True Vintage Tone ; Chasing Ghosts ?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by LevinFan, Jul 27, 2009.

  1. LevinFan


    Aug 4, 2008
    Louisville Ky
    Take a late 50's Fender amp. Say it's been serviced ten times since 1980, and has seen a lot of use. The original tubes are long gone. Caps have been replaced, and a few other things. Wiring and so forth. Assuming the original speakers are in good condition and no serious mishaps or abuse had occurred, does this amp truly sound like it did when it was new ? Can it be expected to ?

    What I'm getting at, is a vintage amp serviced with other than the exact original parts and tubes after these parts ran out of stock and ceased being produced, really the same amp tone wise ?

    If the consensus seems to lead toward "no", then it will help me decide whether to put money into an old Sano amp I bought off cl. I know todays tube makers are betting better, but what about caps and other parts ? How do these new parts affect the tone of these old amps ?
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    My opinion as a layman is yes. You may have to shop for parts carefully, but I think my vintage amps with new parts sound pretty great.
  3. LevinFan


    Aug 4, 2008
    Louisville Ky
    Hey Jimmy, it can't be denied they sound good, perhaps better. But do they sound the same as they did when new ? Perhaps I'm making too much of this, and there are other factors involved. I tend to listen to early sixties recordings to actually hear what vintage amp and guitar tone is. I just don't hear the same tone on new recordings.

    Perhaps it's the old mics of the era and the recording equipment. If so, it would seem there would be high demand for vintage reissue recording gear.

    I dunno. Dig the bass tone on this..
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Yeah, you're making too much of it :D

    We can't really go back and listen with our ears to examples of these amps as they were, we can only deal with them as they are now. Might sound better, might sound a little worse but still good, might sound dead-on the same. So many other factors play into it that it's moot. Just a tube change can make a difference.

    OTOH, a lot can be done to retain as much of the old character as possible. Some parts may be made by different companies but tube amps haven't changed much over the years. You get with a tech that can spec out the right stuff, there's every chance it will sound pretty much the same.

    And there's a huge demand for vintage gear in recording. Look how many studios still use analog tape. And even the digital studios like to record with nice old vintage gear to warm things up. An amp like that Sano would probably be looked on with great favor for what it can do.
  5. LevinFan


    Aug 4, 2008
    Louisville Ky
    Maybe my warped idea of vintage tone is crappy lo-fi recordings :p

    Seriously though, you are right. Modern tube amps that sound good today would have sounded good in 65 I suppose. Way too many factors when recording as well.

    On the Sano, I put taking it to a tech on hold and I've been studying it and shooting tons of pics of the preamp chassis. Looking for any signs of past problems. Arcing, evidence of overheating, etc. I can't find any. The original wiring and parts look fine.

    The amp hums a tad too much, so I tried tracking it down. I started with the tubes, and the first one I pulled was the 6U10. I got lucky. The amp quieted down a lot. The reverb doesn't work, with or without the proper f/s, and with the tube removed, I can't hear the springs rattle when I bump the amp like I could with the tube in. It's not the original reverb tank, and a tech who happened to bring an amp back to a a shop I was in saw me trying to find a footswitch for it and the amp caught his eye. He checked the speaker with a meter and determined it was an 8 ohm, and he checked the reverb tank. He said the input measured pretty high compared to amps he was familiar with, but said the amp might want that. Anyhow, the springs rattle too much with the amp cranked, so I'm going to pull it out until I find one that it came with or at least find the specs on the originals. The tremolo is sweet, but I still have to figure out why it won't work on the guitar channel. Hopefully, it's just a minor issue with the f/s jack.

    I got an RCA to 1/4" phone adapter and disconnected the 15 and plugged in my Avatar B210. Sounded ok at low volume, but not cranked. Maybe the 500 watt cab was too much for it.

    Anyhow, I'll drag it down to a shop after I pull the reverb tank and hear an extension cab with it and see how it really sounds. After pulling the 6U10 quieted it down. I went ahead and hit it hard with a Barber Direct Drive LG, and it sounds awesome, even with the cab missing the 2 8's. As is, it's an open back/open side cab without the 8's lol. Not an ideal way to shoot for the best sound. If it sounds tons better like I think it will with a decent cab, I may just cover the holes for the 8's, and remove the 15. Then make a panel for a 12 to cover the 15 hole. Throw a 12 in there and use a 112 extension cab. It will be easy to reverse such a mod

    The shop I deal with also let me take a Barber Dirty Bomb home to check it out. Scary how awesome it sounded playing metal riffs with a cheap Chinese semi hollow body with a heavy gauge (13's) jazz set tuned a half step down.

    I'm going to have to sell it though eventually and get a tube head for my bass. If I don't, I'll turn into a gui**** :bag: This Sano has been dominating my free time. That's good though, because I'm learning a lot about tube amps, schematic symbols and such. I feel I've already got my money's worth just for those reasons.

    So that's the plan. Since it's already modded for el34's, I'll get it sounding as good as I can, including fixing the f/s bug, and find a gui**** who has to have it. :bassist:

  6. GM60466


    May 20, 2006
    I just had my Versatone gone through. It was to the point that I was afraid to plug it in.
    The tech who did the work warned me that it might come back sounding very different. He called it a leap of faith if I let him do the work. All it took was a few connections resoldered, and a darn good cleaning.
    It sounds just about the same with just a bit more bottom

  7. Jim C

    Jim C I believe in the trilogy; Fender, Stingray, + G&L Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Where do I start?
    The same amp model had different tonal qualities from unit to unit when new beacause:
    #1 Many early tube amps did not use tight tolerance components and therefore have tonal variations from amp to amp
    #2 Over time, some manufacturers either had minor circuit changes or substituted components due to supply issues
    #3 Have had the opportunity over the years to A/B some tweed and black face Fenders that were dead mint with no repairs; there can be a big difference in tone

    In regards to repair:
    #1 Yes, many times parts were replaced with modern examples; caps are a good example
    #2 Which is better, using an old, used cap of the exact same type for service or a new unit; better specs vs. mojo
    #3 Change can be good; love old Deluxe reverbs and have used and recorded approximately 10 different models from dead mint to repaired; absolute best sounding unit had changed grill cloth, mis-matched tubes, some replaced caps, and a Celestion speaker

    My advice, have the tech use the closest replacement parts you can afford; they are all still out there, just expensive
  8. thumpbass1


    Jul 4, 2004
    I have to agree with Jimmy M. I've pondered over the vintage amp-vintage tone thing and we are dealing with the way these amps sound now, depending on how they've been maintained, tubed, and tweaked,etc. I'm old enough to have experienced how many of these amps sounded when still relatively new, or just considered older used gear, as so have countless other baby boomers. I was in a band in the late 70's where the lead guitarist owned two tweed era Fender Twins, which sounded fabulous, and were barely 20 years old back then! He got his dirt cheap, as no one in the Marshall stack loving 70's wanted to be seen playing through amps that looked like grandma's luggage. If those amps are still around to this day,in good maintained condition, they might sound a bit different then they did even 30 or so years ago, but it wouldn't mean they would sound bad or vastly different.

    There are no time machines, and hence we can't experience what these amps sounded like when they were brand new, when the speakers weren't broken in, etc, from a technical viewpoint. A good, well maintained vintage tube amp can certainly sound fantastic and that's the main point of having a great amp.
  9. LevinFan


    Aug 4, 2008
    Louisville Ky
    Gm,Jim,thump, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Probably a dumb question to ask I guess, but I learned some stuff.