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This Tones for You The magic of unintended consequences An honest, tribute to one of the greatest signature guitar tones in the history of rock & roll and the 5E3 Deluxe The return of Larry Cragg Neils rig through the years, tours, sessions, bandmembers, the collection, Larrys desert island guitars and amps, the Midi B3 pedal steel rig on Buck Nickels & Loose Change and more 11 The Two Fifty Nine Our 59 Deluxe in depth Optimizing tone with tubes, speakers, and our review of 6 output trannies 17 Larry Craggs exclusive Fralin Telecaster pickups reviewed, plus John Sprungs Astroglide pots 18 Guyatone Flip VT-X Vinatge Tube Tremolo reviewed 19 A Glossary of Tone

Mountainview Publishing, LLC

The Players Guide to Ultimate Tone
$10.00 US, November 2010/VOL.12 NO.1



This Tones For You

There is no spare. Ive got 10 spares, but none of them sound like that one. Neil Young While Leo Fender and company were shipping 2,200 5E3 tweed Deluxe amplifiers out of Fullerton in 1959, The Virtues Guitar Boogie Shuffle slithered to Number 35 on the Top 100, yet few records getting heavy national airplay boldly showcased the guitar in 1959. Aside from the Virtues classic, Duane Eddys Forty Miles of Bad Road and the magnificent Peter Gunn Theme, pop radio playlists kept to the middle of the road, with vanilla goop like The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton, Bobby Darins Mack the Knife, Personality, by Lloyd Price, Frankie Avalons Venus, and Lonely Boy by Paul Anka topping the charts.

Meanwhile, pulsing just beneath the middle of the road in the east-bound lane of Route 66, hardrockin records by Link Wray, Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry fed a smoldering fire that would soon ignite the British Invasion and the guitar explosion of the 60s, launching Fender Musical Instruments into the stratosphere. And what about the blues? Jimmy Reed scored two Top 100 hits in 1959, but the only boogie goin down in white America was the horizontal kind in the backseat of a Chevy or a Ford with Dave Baby Cortez The Happy Organ hopefully crackling through the dash. And you can bet the crew in Fullerton were not blasting Link Wrays Comanche in the break room Indeed, the last thing Leo Fender, Freddie Tavares or Don


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Randall wanted to hear coming out of a Fender amp in 1959 was harmonic distortion. The players that played em new didnt want to hear it either, yet we covet these relics today for the very thing everyone wished to avoid. And in another trippy dose of irony, that thing varying levels of magically toneful output tube distortion was produced most gloriLink Wray ously in the narrow panel tweeds. Yes, those chickenhead knobs do indeed go to 12, but the truth is that clean guitar tones ruled in 1959, and the threshold at which these amps began to boil over into a gusher of thick sustain was merely a by-product of the limitations imposed by economical manufacturing, 50s technology, and woefully under-powered Jensen speakers. Leo Fender never stopped chasing clean headroom, yet the sound of all Fender amplifiers was destined to vary significantly even among identical models, simply due to the random selection of parts on the workbench that varied by design as much as plus or minus 20% from their stated values. Add 50 years of random drift, and the quest for tone becomes a fascinating if uncertain lottery in which all vintage models in comparable condition command a premium price regardless of how they may (or may not) sound. You take yer chances, for the romance with tweed, brown or blackface Fender history is tinged with uncertain serendipity and heavy irony. But dont be afraid Be intrigued. Like so many things associated with the classic golden era of musical instrument manufacturing, these rare prizes remain cloaked in mystery, and when it comes to tone, few would have bet on Neil Young having cracked the code wielding a $50 tweed beater. Yet his pioneering relationship with the tweed Deluxe is now legend, and no one can deny that Young created what has become one of the most devastating signature guitar tones in history. Listen as he described why he needed the Whizzer to make volume adjustments on the fly through his tweed Deluxe in a 1993 Guitar Player interview (see www.thrasherswheat.org). The Deluxe goes up to 12 not 11 and with everything floored, if you back it down to 10-1/2 from 12, all of a sudden its chunky sounding on the attack. If you have it up on 12, then it just saturates completely and opens up after the attack. But if you back it down, itll catch the attack. So Ive got one button just to change that one thing that much. On a Fender Deluxe, theres tone and two volumes. The volume on the channel youre not using will affect the volume of the channel you are using, even when youre not plugged into it, because of the drain on the power amp. Having the ability to bring up the channel Im not even using so the overload thing comes on or to change the treble here and there those are the things I couldnt have done without this technology. Technology hasnt affected the sound, only the control of the sound. All Fender amps are different, made with different amounts of metal and windings, all these things. The transformers are all differently powered. Everything used to be loose, yknow, so every combination of specs was different. I got mine for $50 at Saul Betnuns Music on Larchmont in L.A. in 1967. Took it home, plugged in this Gretsch guitar, and immediately the entire room started to vibrate. The guitar started vibrating, and I went, Holy shit! I turned it halfway down before it stopped feeding back. But I do a lot of things to make the sound more distorted, like by introducing an octave divider in conjunction with an analog delay, which is before the octave divider. The routing of these things is really important what hits first and then gets hit by something else. I have a line of six effects, and I can bypass them completely or dip in and grab one without going through the one in front of it. Or I can use all six of em or any combination that I want. I set them up in any order so that they affect each other in a certain way, and thats how I get my sound. In this edition of the Quest we tease you with the promise of utterly mystical and mesmerizing guitar tones emanating from a small amplifier over half a century old one whose voice cannot and will not be duplicated or replicated again in our time. But as with any good tease, we are pleased to first extend an introduction once again to Larry Cragg, proprietor of Larry Cragg Guitar Repair & Vintage Instrument Rental, steel player in Buck Nickels & Loose Change, and Neil Youngs personal guitar and stage rig tech, occasional band member on banjo, sax, steel and 12-string, and crew photog-continued-

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rapher since 1976. You should also know that it was Larry who first spotlighted the tweed Tremolux that has appeared in Neils rig, setting us on a path to acquire our own 5E958 Tremolux, and ultimately, the 59 Deluxe two amplifiers that have permanently and profoundly altered our perception of inspiring guitar tones forever. Enjoy TQR: Hey, Larry. Buck Nickels is a hoot! Boogie, started taking more of his time. That was when Sal Trentino became Neils amp guy. TQR: Do you remember your thoughts when you first saw Neils rig?

Thank you, its really taken on a life of its own. I dont know if you know who Dave Westerbeke (aka Buck) is hes a major guitar collector and quite a few pieces in my collection came through him. Hed buy something and a week later find something else and Im down here catching a lot of what he lets go. Were old guitar collecting buddies and weve been going to the Arlington and Dallas show forever. Ive known him since my Prune Music days. You know, in the early 70s, Prune Music had the first guitar show ever. John Cippolina brought his entire collection down and there was a guy that had four cherry sunburst 59 Les Pauls who wanted $2,000 each for them and we just thought that was the funniest thing we had ever heard. HA,HA,HA. I started repairing guitars at Prune Music in 1969, and we were getting these maple neck Stratocasters from Fresno for $250.00. I would fix them up and we would sell them for around $650, and thats one of the ways we made our money. TQR: You were working at Prune with Randy Smith, he doing amps and you working on guitars, and thats how you hooked up with Neil.

Neil had many amplifiers hooked together, and hum for days When I first started working for him Old Black had a DeArmond Gretschtype pickup in the bridge before we put the Firebird pickup in it. Heres a really terrible story Right at the beginning when I started working for them they had a table set up at Redwood Recording and I was working on Old Black and Neil wasnt getting the sound he wanted out if it. I ended up taking the neck P90 apart and putting it back together, and I put the magnets back in wrong. It sounded really bad, then, and heres Neil and David Briggs standing there looking over my shoulder as Im sweating bullets. Boy did I fuck up! (laughing). TQR: You own a ton of vintage amps In your experience, how much do otherwise identical examples vary in tone?

