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State of the Art? An old bald guy reminesces & rants

4/16/2000 7:28 AM
Rick Erickson
State of the Art? An old bald guy reminesces & rants
I remember waaay back when I was in High School that the joke about Marshall amps was, "They're the greatest sounding amp in the world - for 10 minutes!" We're talking Plexies & early metal panels here. I always felt that the early Hiwatt amps had more problems, esp. in the bias circuit. And Orange amps would heat the screen resistors so hot that they would melt the solder and fall out.  
I didn't see many tube Vox amps back then but the Thomas Organ solid state stuff was the pits. Let's not even talk about the Fender solid state line... Yech!!!  
In the 70's guitar production in the USA was so bad that the Japanese companies came in and almost took over. Three bolt Fender's were a joke - the Urethane coating on the neck was often thicker than the frets, and covering over them! Gibson Les Pauls were O.K. but nothing special. Yamaha was producing some very competetive guitars at this time. Of course 50's Les Pauls were in the $1000.00 range but who had that kind of money for a guitar? Not me! I even passed on a Blue Sparkle Fender Strat w/Vib bar for $500.00 even though I thought I might be able to get $1000.00 for it at the time (early 80's). The Vox guitars as well as other cheapies: Teisco's, Harmony, even Danelectro's couldn't be given away. The truth is that we can build amps and guitars today that rival the best available then, and they can be more stable and playable. I appreciate a well restored original but the I choose to play more modern equipment on stage. If you call a '68 Deluxe Reverb modern...  
My stage guitars are very convincing replicas of early '50's Tele & Strat. The Strat was built two years ago with Warmoth body & neck and has surprised many players that it wasn't an original.  
Young players today have so much equipment to choose from it's no wonder they're confused about "which guitar/amp is best?". I don't care as much for the production amps coming from the big guys anymore, mainly from a service standpoint. A customer calls up and wants a pot for his new amp - I have to ask him to bring in the amp before I can tell him whether I have a suitable part or not. Used to be that a 1M pot fit a Marshall, Fender, Ampeg, Vox, Traynor etc.. Nowdays every amp uses some specialty PC board mounted thing that is unique to only that model. I really do wish someone would design a solid state amp that sounded as good or better than the tube amps we so love to play guitar through. I hate being a slave to the tube manufacturers. Trouble is I've been waiting for over 25 years for it to happen!. A very real concern of mine is that surface mount technology is threatening the supply of regular passive components that we take for granted. Components with leads may well be the next rare NOS commodity at premium prices. I have heard concern about this from an engineer friend who works for a major meter manufacturer around the Seattle area. Sorry if I bore anyone here, I have just been fed up with the long threads of non-musical equipment rantings out here so I decided to start something else. Anybody else remember the "Good Old Days?"  
RE :-)
4/16/2000 12:48 PM
Winnie Thomas

I started playing in the early 60's. and played near full time until the early eighties (That's when I decided to have a real life). I had so many guitars and amps throughout those years, but they were just considered guitars and amps. I agree the seventies were the pits for fender (with the possible exception of the Precisions) I was a bass player throughout the 70's. When I decided to get back into music a few years ago, I was amazed at the large assotment of guitars and amps available, as well as the ridiculous prices for old pieces of wood with electrics on them. That's what ultimately brought me here. Anyway, I currently have a Japanese Strat and two eary Ibanez Aritst models. I used one during the early 80's and found it to be an excellent instrument and very affordable.  
Well, there's my rant for the week.  
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4/16/2000 5:42 PM
Rob B.
Rick's point about the difficulty of repairing many modern amps raises a general issue with consumer electronics design.  
Starting in the 1960s, Consumers Reports helped change the way products were designed. No longer could companies easily get away with shoddy designs. Many companies had to stay competitive by making a better product for less money. Unfortunately, with the exception of automobiles, Consumers Reports ignored issues such as how easily repaired is each model. In fact, many technicians will take issue with Consumer Reports recommendations based on just this issue. I wonder whether it would be possible to pressure the various music industry magazines that evaluate new products to begin to SERIOUSLY rate repairability of products focusing on both construction and whether parts are proprietary or readily available. Wouldn't hurt to put some pressure on Consumer Reports with regards to consumer electronics either. Some of these companies won't provide parts after a model has been out over two years!  
Yes I know that "Repairability" is not a word.
4/16/2000 6:45 PM
Steve A.

