal. In fact it could be my pickups causing that condition. Uh oh! Now I’m gonna have to start my pickup search all over again. AWESOME! All in all I am more than happy with this little acquisition, especially since they are retailing at around $250 and I got this one for $125. I actually found another amp that I was going to buy from a pawn shop but when I went to get it the place had closed early so I said “fuck it” and called this guy on craigslist and got the Blackstar. For some reason it doesn’t feel like a random thing. Almost like it was being orchestrated by someone with some influence that wanted me to get the Blackstar. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A 2×10″ Speaker Cab That Sounds Better Than a 2×12″

I’ve always been a dedicated user of 12″ speakers, be it a 1×12, 2×12, or 4×12. Years ago I had a Musicman 210RD that was 100 watts with 2 10″speakers. It was loud but was lacking that full rounded sound and it didn’t project near as well as 12″ speakers would have. That was my last outing with 10’s until now. (with the exception of an Ampeg SVT with an 8×10 cab, but that’s a completely different animal so it doesn’t count here) . I stumbled across a 2×10 cab that sounds every bit as good as a 2×12. amp-frontBetter even. It’s a Panama Boca Series Oversized 2×10. Speakers are British Ceramic 10’s, and the cabinet is oversized with a floating baffle. The whole thing is made from “sustainable exotic tonewoods” (oh fuck, here we go again). So does any one of those details make it sound as good as it does? Is it all of them together? Don’t know, don’t care. All I know is it has great tone. Firm bottom end, punchy mids, and smooth highs. Slightly later breakup than V30’s and they never sound farty. Somebody put a lot of thought into these cabs that’s for sure. Aesthetically they nailed it. The cab is designed like Orange cabs with that wide picture frame style which I love.  amp cornerThe grill cover is made of perforated steel which allows the exotic wood baffle to show through. Overall build is solid and meticulous. It’s a 16 ohm cab with a jack for daisy chaining another cab if needed. I can’t find a single bad thing to say about this little beauty. I got this one on craigslist for $140 in as new condition. Amazon did well them but they are no longer available from them except in the Panama Neodymium Road series which is a lot more money. However, you can get it direct from Panama Guitars by pre-order only. If you ever get the chance to try one you really should. I think you’ll be surprised. Oh and they also come in 1×10, 1×12, 2×12 etc. All in all this was an amazing find. As always ymmv.

Orange OR15 Full Review

FYI: there were originally 3 posts on the Orange, but I just put them all together in this one post to consolidate. So if you get the impression that I’m a nut-job, I’m not. Not so you would notice much anyway. It’s just how the 3 posts sound being written on different dates then thrown together.

8160793111_361b510741_n-300x19911. Big things happening around here. I just pulled the trigger on a new Orange OR15. I still love my Jet City, but there’s something about Orange that’s like nothing else. So when  a deal presented itself I was all over it. After I’ve played it for about a week I’ll post an article with the lowdown on performance (different speakers, different guitars, pedals etc.) So looks like I’m in for a grueling week of rockin’ out with a new amp. Ah well, it’s a dark and lonely job, but someone has to do it.

2. I got the new Orange all dialed in on tubes. When I first fired her up it sounded ok but seemed a little harsh and sterile to me. So I cracked it open and found it was loaded with JJ’s front to back, and I just don’t like JJ’s. Tried them in my Jet City a few years ago with the same results. So into the tube stash I went and ended up with a Sovtek 5751 in V1, an EHX 12AX7 in V2, a vintage Amperex 12AT7 in the PI spot, a Mesa SPAX7-A for the FX loop, and a matched pair of Mesa 6BQ5/EL84 power tubes. (I also noted while I was in there that it has some beefy transformers which is a plus) Fired her up again and that did it. That’s the sound I was expecting in the first place. Smoothed it out, eliminated the harshness, and brought out that full, rich tone Orange is known for. It sounds a bit like a mini Rockerverb minus the verb. I haven’t got to play but for a couple hours so the full report is still a few days out, but I’ll say this: I’m grinning ear to ear and loving this little rocker. I still have to try some different speaker combinations and, of course, the FX loop. By Saturday I should have a solid opinion to share, so stay tuned. (FYI, at this point there is nothing about this amp that I don’t like, so that should give a pretty good indication of what my opinion is going to be. This thing is freakin’ sweet!)