Yeah, Randy was working on Neils amps. They were out on the road in 1973 and I got a phone call because Old Black wouldnt tune up, so I did the doctor call over the phone with Randy, telling him how to set up Old Black so it would stay in tune. The first instrument I got from them to work on at Prune Music was Tim Drummonds bass (Neils bass player at the time). Then Randy started taking me down to Neils ranch with him. He would fix the amps and I would work on the guitars and we just had a ball. Eventually Randy stopped going down with me, when his new company, Mesa

Tons! Whether you are talking about blackface, tweeds, Marshalls or my Voxes every damn one of them is like night and day every one of them sounds different from the next. I also have a lot of Martin guitars and it is the same with them although its kinda hard to tell unless you A/B them. Ill get them all out in my living room and go from one to the next and every one of them has a different voice. I was looking for the ultimate Super Reverb, and I compared all of mine and a couple of Daves, and one of mine in particular stood out head and shoulders among all the others. My AC30s are the same its just amazing, and all of them have the original silver Vox speakers (my favorite!) I have a brown front AC30 combo that sounds compressed and does its own thing, then a couple of black front combos, one of which is just the ultimate, and then there is an AC30 head that is just way loud and huge sounding compared to the others Ive got nine AC50s and I went through all of them to find the best sounding one and thats the amp for the rhythm guitar on Ragged Glory. Its turned all the way up with the inputs crossLarrys Tweed collection

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patched, the treble turned all the way up and the bass barely on with both volumes all the way up. Of course, you have to blow fans on it all of the time or the amp will burn up. Again with the AC50s, every one of them has their own sound. TQR: Is the main tweed Deluxe Neil is using still the same one he bought at Betnuns in the late 60s? too stiff, and thats been the problem with recones. Part of the magic with that speaker is that the surround and spider have to be right so that the whole thing isnt too stiff. I tried to have a cone manufacturer make us a run of the cones I wanted, but that never happened. TQR: Do you cross-patch the mic and instrument inputs?

Ah, there were two that he has used and he may have switched to the other one at some time. That was a long time ago. He just loved that original amp, and of course, in the early days he was using 6V6s in it, which is a different thing. Now he uses 6L6s. TQR: I would imagine you have at least one back up tweed Deluxe

Oh, yeah, we have quite a few and there is one that comes pretty close to sounding like his main Deluxe. He already had a shitload of tweed amps when I started working for him, which I thought was a monster collection at the time. Of course, I have amassed my own collection since then. I have two 64 Champs the earlier is tweed style with black tolex and a black background behind the Fender logo on the plate. The later 64 is a typical black face. Neil has a 4x10 Bassman that is also covered in black tolex (that looks factory) with that same black background behind the logo. Could this be an original black tolex 4x10 Bassman? TQR: We spoke to Paul at Mercury Magnetics about the Deluxe output transformer in Neils Deluxe, and Paul said the original OT was from a brown Deluxe. Thats right, which makes sense, since Neils main tweed Deluxe is a 61. Only the big electrolytic caps have been replaced. TQR: And you use vintage Jensen C12Ns Yeah, but there is a certain cone I like seamed, of course, with lots of pleats, but it cant be

No, but they are connected The Whizzer controls all three knobs. We use the mic input as the compressor. We plug into the normal guitar input and thats on 12, and then when you jockey the microphone volume input in the exact right place at about 9.9, you start losing volume and the amp really starts breathing and making this NNNNOOOOWAHHHH sound. You lose a little sparkle and you can just see the filaments in the power tubes contracting (laughing) and then they come back. It will only do it with the instrument input volume on 12, and its only good for single string leads, but thats where he gets that amazing sustain and tone. Thats why there is a third knob on the Whizzer control. TQR: How do you manage and handle line current and ground loops in different venues?

Larrys Blackface amps

Oh, well, people think electricity is electricity wherever you are, but its not. We make our own sine wave and it comes out at 60 cycles and its balanced. Balanced power is the answer, by the way 60 plus and 60 minus and ground in the middle. As soon as I started using that my life got a whole lot easier. Hooking all these amps together used to be a nightmare, trying to find all the ground loops. What worked yesterday wasnt workin today because the electricity is different in each city. With balanced power the third pin on the reverb is grounded because thats what his guitar plugs into, but nothing else. TQR: Do you want those old amps to see 115 volts?

No, 120, and during the show Im constantly monitoring it. I also dont want it to go above 120. Im turning it up or -continued-

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down depending, but its already going through the Furman balanced power. When touring abroad, we have this unit that does everything all at once. Its a very large unit that we had custom built. You start with a 60 cycle sine wave and you can give it anything you want and it will come out with 60 cycle-120 volt balanced power. Europe and some other countries have 50 cycles and these tweed amps, on the verge of self-destruction, sound way better with 60 cycles. This brings up a very interesting story Neil has one single coil P90 in Old Black and Ponchos goldtop has two P90s, and we were getting this awful, 60 cycle razzz from the pickups. I was told by many people in the organization that it was a grounding problem, and to fix it. I know the gear, knew it was not a grounding issue and I told them so. Of course, nobody believed me. I suspected that one of the motors for the stage truss was leaking 60 cycle into the truss, creating this huge antenna broadcasting 60 cycle razz over the entire stage. The pickup is an antenna and the 60 cycle is in the air. I thought I was talking to kindergartners. They kept saying, Go lift your ground! Finally, to prove it was not a grounding issue, I plugged into a battery-powered amp and was still picking up the razzz. I told them to unplug the motors for the truss. First they said, Well weve got them turned off No, unplug the motors. So Ive got the razz coming through the pickups, they unplug the motors and poof, its gone. I insisted they do it from then on. TQR: Youve been on every tour since 1976 up until the most recent solo tour Bigsby you have to tune all 6 strings at least twice because everything moves as youre tuning each string. No pressure there HA HA! TQR: What are your most vivid memories of the 1976 Japan and European tour your first tour? Just the size of the crowds, for one thing. We even had a huge wind-machine fan back then that blew on stage that wed turn on for Like a Hurricane. I didnt change strings every day, either. Id just wipe them down with FingerEase. Thats how we did things back then. Seems strange now. TQR: Lets do some word association, because youve been around a long, long time and seen a lot of stuff. Frank Poncho Sampedro

Yeah, and I cant really talk about what went down this year that was a Daniel Lanois thing termed an artistic decision, although theyve been calling me with questions a lot. I told the new guy, Dont change the guitar setup! Of course he screwed with them anyway, first with the white Falcon, and then they get into Nashville and he messes with Old Black. He just fucked it all up. So they flew the guy out here with Old Black and he hung around while I fixed it and then he flew back to rejoin the tour. I tell you what, Ive had the best summer in years being home. The further I get away from all that, the more I realize how stressful that scene is. I know Neil is brilliant, but working for him is very intense. Apparently Im the only guy that can tune Old Black and get it to stay in tune. During the shows, between songs, I would re-tune it from D-Modal to standard, and later back again, with a strobe tuner (right out there on stage) in about nine seconds with Neil and the audience watching, but with a

Hes a really great guy a really smart guy, and he has become a good friend. He was the computer guy for the Tonight Show and Kevin Eubanks right hand man, so ever since Kevin has been working for the Tonight Show Ive been working for Kevin. They used to fly me to L.A. and I would go through all of the Tonight Show Bands gear, and in the last five or six years theyve been shipping his guitars for me to work on in my shop. TQR: You mean that Poncho became a computer guy in his spare time while in Crazy Horse?

This happened during the Garage Tour when we had three Synclaviers this was at the beginning of Midi, and we had one side of the stage talking to the other side We had a click track that had to sync up with video, and a great big stop light that indicated whether we could go now or not. Brian Bell was the guy that put it all together hes a real computer genius has worked with Herbie Hancock and Carlos Santana. Anyway, he took Poncho under his wing and taught him all about Apple computers. Brian also helped to develop Midi. I actually wrangled the Synclaviers, but Brian syncd everything up. Of course with Ralph (laughing) the parameters were not wide enough But thats not a bad -continued-

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thing, because Ralph follows Neil wherever Neil wants to go, whereas not all of the drummers he plays with do. TQR: And what about Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina? Billy is a simple bass player and I think that really works for the sound Neil gets with Crazy Horse. Ralph is very shy, and he sings back up to Neil better than anybody. TQR: David Briggs TQR: Crosby, Stills and Nash Graham Nash is the nicest gentleman you would ever want to meet. Hed come up on stage, when we were packing up after the show, and thank everyone on the crew. Who does that? TQR: Lets talk about tours Rust Never Sleeps. Wow, what a trip that was. Previous to that, we had done a week of shows at the Boarding House in San Francisco with Neils acoustics, and he had brought out a whole lot of new songs. This was the beginning of wireless, and the stereo FRAPs, too, and so the FRAPs were all wireless (Flat Response Acoustic Pickup created by Arnie Lazarus). We had these Levi straps with three pockets sewn into them one for this large, battery-powered preamp for the FRAPs and two for what were called at the time Nasty units (later called Nady), named for Captain Nasty, this guy who played in a band called Captain Nasty whose name was John Nady. So these are the first wireless units and they were hell on wheels, I must say. So we do this gig at the Boarding House and it was just magical. We were there for a week, this was the first time anybody had ever used wireless on stage, and we had banks of FM receivers. They had a green light with a red light on either side, and you had two of these units per channel and you had to have them tuned in so the green light was on, but neither of the red lights were lit. We had stereo FRAPs for all of the acoustics. Neil has two Taylor 12-strings, the first is a prototype and the second is one that I selected for Neil from 20 guitars at the Taylor factory when they were still small. They are the best 12-strings I have ever heard by far, and I play one of them in the Heart of Gold movie. So we had racks of these receivers and if they got off the signal they would make this horrible sound at like four times the volume of the guitar. This was all FM but not in the normal FM band, but up in the airline frequencies. We were very illegal. That was the beginning of the whole wireless thing. On Rust Never Sleeps I ran all of the wireless from inside one of the huge amp props on stage during the show. They would have to put me out there before the crowd came in and Im stuck there, because then they would cover the amps with these giant prop road cases. At the beginning of the show Neil would be laying on the -continued-

