Monday, March 03, 2008

Amperage Up! or How I spent 02/28/2008

The VibroChamp I've been playing through was borrowed. Its an old amplifier and I probably can't do any damage to it, but it's still borrowed. So, I've been studying CraigsList and Harmony Central and the Music Electronics Forum to learn about cool versus not so cool amps. Once you get past the kids posting how "Crate Rulz" and "Peavey sucks!" and figure who you can learn from its pretty straightforward. Basically I fall into the tube amp crowd wanting that warm sound without a need for 8799 modulated colorations to my crummy strumming and picking. I did kind of want something a little bigger than the VibroChamp.

Why? I dunno. Ego? "My amps bigger than yours?" Needing to make up for other undervalued areas of my being? You pay for the therapy and I'll go.

So, I didn't want something gigantic. No Marshall stacks. No Bandmaster head and 4 by 12 bottom. Just a combo with a 10 or 12 inch seemed fine. I'd stop by GC and play a few. Fender Deluxe, a Fender Blues Jr. Reissue, a Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue, even a used Peavey Delta Blues, okay, maybe a old Champ or VibroChamp if it were vintage and not solid state like
this.

What I did come across is an advert for a '90s vintage Blues Deluxe. Not a reissue. Several times there were folks claiming they were crap. After I'd become really interested I discovered there were non of the reissues in the country to try. There was one in the GC in Roseville, but it was sold. I really liked the tweed vintage look and it didn't have a lot of extras to fool around with. So I called the guy. He was busy at work, and didn't get to call back.

Eventually Thursday night he says tonights the night. That was the night of snow and crud all over the roads and freezing rain and junk. I live far north of town. He lives far south of town. Crap. I got cash out of the bank, went home and got Earl. It seemed like he was never going to call back and I started to think he wasn't going to.

We he finally did call back with directions I drove down to see it. It looked horrible. Dirty, filthy, grungy and well, a cyclist would refer to it as a healthy "patina." Including this stupid microphone stand bolted to the top. Yet it sounded good. He said the line one sometimes gets cranky, but line two always worked fine. As we were testing it out, the power went out. No joke. Now what? He found the circuit breaker and none were tripped. Um, what? Finally after looking next door and stuff it was obvious. The block was out of power. I should have played it more, but instead we stood at his kitchen table counting out cash by cell phone light.

The trip down was a calamity as well. I knew the windshield wiper blades on the elephant were failing, but I didn't bother to change them. I had already bought new ones and they sat on the credenza in the living room. Stupid move buttnick. By half way there I was down to a two inch section of blade still attached and the rest of the blade rubber flopping around like loose shoe laces. So every few miles I'd end up stopping and using the scraper to gain a decent amount of visibility. Good thing Thing 3 didn't come for that ride and realize what a procrastinating dingbat his father was. On the way back I kept thinking, "Yeah, crash on the ride home, roll the elephant, and demolish the fantastic deal you just go, mo-ron." I drove slower and carefully and made it home.

He then asked for something odd. A photo of me holding the bills. It seems he'd been given a counterfeit $20 once. Later in the week spent it at the bar while bowling and spent the night in jail. He made it sound like a very unpleasant experience. I didn't really understand what me in the photo would do, but then again, I wasn't passing counterfeit bills.

Since then I've got it home and it sounds great. Capable of volumes my home can't really handle. Certainly Sparky can't. When I start flipping switches on it an putting Earl's strap on, he runs. Not walks. Some times he comes and peaks in the office door, but he really dislikes the thing. Me? I'm loving it. I took it apart and found that the amplifier electronics are very clean and unmucked with. The tubes might be old and about to fail at any moment. The driver is original and an Eminence product which is supposed to be a good thing. I didn't get a foot switch and for what people want for a vintage one, well, I'll have to learn how to make my own. I was able to figure out the date code which is July 1995 which means its an honest to Leo Fender made in USA product. The original year 1993 models are supposed to have all kinds of circuit board and other issues, so that was a good sign too. I plan to get a cover to keep dust off and am researching how to clean it. So far the best advice is to go at the Tweed with a soft brush, warm water, and a little Dawn dish washing liquid. A small area at a time, and let it dry before moving on to the next so that the cabinet doesn't warp. Color me thrilled.

1 comment:

midway cyclist said...

Nice looking amp, i'll bet it sounds great. Tubes aren't terribly expensive, if/when it needs new ones. If the tubes are old, a new set will really make Sparky run and hide.