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Dan Torres: Hackmeister or fellow AMPAGER-at-heart?

1/16/2000 7:47 PM
Steve A.
Dan Torres: Hackmeister or fellow AMPAGER-at-heart?
    I see attacks against Dan Torres posted here regularly for promoting the "hacking" of vintage (and non-vintage) amps. Since many of you may only have second- or third-hand knowledge of his "alleged crimes", I thought that I would write up a short overview of the 34 articles in his VG Reprint booklet to give a more balanced picture of what he is up to.  
    Seems to me that the vast majority of these articles deal with the same mods that AMPAGERS do every day: adding a bias adjustment pot, converting an amp to cathode bias, replacing a 2-wire AC cord, using isolated jacks and shielded cable for the inputs, et al. Only one article describes something that would probably be considered to be a hack: adding a dc-coupled stage ahead of the cathodyne PI on a SF Princeton Reverb (originally with a p-p boost switch- how many of you out there consider this to be a "vintage" amp?). And two articles do mention removing the #2 input jack and mounting a mid control there. BTW none of the articles suggest that any holes be added to an amp chassis other than for a bias adjustment pot.  
    The text of my write-up follows, or you can download it as:  
Survey of Torres article in VG Reprint Booklet:  
"Deluxe Power" (rewire filter caps in series to increase voltage rating for DR)  
"Fixing a Reverb/Questions" (standard troubleshooting tips plus...)  
-Bassman RI? (replace recto and/or V1; notes that tone stack uses BF components, not tweed)  
-Ampeg tubes? (suggests that amp be rewired to replace 7027 and 7591 tubes)  
-EL34's in BF? (he says that it won't turn it into a Marshall)  
"Ampeg Tricks" (rewiring amp to replace obsolete 7027 tubes with EL34's; mentions an adaptor available to replace 7591 tubes with 6GM5's; can replace 500k reverb pot with 250k to turn off reverb in an old Reverboverb- but asks "why would you want to turn off the best reverb in the world?")  
"Getting Some Class" (comments on Dave Funk's conversion of Twin Reverb to Class A in VG [HACK ALERT]; mentions legal case establishing depreciation of a valuable instrument ("a work of art") when used for performing music)  
"Bright channel and Bright switches" (changing bright cap values; adding bright switch to DR w/ p-p pot)  
"Capacitor Upgrades for your Fender Amp" (a survey of caps available to "improve your amp without changing it"; mentions tuning a BF tone stack to different keys- 330pF treble/.033uF bass & mid caps seems to work well for the keys of A, D and E.)  
"Messing with Your Midrange" (changing mid resistor or pot; adding a mid pot [HACK ALERT])  
"What the Hell are Filter caps?" (an overview with tips on replacing old power supply caps)  
"Repairing a Bias Supply" (troubleshooting and repairing bias circuits)  
"Blueprinting a Princeton Reverb" (adding 1k resistor to cathodyne PI; using matched sets of caps and 220k resistors in PI; adding screen resistors)  
"Heat Up That Normal Channel" (changing caps and resistors for Normal channel to get a hotter sound; splitting up shared cathode components on V1 and V1; adding mid pot [HACK ALERT])  
"MusicMaster Magic" (replace some resistors and caps to make it a better amp for guitar)  
"Department of Corrections Department" (miscellaneous notes: Marshall OT color codes, SPST switch for cathode/fixed bias from Tom Schalipp of Germany)  
"Prince-Tone: More Power to Ya" [HACK ALERT] (notes on wattage ratings; mentions his Prince-Tone mod which adds a DC-coupled stage ahead of the cathodyne PI- but no details!)  
"Deluxe Reverb II Tricks" (rewiring bright switch for a more BF-ish sound)  
"Shut Up, Mr. Marshall" (tips on adding a "switchless ground switch" to these amps by decoupling both sides of AC to the chassis through 0.1uF/600v poly caps added to power socket)  
"Innocent Inputs" (rewiring Fender input jacks with different value resistors; tips on quieting down the input by using shielded cable and mounting grid stopper on tube pin, optionally with 150pF cap from the grid to ground to cut down RF interference)  
"Tweakin' Tubes" (tips on what tubes to use for a typical Fender BF amp)  
"Rescue a Deluxe Reverb II" (adding adjustable bias; rebiasing amp for 6L6's)  
"Que Pasa with Cathode Bias" (rewiring a SF Princeton Reverb for cathode bias)  
"Fixing the Racket" (replacing 2-wire AC cord with a 3-wire cord)  
"Reverb on Both Channels of your Fender" (moving 2 wires to add reverb to the Normal channel)  
"The Immortal Amp" (adding in-line fuses to vintage amps on CT of PT and OT; MOV on AC input; large resistor across speaker jack; larger screen grid resistors on power tubes; spike supressors on power tubes- no details on last 3 items)  
"Get That Vibrato Working!" (tips on troubleshooting and repairing vibrato problems, including Fender Service Bulletin #9: "Vibrato ticking cures")  
"Grounded in Reality" (notes on ground loops and star grounding; using isolated jacks on inputs)  
"Fender Bassman Magic!" (notes on rewiring AB165 PI circuit for NFB with optional presence resistor "the circuit changes are simple and can be reversed if you don't like it")  
"Better Bias" (notes on improving bias supply; add 10 ohm resistor between cathodes of power tubes to ground for more balanced response)  
"Adjustable Bias Conversion" (notes on adding a bias adjustment pot)  
"VG Champ Kit" (replace 2 caps and 7 resistors to change sound of BF/SF Champ)  
"Top Ten!" (Dan's 10 favorite guitar/amp sounds on recordings, from Roy Buchanan, Arlen Roth, Howard Roberts, Mike Bloomfield, The Sentinals, Danny Gatton, Dick Dale, Hellcasters, Al DiMeola)  
"Kill That Master!" (notes on removing MV and/or Boost switch from later SF Fender amps)  
    So how do all of you vote on this issue— Hackmeister Supreme, or not?  
Steve Ahola  
P.S. To be far, his catalog does place much emphasis on his amp mods, which can involve replacing the eyelet board of a BF or SF amp. But his target audience for those mods is someone who has a vintage (or not so vintage) Fender amp and really doesn't like the stock sounds or performance features. While it could be argued that a person like that should sell his BF/SF amp and buy an amp that meets his needs, this still is a free country (US) and it is his amp to do with as he pleases...  
    If people like Dan Torres didn't have mod kits available, then that option would not be as readily available, and the player would have no choice but to sell his amp and buy something with channel switching or high-gain overdrive. So the agenda of his opponents seems to be to flame him on-line every time his name comes up so that maybe people will just ignore anything that he has to say or offer.  
    To be honest, I value the posts here at AMPAGE more than the information in Dan's articles and books. But unless you get a notebook computer with a wireless modem, how can you read through the AMPAGE BBS forums while sitting on the toilet? (Well, I do save and print out some of the threads here... 8-)
1/16/2000 8:57 PM

