Ampeg B-15 thread... first ever?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Ben Clarke, May 18, 2005.

  1. Ben Clarke

    Ben Clarke Liquidating to fund a new business. Buy My Gear!

    Jan 6, 2005
    Western NY
    I absolutely love this little amp. It seems like it gets mentioned time and again tangentially in other threads. I think it deserves some time and space to itself. There are a few variants out there, so go ahead and note what you've got - you may teach us something in the process.

    Mine is a B-15N with 3x6SL7, 2x6L6GC, and a 5AR4 rectifier. The cab is coverd in Tolex, and there's no plexi logo or anything. The driver is a square magnet, OEM-looking thing. I'm thinking CTS, but I'm really no historian with these.

    Driven just a little bit hard, the response is really amazing. The punch is just right for the sound I hear in my head, but when you get a drummer a bit excited, it runs out of gas. Using 350B tubes in place of the 6L6GC helped a bit, but they are very expensive. Using red-base RCA 5691 miltary version(I think-and I'm too lazy to check-sorry) in place of the cheesy EH 6SL7 made a noticable and more affordable improvement.

    I can't think of a better amp for recording as-is. Changes made upstream are reproduced well enough, and even the POS stock speaker mics up well with a large-diaphragm condenser of reasonable quality.

    So. anyway, tell me about your beloved B-15 (or B-18, for that matter). Any mods done to it? I've heard about low-pass filters in the circuit to help with output, anyone remove these?

    OK, dinosaurs, let's hear about those old crusty B-15!
  2. I'm jealous. And that's all I got to say about that.
  3. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    I have the same amp--it's the best sounding basss amp ever made, in my opinion. The highs are distinctive but buttery smooth, the lows are strong and not muddy: it's surprisingly loud. It always sounds good, sound like BASS in every situation. I have the same square magent cts speaker

    One "mod" I did was too replace the 5ar4 tube with a weber copper cap ( It plugs into the recto tube socket and is designed to reproduce the "sag" of a real recto tube. The advantage is it does not draw any current, so the power tranny runs cooler, with less strain, and you get a tiny bit more headroom. I couldn't hear a sound difference

    It's a mystery to me why no one has ever made a rack mounted version of the B-15 preamp. There are dozenss of fender showman clones. B-15 tone at high volues--I can dream...
  4. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    April 1st 1980 I was given as a present for my 12th birthday (was actually March 17th... but my Grand folks couldn't get to me till then because they were traveling) an early 70s Ampeg B15 with a Harmony bass. It was 4 months of paper route money + my old man putting in 1/2 to get a better bass and another 6 or 7 months of paper money + b'day and xmas money to get a better amp. I hated the thing. I remember plugging a walkman through it and it was worst sound I'd ever heard. I couldn't get anything close to a usable tone out of it and it farted like crazy when jamming with my bands (yes I was jamming and gigging within 6 months).

    that said, I was a metal head kid at the time and the amp most likely needed a complete once over by a tech. One tube always glowed like the sun and it made unhealthy pops and crackles.

    only time I ever liked it was pushing the 2x12" base to my old Fender Rhodes (hot rodded with just a preamp in it).

    I ditched it in 94 in a trade of old gear for stuff I needed when I sat in as a 2nd guitarist in a classic rock band for a summer.


    maybe some day I'll pick one up again
  5. :cool: If anyone is interested, Dr Woods Guitar Emporium, Fox River Grove, IL, has a new B-15, with the extra extension cabinet. He's had it in there for some time now and would really like to move it. He's offered me some real sweet deals on it, but I'm not in the market. Go in and talk with Buddy if you're interested in a new one. I think you might be happy with the result.

    And no, I don't work there, or make any money off of anything that's sold in that store. I just like the store and the owner, Buddy.
  6. FenderP

    FenderP Supporting Member

    May 7, 2005
    My pretty minty B-15N is about a '66 or '67. I got it for I think $500 back in like 1991 from someone who used to work at the Linden, NJ, plant. Original speaker, etc.

    The only mod is that it uses a 1/4" vs. the stock XLR.

    It literally went up in smoke in the studio once, and after I got it repaired, I no longer gig with it and use it elsewhere. It's just a studio amp only now. I'm too afraid something will happen to it.

    Over the years, I've owned a SB-12 and a later B-15N (the black tolex with the 70s Ampeg logo), and neither were exactly the same as my mid-60s blue tolex one in terms of tone.
  7. FenderP

    FenderP Supporting Member

    May 7, 2005
    I've come fairly close so far with my new Mesa Walkabout Scout 15" combo (which has the Walkabout head in it). I'm going to change out the tubes, which should get it closer. It's not dead on ... yet.
  8. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    I had the B15 head only for a long time in the 70s. I don't know what year it was. I bought it for $60 and had to replace the output tubes, which were cheap then. Also replaced the rectifier tube with a plug in solid state one which seemed to give it a little more guts.

    I made a small (maybe 2 cu. ft.) cabinet and loaded it with a 10" Mike Matthews speaker and used it for recording. It was great for that when close miced. Actually better, I think than a 15 for recording. The only thing that recorded as well was a Polytone Mini Brute I had around the same time.