orangeOR15x3. Ok man, here’s the verdict on the new Orange now that I’ve had it a few weeks: This is one awesome freakin’ amp! It’s an Orange thru-and-thru right down to the “graphics only” front panel (total 70’s retro). I’ve read that they don’t do cleans all that well, and I guess that’s all in your perception because for me it cleans up fine. Maybe not “Fender” clean, but then again I don’t play that way either. What this little beast does is what an Orange is meant to do: get down and dirty with balls to spare, shake the walls and rattle the windows, and piss off the neighbors. I love it.  The FX loop is spot on which makes my Micro-Vibe and Tri-Reverb pedals happy. Dirt pedals aren’t really necessary as this amp gets plenty on it’s own, but it will take em on if you want to use them. I kick one on every now and then just to take it over the top. One of the most impressive things is every knob has a noticeable affect at every setting through the entire sweep so the tonal palette is as wide as I’ve ever seen. It’s actually hard to get my brain around just how versatile it is. My style of playing will never need all that it can do, but Tubes-in-or15that just means that it will give me more than what I need tonally. The tube array I mentioned in #2 above is still the one for my ears which has NEVER happened on the first go round. Ever.  And I run it through 2 1×12 Jet City cabs. Sadly, It doesn’t need any mods either (which I was looking forward to). It’s rich and full with no ice picks up high, no flab down low. On a scale of 1 to 10 I have to give it a 9 because of the ‘no mods’ thing. If I felt the need for 2 channels I would say 8, but I don’t so 9 it is. To wrap this up, in case I was to vague or unclear or you just missed it, I love this thing. Is it for everybody? Nope. But then again what amp is? And my Les Paul has a Gibson 57 Classic + at the bridge and a Jim Wagner DarkBurst at the neck, so that has a lot to do with it as well. It sounds incredible with my SG single P-90 too. I don’t know, maybe I got lucky and hit the winning combo, but that’s as far as I’m going to analyze it. Now it’s time to go and play! (as always, YMMV)

See Ya!

 

Classic Ampeg tone in a 5 watt package

Ampeg GVT5H 5 watt head

I don’t know if I really needed it, but I finally talked myself into pulling the trigger on an Ampeg GVT series tube amp. I wasn’t looking to replace my Jet City JCA20H, that will never happen. I just wanted a really low wattage tube amp so I could really push it anytime I want day or night. This turned out to be one of my better decisions. I snagged a GVT5H which is the 5 watt head, and this little thing really cooks. The first thing I noticed was the build quality. Typical Ampeg rock solid construction. Definitely styled after the iconic models of the past (think SVT). For what it’s worth, this amp is made in Korea (not China), and I have no doubt Ampeg is riding shotgun on the build process. “So how does it sound” you ask? It sounds like an Ampeg. One thing that makes Ampeg sound the way they do is the Baxandall EQ. The way the tone and bass work is hard to get your brain around, but I had an SVT many years ago so I knew what to expect.  To over simplify it, they work within their respective frequency ranges and don’t overlap. They each work as a boost and cut and you utilize their settings to push the midrange. And the tone is without a doubt classic Ampeg. Gobs of clean head room through almost the entire volume sweep. You’ll get a little breakup starting around 7 but it still remains cleanish even at full throttle. But that’s what sets this amp apart from the long list of low watt tube amps on the market now. It really comes into its own as a pedal platform. It loves pedals. I dropped my MXR M77 Overdrive in front of it and it was instant 70’s Stones grind. Same with my Sparkle Drive. Either pedal is a great match for this amp but the one that really takes it over the top and makes you say “Holy Shit” is my EQD Crimson Drive. Volume wise it gets loud. Really loud. And it will take a lot of speaker setups. You can run the following.

1 x 4 Ω cab
1 x 8Ω cab
1 x 16Ω cab
2 x 8Ω cabs
2 x 16Ω cabs

I was running it through a 2×12 closed back 16Ω cab loaded with a pair of vintage Eminence speakers, but then something magical happened: I came up on a brand new 16Ω WGS 12″ British Lead 80 that I installed in a Jet City 1×12 closed back cab. I fired it up and “holy crap” it sounds freakin’ amazing! So that’s how I’ll run it. I can’t even imagine it sounding better.