David and Neil were very close. His passing was a huge loss to the organization. I dont know about now with Daniel Lanois, but in my experience, Neil has been pretty much his own producer, and a brilliant one, regardless of who is carrying the title. David Briggs was always super blunt, with good ideas and a lot of experience. I think of Ragged Glory and how just Neil, Crazy Horse, David and I picked out which cuts made it on the record. They would record the whole album once each day for two weeks, but they never played a song the same way twice. TQR: Ben Keith

I really respected that guy. He had Sho-Bud number two, that was built for him, and he was one of the first pedal steel players on the planet touring with Faron Young and Hawkshaw Hawkins back when they would pile all the gear and the band into a big Lincoln or Cadillac and do it that way The real deal. He played steel on Patsy Clines I Fall to Pieces. The nicest guy youd ever want to meet, and hearing his stories and the way he would tell them was just so cool. TQR: He put a timeless stamp on a lot of Neils music.

Yeah. He was such a natural, you know? He wasnt technically sophisticated and he wouldnt play his steel except on the road, but he just had a knack for hittin the right note at the right time and not playing too much. He was Ben Keith, and he didnt sound like anyone else.

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monster Deluxe underneath a road case and they would pull the cases off and hoist them up as the show started. One time the road case caught on the amp and the Deluxe was going up with Neil stuck underneath the case yelling, Hey, hey, get me out of here! through the mics on his harmonica rack. I could hear him through my wireless monitors and started yelling to the rest of the stage crew, who were not trapped under a stage prop. They finally heard me. That could have gone very badly, but they got him out. TQR: Isnt that the tour when his guitar sound just really blew up? heat up the brains that were located in a road case and there was no way we could cool them off enough, so I put them under the stage on top of a stack of empty road cases and I ran the connecting cable up through the floor to the Synclavier keyboards. That stopped the problem. Before that, half way through the show all the lights on the keyboard would go on and this godawful noise would come out of it. This was cutting edge, too (laughing). Then we did the solo Trans tour and I played banjo and pedal steel and Neil had me playing these racks of electric syndrums. Neil asked me if I had ever played drums before and I always say yes. So my part would come up, a huge tom-tom fill in the song Dont be Denied, and Id be sitting there saying to myself, You are Russ Kunkel doing this inner tennis thing (laughing). Id play way behind the beat and really pull it down. TQR: Inner tennis?

Yeah, and there was a reason for it, because besides the Deluxe there were three Sunn PA cabinets in the giant deluxe prop behind him, just for his guitar, loaded with big horns and 15s really big fuckers powered by three Sunn Coliseum heads and lots of watts. It was ungodly loud, and when you have that much volume coming at you it excites the guitar. This has happened since then, when we used other PA systems, and when the guitar gets excited and starts to freak out it does all these things it normally wouldnt do. In the meantime, during the rehearsals, Neils pants kept falling down because of all the weight of the preamp and the transmitters (for the stereo microphones on his harmonica holder) in the pockets of his painters pants. So I went out to a mens store and bought some wide red suspenders to keep his pants up. (The red suspenders turned into the tour logo.) As he moved around the stage the frequency would change on the wireless and Id have to adjust it. I finally got used to dealing with that, and everything was fine until we got to Rochester, New York. Kodak had a transmitter that was just splattering on all frequencies, and we lost the battle half way through the show. On that tour the crew was all wearing hooded Road Eye costumes with black face and these glowing eyes, so I go scurrying out there to hook up a solid wire to bypass the wireless. Then we did the Human Highway movie and every actor was individually wired up, which had never been done before, each with their own channel on a multi-track recorder. TQR: And then there was the Vocoder and Trans

Yeah, back in the 80s everybody was into this Arthur Ashe inner tennis Zen thing I pulled it off. TQR: Innernational Harvesters

That was a gas. I was playing banjo then. I played this part on Back to the Country where Im trading licks with Rufus Thibodeaux. Our drummer kept getting faster and Waylon faster and by the end of the song we were just flying. It was pretty cool, especially because of who we were billed with. We were doing Buddy Lee Presents, and Buddy Lee was the promoter for all the state fairs, so we would set up our gear in the middle of a horse race track in front of the grand stands. The whole show would start out with the Budweiser Clydesdales pulling the wagon, and we had people like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson open for us Johnny Paycheck It was so cool. TQR: You mentioned Rufus Thibodeaux

Yeah we did the European tour in 1982 and it was difficult. Too much stuff. Part of the problem was three Synclaviers on stage, and Synclaviers (early, very high-tech synthesizers) were never intended to go on the road. The stage lights would

Yeah, well, he was such a character and a good Cajun fiddler, The real deal. He was a real Cajun guy. He had all his pots and pans and hed be cookin in the hotel room. Lots of pork -continued-

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(laughing). He and Ben Keith cooked together. They were quite a pair. TQR: Speaking of pork, Pig Robbins TQR: Theres a quote in the Shakey bio where Neil says, Things you can do with digital you cant do with analog. Digital is very controlled. Its wonderful how you can manipulate it. Unfortunately, youre not manipulating a thing you want to listen to, youre manipulating a simulation of it. Once you go digital youre gone. That part of the whole thing is a disaster. Shit doesnt sound right. It hurts. Did you ever go in a shower and turn it on and have it come out tiny little ice cubes? Thats the difference between CDs and the real thing water and ice. Its like gettin hit with somethin instead of havin it flow over ya. was gonna be the next big thing and Neil bought the second one in the country. He actually bought two of them, and I think he still has them, although I havent seen them in a long time.

Another guy whos the real deal. The International Harvesters had several Nashville legends and it was an honor to play with them. I was just looking on my latest Alan Jackson album and hes on that. There is a particular Nashville piano sound on the low keys that he created. TQR: The Blue Notes, where you played baritone sax

Well, needless to say, that was my favorite tour. The thing is, I was the roadie, too. But pretty soon they got two guys to handle my guitar duties, which didnt work out too well. Nobody could tune the White Falcon, so in the middle of the long tenor sax solos I would put my sax down and run off to tune the Gretsch. Ben Keith played alto sax on that tour and we would stand next to each other bobbing to the music like cool jazz musicians. I remember Ben looking at me one night and saying, Funny what a couple of steel players wont do. We had a good time on that tour. TQR: This Notes for You was a brilliant shot across the bow

Yeah, well right now hes got three Studer tape machines 16 and 24 tracks. TQR: What do you remember about the Eldorado sessions?

Well, you know that story the This Notes for You video was on high rotation on MTV pulling a huge response but two weeks in, their lawyers told them they couldnt play it anymore because it was gonna piss off the sponsors. And so we were banned from MTV. But guess what video won the MTV Video of the Year award that year? HA,HA,HA,HA. TQR: The Sony Digital 24-track machine

We were at a recording studio right next to Times Square and this was also the beginning of the three stacks of Marshalls slaved from the tweed Deluxe (with a padded-down speaker output from the 6L6s), and the RF in that part of the city was insane. The way I dealt with it was by making loops in the wires that connected the amplifiers. They would pick up their own RF buzz, but out of phase. I would twist the loop until the buzz got cancelled and then hold it exactly like that in place with gaffers tape. This was before the balanced power, too, so we were fighting ground loops as well. It was a real nightmare. TQR: The Freedom tour

That comes along with the Synclavier and all that stuff. That

We were back to wireless acoustic again (there were no mics on stage), and the volume level was super, super loud. We discovered the Shure SM98 mic for Neils harmonica holder on this tour, which was very resistant to feedback even at that high volume level. There were specific places on the stage -continued-

