ask amp man

Jeff Bober rocks the stage at the Maryland Music Awards with Rob Fahey and the Pieces, wielding a Kevin Brubaker model called the Extreme. Jeff currently plays in three bands and plans to perform even more frequently.
Photo courtesy of Maryland Music Awards

Our beloved Amp Man signs off after 13 years of answering readers’ questions from under the hood.

A big hello to all you Ask Amp Man readers worldwide, and welcome to yet another installment of your favorite column. But this is not just another of my monthly columns. No, this will actually be my last column. I know, hard to believe, right? You open or download your magazine every month and there's the Ask Amp Man column. It's been there ever since you can remember!

Well, you are indeed correct about that. Premier Guitar was launched in February 2007, and the Ask Amp Man column has been there since the inaugural issue. What you may not know is that I've been writing this column even longer than Premier Guitar has existed. Prior to the launch of the magazine under the name Premier Guitar, it was known as Musicians Hotline and it, too, had a column where you could ask an amp expert questions.

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Photo 1 — When a blonde Fender Showman head with a blackface control panel came into Jeff Bober’s shop, its tube array provided the Amp Man with a potentially unanswerable riddle.

This oddball 1963 Fender head demanded serious examination.

Hello Ask Amp Man fans! Once again, just when I think I’ve seen about every iteration of vintage Fender amp, another interesting one crosses my bench. This month’s beauty is a blonde 1963 Showman head (Photo 1) that just came into the shop.

You ask, “What’s so special about that?” Granted, we’ve all seen blonde Fender Showman amps before—at least those of us who are fortunate enough to see lots of great vintage gear have—but this one is transitional. Not just because it’s a blonde cabinet with a blackface control panel, but because it has some very rare transitional output tubes as well.

My theory is Fender may have wanted a more hi-fi sound from the amp—something with more fidelity—so they opted to use the
7355 output tube.

If there’s one thing vintage Fender amps are known for, it’s their use of 6L6 (5881) and 6V6 output tubes—as opposed to their EL34 and EL84 counterparts utilized in amps produced across the pond. This was pretty much ubiquitous across the historic Fender product line and was responsible, in large part, for giving the company’s amps their signature “American” sound.

Hi-fi vibe. So why change for this amp? That question may never be answered, but my baseless possible theory is Fender may have wanted a more hi-fi sound from the amp—something with more fidelity—so they opted to use the 7355 output tube. Around the same time, Ampeg was producing amps utilizing the 7591 output tube, which is also a hi-fi-style tube. The Ampegs were great-sounding amps, so maybe Fender took a cue from the guys on the East Coast. I’ve also read there may have been availability issues in obtaining 6L6s at this time. Who knows?

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Photo 1 — With a name taken from the missiles developed to launch astronauts into space, the Gibson Titan’s face looked a bit like the control panel of a rocket ship from the now-classic science fiction films of its day.

A rare find from 1964 lands on the workbench and is up and running after a little ground control.

Hello Ask Amp Man followers. Greetings from Amp World!

An amp crossed my path that I think is interesting enough to warrant an installment of the column, so I’m once again going to forgo a reader question and focus on this somewhat rare brown box on my bench called a Gibson Titan. A friend who recently acquired the head and cabinet pair brought them to me. He said that he’d wanted a Titan set since seeing the trapezoidal head sitting atop its matching extension cabinet in a music store back in 1965, so this was a very welcome blast from his past.

First, a little history on these amps and then we’ll get into the servicing. According to the information I’ve found, Gibson manufactured Titans for five years. In the first two years, 1963 and 1964, they were produced with a brown vinyl covering, and in the last three years, 1965 through 1967, they were covered in black vinyl. Titans were also offered with multiple speaker configurations. The cabinet in the Titan I set came loaded with two 12” speakers. The Titan III had one 15” and two 10” speakers, and the Titan V had two 15” speakers.

The interesting thing about this configuration is that Gibson installed a crossover in the cabinet so the lows and highs would be split between the 15” and 10”’s respectively.

All of these configurations used the same head containing 11 tubes, utilizing a quad of 6L6 output tubes, and it was rated at 65-watts output. The cabinet associated with this head says Titan III on its decorative metal panel, so it’s the one 15” and two 10” version. The interesting thing about this configuration is Gibson installed a crossover in the cabinet so the lows and highs would be split between the 15” and 10” speakers, respectively. That’s not something seen often in guitar world. As for the head and cab, they’re covered in the earlier brown vinyl and the date codes on the parts are split between late 1963 and early 1964, so that should firmly date this Titan as a 1964 model. Nice find indeed!

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