Amp Longevity

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by FF Petro, Aug 15, 2022.

  1. FF Petro

    FF Petro

    Feb 16, 2004
    I’m stuck at home with a leg injury and passing the time playing bass. I was thinking about my amp, it’s a 1990 Mesa Buster! Bass 200, it’s 32 years old now and is working well.
    If tube amps are so easily repairable and customizable, what would cause them to be shelved or discarded?
    Also, do manufacturers have a certain amount of projected lifespan for their products?
    Lastly, if Mesa made (let’s pick a nice round number) 1000 units is there a formula that can be used to estimate how many are still in use.

    just some of my thoughts on a slow day.
    Thank you for humoring me,
  2. rickdog

    rickdog Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2010
    A couple reasons I can think of:
    • Weight. When you can have five times the power at one tenth the weight, a modern amp starts to look really attractive.
    • Cost to repair. Even if all that's needed is output tubes, that can get expensive (especially at current prices). If something goes wrong and actual diagnosis and repair is needed, just finding someone who is competent to work on it can be difficult, and those techs are often in demand, so they can charge more.
    If a manufacturer isn't considering the product lifespan during design, they're probably manufacturing junk. Ask @agedhorse, I'll be he could write a book about the tradeoffs involved in designing amps that are both reliable and affordable.
    1. You blow a transformer and don't want to pay to replace.
    2. It no longer turns on or makes weird noises and you figure it is not worth paying someone to figure out or fix so you can it
    3. Custom boards or components fail and are hard or impossible to find/replace (yes, even in old tube amps)
    DJ Bebop and Riff Ranger like this.
  3. SURVEY SAYS!!!! +1. Especially if you are an actively gigging player and have to cart stuff around all week.
  4. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yeah @agedhorse is uniquely qualified to answer this question.

    (Every couple of months I feel the need to point out how AWESOME it is that he shares his knowledge with us so freely. To say he's a resource around here is an understatement. Thanks, Andy!)
  5. Razman

    Razman Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    Head or combo? 115 or 210? I had the 210 wedge in the past - it really was a little beast when atop a 410 cab.

    Where are you seeing tube amps being shelved or discarded? They certainly seem to command some good prices from what I've observed, and that has always been a puzzler to me. The tech is so old - usually older technology gets cheaper, but somehow tube amps are still expensive.

    LMK if you see any 400/400+'s lying around for only a few bills...
    Dust2Dust, mikewalker and Riff Ranger like this.
  6. The cost of those repairs.
    Probably, but likely only internally, nothing for public consumption.
  7. Not so much a formula as it might be a matter of gathering statistical data about known failures and comparing that to their internal estimates of longevity. Tracking the nature of those failures would be useful in sorting out potential design flaws. These could result in changes to the next version or to provide service bulletins about upgrades for existing gear.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  8. JC BASS 91

    JC BASS 91

    Oct 22, 2021
    SW Missouri
    This right here.

    I have an early 2000s Peavey FireBass 700 head (roughly 75lbs), a 2x10 (about 75lbs), a 4x10 (right at 100lbs) and a 1x15 (about 65lbs). While the amp still rocks and shows no signs of kicking over, and the cabinets are great, the idea of lugging any combination of cabinets and amp to practice or a gig makes my back hurt just thinking about it.

    I just ordered a Fender Rumble 500 combo amp. A 2x10 combo amp at 350 watts at under 40lbs? I'm in. I have played one locally and really liked it. I will leave my Peavey with the 2x10 and 1x15 in my den for home fun. May give the 4x10 to my son and let him find himself a head to drive it.

    I'm just getting too old to haul around the heavy stuff anymore.
  9. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    I acquired my Buster 1x15 combo four years ago for a good price … but within a year, I had to pay that price again to have it serviced :banghead: It sounds good but I’m not convinced it sounds significantly better than the lighter, less bulky, less touchy, less expensive offerings that Mesa and other reputable builders have introduced in the quarter century or so since my Buster combo first left Petaluma in the ‘90s.
    lomo likes this.
  10. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    Any amp, tube or solid state, can be fixed.

    Some low end amps are made with budget components and are not worth fixing. It could involve a chassis up rebuild. Then again, when they become desirable by nostalgic players like the ones from the 60’s, they become worth resurrecting.

    Some solid state amps have parts that are not available. Work arounds are possible but tech bench cost can be the limiting factor.

