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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Transforming a vintage pedal platform into a powerful player.

Dear Amp Man,

I have a '60s amp sold by Fender. It's a Regal R-1160 dual 6V6 with tremolo. Seems to be the same as a Lectrolab R600B. This amp does not saturate before almost full volume, and it's very subtle at that. I read your column on modifying negative feedback loops and I'm wondering if you could look at the schematic and show me where I would make this modification and what value caps you would recommend? I'm new to this sort of modification and would like to improve the tone without destroying the amp. If you need any pics, I can provide whatever you like.

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Bolstering an amp that boogied its way alongside the ’80s competition from Petaluma.

I know this column is called Ask Amp Man, but after writing it for a crazy number of years, the questions tend to start repeating. That’s why I’ve been writing about some cool amp projects that cross my bench. Some interesting questions have come in lately, so I’ll probably get to them soon, but this month I have for you an amp that I don’t see too often. It was made in the early ’80s, when some manufacturers were trying to compete with the big “M” (the one in Petaluma, California—not in the U.K.) by coming up with their own versions of amps that looked similar but definitely had their own take on an overdriven gain channel. Here’s one that “boogied” along: the Carvin Series III X.

As you can see from the picture, this one borrowed its looks from its competitor’s custom-shop amps, utilizing a cane grille cloth and a red-oak hardwood cabinet. It even went so far as to use an OEM EV 12L speaker, as was typically found in that other company’s popular combo of the time. While the subsequent generation of Carvin X amps typically utilized EL34 output tubes, this series used 6L6s in yet another nod to the competitor. Two switchable channels, reverb, and, of course, a 5-band EQ round out the visual comparisons. And that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Now let’s take a look at some of the differences.

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An ’80s amp that displays the singular perspective of player/builder Dennis Kager, with multiple effects loops and unique tricks.

Hello, Ask Amp Man fans. Well, I’ve decided once again to forgo a reader question and instead bring you the story of another cool amp that’s recently crossed my bench. This amp may not be well known, but it’s yet another offering from the amplifier hotbed known as North Jersey. The area was first put on the musical map in the ’60s by a little company called Ampeg, which became one of the largest, most respected amplifier brands of the day—and still commands respect. As in the modern tech industry, Ampeg employees spun off to start their own companies. One such “spinner” was Jess Oliver, Ampeg vice president and inventor of the Ampeg Portaflex B-15 amp, who left and formed Oliver Sound Company. (Maybe one day I’ll do a column on an Oliver amp.) Another Ampeg departee of note, who is well known in our boutique amplifier world, is Ken Fischer. In the mid ’80s, Ken began building his own amplifiers under the name Trainwreck. They have garnered iconic boutique-world cult status.

Yet another, unfortunately lesser-known, amp guru who worked at Ampeg in the early ’60s and eventually decided to strike out on his own was Dennis Kager. Having already established himself as a great repair tech, Kager, along with a partner named Dennis Bock, opened Dennis Electronics in 1967. Being a guitarist as well as an electronic technician (a vital combination for a guitar amp designer, IMHO), he also decided to design and manufacture his own line of amplifiers. In 1984, Kager began producing Sundown amplifiers. Amps with channel switching and master volume were becoming de rigueur for guitarists, and that’s what Dennis was offering. They became the amps of choice for many players, including John Scofield, Allan Holdsworth, and even James Burton, so let’s take a look at this fine example I recently encountered.

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