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invisible vertical 3-4 foot zones that you couldnt walk into or the guitar would feedback. Neil seldom showed up for soundcheck but he learned where those zones were every night very quickly and hed avoid them. TQR: Ragged Glory You were one of the few people present at those recording sessions in the barn. it didnt sound like him, and he was right, because all of his Martins have this more moody, darker sound. TQR: Of all the hundreds of amps that you own, if you could only have three, what would they be? Well, I know what my favorite is without a doubt it is a narrow panel, 4-input Pro with two Jensen C12Ns. I have a bunch of narrow panel 4-input tweed Pros in 3x12, 4x10, 10+12 and 2x12 cabinets. I only like the narrow panel 4-input Tweeds. Ponchos wide panel Deluxe mixes well with Neils Deluxe, but if you can imagine exhaling and then trying to sing, thats the difference in the sound to me. The single 15 doesnt work in the Pro for me, I have tweed Twin cabinets made and I mount the original Pro chassis in them. It is the ultimate amplifier of doom. It does everything it can sound big and wide and clean, or you can play it with a little bit of an edge, or wide open on 12 and it sounds like a squadron of WWII fighter planes with a P90. It kinda has the front end of a tweed Deluxe but with a lot more poop behind it. I also have a blackface Super Reverb with the larger Oxford ceramic magnet speakers that Carlos rents, and he says it has the magic. He rents that, and he rents my Les Paul that has Lindy Fralin humbuckers in it. Sometimes he wants to sound like Michael Bloomfield. Number three would be my favorite Vox AC30. TQR: Youve been working with Carlos for a long, long time

Yeah, it was mainly Neil, Briggs, Billy and me choosing what we kept from those sessions. Poncho was playing the AC50 with a 4x12 basketweave Marshall cabinet and Neil was playing the tweed Deluxe, and everything was recorded live every day. For the Ragged Glory tour Neil had a 2,000 watt PA system, again inside the big tweed Deluxe prop with huge 2-way Northwest Sound PA cabinets really powerful things just blasting that were much louder than Rust Never Sleeps. Poncho still kept up with just that Vox AC50, the 4x12 and the 52 goldtop. Speaking of the Ragged Glory sessions, it was also a great photo opportunity for me. All of the photos in the album are mine. I took the cover shot with my 7 mm Nikon lense (the lense looks like Hal from the movie 2001). Because it is a super wide angle, I had to hold it out, straight armed in front of me to keep from getting my feet in the picture. TQR: Neil was launching notes and chords off the ceiling of the Omni in Atlanta on the Weld tour and you could just picture one of those satellite images of a hurricane rotating around the eye, swirling in the upper reaches of that arena, all driven by the tone of that little tweed Deluxe. One of the most memorable and utterly ass-kicking concerts we have ever seen.

Yeah, they call that the swim, and they really like it when that happens. TQR: Harvest Moon followed a calmer affair with more acoustic guitar. Whats your feeling about mahogany versus rosewood Martins?

Well, I have a whole lot more D18s than I have D28s. I love great D18s, and my favorite guitar I own is a 1952 D18, so obviously it doesnt have scalloped braces. I have a louder D18, but my 52 just has a more complex sound, and thats the guitar Neil played when he recorded Freedom. When he was finished he said that it was a great guitar with great highs and lows, but he didnt ever want to play it again because

Yeah, since 1969. Forty one years. He is a creative, talented soul. He is also a fine example of why I believe in absolutely straight necks (no relief). I have been setting his guitars up this way from the beginning. He plays a lot in the upper registers and a straight neck makes the high notes so much clearer, with more sustain. TQR: You know, I listen to Carlos early stuff, and then the new stuff, and I want him to go back to his old rig so badly. -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010

cover story
A while back they had cuts of Black Magic Woman from all the different eras where he was playing the Les Paul, the Yamaha, L6S, and PRS. The ones that have the biggest, meatiest, widest sound are the earlier versions. When I first started working for him at Prune Music, he wanted more sustain. Randy boosted his Fender amp which turned into the Prune Boogie (pre Mesa). In regards to Carlos guitars, beginning with the SG Special from Woodstock I was putting these oversized ceramic magnets from Alembic in his P90s, which created this monster sustain. I did this to all of his pickups through the 70s and into the 80s and I cut the pole pieces that extended down below. This was something that I learned from Neal Schon while he was still in the Santana Band. When Carlos started playing humbucker-equipped Les Pauls, I would put ceramic magnets in them, which unfortunately included some real PAFs Yeah, I did it. Hey, this was 1972. Do you know about my Lindy Fralin Tele pickup?
Larry with Carlos Guitars

core wire within the outer winding. So to even things out you have to raise the height of the D polepiece really high. The A string core is big enough, and the low E is OK, but I keep the E polepiece low so it doesnt fart out. Most people dont know what Im talking about, but I have Lindy raise the height of the D pole really high on the Tele bridge pickup he makes for me, and thats why. I cant keep those in stock, and I just ordered 30 more sets. The matching neck pickup uses the same length D pole, but because of the cover, it protrudes down. TQR: Have you ever noticed how single pickup versions of guitars like an Esquire or a Les Paul Jr. have a unique, resonant tone that 2-pickup versions lack?



I was a big fan of Lindy before anybody knew who he was, and in my opinion, he is the best pickup manufacturer there is. He just has this thing call it magic that gives his pickups an extra helping of tone that no other pickups have. Because I respect his work so much, I asked him to produce a custom Tele bridge pickup that you can only get from me. It has Alnico 5 on the bottom strings, for brilliance, and Alnico 2 on the top three, for a more mellow tone, so you dont get ice picks in your ears. They are 5% overwound, and the D-pole pops way up really high. Heres why I do this with all kinds of pickups Strat, Tele, humbucking, P90, and nobody seems to understand why its so important The high E string is pretty close to the pickup, the B string, which is a little fatter and disturbing the magnetic field a little more, is farther away but still in balance, then the G string is really far away from the polepiece but much fatter and disturbs much more magnetic energy. That keeps it in balance as well. But then you get to the D string, and the only thing that is really disturbing the magnetic field is this little tiny

I agree. I used to work for Stills a lot and he had several Firebirds including versions with one, two and even three pickups. His single-pickup Firebird I just killed all the others, and he used to say, Make those sound like that one, and of course I couldnt. I think the absence of a neck pickup rout is huge, but then an Esquire has a neck rout I keep my neck pickups pretty far away from the strings anyway just for the tone, and I like my bridge pickups pretty damn close, for saturation. On a Strat, its the low E pole on the bridge pickup that makes that string go wonko, so you have to make a decision. Thats the only time that I find this horrible magnetic pull thing to be a problem. Some guy wrote an article in VG about how you have to have your Strat pickups almost flush with the pickguard to avoid the dreaded magnetic pull. Well, excuse me, what about TONE? As far as single pickup guitars sounding better, think about the missing neck-pickup rout. When I toured with Nils Lofgren I played my 57 Junior strung with .011-.052s with a wound third and that guitar just roared. TQR: So lets close with your cool little project on pedal steel and the Buck Nickels thing

Well, Ive got the Hammond Suzuki B3 rack module and I have my pedal steel midid to that. If you tweak it, it sounds exactly like a B3.They finally got it with these 91 virtual tone wheels going all the time and using the same architecture that -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010

a real B3 uses with all the controls, Leslie and mic selections Im using an old Kramer Pitch-Rider pickup and Im actually playing B3 licks, but there is no bending going on with the steel. When you buy the $20,000 Hammond B3 today it has the same electronics in it, but this module is only $1,000. Since my hands, feet and knees are taken up with the steel, I have the Leslie switch connected to my seat and I can change speed by just shifting over a little. If you watch the Youtube video Im not farting Im just changing the speed. TQR: So youve got the Buck Nickels jollies going, youve got a steady stream of guitars coming in for setups and repairs And I love the rental thing. I have so much good gear and I just love turning people on to it. You know, I love fixing guitars, too, getting something in that has potential Its almost like hot-rodding a car, taking something and making it just a killer guitar. I really love that.TQ TQR wishes to thank Larry Cragg for providing the cover photo of Neil Young and his amps, tour photos and various personal photos of Larrys instruments and amps for this article. www.vintageinstrumentrental.com, 415-453-3336 www.bucknickels.com www.neilyoung.com interest us and search for them by name, its far more revealing and productive to just hunker down and scroll. Rarely do we fail to find something intriguing that would have otherwise been missed, and such was the case on a morning in August when we stumbled on a listing for a 1959 tweed Deluxe. Were we looking for a tweed Deluxe? Nope. Wouldnt have crossed our mind at the time We had already reviewed 5E3 reproductions from Fender, Clark and Louis Electric within the past 3 years, and we have frequently referenced our 1958 Tremolux as being our desert island #1. Isnt a Tremolux just a tweed Deluxe with tremolo in a bigger box? No not even close. That would be like saying you wanted to date a blonde any blonde. For the record, our fixed bias Tremolux possesses a cleaner tone with a bigger, booming voice created by the taller Pro cabinet. The Two Fifty Nine is a completely different animal Sporting a February 1959 date code on the tube chart, the 59 had been listed by a seller in Arkansas who turned out to be Tut Campbell, formerly a well-known guitar dealer in Atlanta. Still buying and selling gear, Campbell had described the Deluxe as being in original condition with the exception of a replaced output transformer a big old mono block Stancor dating to 1957. Given the otherwise original condition of the Deluxe, which included the Jensen P12R, we made Campbell a best offer below his asking price and scored the amp for $1,850 shipped. We wouldnt say we stole the Deluxe, but it seemed a fair price of admission for the opportunity to experience and explore still another rare classic and supremely worthy piece of Fender history on your behalf. The Deluxe arrived with the big Stancor dangling from the chassis despite Campbells careful packing. Wasnt his fault, really in a feeble effort to avoid any additional holes being drilled in the chassis, the fellow who installed the Stancor in the 60s had merely tightened set screws over the small tabs at the base of the heavy tranny, which was designed to be mounted upright not hanging upside down in a guitar amplifier. Of more concern was the fact that while the amp was lighting up, there was no sound Well, weve been here -continuedTONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010