    I have a Hammond organ that’s over 80 years old and it performs like new. My B-15N is 59 years old and is better than new. Both can continue being in service as long as there’s someone that can perform maintenance.

    A manufacturer bases the lifetime of an amp on the warranty and the after warranty support that they are willing to offer. A designer has no idea how long their product will remain in production and what the street service life will be. If replacement parts are available, indefinite.

    I see the weakest link as original speakers. Factory recone kits after a speaker goes out of production generally are not available for many years after production ceases. Again, there are always work arounds.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2022
  11. FF Petro

    FF Petro

    Feb 16, 2004
    I’d like to correct myself, my Buster was built in 1998 so it’s only 24 years old. I have the 210 wedge. I have been weight lifting and working blue collar jobs most or my life. I would not say the amp is particularly heavy but it is awkward to carry.
    I guess with the longevity questions, I was more or less thinking about how difficult it was for me to find and purchase a roughly 20 year old amp.
    The Busters were in music stores when I graduated high school. It was the amp I wanted but couldn’t afford, but I had hoped someday I could.
    When I finally had the funding to get the amp I had always wished for, the amp that was ubiquitous only a decade earlier seemed to be few and far between.
    Thank you again
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  12. Bass amps tubes are not very desirable now because of Class D, for guitar !! keep and fix them great $ in tube amps. I have a 60's Bassman head used as a guitar head and it sounds great.
  13. I kind've doubt that in 1974 when my Fender Twin and Ampeg V4B were built that the designers were thinking much about product life beyond lasting maybe 3-5 years before needing service. Ampeg, for example, did not anticipate the production demise of the 7072A tube. In fact both companies were either in ownership transition (Ampeg) or struggling with a poorly managed acquisition (Fender/CBS) in 1974 and product lines were changing rapidly.

    Things we take for granted in 2022 in terms of product quality, QC, reliability outside of warranty, 6-sigma, were not practice for most industries, least of which guitar amp and instrument makers. A new automobile had a lifetime of 5-10 years before you could count on it rusting out and the engine and tranny dying.

    So I would think that most people working at amplifier companies would probably be quite surprised if you told them back then that 40-60 years later their products were not only working, but in high demand! It is a testament to the quality of some of the designs and the modular commodity components that were used to make those old beasts.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2022
    Methaneman, rickdog, JRA and 3 others like this.
  14. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Qualify that Mesa doesn’t make junk. And they never have. Also qualify that tube amps are cool in my opinion.
    Whew, that’s better.

    Now the post:

    Manufacturers don’t want you to buy one thing and keep it forever any more than your boss wants you to do one assignment and coast until you retire. Design longevity is a balancing act.
    Dust2Dust, Basslice and Riff Ranger like this.
  15. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    I hear that. I recently reacquired something similar to my high school rig (and it sounds like we’re close in age) because I had regretted moving it along. Fortunately classic Peavey gear remains widely available and often fully functional even 40 years after leaving Meridian for the first time :bassist:
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2022
    Al Kraft and Basslice like this.
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Ampeg is the only company that sells tube bass amps in serious quantities anymore. Maybe Fender does OK with them as well. But Mesa currently doesn’t make anything but micros for bass and hasn’t for about 8 years now. Everyone else quit except boutique builders who don’t have to sell as much as a major company, and most of them concentrate on guitar and do bass as an afterthought.
  17. Stewie

    Stewie Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    I sold a Peavey TNT 130 a few years ago that was built in 1997. I’d had it for at least twenty years. The on/off switch failed, cost me about $2.50 to replace it. It sounded as good/mediocre when I sold it as it did new. It had been rained on, dropped off the tailgate, and had numerous beer spillage occurrences. I changed the grill cloth to Fender style, but no other mods or fixes.
    NigelD and Slough Feg Bass like this.
  18. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Amen to that, for a brief time B-15N's were rather difficult to repair, because the Output Transformers didn't exist for as few years and you either had to find a NOS one or have your's re-potted. Now days you can just
    go to and get whatever you need because due to the vintage bass amp market and the B-15N's reputation. The demand for repair parts is there
    Basslice likes this.
  19. AlexanderB


    Feb 25, 2007
    That is not 100% correct. Orange is still making the AD200 in decent quantities, and I think you will find Ashdown tube amps as well.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2022
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