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.

Peter Stroud