The Two Fifty Nine

We always maintain a steady flow of gear arriving for review, but sometimes we also employ a fascinating if time-consuming research strategy that involves logging on to eBay, picking a broad category such as guitar amplifiers, and settling in for as long as it takes to patiently scroll through every page of listings. Yeah, thats often 50 pages or more, but since we cant possibly think of all the items that might


before, so we made a call to Gods Country and the Columbus, Indiana domicile of Terry Dobbs Mr. Valco to you. We had already set aside a spare output transformer (Lenco, McHenry, IL) that had been the original replacement installed in our 58 Tremolux when we first received it, replaced with a Mercury Magnetics for our June 07 review article. Mr. Valco cheerfully answered his phone and as we explained the situation with the Deluxe he agreed to walk us through the installation of the new replacement a simple process involving four lead wires being connected to the rectifier and output tube sockets, and the speaker jack. As long as you put the correct wires in the right place, a piece of cake, and we had the new tranny in within 10 minutes. Pilot lamp and all tubes glowing, still no sound Valco patiently guided us through a series of diagnostics with the multi-meter and the Deluxe was running on all cylinders, pumping 380 volts. Stumped, and with the hour growing late, we called it a day, leaving the mysteriously neutered Deluxe chassis on the bench until tomorrow. Morning came with a whining voice delivering a plaintive wake up call Its got to be something stupid and simple Inspired by a huge steaming mug of Jamaican High Mountain meth, we sat back down at the bench, tilted the innards of the Deluxe chassis forward beneath a bright halogen desk lamp and peered in for answers. We began slowly examining the chassis in sections, looking for broken or dull solder joints, loose or broken wires, while gently pushing and prodding wires and connections with the eraser tip of a #2 pencil as we had seen Jeff Bakos do so often at his bench. After ten minutes or so we were about to give up, when we turned our attention to several places where the circuit was grounded to the chassis adjacent to the volume and tone pots, and damned if a solder joint for one of the uninsulated ground wires hadnt separated from the chassis. No ground, no sound, and as soon as we had restored the solder joint the Two Fifty Nine rose from the dead with a mighty A major roar. The amp was indeed remarkably well-preserved in all respects, with the typical amber patina of old tweed. The burnished chrome control panel remained bright and clean with no corrosion, the original handle remained intact, and a couple of small ciggie burns on the edge of the cabinet added a stamp of historic legitimacy to the Deluxes pedigree. The top half of the Jensens frame was coated in a fine film of red clay dust from the Delta, and while the cone was in remarkably good shape with no tears, an audible voice coil rub called for a recone. We would send the speaker to Tom Colvins Speaker Workshop in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, requesting that he leave the original unbroken solder joints for the speaker wires intact if possible. Meanwhile, the first order of business was to listen to an assortment of NOS tubes from our stash, and audition no less than a half dozen speakers. Different sets of power tubes and individual preamp tubes will sound surprisingly different, so we started out with a matched pair of NOS RCA 6V6s, a GE 5Y3 rectifier, and an RCA 12AX7 and 12AY7. From there we subbed in a dozen different RCA, Amperex, Tesla and GE 12AX7s, noting varying levels of brightness, warmth and intensity among them all. For an edgier, more aggressive voice, the GEs and Amperex typically deliver the goods, while RCAs produce a slightly warmer, richer, fuller tone. We also experimented with a 12AT7 and 12AX7 in place of the lower gain 12AY7, and while those tubes ramp up gain and distortion faster and with more intensity than the 12AY7, they seemed like overkill for us. Our Deluxe possesses a ton of gain using the stock 12AY7. Rather than repeatedly reloading the Deluxe with different speakers, we used a Bob Burt 1x12 cabinet built from 100 year-old pine for our speaker tests. The original Jensen had never been pulled from our amp, but multiple speaker replacements in an old Fender inevitably cause the speaker mounting screws to loosen in the baffleboard, making speaker swaps unnecessarily clumsy and complicated. When we do run into loose mounting screws, we simply run a few small drops of Super Glue around the base of the screw and surrounding wood. Allow to dry and your screws will stay put provided that you dont torque the nuts on the mounting screws like an idiot with a socket wrench. Dont be that guy. We tested a range of speakers that included a Celestion G12H 70th Anniversary, Colvin-reconed 64 Jensen C12N, Eminence Wizard, Private Jack, Alnico Red Fang, Texas Heat, Screaming Eagle, Red, White & Blues, and Warehouse Green Beret, Veteran 30, Alnico Blackhawk and Alnico Black & Blue. The Alnico speakers generally produce a tighter, -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010

smoother, slightly more compressed tone, with a variable emphasis on upper midrange and treble frequencies, while the speakers with ceramic magnets possess a wider, more open sound. Higher power ratings of 75W-100W offered by the Red, White & Blues, Screaming Eagle and Warehouse Blackhawk typically translate into more graceful handling of bass frequencies, and in a 20 watt Deluxe, zero speaker distortion, for a clean, powerful voice. Lets cut to the chase with speaker evaluations, shall we? It has become clear to us that even after reviewing a dozen speakers in as much detail as mere words allow in a single article, many of you remain uncertain about which speaker to choose. No kidding. We would absolutely love to hand you a single magic bullet when it comes to speaker swaps, but heres the dirty little secret about choosing speakers The overall character of the amp you will be installing your new speaker in is critical, and to some extent, the type of guitars and pickups you play most often are important, too. Tailoring your sound with the unique gear you play is not a one-size fits-all proposition you have to invest some thought into the process. Are you going for a classic scooped American Fendery tone, or something more British, with a bit of an aggressive edge and upper midrange voice? Are you playing guitars with single coil pickups or humbuckers? Is there a specific, signature tone you are searching for, or are you playing a wide variety of musical styles that requires a broader range of tones? Do you like the more open sound of speakers with ceramic magnets, or the smoother compression of Alnico? What are you not hearing from your amp and the speaker thats in it now? Do you want a brighter tone, darker, better bass response, or fuller, more prominent mids? Do you want to really drive the speaker and hear it contributing to the overdriven sound of your amp, or do you want a big, clean tone with no speaker distortion in the mix? The truth is, if you dont know what you want, you are far less likely to get it. On the other hand, nothing is accomplished with paralysis by analysis. To be perfectly honest, there are lots of speakers made by Celestion, Eminence, Warehouse and, if you can wait long enough for them to break in, Jensen, that we could and would be perfectly happy with, but we would also choose them carefully, taking into account all the factors mentioned above. After a couple of days spent swapping speakers, we ultimately concluded that we preferred the 64 C12N for a classic tweed Deluxe tone, and a broken-in Celestion G12H 70th Anniversary for the most mind-altering 18 watt Marshall tone we have ever heard. Seriously. More on that in a minute Having split more than a few hairs with our speaker swaps, it was time to start picking nits off of gnats with some output transformer evaluations. We first contacted Dave Allen of Allen Amplification, who also stocks Heyboer transformers built to his specs. We found a variety of appropriate output transformers on Allens site that offered subtle variations on a stock original Deluxe OT, and we asked Dave to describe the TO26 model we wished to try in the Deluxe The TO26 was intended as a hot rodding upgrade to a stock Deluxe Reverb OT. While maintaining the stock 3-1/8 mounting centers, its fat stack of hotter core steel and multi tap secondary make it a good choice for builders wanting to maximize the performance of a pair of 6V6s and who may also want to push the envelope with 6L6/5881s while still being able to clear the speaker in a stock cabinet. There are physical limitations in small amps, so its short low profile is welcome. The orientation of the laminations is also good for low hum pick up from the power transformer. I found that an OT mounted the tall way (like my TO30D) picks up considerably more hum simply due to its orientation to the power transformer, so, shoe-horning a tallish OT into your amp may cause it to pick up hum from the power transformer not much of an upgrade. The TO26s 7K to 8 or 16 ohm rating makes it ideal for a pair of 6V6s as well as a 3,500 ohm to 4 or 8 rating for 6L6/5881s. Notice you always have an 8 ohm option with both types of power tubes. An impedance switch could be wired (I use a blackface grounding switch) as a power tube -continuedTONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010


