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more... GearBuilder ProfileAugust 2007Byers Amplifiers

Building on Tradition: an introduction to Trevor Byers and his amps

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What tubes have you been using?

Right now I am using Electro-Harmonix preamp tubes and JJ power tubes. I think the JJ 6V6 is a really neat tube. They can handle a lot of plate current, and they sound good.

If somebody wants a Model 10, how long would it take?

I have all of the parts ready to go, but I have a six to eight week lead time on the custom-colored cabinets, including shipping. It takes about four weeks for the paint to be completely finished, because it has to be perfect. It is a guitar finish on the Model 10 and it''s done just like any expensive guitar finish. The amps are built to order, though I may stock certain colors here and there.

Building on Tradition: an introduction to Trevor Byers and his amps It''s exciting to see the founding of a company with such an amazing product. Do you have a price set for the Model 10?

It looks like the Model 10 will be $1050, at least as an initial release price.

You spoke earlier of having several color choices and perhaps some clear finishes on nice wood available.

The cabinets right now are poplar for the solid colors, and ash or alder depending on whether the finish is a blonde or sunburst one, just like a guitar.

If someone asked you what your amp sounds like, what would you say?

Well, what I was trying to achieve was a combination of the tweed Champ and Princeton, combined with a blackface Champ and Princeton. I wanted to be able to combine all four of those amps together so you could get a really grungy, overdriven, tweed tone or a really clean, clear tone with or without tone controls.

Tell me about the K&F reproduction amp, is that currently in the pipeline?

That amp is 99% done. Because this amp has never been done before, and because the parts are not off-the-shelf parts, everything is different from what is currently available. Everything had to be done from scratch; transformers had to be custom wound, and chassis had to be custom made - and the chassis are not normal dimensions by any means. The tubes are all NOS tubes, because there is no current equivalent to them.

It''s an octal socket preamp tube isn''t it - a large base and pins like a power tube? What tube is that?

It''s a 6SC7 medium mu triode and a 6J5 triode in the preamp section. Each channel gets half of that triode. It''s a pretty low-gain tube actually; it''s not overdriving the preamp circuit a lot like the later 12AX7s often do. There is also a 5Y3 rectifier and a 6V6 output tube. Both input signals merge into a 6J5. Instead of putting one channel with one preamp tube, he made two channels that merged into one preamp tube. There''s one volume control for both channels. The circuit is a lot different than a modern amplifier. Leo was doing it to see if it would be functional, and it was very rudimentary and basic.

The octal preamp tubes give a really unique sound to the amp. They don''t drive it very hard, but it does put out a pretty thunderous crunch when you want. I am keeping it as historically correct as I can, with carbon comp resistors, Mallory 150s as the tone caps, and all cloth-covered wiring, which I don''t do in the Model 10. I am not trying to reproduce a look in the Model 10, but am going for the best possible sound, so I''m using all the best components and wiring by today''s standards.

You selected the components for the Model 10 by listening to them, didn''t you?

Yes, but the K&F is a little different. It''s not wired like you would wire something today; it has series heaters, so you get that hum in there that makes for a unique sound. The only changes I made were necessary for safety. Of course, there is a fuse in this one, along with a 3-prong AC plug. Other than that, it is rudimentary in every way. The tube sockets are spot-welded to the chassis.

Did you actually replicate the spot welds?

Oh yeah! Lots of guys would have riveted the sockets in place, but that was an extra expense, so they spot welded them.

It probably had a terrific ground connection.

It does. I found an original output transformer and power transformer and had Mercury Magnetics reproduce them for me. The speaker was a 10" Alnico plug-style speaker rated at 40 watts for a 5-watt amp, so it was way over-engineered for the circuit. Most Alnico speakers have a horseshoe shaped magnet, but this one has 2½" donut-shaped magnet. It was also used for higher-end audio and larger-wattage amps. It makes for a really heavy speaker, but it''s really neat. This Weber is the closest to the original speaker that is available.

How much is the K&F reproduction amp going to cost, and when will it be available?

I''m trying so hard to get it finished! I am talking to a paint manufacturer about the wrinkle paint we need, and if that works out we''re in business with getting the K&F out. We should be ready in October at the latest, and the cost will be about $1000.

Playing the Amps
I brought my 1987 hardtail Tom Anderson to Byers'' shop where I got to play through the first Model 10 off the line and a K&F Reproduction prototype. Here is a sample of what I heard:
Model 10
The Model 10 is a beautiful amplifier. If your favorite custom guitar builder built an amp, it would look just like this.

The Model 10 is clear and detailed in the way that only minimal circuit paths can be. Set clean, with the tone controls engaged and the feedback loop in, the highs and lows are well-balanced, the tone circuits do what you wish they would, and the result is a sound that makes you want to play more. Turn off the feedback loop and things get woollier and more tweed-like. Switch off the tone controls and the amp gets a more aggressive, throaty attitude going.
K&F Reproduction
The K&F reproduction amp is totally different from the Model 10 and totally different from almost anything I have ever heard. I can almost hear Charlie Christian playing one and I suspect that today''s players will find musical uses for this tone. The K&F reproduction is very big and a bit wooly-sounding, yet not muffled or dull at all. It gets pretty powerful sounding when you push it hard.

Byers Amplifiers
NOTE: Byers Amplifiers is in no way affiliated with Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. The reproduction of the K&F amplifier is done without the use of the original logo consisting of lightning bolt and ampersand/musical treble clef designelements currently protected by trademark number 77015321 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
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