    Good point! I do think that "Father Time" is a good indicator of which amps proved to be reliable and repairable... but 20-20 hindsight doesn't help someone buying a new amp! 8-)  
    It would be a good idea for GP, et al, to have an amp tech evaluate all of the amps that they review, just to get his opinion on things. As for parts availability, in lieu of a crystal ball, the company's past performance on earlier models would be a good indicator...  
    I think that new amps like the Peavey Classic 30 are designed to be disposable; if one of these were to develop serious problems you'd probably just want to scrap it— the more times you take it apart the more it falls apart, with pot bushings stripping out and hinged jumper wires cracking... Unless you have built a test rig specifically for this amp, you need to reinstall the "house of cards" circuit boards back into the chassis just to test out your repairs.  
    For an amp like this I think that Peavey should stock stuffed boards for 7 years after the last amp is sold and if your amp was to develop serious problems with the boards, they should change out the boards at the factory for a reasonable price (no more than 1/3 the price of the amp when new). A policy like this would restore the confidence of many of their ex-customers who had gotten burned after buying one of the "lemons"...  
Steve Ahola
4/18/2000 4:26 AM

I believe the old tube amp stuff is the best. I can repair most of the problems, the rest I take to the local tube amp guru. They need more care than many new amplifiers, but its worth it for the sound I can get. That new electronic tube simulator star trek stuff is just not the same. I got a '64 Super Reverb, 68 Garnet Pro with a old Fender 2x12 (I just got my Sunn Solarus going and pair it up with a 4x12 sometimes, as well as an assorment of other tube heads I have aquired). With both amps I can get such a variety of texture. I havent been playing as long as you guys though, I began in 85 when I was 10, and survived the onslaught of solid state. I must say that my jam buddies (who are all in their 40's and 50's), are a main reason I even discovered and could even afford to buy the gear I got from them (each piece under 250 bucks). Blues sound better playing through tubes. By the way I just converted my younger brother who is a bass player over to tubes. He has a few old Traynor Bass heads and loves them. I too love his new sound, way smoother and warmer than solid state. Here in Canada many don't want their tube stuff. My friend just picked up a 66 Fender Twin for 200 bucks, thats like 10 bucks for you Americans. Anyways thats my 2 cents, I will keep looking up to you older men who stick to this old stuff. Its is true, things get better with age.
4/16/2000 8:36 PM
Steve Dallman
Re: State of the Art? An old bald guy reminesces & rants
I'm with you almost 100% Rick. As an old bald guy myself, I went through much of what you did. I did have a great time though with the SS Thomas organ Vox's. Our band in 1967-68 had a lot of them. I actually like the second channel of a Beatle/Buckingham/Royal Guardsman etc. I repaired a Buckingham not long ago and when I plugged it in I was 16 again. I still have a SS Fender that I keep just to remind me how bad a SS amp can be.  
Good point about the surface mount stuff. I hope your powers of prophesy are not as good as your powers of observation.
4/17/2000 4:14 PM

>>A very real concern of mine is that surface mount technology is threatening the supply of regular passive components that we take for granted. Components  
with leads may well be the next rare NOS commodity at premium prices....<<  
Oh Shit! Does this mean we have to stock up on caps & resistors with leads now? It's kinda sad to think that in the future we'll be buying NOS turret lugs, etc.. I'd hate to think about tube availability by then.  
I'd better hurry and build a few more amps before it's too late.
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