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Why all the dumping on Dan Torres?

12/31/2000 7:58 PM
Mark Lavelle
Why all the dumping on Dan Torres?
Why do so many postings here dump on Dan Torres so vehemently? Is he the Hillary Clinton of the vintage amp world?  
I've never had him do mods or repairs for me, but I've been getting parts and pretty good advice from him for a few years now (we're both in San Mateo, CA). I've also tried a few of his guitar tone circuit mods (installed by me), with mixed results.  
I've been (very) slowly getting my old Ampeg 'Gemini I' back to something like its original glory (tonally, if not cosmetically), and he's never steered me wrong or tried to sell me anything I didn't ask for. His "Inside Tube Amps" book has also been helpful, even if it desperately needs professional editing. My only real problem with Dan is that he seems to actually believe that his CAD work is something special, while I find it just OK, and sometimes sloppy/confusing.  
So why all the negative noise about Dan? Is he just a victim of the religious wars between the vintage amp 'purists' and those who think tweaking is OK? Can anybody here really say he "butchered" their equipment (I was once told he had that sort of reputation)? Let's hear some specifics, not just flames & noise...  
-- Mark
And now, a word from our sponsors:

12/31/2000 9:19 PM

Look at this:  
Look at all the pictures then look at the amps in the ampage gallery and see if you can see the difference.  
I remember reading once that Torres recommended matching phase inverter capacitors for capacitance value and changing all values to anyhting with a 3 in it. .022>.033 etc. The theory was that the matching would improve the sound purity and the 3's were mathematically somehow centered on the frequencies and harmonics that most guitarists play in A D E etc.....  
The general discussion at the time was that if anything the matched caps would have very very little if any mathematical difference and no audible difference. Same for the 3's.  
Worst of all, Torres never presents any data to support such mystical claims. Some of his ideas are neat but the application and testing and verification look to be poor quality.  
Be wary my friend, his rep is poor at best
12/31/2000 10:30 PM
Steve A.

    Having been the self-appointed defender of all things Dan I will address your points paragraph by paragraph:  
Paragraph 1: The first 4 pictures are of the rather ambitious (overly ambitious?) rebuild by Torres; the last 3 pictures are of a rebuild by Danny Russell. To compare apples with apples, here is a picture of the Torres Reverb King (an amp he built from scratch):  
Paragraphs 2 & 3: Matching capacitors for the PI: we buy matched tubes so why not match the values of the PI coupling caps as well? Would you use a .047uF on one half and a .022uF on the other half? Probably not, so why settle for a .024uF on one side and a .020uF on the other side? Maybe it doesn't make a big difference but since most of the better DMM's include capacitance ranges, why not match the PI caps that you use?  
    Here is what Dan had to say about the 3's:  
Tone Circuit Resonance. You probably don't know this, but amps and guitars are sometimes tuned to a specific resonance. An example is some older Martin Dreadnought guitars which are tuned to a G chord. They resonate at that key, seem to be more alive.  
    Quite a few old Torres Braced classic guitars, especially from Spain, resonate on the key of E.  
    Your amp resonates somewhat due to the caps chosen for the tone circuit.  
    Changing the cap values will change the resonant point and make the amp sound very different, and to some ears, very good.  
    My favorite change is to all "3's." I change the .047 and .1 mfd tone caps to .033 and the 250pF disk cap to 330pF. This makes a richer sounding amp, with a distinct midrange tonality. It seems to like the keys of A, D and E much better. Just a free experiment to give you something to think about.
    Many of us like using 330pF treble caps, and replacing the BF bass and mid caps with 0.022uF caps is a very common mod; using 0.033uF caps instead of 0.022uF should lower the frequency curve a bit (try plugging in the different values to the various tone stack simulators out there).  
Paragraph 4: Engineering types may be put off by Dan's "seat-of-the-pants" approach to amp mods, borrowing freely from the work of others going back to golden era of tube audio in the 50's. "If it works go for it!" Dan knows that there must be some scientific explanation behind these tricks, although he may not understand and communicate these electronics theories very well. This is from the introduction to his book:  
    That's what I am trying to do here. To help remove the specter of magic and chaos from these things [tube amps] and help you believe you can attain "magical" tone without Zeus coming down and helping you.  
    I love old amps. They are wonderful and sound fantastic. I'll bet you do too. So lets make some!
    Noble thoughts from a businessman, so it makes you wonder why Dan has been a virtual pariah in the on-line amp community. He was one of the first techs to publish articles on modifying amps so it could be that he was not unlike a professional magician who broke the unwritten law of not revealing the tricks behind the "smoke and mirrors". I can see how demystifying the art of amp mods would make him an enemy of those people with a vested interest in keeping the "tricks of the trade" a secret.  
    It is easy to kick someone after they have been knocked to the ground, and in Dan's case, with his errors in grammar and spelling and his poor grasp of electronics theory, it is like shooting ducks in a barrel...   ;)    
Be wary my friend, his rep is poor at best  
    I must agree with that statement... Dan certainly seems to be the man that everybody loves to hate. But it is often overlooked that he was building and selling tweed clone amps in the early 80's, when all of the big amp manufacturers were going for the high gain sounds of Boogies and the master volume Marshalls.  
    Respectfully submitted by:  
Steve Ahola
12/31/2000 10:04 PM