Got to agree with you, Steve.  
" While it could be argued  
that a person like that should sell his BF/SF amp and buy an amp  
that meets his needs, this still is a free country (US) and it is his amp  
to do with as he pleases..."  
I've never bought ANYTHING I didn't think I could improve (and in some cases, did ;>/ ). Flame on .  
These are mass-produced TOOLS, after all --not art. The art comes out of them...if you're an artist.  
Chucking rocks at someone else doesn't really accomplish much, does it?  
Book Of The Day The Ultimate Tone, Volume III by Kevin O'Connor
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1/17/2000 5:38 AM

I'll disagree a bit. Looking through the list of  
articles, I see an awful lot of "HACK ALERT"  
warnings which tells me he's recommending/doing a  
lot more to vintage amps than just replacing old  
caps and changing to 3-prong power cords. The list  
has articles dealing with increasing power,  
changing the biasing method (to cathode-  
bias), modifying the tone stack and frequency  
response, etc., all completely changing  
the character of the amp. This doesn't  
mean much if the amp in question is a brand new,  
readily-available amp; hack away, they'll make  
Unfortunately, his mods focus on BF  
and SF Fenders and other vintage amps. Not only  
are many of these amps highly desirable in STOCK  
condition (Who would mod a BF Deluxe Reverb?), but  
more importantly, these amps are of a finite  
number -- you just can't buy a dozen NOS BF amps  
of the shelf.  
This complicates things for collectors  
of old amps and especially for players wanting  
those classic tones. Torres-modded amps do not  
come with a mandatory warning label "Warning: Amp  
modified by Torres. Original value and/or tone may  
be lost." Every time a highly desirable BF amp has  
a Torres mod put in, one more original amp falls  
off the market and the value of the original  
amps rises even further out of purchase range for  
the average player.  
The truth is, if you have any  
vintage amp (I've been using BF amps only for  
example), it would make a lot more sense to sell  
the amp in today's high-priced vintage market and  
buy a newer (and cheaper) amp that has all the bells  
and whistles (and often gain) that you're looking for.  
Your BF Showman doesn't have enough gain? Sell it  
for $1000 to $1500 and buy a Crate/Peavey and three  
different distortion/overdrive pedals. You get what  
you want and there's one more clean, vintage amp  
out there for me to find.  
From personal experience, Mr. Torres and his  
mail-order mods have only made my quest for clean,  
vintage amps that much more difficult and  
discouraging. Yes, it's a free country and people  
can do what they want to their amps. But that  
doesn't require you to throw appreciation and  
common-sense out the window because you want your  
1959 Fender Bassman to sound like a Soldano SLO.  
The basic difference I see between Mr. Torres and  
AMPAGERS is that AMPAGERS modify what they own  
to get tone; Mr. Torres modifies other people's  
amps to get rich.  
1/17/2000 6:06 AM

