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'74 Vibrolux Reverb

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Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 183
Location: The Great Northwest

PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 3:34 pm    Post subject: '74 Vibrolux Reverb Reply with quote

Well, sometimes Guitar Center isn't too bad. On Tuesday, I decided that my next amp was going to be a SF Vibrolux Reverb. Figured it would be a long search finding the right amp in the right condition at the right price and the right location. Last night, I walked out of a local GC with a super clean early '74, complete with footswitch and circa-1970 Jensen C10N's, for a very reasonable $1299 (and some free strings Wink ). This GC actually had 3 SFVR's in stock: my '74, a '72, and a '79. How often do you get to try three side-by-side before you buy??

Now the hard part - I have to sell my '73 Deluxe. I played them A/B last night for a couple hours, going back and forth. I wish I could say the VR blew the DR away, but that Deluxe just has a beautiful sound. At the end of the night, I think the main difference is a slightly more compressed mid-rangey sound from the Vibrolux, where the Deluxe really nails that classic Fender bell-like tone. I think this gives the VR a little more character, and seems to get me a step closer to the tones I like: JB with Merle and Clarence with Nashville West.

So, what's next? I'll be going to my amp tech today. For you vintage amp guys - what are my best options for tubes? I'm hearing good things about JJ tubes...
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Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 324
Location: Hermosa Beach CA

PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JJ's are a good choice for new tubes; personally, in a VR because of the lower stress on the "6L6" - types I like NOS Tung-Sol 5881's...they just make those amps shine, but they're not cheap.

But - don't retube unless you have to. Except for normal maintenance like cap jobs (definitely required, including the bias cap, if it's never been done) parts should be replaced only if th amp sounds bad. Tubes DO NOT have to be exactly matched, and in fact most amps sound warmer if they are off-match by up to 20% Beyond that, and they should be changed (unless the driver circuit has problems and is causing the imbalance). Basically, as far as tubes go - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If it sounds good make sure the electrolytic caps are fresh, have it checked for any seriously off-spec parts, have the tube sockets all cleaned and re-tensioned, all the pots cleaned/lubed (make sure your tech is a real tech and knows not to use contact cleaner in a pot - it'll destroy it), have all the jacks cleaned...and don't screw with it.

The one modification you will want to have him do is change it to an adjustable bias. It's cheap and an easy mod. Then play it while he biases the power tubes - start around 32ma and work up/down form there in small increments and listen at a medium-high volume. At some point you will find the "sweet spot" for that amps and the tubes in it - record the number as a guide if it ever starts to drift. Once the bias mod is done you can get a Bias Rite from WeberVST and change power tubes/bias them yourself!

If the power tubes are changed, make sure the driver is changed as well even if it seems OK. It's a critical tube. The other single most important tube is V2, the second preamp tube - it's the preamp for the vibrato channel, likely the one you'll be using. You can experiment here yourself with various 12AX7, 7025 (essentially the same) and 5751's (my favorite - slightly lower gain and warms the amp up considerably when cranked. OTOH, if you want higher gain stay with 12AX7's/7025's and pull the first preamp tube out completely. This kicks the gain up just a bit, but not as nastily as changing the driver to a 12AX7 (another trick some like...I don't).

Sounds like you scored - every once in a while GC has a good deal; it just depends on what they gave as trade-in value, as the selling price is set by the assistant manager and salesperson who did the trade-in.

And last - DO NOT sell your Deluxe Reverb. Are you nuts???
Razz That's one of the best Tele amps...heck, amps for ANY guitar....ever made, and although I have ton of amps one of the few 100% keepers is my '72 DR. You will kick yourself if you sell it. If it's a matter finances, find another will find situations more than you think where you'll wish you had it, and you have never heard anything like running a VR on about 7, a DR on 9, and an A/B/A+B the VR for clean, kick in the Deluxe for naturally overdriven leads, and run them both together to break windows.....

Hope that helps- -

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Joined: 03 Sep 2006
Posts: 130
Location: New Mexico

PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you have to sell the DR, sell it to one of us. If you sell it to me, I'll let you have it back when regret starts to kick in. Very Happy
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Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 183
Location: The Great Northwest

PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2008 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies.

Jim - most of your suggestions echo what I went over with my amp tech. He and the other guys in the shop have been doing this stuff for 30 some years, and are probably the definitive Fender amp source in the NW, so I've always felt comfortable dealing with them. The only thing we didn't talk about was the adjustable bias - I'll ask about that this week.

Regarding the Deluxe, well, I really need the money - my car blew a head gasket and needs a new engine - but you raise a good point. I'll find another way to deal with that. This '73 DR is the best amp I've played to date, and examples like this aren't getting any easier to find. I'd be stupid to sell it, so I won't.
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Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 183
Location: The Great Northwest

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, finally got the amp back today. Long story short, it's running like a well-oiled machine, and sounds great. My ears aren't yet developed enough to dissect the finer points of tone, let alone write them down, but the VR sounds very different from the DR, and I'm glad I kept both.

The visit to the amp spa DID set me back a good deal. I'll be keeping that in mind next time I go shopping - living in the Seattle area ($$$) means high shop rates and 8.9% sales tax. I was disappointed to find the Jensen's I had were actually 16ohm, so I had to either get them reconed to 8ohm or pick up some Weber's. Either way, that was going to take an unexpected bite out of my wallet: I decided to recone. The rest of the amp was very clean, and just needing some work on the inside, plus new tubes. While I had it there, I figured I'd get any necessary Blackfacing out of the way, so they did that, and now I'm running a GZ34 rectifier instead of the 5U4.

Overall, this amp ended up costing me more than I planned, thanks to the recone, but now it's out of the way, and I have two nice amps. Can't complain about that.

Next on my list, once I get an acoustic sold and some other needs out of the way:
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