Vintage SVT- Not sure what I've gotten into

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by SuperDuck, Jun 19, 2002.

  1. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    My dear, wonderful friend Jimmy is cleaning out his basement. His basement is a cornucopia of equipment and old... stuff. ANYWAY, he currently uses a newer SVT and 2 8x10 rig, and likes it better than anything else. So, he's getting rid of the stuff in his basement that's taking up room.

    Like his vintage SVT rig, which he's giving to me. I saw it briefly tonight; it's a 300-watt two channel SVT, which he bought used in 1975. The first channel has selectable mids that are on a rocker switch, as opposed to the knob. Each channel has two inputs, Bright and Normal. (I don't know if there were different models of SVTs in those days.. but that's what I've got. :D) It needs new tubes, and a few repairs, but I think I can handle paying for those. At the very least I can re-tube Channel 1 and do the other when I feel like it.

    This is quite a step up for me, in terms of amplification. It sure beats the hell out of the Peavey combo I'm using now! But I have a few questions-

    1.) At the moment it doesn't work. Considering I'm getting the head AND an 8x10 from the same year for free, is it worth re-tubing and restoring it?

    2.) Is there someplace I can date it using a serial number?

    3.) Would the long-term upkeep costs of a vintage tube amp outweight its usefulness?

    I have to admit, amplification, especially vintage, is something that I am totally in the dark about. Any help anybody can offer would be appreciated.
  2. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    My bassplayer friend has a vintage SVT that is just like the one you described. IMO it sounds better than the newer Ampegs, and is built like a tank. I would go ahead and get it fixed up. Once you fix it as long as you take decent care of it it should hold up fine. The only problem is it might get expensive to fix it depending on what's wrong with it now.

    Now we just have to wait for Psycho Bass Guy to give you the real lowdown.
  3. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Worst case scenario... Sell it afterwards and make a hefty profit :D
  4. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    Me too:D
  5. Me three!

    Psycho is right. That thing is a jewel in the rough. You've lucked yourself into my dream rig. As soon as you get that thing in your vehicle, take off, drive fast away from the guy before he changes his mind. :D

  6. BFunk

    BFunk Supporting Member

    One warning though -- you will get addicted to the sound! Play this for three months and then try a solid state amp. You be wondering where all the tone went.
  7. Your friend must be a saint...he's just giving you a vintage SVT? Wow.

    If you don't want it, call me. ;)
  8. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Yeah, I realized I'm getting a steal here... Jimmy's the coolest guy in the world. That's why I wouldn't feel right selling it just to make a profit.

    PSB- Thanks for all the info. I was a little worried about maintenance, but if all just hype, I'll definitely make an effort to get it repaired. I contacted Ampeg and they already sent me a list with qualified technicians in my area. (I wish I could talk to that guy who writes for Bass Player- he specialized in vintage SVTs!)

    14 tubes... sheesh. My guitarist buddy told me I could do one channel at a time- last time I listen to him. :rolleyes: Even if it's NOT the tubes, what would it cost me to re-tube the whole amp? Would it be a good idea to do so after a certain amount of time?
  9. Check out for a great price on great replacement tubes. The guy who runs it is super helpful.

    If it's too much trouble i'll send a truck your way to take it off your hands.;)
  10. tonru


    Mar 15, 2002
    i kinda understand your friend;helluva nice guy.keep that friend if you do nothing else.
    - for NOS tubes i can't think of anyone better than KCA. they carry a mullard CV4004(12ax7)that is considered a little hi-fi for guitar amps,but may be just the thing for the ampeg(if you need a retube).both triode and eurotubes have a good reputation. i went with watford for my power tubes,but that was for a guitar amp where the desire is for power tube distortion.
    good luck with your ampeg. i hope it doesn't need a retube actually.i'm curious what came standard in the old ones.?
  11. MrGump


    Apr 20, 2000
    You have no idea what youve got! Thats GODs own amp!
    Im the original owner of a very early SVT.And Ive been trying to find something that sounds as good with less weight for about 30years now!With no luck!
    FIX IT!! and KEEP IT!!
    When you finally play through it,you will smile from ear to ear.Its a religious experience.
    That amp is so great it will effect the way you play.Each note sounds so great,you'll find yourself playing less notes,because the tone makes them that much more effective.
    Listen to Psycho!Id buy it too!
    I have a question for Psycho,thats appropriate to this thread.Why do you reccomend the KT88s?What is the tonal difference between them and 6550s?Or is it a power/headroom issue?
    One question for the new owner:If he gave you an 8x10 SVT bottom,does it have the handle and casters?Or is it a typical rectangular cabinet?
  12. Excellent! I'm another guy who'll take it off yer hands if you don't want it.....:D

    Psycho's right on the money about tubes and techs, etc. so I won't bother with a spiel. You do need to find someone with a bunch of SVT and old tube amp experience to go through it. If it hasn't been fired up in a while, it wouldn't hurt to gradually power it up with variac. If you're getting it for free it will be worth the effort and cash to get it working again. Once it's back in prime working order, it won't cost you much if you take care of it.