I got it used and it came with a Ruby 12AX7 preamp tube and a 6V6GTEH output tube installed but the dude also threw in 2 GE 6V6GT black plates. First thing I did was to replace the Ruby with my favorite preamp tube, a MESA SPAX7-A, then I tried both output tubes and they all sound good with the GE’s being a little smoother than the EH’s. If I was to rate this amp on a 5 scale it would get a solid 5 IMHO. If I could add one thing to it I would go for a second gain stage (or even a master volume) just so I could drive it without using a pedal at all. And if I ever run across a diy modder that knows this model and can give me some direction then it just may get that extra gain stage. But if not I’m still more than happy with it. And if there are any modders willing to take a look I have the schematic.

What I find really sad is that it appears Ampeg has discontinued the GVT series as of Jan 2014 (they still show them on the website but the link for “find a dealer” as well as the “buy now” link produce “0” results). Seems every so often they try another run at the guitar amp market but just can’t get close to the success they’ve had with their bass amps. Could be because they didn’t promote them very aggressively. Bottom line is if you get the chance (and a low wattage ass-kickin amp is on your radar) grab one while you can.

My Jet City JCA20H and Me – 4 Years of Tone SoakedBliss

My little tone monster’s 4th birthday!

Jet City JCA20H guitar amplifierIt was 4 years ago today that I hauled ass to G.C. here in Phoenix to grab a Jet City JCA20H. I say “hauled ass” because I had been watchinig the news feeds for an indication that Jet City had shipped their first amplifiers. It was 3 or 4 months previous that I found out about this new company that boasted Michael Soldano as one third owner and that he designed the flagship model JCA20H. With promises of “100% Tube Tone and 0% Bullshit” at affordable prices they had my undivided attention! Then I got wind that they had shipped the first units. I called G.C. and found out that they only had one left, which explains the “hauled ass” statement. I also grabbed a couple of the JCA12S cabs to complete the package. Just for reference, over the years I’ve used a bunch of different amps (all tube of course). From MusicMan, Kustom, and Peavey, to Fender, Marshall, Mesa, and Ampeg. All good amps for sure. I never had one that I would call bad, they’re just all different. Like most of you I’ve been on a quest for that elusive “tone” the entire time. The Ampeg came the closest, but it was a 300 watt monster SVT with the 8×10 cab (I paid $275 for it in 1975). Not very practical for an apartment dweller. I gotta say even though the sound pressures were freaking brutal (I think the term “ear bleed” was coined for this very amplifier), the “tone” was unreal. Fast forward a couple of years (33 years actually) and I have my little tone monster and I couldn’t be more pleased. It nailed that tone in my head spot on. I bought it without trying it in-store simply because I Jet City JCA20H 100% tube tonehad convinced myself that if Soldano put his name on it then it had to meet a certain level of performance and quality and I love his hand built creations, so with a WTF attitude I bought it and here we are. It’s gone through a few modifications here and there. Started with the cosmetic stuff like the steel baffle, LED accent lights, and burghundy snakeskin Tolex, then the internal stuff like the tone stack mod, a depth mod and a choke. It goes without saying that I went through some tubes to really dial in the tone like we all do when we get a new amp. So after 4 years what’s my opinion of this little beast? Put it this way: I never hung on to ANY amp for more than a year,  maybe year and a half because I had to keep looking for “the right one”. 4 years on and it’s still with me. On a scale of 1 to 10 the Jet City JCA20H scores the coveted “11” in my book. And just like everything else “tone” related, YMMV.Jet City JCA20H modded

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Loose Vacuum Tube Repair

Quick fix for a sloppy vacuum tube socket

Vacuum tube sockets are generally pretty sturdy, unless you change tubes frequently. And let’s face it: when the quest for tone bug has it’s teeth in you, the odds are you are going to try different tubes and/or tube combinations. Nothing wrong with that as it’s a time honored tradition among guitarists. What it leads to, unfortunately, is the occasional loose tube. This can be frustrating when they break contact intermittently. Each pin on the tube slides into its own little hole in the socket and inside that little hole is a split metal contact that grips the pin by tension from that contact.
Over time, even if you don’t change tubes alot, those contacts get spread apart to the point they no longer grip the pin and that’s where the trouble starts. But I have a super simple method for restoring that gripping action with a quickness. tool for repairing vacuum tube socket
All you need is a tool like in this picture. This paticular tool came in a set that has a straight tip, a hooked tip, a 45 degree tip, and the one I use for this repair, a 90 degree tip. You can actually make one but it’s going to need a handle for gripping and twisting as you will see.