I'm not disagreeing with you but I don't think Mr. Torres is rich. I've been to his shop and it's like any other shop if not smaller. He's been really nice the few times I have met him and before AMPAGE, I really appreciated having his mods around.  
Another thing is that he doesn't go to people to modify their amps - they come to him. The collectors will choose to avoid him and the guys that are not happy with their amps - vintage or modern can choose to go to him or not.  
1/17/2000 7:39 AM

<< (Who would mod a BF Deluxe Reverb?) >>  
well i had it done by an ampager pal,  
with no hacks or holes.  
ch.2 w/ rev.-vibrato bone stock for regular use.  
normally unused ch.1 rewired IN PHASE w/ ch.2  
and with reverb and slightly diff. tone stack.  
now i can use either ch. for diff. tones  
(both w/ rev.) or switch betw. them w/ A-B pedal  
or even jumper them, if the spirit moved me.  
(it hasn't so far)  
what's the beef? :)  
1/17/2000 7:53 AM
Steve A.

    I appreciate your input, but I'd like to clarify two items you mentioned. The "Hack Alert" notation was added in to make it easier for people to find the items that might be considered a hack. One of them was in fact listed twice, and that was converting the #2 input jack into a mid pot. Has anybody here done that? And one of the items was in reference to an article by Dave Funk on converting a Twin Reverb to cathode bias. Which leaves the last "Hack Alert" being his general description of his Prince-Tone mod for a PR, which would probably be regarded by most people here as a hack.  
    The other item I'd like to clarify is regarding the Deluxe Reverb. It is the Deluxe Reverb II amp (w/ the p-p boost switch) that is covered by two of his articles; the older DR's are only mentioned in the article about boosting up the voltage rating of the power supply by running two 70 or 80uF caps in series (instead of the stock arrangement of two 16uF/450v caps wired in parallel). As a matter of fact this particle mod was discussed here at AMPAGE recently and most of the amp techs thought it was a good idea. (I'm sure that mod- and the other ideas presented in his articles- are not original with Dan, but he does a service by presenting them to the general public.)  
    But you do bring up a good point: I was thinking of Dan Torres as the author (who generally shows much respect for vintage amps in his writings). But as you suggest he is also the owner of an amp shop, and his catalogs tend to encourage people who don't know any better to ship their older amps to him for modifications (which will generally lower their resale value and could very possibly make them sound worse and not better). That dual identity could lead to a conflict of interests, with his shop hacking up a vintage amp that he himself might leave stock if it were his own amp.  
    Here at AMPAGE we are looking for ideas to implement in our own guitar amps, and it is the ideas presented by Dan in his articles and books that I consider to be relevant here. In other forums where most of the people are non-technical players, the main question is whether or not to ship an amp to him for mods, and I'd have to agree that it'd be better to check with a local amp tech first (perhaps even an AMPAGER). There are some easily reversible tricks that can customize a Fender amp to a particular player's taste, style and technique, and these have been discussed at great length here (as well as from a single viewpoint in Dan's writings). Bottom line is that I like to read what Dan has to say, but I take his suggestions with a grain of salt and I'd rather do the work myself anyway (as would most AMPAGERS- right?)  
Steve Ahola
1/17/2000 8:26 PM
My final rant...
It's kind of funny that after reading all the posts  
to this thread, we all seem to be in basic  
agreement to a certain degree. We all treasure an  
immaculate and classic amp and wouldn't think of  
drilling holes and adding lights and the like to  
a true vintage amp. However, we all tinker in what  
we consider lesser amps and like experimenting a  
little as long as it's reversible! We all stand  
pretty much on the same side of the line, but all  
you have to do is say "Dan Torres" and we draw  
another (unjustified or justified?) line between us.  
I have read some of Mr. Torres articles and I do  
find them somewhat useful for homebrew ideas. He  
is definitely no amp pro -- I think John Stokes  
pointed out his occasional technical mistakes --  
but he does give some good ideas to try on any  
amps I might consider wiring up myself. In this  
respect, Mr. Torres is more valuable to me as an  
author than the guys who write product reviews at  
Guitar Player.  
However, as Steve correctly identified, it is his  
side business of selling mod kits and modifying  
vintage amps that tends to get under my skin. My  
major beef here is that there are only so many  
clean, vintage amps to go around and the market  
for players (versus collectors) is drying up more  
and more every day. To the general uninformed  
tube amp owner ("What's 'BF' stand for?" Duh.),  
the idea of adding an inexpensive, high-gain, mod  
kit to that old amp in the attic that dad used is  
a lot more appealing than trying to appraise and  
sell the amp and then shop for an amp he wants out  
of the hundreds of amps out there. That kind of  
general public ignorance drove the dodo bird to  
extinction, and clean, original vintage amps are  
next. It may not be making Dan Torres rich, but his  
mod kits are motivated by business and profit, NOT  
the desire to preserve the BF amp species.  
So my final verdict is that Dan Torres is both a  
fellow AMPAGER at heart AND a Hackmeister. It  
just depends on which hat he's wearing that day  
and what kind of package his "help" arrives in.  
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