In the interest of making this not look like a "witch hunt" or a popularity contest, I'll go out on a limb here and put my money where my mouth is.  
I was a customer of his years ago when I was getting my feet wet, and I found him at first to be a good source of knowledge but as I got swimming, I found his mods all seemed to derive from older circuits from other amps (if they weren't directly copied from them) - though I've never seen him give them their due credit. I also found some of his advice to be poor and his instructions to be bordering the negligent on occaision. Examples? Easy. Here are a couple:  
His "bullet proof" mod - a resistor across the OT secondary (seen decades earlier in Ampegs) and diodes off the plates (seen again, over a decade earlier in Musicman amps). Nothing new under the sun. Give credit where it's due, is that so much to ask for? IMHO it would be the right thing to do, and would not hurt sales. No one else was (is?) offering the variety of mod kits that he does after all.  
His master volume circuit which he claims in his literature is available "no where else in the world" was available decades earlier in Orange Amps. I guess the UK is "no where else in the world"? ;)  
His "mid boost" was used first AFAIK by Boogie.. (sticking a resistor in between the tone stack and ground). In any event, it pre-dates his amp biz, and again he seems to infer through his literature to have invented it.  
When I ordered his bias kit, it is supposed to come with 1 ohm resistors. (they are there in the ad, and also there are instructions on how to use them in the instructions) Mine came without. I called up and asked if maybe someone forgot them and could I have some pls.. (I did pay for them after all..) what I got back from Dan was "they're too expensive so I don't include them anymore". 5 cent resistors? Gimme a break! You sell a bucks worth of parts for $15 (or whatever it was) and stick it to the customer over a dime's worth of resistors? There's customer service.. That left a very bad taste in my mouth I have to say. I was very dissapointed in that treatment.  
2 guys I know bought full-blown ($1k+) custom amps from him, one of which never worked right and the other Dan cancelled BC he refused to use a metal grill over the speaker which the client wanted. (is that so wrong?) To be fair, I know a 3rd guy who had his amps modded by Torres and it sounds good and has worked ok. But one out of three is not so good IMHO.  
For "negligent" - on the dual MV instructions he wants you to put the terminal strip SUSPENDED over the eyelet board by the cap leads. Now for those not too accustomed to Fenders, the far end of the board where the PI is is also where the B+ take off points are, and they are just waiting to short to that terminal strip when it comes down. (and it will..) Further, there is a mounting screw RIGHT THERE which he doesn't want you to use for no apparent reason. (I used it, I reccomend it to anyone to use it!). When I mentioned it to him, lets say he was not receptive to the idea. He insisted that floating in the air was a better place for the circuitry. I guess he's right. ??  
Last, his hackery is legendary. I have been in a number of first rate repair shops where they literally keep the "Torres" stickers on the wall like chits from amps where they have returned the circuit to stock for the customer.. No one has anything against him per se, it's just what he does to amps that eats us up.  
It's not a bunch of disgruntled anon posters out in cyberland.. there is a very real population of people who have been treated poorly by him and/or who have become savvy enough to see him in a different light than he would perhaps like. What goes around comes around. You build great amps, and no one has to undo your work..  
After several bad experiences with him, I stopped doing business with him at all.
12/31/2000 10:41 PM
Mark Lavelle

Well none of that is good news, for sure.  
I'd already had a hint of Dan's shameless self-promotion (if not intellectual theft) side, but those workmanship issues sound pretty serious. Luckily, I've never had any intention of having him touch my gear (I'm too cheap & enjoy the tinkering).  
I guess I'll try getting my advice here, and stick to using Dan as a parts supplier (being local, I don't have the mail-order issues).
12/31/2000 10:57 PM
Steve A.
The "Torres" Post-PI Master Volume
    I believe that Craig Anderton had published a similar post-PI MV in the early 80's, but he had oriented the dual-ganged pot so that the wipers were going to the output tube grids. Marshall wired up the post-PI MV's the same way in their 4140, 2150 and 4210 amps. So did Orange have the wipers going to the output tube grids or coming from the PI plate resistors?  
    I ask because it seems like Dan will change one or two details just so that he can claim that an idea is his own (even if his changes are not an improvement over the original design). I have tried the post-PI MV both ways and it seems to work much better with the grids going to the output tube grids (sort of like a stereo volume control).  
Steve Ahola
12/31/2000 10:59 PM
Re: Why all the dumping on Dan Torres?
My first amp was from a Dan Torres kit after a few mods with the help of Gerald Weber it screams! Dan has a lot of good resources to get you going kits, books, parts, etc... Where you go and what you do with it from there is up to you. Gerald Webers tube amp seminar was a great experience for me.

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