(WARNING: (you’ve no doubt heard this before but for both our sakes here it comes again) tube amps contain lethal voltages that can kill you. And I mean tag-on-the-toe dead! Always drain the capacitors of these voltages before venturing in, and keep one hand behind your back while working in there. If you are uncomfortable working around these hazards, don’t. If you just plain have no idea what you are doing, you need to learn first. There’s a ton of info on this subject all over the net.

This is for a head. If you have a combo you will need to transpose for that type amp.
The process is simple and there are two methods.

Method #1 (for amps that have bleeder resistors to drain the capacitors):

Turn off the amp and unplug the power a few hours berfore attempting this repair.sloppysocketfix3

1. Remiove the front baffle form your amp
2. Remove the tube(s) that is loose
3. Starting with Pin #1, insert the tool into the pin hole to the outside of the metal contact
4. Gently twist the tool towards the center of the pin hole.
5. Now insert the tool on the other side of the same contact and twist towards the center again.
6. Repeat for each pin hole then go on and do the rest.
7. Repeat the process for any other sockets that were sloppy.

You don’t have to Jethro the thing, be gentle cause those contacts bend super easy and overdoing it could deform them or even break them and you don’t want to have to replace the whole freakin’ socket.

Method #2 (amps without bleeder resistors)

1. Pull the chasis and drain the caps (see warning above)sloppysocketfix1
2. Perform steps 2 thru 7 of Method#1.

That’s it except you should get some electronics parts cleaner and clean the pins on the tubes while your in there. They get oxidized so it helps a lot with contact.

Replace your tubes and button up the amp, fire it up and rock out!

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Jet City JCA20H Baffle MOD

Jet City JCA20H Baffle MOD using expanded metal.

I bought my Jet City JCA20H the week they hit the stores, and I bought it without test driving it. I never considered it since the thing was designed by Soldano, plus everything I had read leading up to the first shipment going out was all good. I was not wrong. This is one of the ballsiest straight up rock & roll amps I’ve ever plugged into. After dialing it in with a tube upgrade and a minor internal mod I decided it needed a facelift. What i came up with was the expanded metal like Soldano uses on his mega-buck models. And it should work for most tube amps with some minor adjustments. It definitely gives the amp a “SOLDANO” vibe (fig. 1) while increasing the airflow to the tubes.  So it isn’t strictly cosmetic. And with this type of baffle you can add LED lights to illuminate the tubes and other shit inside. The whole thing costs about $30 but you get enough materials for two baffles. So you can make one for the back side of your amp or make one for a buddy. (click image for larger view) I also put a video up on YouTube a long time ago, but you’ll get more detailed information from this article. If you want to check out my video, here’s a link to it. JCA20H_baffle_MOD

Expanded metal at Home Depot (fig. 2)

What you’ll need to do this mod:

  1. Expanded or perforated metal at least 6″ x 20″
  2. 1/2″ coupling nuts with 6-32 internal threads. (4)
  3. 1″ course thread screws (drywall screws work pretty good for this) (4)
  4. Computer case thumb screws (4)
  5. Dremel with reinforced cut-off wheel (good tin snips will work if you don’t have a Dremel)
  6. Medium to fine metal file (1 or 2 of each)
  7. 100 grit and 400 grit sand paper
  8. Masking tape (painters tape if possible so it doesn’t leave any residue)
  9. Lacquer thinner (or some kind of solvent. Alcohol works in a pinch)
  10. Self-etching automotive primer
  11. Black spray paint. Flat doesn’t look to good but semi-gloss or high-gloss will work just fine.Illustrated instructions for baffle mod

Start by removing the factory front baffle by accessing the screws from the rear of the amp. Check the opening for size. For the JCA20H it will be 17 7/8″ x 5″. The 5″ height measurement puts the lower edge of the new baffle even with the top edge of the chassis. I added 3/8″ to mine so it would extend just a bit lower than the chassis. And If you want to roll the edges inward you need to add a little all the way around to compensate.