type selector for an 8 ohm speaker to go between 6V6s and 6L6s. The TO26 will typically give slightly more output with 6V6s due to its more efficient low-loss core steel and will keep the bass clean longer for more perceived clean headroom. As it takes the most watts to reproduce the bass, you notice distortion there first, and since Fender-type amps are so bass heavy, you can quickly hit the wall with headroom, so a noticeable increase in clean bass response certainly feels like a more powerful amp with the TO26. It is kind of like you installed a new speaker with a larger ceramic magnet that is more efficient than the old speaker. The amp is a little louder and the bass a little tighter or cleaner. There seem to be a lot of 6L6-based 5E3 amps out there now to get a little clean headroom from a circuit normally not known for much of that. The TO26 is a good choice for that type of amp as it will fit typical available chassis and cabinets. It has extra long 12 topcoat leads ready to strip and solder. I would reckon it would handle up to about 30 watts before starting to saturate and compress plenty for cathodebiased 6L6s. I find that the Heyboer paper stick-wound and interleaved output transformers with premium core steel and heavy core stacks have typically better clarity or definition than stock OTs. Call it fidelity or whatever you want just clearer distorted and complex tones and better separation of notes in chords, etc. I use the TO26 in the Allen Sweet Spot, Accomplice Jr. and Hot Fudge with Nuts amps with excellent results. All of these amps can use either 6V6 or 6L6 power tubes. You know how a 5F6-A or Super Reverb has that huge 4 bolt OT for a pair of 6L6s to get the maximum clean bottom end? That is sort of what the TO26s OT is to a pair of 6V6s. It just doesnt even come close to saturating. When we informed Dave that we planned to run the Deluxe with 6L6/5881 power tubes as well as 6V6s, he recommended that we try the TO26 since it had been specifically designed for such applications. He also sent a smaller TO20 transformer, described as being designed with a wider 1-1/4 lamination fat stack that provides 60% additional core mass than typical 3/4 stack units for improved performance. The TO20 is a direct replacement for Blues Jr. and Princeton Reverb amps, and also suitable for dual EL-84 amps with an 8 ohm load. Mr. Valco also sent us a replacement 5E3 output transformer he had bought on sale from Clark Amplification a few years ago made for Mike Clark by Magnetic Components in Schiller Park, IL a company that has been producing transformers since 1943, having been the primary supplier for Valco and various Gibson amps in the 50s and 60s. A call to the company revealed that the transformer Valco sent was essentially their replacement for a Deluxe Reverb, model# 40-18002 without bell ends per Clarks request. We also learned that the company offers a complete range of Classic Tone vintage power and output transformers, including a reverse-engineered clone of a 55 Triad 5E3 output tranny, model#18022. We also contacted Paul Patronette at Mercury Magnetics and requested a Tone Clone brown Deluxe output transformer, since Larry Cragg had provided them with specific measurements from the original OT in Neils 61 tweed Deluxe, confirming that it was indeed a 61-62 brown Deluxe tranny. With a total of 6 output transformers to listen to, we took the Deluxe to Jeff Bakos, who set up a rig on his bench that enabled us to clip in each transformer and very quickly switch back and forth between them as we played a guitar through the amp. Are we having fun yet? Heres what we heard: Lenco An excellent authentic vintage vibe for those that prefer the classic, if somewhat murkier sound of a tweed amp being pushed, lots of sag in the low end and a jangly pop in the top. And old, rather lo-fi sound indicative of the 50s era amps. Magnetic Components Clark/ Deluxe 18002 Similar to the Lenco, but stronger and more robust, with a prominent growling character and voice. Thick, wooly and willin with better treble presence and clear string definition than the Lenco, yet an entirely vintage character. This tranny is comparable to those found in Deluxe amps from the brown era through silverface. Excellent power, punchy and fat with exceptional clarity and tone. Magnetic Components 5E3 Clone Percussive and dynamic with a faster attack response than the Clark/ Deluxe Reverb version, this transformer was reverseengineered from an original 55 Deluxe OT. It imparts an -continued-


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intense, throaty tweed character with enhanced mid and treble presence, remarkable clarity, and an authentic vintage 50s vocal tone with softer bass response and slightly less volume and power than the Deluxe 18002. Allen/Heyboer TO20 An interesting variation with a much more modern, percussive dynamic character. The sound was not as heavy and imposing in the vintage style, and with this transformer the Deluxe reminded us of the more refined sound of a Fender Princeton, with excellent dynamic punch for slide and chunky rhythms. Allen/Heyboer TO26 As advertised, the low end held up loud and proud with very little sag and an audibly higher threshold of clean headroom, although beyond 6 on the volume control the Deluxe was still holding nothing back. Overall, this transformer imparts a cleaner, high fidelity tone with more clarity and stout bass response than a typical stock 5E3 transformer. An excellent choice for enhanced low-end and maximum volume. Mercury Magnetics brown Deluxe Immediately recognizable, the Mercury displayed a trademark sound that is smooth, exceptionally musical, warm and balanced. Sounding more high fidelity than the Lemco or Magnetic Components transformers, but still seductively unruly enough to get yer ya-yas out. Sweet, rich, detailed and sticky. Now, you may be wondering why we would bother to audition so many output transformers How much difference can it make? Well, forty-odd years ago when someone rigged that old Stancor tranny in the Deluxe, the only choice available to most repair shops was whatever was on hand in the scrap pile. Today we can shape the tone and dynamic response of an amp with a variety of vintage or more modern, custom transformers that allow us to recapture the original sound and feel of the amp, or improve upon the original design. Why did Csar Diaz install output transformers for a Twin Reverb in Stevies Super Reverb amps, and Bassman transformers in his Vibroverbs? Because the first thing that chokes and overwhelms a smaller output transformer are the bass frequencies, and Csar wanted Stevies amps to produce a rock-solid, thundering low end that could handle his massive wound strings. The tone were celebrating with our 59 Deluxe is quite the opposite The raucous sound of the amp teetering on the edge is the key to its exploding tone, but if you wanted to go in the opposite direction with more headroom and a tighter low end, transformers like the TO26 have been specifically designed for that purpose. We once replaced the output transformer in our Pro Reverb with a bigger Mercury Tone Clone Bassman, and the Pro gained a ton of clean headroom and unyielding bottom. Wanna make it even harder still? Use a plug-in diode rectifier in place of the 5AR4 rectifier tube. No saggy britches now. As with so many choices we make in the Quest for tone, the final decision comes down to your mission and individual taste, and Jeff agreed that between the Heyboer TO26, both Magnetic Components trannies and the Mercury brown Deluxe, the question wasnt which one was the best all four were exceptional, but different. Some players would prefer one over another for different reasons described here, but all of them represent stellar examples of just how far weve come since the day that old Stancor tranny was used to put the Two Fifty Nine back into service. One last detail needed to be addressed Could we safely run the Deluxe with 5881s or 6L6s if we preferred that sound over 6V6s? Once again, we asked the prescient Mr. Valco for some Hoosier insight: The impedance mismatch in this particular amp using the 6L6s is really not a big concern, it wont hurt the amp and will either sound good or it wont. The 6L6s draw twice as much heater current than the 6V6s, two 6L6s draw 1.8 amps and two 6V6s draw 0.9 amp, so using the 6L6s will add about 1 amp more current draw that the power transformer needs to supply from the 6.3 volt heater windings. On some smaller 6V6 amps, using 6L6s can and does cause the power trans-continued-

