A word of personal experience when it comes to buying tube
amps on eBay – count on investing at least another couple hundred
dollars getting your cool vintage amp up to speed and reliable,
especially if it’s from the ‘70s or earlier.
Your auction find will most likely require a new set of tubes, new
filter caps for the power supply – very important, as old electrolytic
capacitors dry up with age, causing 60-cycle hum, “ghost
notes,” tube failure and possibly complete amp failure – and a new
speaker. Speakers can suffer from age, and blow as soon as you
play through the amp for a half hour.
Replacing the speaker in an old amp is not always a bad thing.
It is one of the most dramatic mods you can make to an amp to
improve the tone. I’ve had old amps that sounded absolutely anemic
until I installed a new speaker.
If you take an amp to a tech to have them recondition your vintage
snag, be careful with what you ask them to do. Make sure
they do as little as necessary to make the amp stable and reliable
without affecting the amp’s tone. I’ve heard many a sob story of
an amp sounding amazing when purchased, only to sound terrible
upon its return from the repair shop. This usually means the tech
got carried away changing out more parts than absolutely necessary.
This certainly isn’t to say that all techs don’t know how to
improve the tone of an amp; you just need to know your tech well
and trust his judgment. Only replace what is necessary.
Well, that does it! Next month we’ll cover a specific list of things
to ask your tech to do to your vintage amp.