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CeriaTone 5e3

2/8/2006 9:55 AM
CeriaTone 5e3
I know this is a builders' forum but I still think this info might be useful, especially, if you're like me -- handy with a soldering iron, willing to tweak a product but short on time. So:  
I recently ordered and received a completed 5e3 chassis from CeriaTone, the Malaysia-based company whose prices for a finished chassis generally undercut the charge for a kit from U.S. builders. Here are a few observations.  
What I got was somewhat different than what was pictured and described on CeriaTone's site, but not in any way that bothered me. Here's how:  
1. Site said I would get a black powder-coated chassis; what I got was black enameled with what appeared to be a clearcoat over the enamel. This is better, not worse. It's a very nice chassis. (I wanted the black because I'm putting this in a white Tolex case).  
2. Site shows finished product with Sprague Atom and Orange Drop capacitors; I got power filtering caps of unknown origin that had CERIATONE printed on them and the Orange Drops were replaced by mustard-style caps of newer, smaller design. Not sure of any of the product origins but the caps did appear to be of quality construction. I was good with this, too...I prefer the newer cap designs because they're smaller, making the chassis easier to work with and probably more reliable, and I'm highly suspicious of the "these caps sound better" school of thought. Time will tell if these caps will hold out, though.  
3. Site showed a brass-truss-rod grounding scheme but the amp I got had been star-grounded to a lug off a power transformer mounting bolt. I suspect that any painted chassis is a poor candidate for anything other than star grounding, and the pictures on the site featured the more expensive chrome chassis, so it's possible that the chrome one still uses the truss rod. Still, what matters is that the grounding works, and this grounding scheme resulted in a VERY QUIET amp. Had to crank it up all the way to hear any hiss at all.  
And here is what is the same as what I saw on the site:  
1. Wiring quality is FANTASTIC. This is why I bought a finished chassis and I am quite pleased. The wiring is beautifully routed and a model for amp builders everywhere. All solder connections are shiny and appear solid. A finished CeriaTone 5e3 is only about $70 more than the kit version, and this is the best 70 bucks I've spent on music purposes in a while.  
2. Parts are mounted on what appears to be some kind of phenolic board instead of the old-school fiberboard. This is a good thing.  
3. Delivery was not a problem, just as the site claimed. I received the finished product two weeks after I ordered it, even though it was built and tested after order and it had to travel from Malaysia to the USA. Product was packed extremely well although a couple of nuts on the switches did loosen -- an easy fix. Note that this got here way faster than my built-in-the-USA cabinet, which I don't think I'll see for several more weeks.  
Most importantly, the amp matches the Deluxe layout and parts scheme, with the exception of the star grounding. Not shockingly, when I fired it up, it immediately acted the way I had been told a Deluxe would act -- a little bit of headroom and then right into overdrive by, oh, '3' on the volume knob. Unfortunately, I found this isn't terribly great for a harp player like me, because the thing almost immediately goes into fits of feedback.  
I'm calming it down with lower-gain pre-amp tubes (probably all the way down to 12Au7 for both pre-amp tubes), cleaner JJ power tubes instead of the NOS Marconi Coke bottles I had been using, the Mission Amps tone/volume mod and possibly a cleaner/lower gain harp mic like a Shaker crystal (I normall use bullet mics with very hot Shure elements -- sort of the harp equivalent of a humbucker).  
Should be fine with these tweaks; underlying tone is great! Overall, I'm satisfied.

ted m Cool info randy.I b... -- 2/8/2006 12:48 PM
Howard I've been wondering how that tone c... -- 2/9/2006 8:14 AM