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former to run hotter because more currrent equates to more heat. The concern is that the power transformer in the Deluxe, not being a large one to start with, has the extra 1 amp of heater current capacity to safely use the 6L6s. One way to determine if the power transformer is really stressed out with the 6L6s is to measure the AC heater voltage on pins 2 and 7 on the power tube sockets (or on the pilot lamp) and see if the AC voltage drops significantly from the reading using 6V6s versus 6L6s. It should be a bit over 6.3 volts AC with the 6V6 anyway (since the wall voltage is higher these days than in the early 60s) and with the 6L6s you sure dont want to see a large drop in voltage below 6.3 volts AC. If there is a large drop it means the transformer is having trouble supplying enough current for the 6L6 heaters and if given enough time with the 6L6s could damage the power transformer. If the drop is only a few 10ths of a volt, and doesnt go below 6.3AC, then it would indicate that the transformer is supplying the demand for the heater current and should be OK. Most Fender amps used power transformers that could handle some extra current demand. And now we arrive at the moment of truth. Weve been steadily reeling in a parade of new and classic amps for review in these pages for 12 years now this month Marshall, Fender, Magnatone, Hiwatt, Vox, Valco, Silvertone, Ampeg, Gibson, Gretsch, Mesa Boogie, Park, Supro, Dickerson, Traynor, Budda, Western Auto, Standel, Dumble, Cornell, Clark, Crate, Divided by 13, Reeves, Bad Cat, Gabriel, Fuchs, Koch, Star, Category 5, 65 Amps, Balls, Bakos, Callaham, Blankenship, Reinhardt, Grammatico, Siegmund, Chicago Blues Box, Roccaforte, Headstrong, Rivera, Mad Professor, Talos, Maven Peal, Reverend, BC Audio, Savage, Goodsell, Fargen, Carol-Ann, DST, Two Rock, Germino, Matchless, Louis Electric, Swart, Demeter, Juke, Aiken, Bluetron, DeArmond, Carr, Victoria, and Dr. Z, with more coming. Lots of amplifiers, multiple models from the same builders, and among the foremost classics Fender, Marshall, Vox, Hiwatt, Gibson, Ampeg and the entire Valco catalog, we have acquired, optimized and restored dozens of amps considered to be among the most desirable vintage models ever built. In the 20 watt wheelhouse occupied by the Two Fifty Nine, it has no equal by a mile. Game over. After a lot of back and forth testing with different sets of output tubes, we became hooked on the thundering sound produced by a pair of Philips small-bottle 6L6WGBs. Thanks to Larry Pogrebas talent for scavenging rare tubes (in Montana, no less), we are flush with several outstanding and stout pairs of RCA 6L6s, but the brighter Philips really lit up the Deluxe with a fresh and lively attitude that mirrors the bounce of a newer amp. With the 64 Jensen C12N loaded, the Deluxe spookily nails the tones of Neil Youngs rig on Ragged Glory a studio recording cut live with the Deluxe and Old Black in a barn on Youngs ranch with Crazy Horse. With the volume backed off to 4-5 a bluesy jangle emerges anchored by solid low end, rich midrange, the sweetest treble tones imaginable, and variable levels of sustain and edgy distortion that can be controlled both by the volume on the guitar and pick attack. The Deluxe does not discriminate between single coils or humbuckers, ravaging both with equal fervor, and the responsive dynamic character of this amp simply is not of this world. Rotating the single tone control sharpens treble without dumping lows or mids, while also subtilely increasing gain, as if you were using a boost pedal. A Y cord plugged into the Instrument and Microphone inputs enables the two channels to be mixed with great effect. As Neil Young described, bringing the mic input volume up with the instrument volume set between 6-8 gradually deepens the tone while slowly igniting an intense explosion of thicker second order harmonics and distortion as the dynamic character of the amp softens. Pushing the Instrument volume level up into the 8-12 range brings the volume up to a perceived level that exceeds 20 watts, while provoking an angry, pissed-off cascade of astonishingly rich musical distortion as the notes swerve into controlled harmonic feedback. Switching from the Jensen to the Celestion transforms the Deluxe into the most stunningly toneful 20 watt Marshall you could possibly imagine. To be honest, you probably cant imagine it, because we have never heard anything like this ourselves, even after owning a couple of vintage Marshall PA20s, a rare Lead & Bass head and 1x12 cabinet, and a Balls 2x12 18 watt. We could easily live with either speaker, and the Deluxe also just kills pushing our 8 ohm 4x12 pinstripe cabinet. -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010

For those of you who appreciate a somewhat tamer vibe, we can assure you that the Deluxe loaded with a fine pair of 6V6s is equally mindaltering. The overall sound is a wee bit smaller in girth and less imposing, yet abundantly overflowing with vivid harmonic depth, a supremely touch-sensitive response, and brilliant combination of fidelity, clarity and bloom. Compared to a black or silverface Deluxe Reverb, the 59 presents a more musically complex soundstage, less harsh, stiff and linear, and it lacks both the sharper treble of a blackface amp, and the scooped midrange character. The tone is rounder and meatier, the treble sweeter and less dominant, with an enhanced 3-D image. Now, if youre the type that skeptically requires a qualifier to add a stamp of legitimacy to such an over-the-top review, here it is, Mr. Been There-Done That The Deluxe doesnt and wont spew big clean tones at stage volume. Our 58 Tremolux produces a cleaner tone with a higher threshold of clean headroom by far at comparable volume levels, and the taller tweed cabinet encourages a stronger, cleaner resonant bass and low mid response. The Tremolux is also equipped with a Mercury Tone Clone Tremolux output transformer, which creates a tone that is less wooly, raucous and indistinct. The busted-up sound of the Tremolux above 5-6 is gloriously righteous indeed, but with more clarity and less provocative intensity than the Deluxe. Taken in context, what were suggesting here is that in our experience, the Deluxe has no equal as both a Fender and Marshall style 20 watt rocker (depending on speaker selection), and well add blues to that description equipped with 6V6s and the Jensen C12N. During our 2-month test period, we also routinely used our Lee Jackson Mr. Springgy reverb, Analogman-modded Boss DD3 digital delay, and a very cool, versatile (and cheap) Flip tube tremolo pedal reviewed here. Can a modern replica of the 5E3 Deluxe deliver the same inspiring tones as the Two Fifty Nine? The closest thing weve heard is the Louis Electric Buster, but no, magical happy accidents like this Deluxe cant be reproduced today by anyone and that is as it should and shall always be. Quest f orth TQ Resources: www.allenamps.com, 859-485-6423 www.magneticcomponents.net, 847-671-0633 www.mercurymagnetics.com, 818-998-7791 x105 Terry Dobbs: www.valcoamp.com, 812-342-6684

Larry Craggs

Fralin Tele Pickups

What kind of Telecaster player are you? One of the essential food groups in the banquet of tone, the Telecaster remains one of the most unmistakably unique electric guitars ever made. Described here and elsewhere as a lapsteel with a neck, the Telecaster has been featured as the consummate instrument for rhythm and soloing in country western music for decades, while Roy Buchanan, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page transcended and re-defined the Telecasters image as merely a country guitar built for twang. Of course, Telecasters today come in a variety of tweakedup designs, or stripped down to the original blackguard edition. Our personal Tele is a double-bound, alder Nash with a big-ass maple neck, Madagascar rosewood slab board, gold finish, 4-way switch, Callaham bridge plate and brass compensated saddles, and constantly changing pickups (we blame you for that.) What have we had in there? Well, it shipped in 05 with excellent Lollar Specials, and since then weve launched Amalfitanos, a Fred Stuart set, Don Mares, a Seymour Duncan Broadcaster, Lindy Fralins, Sliders from Australia, and now thanks to Larry, his personal set wound by Lindy Fralin. When youre using a 4-way switch for serial and parallel pickup combinations on a Tele, you -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010


must first break the short ground connection between the center cover tab and the negative lead on the neck pickup, then solder a long ground wire to the tab and ground it to the volume pot. Simple enough, but you gotta do this. We also replaced the original volume pot with one of John Sprungs Parts is Parts Astroglide pots standard 250K CTS except that John sucks some of the lube out of them to turn freely with no resistance. Nice. Larrys Fralin pickups with the tall D-pole and combination of Alnico 5 on the bottom three strings and Alnico 2 on the top basically even the playing field for all 6 strings, producing a rich balance of midrange and treble in which the G, B and E strings sing as part of the choir rather than dominating the mix with a big treble splash cascading over the mid tones. The tone of the treble strings is sweeter, rather than sharp and brash, smoothly married to the wound strings, which sound clear and vibrant. The covered neck pickup is similarly constructed, with the longer D polepice visibly extending below the others from the baseplate. Played clean, the tone is properly acoustic with a woody, hollowbody character, and at higher volume levels it honks, matching up well with the bridge. This may not be the set for dedicated twangers who crave a razor sharp, trebly Telecaster voice, but for those who can appreciate a lush, clear and balanced Tele neck and bridge with an extraordinarily musical and vocal tone, Larrys Fralin set does the trick like no other Telecaster set we have played or reviewed. Available only from Larry, and recommended.TQ www.vintageinstrumentrental.com 415-453-3336 Contact John Sprung at www.partsisparts.net 800-590-0014 for Astroglide pots.