    As far as I'm concerned, a real SVT eats all other bass amps!
  13. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    That is the one downside- it's basically a big rectangle. No castors, and I don't recall any handles. I'm willing to put up with it, and I can always put handles on, which I'm planning to do.

    Well, with all the enthusiastic responses I've gotten, I'd be a fool NOT to restore this amp. Thanks, guys. :)
  14. Rickenbackerman


    Apr 17, 2001
    Laurel MD
    That's the old-style cab. The ampeg book says they went to the tilt-back design in 1977. There should be plastic strap handles on the sides of the cab. The handles look the same as the ones on the head. Also, those rectangle cabs came with dollies just like the portaflexes... he may have that too. I wouldn't modify it in ANY way - if it's totally original and in good shape any mods will lower the value!

    Definitately take it to a GOOD tech and have it serviced, keep it, and crank it up!
  15. MrGump


    Apr 20, 2000
    I asked the question about the cabinet to help date it.I thought the wheels and handle appeared earlier then '77?.
    The early cabinet may(with LOTS of luck) still have a tiny paper label near the input with a production date.
    These early cabinets(no "shopping cart"handle) are divided into more seperate compartments than the later ones.And most SVT owners think they sound better.
    I dont remember if the shopping cart handled ones are divided like the earlies or the later(black grille) ones.
    As far as modifying it goes,I wouldnt.Unless its already beat.With shredded or missing vinyl,grille holes or worn corners.
    The best way to move it around is with a hand truck.$35 at Costco or home depot.Use a moving blanket or similer also.
    I dont have a dolly or wheels for mine,just a hand truck.I like the extra rumble when the cabinet is on the (wooden) stage or floor.
    Use it! Dont make it a museum piece! Unless the bottom is absolutely pristine.If it is perfect,go buy a beat one to gig with.
    And there is no substitute for the original cabinet.
    If anyone knows of one,Id like to hear about it!
    I thought about a new ampeg 4x10-the one with the three rounded ports in the front/bottom,or a Henry the 8x8.But everyone who I speak to that tried,goes back to the original cabinet!
    And when you use TWO originals-look out!
  16. Hey, this is my first post here. I actually just had the same thing happen to me today. This guy at work was talking about equipment and said that he had an old Ampeg that was just sitting there. He said I could have it if I just came and got it. I went and picked it up and it's the exact same thing that is being discussed here. I know I'll probably get chastised, but I don't want the head. It lights up and makes sound, but it's distorted. I'd rather not get involved with it. I don't have the time or the cash flow.

    I'm keeping the cabinet. Anybody know the power handling of this cab? Also, how hard would it be to change the input jack from XLR to 1/4inch? The cab actually has the dolly wheels under it. The head is in really nice shape for having been gigged alot.

    I was posting over on HC and nobody seemed to have much information. They actually thought I was talking about the same amp that's being talked about here. Maybe it's just a good week for free amps!! Anybody interested in the head, feel free to e-mail me and I could hook you up with some pics and anything else you might need. I'm actually in the market for a newer Ampeg. Yes, I know that's almost blasphemy, but my band is starting to tour. I'd rather have something that can be banged around a bit...
  17. MrGump


    Apr 20, 2000
    Hopefully,you recieved the email I sent you a little while ago.As I stated I'll buy the head,if you dont want it.Im on Long Island,so shipping wont stop me.
  18. Yeah, I'd be interested in seeing what you guys might want to work out. Is there a way to post pics here? That would make it a lot easier...
  19. Rickenbackerman


    Apr 17, 2001
    Laurel MD
    PBG, I've got the Ampeg book, and it states that they changed over to the tilt-back cab design in 1977. It says all the ones before that were the rectangular on-the-dollie-style.

    Also, as for the power handling - it depends on the speakers. 240 watts seems to be the most common answer to the question. This is why the SVT always came with two cabs - guys kept blowing the speakers when using only one cab. The CTS speakers used early on were 30-watters, and the eminences used up until 1980 are supposedly 30 watts also, but there were a few variants. Most of the eminence drivers had round magnets, but the magnets in my '76 cab are square. High wattage altec speakers were also an option, allowing you to use only one cab.

    Again, this is the book talking...
    If ya can't tell, I've done alot of research on this! Trying to figure out what to do with my cab that sounds like CRAP prompted me - the speakers are going to Ted Weber for 50 watt 32 ohm recones.
  20. MrGump


    Apr 20, 2000
    Dont believe everything you read.Ive been an early Ampeg enthusiast for about 20 years now.Ive had many guitar and bass amps.I live about 20min.from Jesse Oliver,who does most of the repairs for me.
    My 73 catalog shows some cabinets with the handle and wheels.
    Usually what would happen is -as the supply of old design units runs out,the new design(handle and wheels) is introduced.