vintage amps

Wicked slider Michelle Malone at home with some dear friends: her Supro Super and Dual-Tone amps, and her Dual-Tone guitar.

The veteran singer, songwriter, and guitarist’s favorite sound crunchers are a pair of vintage oddballs from the vaults of Valco.

Like a lot of slide players, Michelle Malone enjoys some grit in her tone. And when it comes to grit—along with glorious midrange, trippin’ out reverb, and a blend of snappy response with just a ladle full of sponginess to temper brittleness—vintage Supro amps deliver better than UPS. So, her favorite amps are a pair of old Supros: a 1959 Dual-Tone and a 1961 Super.

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Vintage electronics sale planned for June 1.

Lakeport, CA (May 21, 2008) -- The legendary personal vintage tube hi-fi, literature and musical instrument collection of Charlie Kittleson, editor of Vacuum Tube Valley magazine, will be on sale June 1, 2008. In addition to Charlie, other sellers will be there with a variety of vintage tube amps and electronics from the 1930s through the sixties. The sale will be kicking off a series of five similar sales across the country, with sales in New York and Los Angeles confirmed.

Charlie, who is organizing the sales, says that each sale will have a different focus, whether speakers, amps or other components, but there will be vintage amps, guitars, and parts at every one.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and purchase rare and collector quality vintage tube hi-fi power amps, integrated amps, preamps, receivers, tuners, vintage microphones, classic loudspeakers, rare audio books, catalogs, manuals, transformers, parts and rare audio vacuum tubes. Thousands of items including classic tube radios, ham radio receivers, vintage guitars and vintage guitar amps.

A list of Charlie''s items is available at vacuumtube.com, and Charlie says that other items of note at the sale include a Dumble amp. Many items for sale are in need of some rebuilding, and there will be tube testers to try the tubes before buying.

The sale is open to the general public, with free admission and parking, and a section of the sale will be devoted to items that have a broader appeal, such as fancy organic soaps, art candles, jewelry, books, DVDs and more.

The sale is at the Lodge at Blue Lakes, just 2.5 hours north of San Francisco in Wine Country and The Redwood Empire. For more information on accommodations and directions, visit vacuumtube.com.

The ups and downs of the Thomas Organ Vox Amps of the 1960''s.


OK, I admit it. I like the way the old ‘60s Thomas Organ Vox amplifiers sound. True, they are not tube amps like the AC30, but they have a sound of their own that is distinctive and ear-pleasing. Even today they have a dedicated following.

Except for some bad guesses on Thomas Organ’s part, the American Vox amps might have been much more popular and stayed popular for a longer period than they were. There were some ground-breaking technical items inside the Thomas Vox amps that deserve more notice than they got. Among these are:


A distortion channel inside the amp
There may have been earlier amplifiers with internal distortion channels, but I have not found them. The Beatle, Royal Guardsman, and Viscount/Buckingham amps all had a built-in distortion that was essentially a silicon Fuzz Face. It’s a decent sounding distortion, which suffered from only being available as a footswitch option and having no external controls.


Midrange Boosting
The nasal MRB sound was built into the amp, and again only accessible from the footswitch. It’s a neat British-invasion kind of sound that was the forerunner to the wah circuit, also introduced by Vox.


Tremolo and Reverb
The Thomas Organ Vox tremolo and reverb have incredible depth when set up properly and not suffering from aging capacitors. The tremolo has no detectable thumping; the reverb is one of the surfiest I’ve ever heard.


A "remote pedalboard"
This gave the guitarist the ability to control the effects from a five-switch foot-pedal.


A soft-clipping power amplifier
A little-noticed feature of the bigger Thomas Vox amps is the soft limiter ahead of the power amp circuit. The amps with the limiter circuit have an overdriven sound somewhere between solid state and tube amp overdrive.

This limiter soft-clips before the power amp. As a result, you hear the soft-clipper, never the harsh clipping of the power amp, under any overdrive conditions. This removes most of the harsh sound we have come to expect from solid state amps. Soft clipping has become a feature of some highly regarded super-hi-fi amps in the decades since the ‘60s, but this is the earliest instance of it I’ve seen.

I am certain that the designers put the limiter in to protect the power amp from failure by being overdriven, but in doing so they made the sound much better than it would otherwise have been.


Trolleys for moving the amps Thomas Organ followed the lead of the British AC100 and AC30 head-and-cabinet model in making a steel tubing trolley for moving their amps. This was not only a nice styling touch; the speaker cab for the Royal Guardsman and Beatle could be back-breakingly heavy. Some means of moving these things around easily were almost mandatory.

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