    Also had a B18 for a while. It was a bit too muddy for using for much of anything so I sold it. It was in pretty good shape. Again, I don't know what year. The guy who bought it loved it.
  9. Ben Clarke

    Ben Clarke Liquidating to fund a new business. Buy My Gear!

    Jan 6, 2005
    Western NY
    JIm- those Rhodes cabs sound great! They help nail that Jaco tone, I think.
  10. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    In '74 I started up a band with my brother, best friend, and another guy. We rented a band house, and set about getting musical gear. I found a classic B-15 head for a hundred bucks, spent $30 on a Radio Shack 15 incher, cadged some plywood for the cab, and bought a Gibson EB-0. This didn't exactly make for tone heaven, but we had a great time anyway. Eventually I got an EV folded horn knockoff cab, with an Altec 15 in it. About the same time, I got an upright bass, which made for a very loaded '63 Volvo sedan. :cool:

    As I got into the electronic repair business, too many tempting offers for higher powered gear came along. I was seduced by a black tuck and roll Kustom head, then a series of marginal Peavey pieces, and on to the scary rack rigs with Crown DC series amps that ate speakers routinely. It took a while to realize what I'd lost in selling the Ampeg, but c'est la vie, eh?

    It's a mystery to me why no one has ever made a rack mounted version of the B-15 preamp. There are dozens of fender showman clones. B-15 tone at high volues--I can dream...

    Heh, I built one. Mine uses elements of the V4B design too though. Sounds great through a Schroeder 1210 and a big power amp, I can assure you. Still, it's a different vibe from a real B-15. Miking a real one is the best option for more volume with that tone, IMHO.
  11. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    though I did play my bass through the rhodes cab a few times that I didn't have my Bag End rig set up... specifically I liked the b-15 between the rhodes and cabinet :bassist:
  12. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    I've still got my '64-65. It's in great condition and has all of the original stuff on it. Ted Weber had an original basket for the CTS speaker that he wanted to test a recone on so he reconed it and sent it to me as a freebie. Great guy and the speaker sounded exactly like the original that I put in a box to save.

    With the old P bass the amp has that old Detroit thing going on. But it's funny how with a 5 stringer that B string is just rolled off.

    I know a Lady down in the Sacramento area that plays blues through her old B-15N with an extension cab and she fills the room playing her Mustang bass.

    Mine doesn't get played through much these days. :meh: I really do need to get it out and be reminded just how wonderful the old stuff is.
  13. Funkster


    Apr 6, 2000
    Wormtown, MA
    My 70's B15-N, I just got it a few months ago and I love the thing dearly. No matter what I plug into it sounds great.
    I paid 5 bills for this one in March. The only thing I had to replacee was the gasket. Other than that she's mint!
  14. OK, that's it. Funkster, you just pushed me over the edge. I can't take it anymore. I've got GAS! :hyper: Where's the checkbook and the car keys?? BTW, what was I thinking not having a B15? I'll thank you in advance for the reality check!
  15. Funkster


    Apr 6, 2000
    Wormtown, MA
    I hear ya, Especially you of all people, The King of amps..
    Here let me help you out a little bit.
    You need a B15, You need a B15 You need a B15 :D :D

    Seriously I didn't need it but It was there and my vintage P sounded KILLER through it so like you I wipped out the checkbook and there she is. No Regrets whatsoever. I'm going into the studio next month as a hired gun, Guess what I'm bringing with me ;)
  16. Just when I thought the GAS could get no worse. :bawl:
  17. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    Funkster when are you going to add a V4 to your herd? :D Great thread so far guys. Ben arent you near the fliptop company?
  18. Funkster


    Apr 6, 2000
    Wormtown, MA
    Believe it or not I have been on the hunt for a nice V4B and/or B25B, I almost had a sweet V4B someone was looking to trade here at TB but we couldn't get the deal together.. :crying:
    Sooner or later I'll have the whole family of Ampegs :cool:
    I would love a V4B for gigging!!!
  19. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    I owned a B-18N from the blue diamond years and I LOVED it, it had no mods on it.The tone was big and full and round, and it even sounded pretty good on a 5 string.
    I played through a B-15N blue diamond series, these were the standard for all the "wedding bands" in New York in the 60's, and it was buttery smooth.
    I also had a 70's model with the black toltex with an altec lansing 15in it (that didn't really fit properly due to the round magnet).I never thought that the 70's amp sounded as good as the older 60's style B-15N's.Unfortunately for me, I always wanted the "newer" "bigger" amps that were coming out, and so I got rid of them all over time,too bad really because they were bass heaven. I guess I should have just miked them.
    I was fortunate enough to discover the old AMP bass amps though, and later on Dave "Thunder" Funk, and all is well again....
  20. Ben Clarke

    Ben Clarke Liquidating to fund a new business. Buy My Gear!

    Jan 6, 2005
    Western NY
    Yup. He's North side of Buffalo, about two blocks from my guitarist's house. I'm up in Niagara County, though.

    Speaking earlier of B-15 tone done loud, my head runs through some Bill Fitzmaurice horn cabs, and is very, very loud, with great extension for the low B of my StingRay.

    Sounds quite different that way, really. Part of the sound, I think is the limitations of the design as much as its capabilities. Being on the edge of cone break up and power amp saturation sounds pretty good. Touch is important with these ole girls.