Flip Vintage Tube Tremolo

While no pedal can quite compare to the tremolo effect found in our 58 Tremolux, we wanted to further explore pedal options for an authentic tremolo effect with the Deluxe, and our research led us to the Flip VT-X tube tremolo. Made in Tokyo and described as having been developed from painstaking analysis of vintage tube amplifiers, we bought a barely used unit in the box on eBay for $100. New units sell for $185.00. The Flip not only sounds exceptionally good with its compact, analog tube circuit it is also intelligently designed to provide a remarkably wide range of control over speed and intensity that far exceeds that of most tremolo circuits found in amplifiers or pedal effects. The standard 1-10 range of speed and intensity controls can be expanded to a second level via two slider switches, and a tone control completes the simple layout. Dual output jacks allow the use of two amplifiers for a heady Magnatone swirl, and a 12V adaptor is included (no battery power). The single 12AX7 can be easily changed, encouraging experimentation with different tubes, and our favorite was a creamy RCA. We noted no noise or unintended change in tone or output level with the Flip, and the black and orange the box is made from sturdy, stomp-proof steel. For those who wish to add tremolo to their non-trem amps, this is the one you want.TQ www.guyatone.com/Vtx.php


TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010


A Glossary of Tone
Back by popular demand, heres a reminder of what we really mean when we describe the gear reviewed here
Airy The opposite of heavy and plodding, with an ambient, atmospheric attitude and sound. Animated The ability to create vivid and vocal lifescapes and characters with a guitar. Jimi Hendrix was and remains the King of animated guitar, but many other skilled practitioners exist, including Magic Sam, Link Wray and Robert Cray. Attitude Less a function of tone, attitude comes from the heart, but is also attributable to the presence of exceptional signature tone. Sadly, the size of your wallet cannot compensate for an absence of attitude in the Quest for tone. Awesome Probably not. Bloom The dynamic character of a single note or chord in response to pick attack, generating an audibly deep, expansive and percussive surge of attack and decay. Bluesy Kid Ramos. Bright Subject to broad interpretation based on personal taste and, in some cases, hearing loss, this term is slippery indeed. The meaning is clear, but can you trust the judgment of the person using it? Clarity The foremost single aspect of tone that separates the men from the boys and the quality of their toys. Clarity is the gold standard of superior tone, capable of existing in both clean and overdriven musical styles. Woefully under-rated by novices and distortion freaks, without clarity, you got no tone. Compression Similar to the smooth attack and reedy sustain of a saxophone, 6V6 and EL-84 amps typically possess more of it, while amps running 6L6s and EL34s can sound deeper, wider and less compressed. Cut The capability of a particular guitar and amp combination to cut through the mix and be heard on stage. For working musicians, an amp must cut the gig. Dark Midrangey, lacking treble snap and presence. Your wife before coffee. Edgy On the cusp of breaking up with subtle distortion the musical equivalent of a veiled threat. Your wife after too much coffee. Farty Infirm giblets and turdles on the bottom end. Greasy An exceptionally vocal guitar tone dripping with attitude in the style of Damon Fowlers lap steel stuff, vintage Lindley and The Rev. Grunt Solid bass to upper midrange thud that can hang with bass and drums on stage. Jangly A typically British chimey character in the treble frequencies. Loose, with lots of harmonic overtones. Linear Narrowly focused, flat and direct. Murky Indistinct, lacking definition and clarity. Round Full, rich and warm, lacking nothing. The Shit Whatever instruments and sounds that complete and define you as a musician. Cost, provenance and logo snobbery are irrelevant. Tone Control One or more knobs on a guitar or amp, curiously invisible to many guitarists, who ignore them in favor of pickup and

speaker swaps. Transparent 3-dimensional, gloriously there, but never in the way. Trashy The undesirable white noise that lingers around high frequencies in an inelegantly distorted guitar signal caused by an inferior amplifier, pedal, or excessive speaker distortion. Vivid Bold and colorful, with excellent harmonic content and clear string definition. Vocal When electrons assemble to create animated sounds that mirror the human voice in song. As listeners, we are instinctively attracted to this sound like lost little babies. Weenie Tone Any amplifier recommended for the bedroom or NYC apartments. Woody A rich organic timbre unique to acoustic and semi-hollowbody guitars. Pine amp cabs can sound woody, too. Zizzy Thready, saw-toothed, thin distortion characteristics in an amp or distortion pedal.

Tone On Sale Now for the Holidays!

The season for giving will soon be upon us, so as usual, weve come up with some stellar incentives to give the gift of tone this holiday season.

Give a gift subscription by December 15, 2010 and receive a FREE set of Pyramid pure nickel strings and picks with our thanks! Hand-crafted, buttery-soft, allleather ToneQuest Straps from Longhollow Leather in Franklin, TN are in stock in black and brown at $50 each, USA shipping included. To quote Mambo Sons Tom Guerra the most comfortable strap Ive ever owned. Awesome!

All back issues are on sale at just $5/copy plus shipping until December 15, 2010, so catch up now while print copies remain available! $20 minimum order please (and thank you.) To place your holiday order, please call 1-877-MAX-TONE, or place your order online at www.tonequest.com and ask for the holiday discount. You will be billed at the discounted rate.

TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010


ToneQuest Report
POBox 717 Decatur, GA. 30031-0717


Editor/Publisher David Wilson Associate Publisher Liz Medley Graphic Design Rick Johnson


Analogman Tom Anderson Mark Baier Jeff Bakos Dick Boak

Victoria Amplifiers Bakos AmpWorks CF Martin & Co. Tom Anderson GuitarWorks

Larry Cragg
Neil Young

Tom Guerra
Mambo Sons

Chris Kinman

Kinman AVn Pickups

Justin Norvell

Sr. Mktg Mgr, Fender Guitars

Jol Dantzig

Hamer Guitars

John Harrison
A Brown Soun

Mike Kropotkin Sonny Landreth Albert Lee Adrian Legg Dave Malone
The Radiators

James Pennebaker Riverhorse Tommy Shannon

Double Trouble

Ronnie Earl Dan Erlewine


Johnny Hiland Gregg Hopkins Mark Johnson

Delta Moon Vintage Amp Restoration

Larry Fishman Bill Finnegan

Klon Centaur

Todd Sharp Tim Shaw

Fishman Transducers

Nashville Amp Service Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

Joe Bonamassa Phil Brown Dan Butler

The Toneman Butler Custom Sound

Phil Jones

Gruhn Guitars

Jimbo Mathus Shane Nicholas Ren Martinez

The Guitar Whiz Sr. Mktg Mgr, Fender Guitar Amplifers

Lindy Fralin Peter Frampton Greg Germino

ZZ Top Germino Amplification

K&M Analog Designs Mark Karan

Bob Weir & Ratdog

John Sprung Peter Stroud

American Guitar Center

Don Butler Steve Carr

Carr Amplifiers

Robert Keeley

Buddy Whittington Greg V


Billy F. Gibbons Joe Glaser

Glaser Instruments

Robert Keeley Electronics

Greg Martin

John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers

Gordon Kennedy Ernest King

Gibson Custom Shop

The Kentucky Headhunters

Mitch Colby

Richard McDonald

VP Mktg, Fender Musical Instruments

Lou Vito


Artist Relations, PRS Guitars

The ToneQuest Report (ISSN 1525-3392) is published monthly by Mountainview Publishing LLC, 235 Mountainview Street, Suite 23, Decatur, GA. 300302027, 1-877-MAX-TONE, email: tonequest1@aol.com. Periodicals Postage Paid at Decatur, GA and At Additional Mailing Offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to:TheToneQuest Report, PO Box 717, Decatur, GA. 30031-0717.The annual subscription fee for The ToneQuest Report is $89 per year for 12 monthly issues. International subscribers please add US $40. Please remit payment in U.S. funds only. VISA, MasterCard and American Express accepted. The ToneQuest Report is published solely for the benefit of its subscribers. Copyright 2010 by Mountainview Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any form or incorporated into any information retrieval system without the written permission of the copyright holder. Please forward all subscription requests, comments, questions and other inquiries to the above address or contact the publisher at tonequest1@aol.com. Opinions expressed in The ToneQuest Report are not necessarily those of this publication.Mention of specific products, services or technical advice does not constitute an endorsement. Readers are advised to exercise extreme caution in handling electronic devices and musical instruments. The ToneQuest Report STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP MANAGEMENT AND CIRCULATION. Publisher David Wilson. Owner Mountainview Publishing, LLC. 235 Mountainview Street, Decatur, GA 30030-2027, P.O. Box 717, Decatur, GA 30031-0717. Filing date 10/1/10. Number of issues published annually: 12. Average number copies each issue to nearest to filing date: Total number of copies: 1990; Paid/other non-USPS: 184; Mail Subscriptions: 1452; Total paid and/or requested circulation: 1636; Free distribution by mail: 68; Free distribution outside mail: 250; Total free distribution: 318. Total distribution: 1954; Copies not distributed: 36; Percent paid: 82%. Issue date of circulation data: September 2010. Total number of single issues published nearest to filing date: 2000; Paid/non USPS: 239; Mail subscription: 1369; Total paid and/or requested circulation: 1608. Free distribution by mail: 69; Free distribution outside the mail: 250; Total distribution: 1927. Copies not distributed: 73; Percent paid: 80%. I certify that these statements are true and complete: David Wilson Publisher, PS Form 3526.


TONEQUEST REPORT V .12 N.1 November 2010