Clean the new metal with solvent to remove the coating of oil. Then figure your cut lines and tape them off (fig. 4). The tape will act as a guide for cutting. Clamp it down tight to a solid surface and cut along the tape with the Dremel (or tin snips). (fig. 6)
NOTE: Watch out that you don’t mark it to cut in such a way that it will leave razor sharp points along the upper or lower edge. They not only look bad, but they’re freakin’ dangerous too! (fig. 5)

Once that’s done take a file and clear any burrs or sharp pieces of metal from the edges. Then sand both sides with 100 grit paper followed with 200 or 400.

Primer both sides and let it dry. Then apply the color coat. Several light coats with adequate drying time between coats will give better results.

Next, cut the heads off the 1″ screws (fig. 3) and force thread them into the coupling nuts. You may need to hit the screws with a file just a little to make this easier.

Hold the new baffle against the face of the amp and mark 4 mounting locations with a scratch awl of a Sharpie marker. Drill a hole at each mounting point and screw the coupling nuts down tight. (fig. 8)

Hold the new baffle against the coupling nuts and fasten it in place with the knurled thumb screws.

That’s it. All that’s left is to reattach your Jet City badge and you are ready to rock.

In my next post I’ll show you how to install LED lights.  And I’ll show you how to power the LEDs internally from the amp, including an on-off switch so you don’t have to use an external power adapter.

Jet City JCA20H with baffle mod and LEDs

Preamp Tube Maze

mesa spax7-a preamp tube

Preamp Tube Maze of Confusion

Preamp tube (12AX7) selection is a subject that will return as many opinions as there are guitar players. It’s the preamp tube maze of information and opinion (or should I say MIS-information) If you research any “preamp tube” (or any other vacuum tube or “valve” for that matter) on the net like I did, your head will be filled with so much conflicting information it just might explode! The thing is, it’s not exactly wrong information, it’s just that the sound generated by tubes is subjective. What sounds good to me might sound like fingernails on a black board to you. That’s a bit of an exaggeration to illustrate my point, but even slight variations in construction or materials will change the tubes character which can, and often will, make or break a valve.
The Maze

Alot of cats really like the JJ brand. In fact that was the first swap I did to my Jet City JCA20H. I hated them and could not get them out of there fast enough. They were way too trebly while being flat in the mids and lows. Thus began my trek through the vacuum tube maze. I ended up with just about every 12AX7 variant from almost every brand over the course of 4 months. I tried matched sets as well as every combination available to me in order to find what I was looking for. There were several that I liked but only one combinaton nailed the tone I was chasing: V1=MESA SPAX7-A / V2=MESA SPAX7-A / V3 (or PI)=RUBY 12AX7AC5HG+ (although I can swap the RUBY with an RCA-NOS and I can’t tell any difference). (note: the MESA SPAX7-A preamp tube will cost a little more but it’s money well spent in my opinion) And believe me, I spent some money here folks, but in the end itwas all worth it. All of the other tubes I found to be either too harsh or muddy or flat sounding so I gave them away to some cats I met over at the Jet City Facebook page who needed replacements but couldn’t go the bucks for a new set at the time. Some of them are still in use because they like them, which only goes to show that tone is subjective. In fact I didn’t write this post to push my opinions about tone on anybody. Everyone has that tone in their head that they’re chasing, and what works for me may not work for anybody else. Of course you have to factor in the amp you’re using which creates a pretty big variable even between amps of the same make and model. No, I wrote this hopefully to entertain and maybe enlighten a little bit. It was a crazy 4 months slogging through the preamp tube maze, and my non-playing friends just didn’t understand and thought I was an idiot for spending so much money on these little glass gems (and top preamp tubes for guitar ampsthey’ll never understand). Even with all the blown money and time spent trying to locate certain tubes and the anticipation when I’d score something different and race home to swap them out then cranking up the amp only to be disappointed with the results and the aggravation of it all, it was worth every bit of it the first time I cranked her up with the right tubes in place. Suddenly all of the negatives just faded into memory and I couldn’t stop grinning like and idiot. I still get that feeling every time I play. Since this adventure I’ve toyed around with various overdrive pedals (a subject for a future post) and vibe pedals, but I can play without any of that shit and just use the tone stack on the amp to get any tone I could ever need. After 30 years I finally found my holy grail. I hope in some way maybe this story will help you find yours too.vacuum tubes in use and glowing

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