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Jeffrey F alIa

Photography by Aurora Johnson

Voyageur Press

To Daniel Falla
My thanks to Brock Kline, who let me use his Super Reverb reissue amp for some of the
modifications in this book. Thanks as well to Robyn Orsini, Jason Farrell, and Jake Hill at Fender
Musical Instruments Corporation for all oftheir kind assistance.
First published in 2011 by Voyageur Press, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, 400 FirstAvenue
North, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA
Copyright 2011 by Jeffrey Falla
Photography copyright 2010 by Aurora Johnson except where noted.
All rights reserved. With the exception of quoting brief passages for the purposes of review, no part
of this publication may be reprod uced without prior written permission from the Publisher.
The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations
are made without any guarantee on the part of the author or Publisher, who also disclaims any
liability incurred in connection with the use of this data or specific details.
This publication has not been prepared, approved, or licensed by Fender Musical
Instruments Corporation.
STRATOCASTER, TELECASTER, TELE, and the distinctive headstock designs commonly found
on the STRAT and TELE guitars are trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation and are
used herein with express written permission. All rights reserved. FMIC is not affiliated in any way
with the author or publisher, nor does FMIC endorse the modifications to FMIC products discussed
Voyageur Press titles are also available at discounts in bulk quantity for industrial or sales-
promotional use. For details write to Special Sales Manager at MBI Publishing Company, 400 First
Avenue North, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA.
To find out more about our books, visit us online atwww.voyageurpress.com.
ISBN 978-0-7603-3847-6
Digital edition: 978-1-61059-765-4
Softcover edition: 978-0-7603-3847-6
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Falla, Jeffrey, 1958-
How to hot rod your Fender amp : modifying your amplifier to get magical tone / Jeffrey Falla.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 978-0-7603-3847-6 (sb: alk. paperl
1. Guitar amplifiers. I. Title. ML1015.G9F46 2011
787.87'192--d c22
Editors: Darwin Holmstrom and Michael Dregni
Design Manager: Katie Sonmor
Layout by: Greg Nettles
Designed by: Greg Nettles and Simon Larkin
Cover designed by: Andrew Brozyna
Printed in China
Disclaimer:Tube amplifiers contain very high voltage that can cause injury or death. These
voltages can be stored in an amplifier's capacitors after turning off the power. Do not open up an
amplifier, do not attemptto repair an amplifier, and do not attemptto modify an amplifier unless
you are absolutely certain of what you are doing. Many ofthe procedures detailed in this book are
meant for individuals with knowledge of electronics and proper safety procedures. The author and
the publisher accept no responsibility for any destruction of property or for any personal injury,
accident, or death.
On the title page: Fender's '57 Tweed Twin Reissue amp with a 1952 Fender Telecaster Reissue.
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
On the contents page: Fender's '57 Champ with a Custom Shop Master Built 50th Anniversary 54
Stratocaster. Fender's Champion 600. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Choosing an Amp
Tools and Electronic Components
Speakers, Switches, and Schematics
Quick, Basic, and Essential Modifications
Overhauling the Silverface, Hot Rodding the
Hot Rod, and Rebuilding the Reissue
Tone Stack Modifications
Adding Gain
Dual Channel Modifications
Switch Boxes
The history of Fender is the story of a quest for clean
amp sound, culminating in four-tube 100-watt units,
such as the Twin. Most modifications to Fender amps
have represented attempts to restore the distortion
by going back in history-"blackfacing the silver-
face" is a case in point. In this book we'll not only
discuss these modifications, we'll go beyond them.
Fender Amplifier History
The first Fender amps appeared on the market in 1946
and sported uncovered wooden cabinets. In 1948,
Leo Fender introduced the famous "tweed" Fenders,
so called because of the tweed-like mate-
rial Fender used to cover them. These
amps were primarily low-watt-
age, cathode-biased amps. The
circuit design resulted in early
tube breakup or distortion that
became the legendary sound of
many blues guitarists. To this
day the "tweed" circuit design
IS extremely popular, and
many of the boutique ampli-
fiers currently being produced
are mainly clones of the tweed
amps with improved compo-
nents. Due to their hand-wired
construction and high-quality
parts, boutique amps are quite
expensive, even though the
basic tweed design is simple and
the operating theory extremely
basic. What you're mostly pay-
ing for is the care and attention
to detail that goes into these
amps. Indeed, the interior chas-
sis of a decent boutique amp
chapter 1
proves that high-quality artisanship and skillful manu-
facturing are alive and well in the United States.
The era of the blonde and brownface Fenders ran
from 1960 to 1963, when the amplifiers were covered
with blonde or brown tolex. These were innovative
and transitional amplifiers with the introduction of the
separate head and speaker cabinet models, the intro-
duction of vibrato and reverb circuitry, silicon rectifiers,
and a fairly unique tone stack that would evolve into
the famous three-band equalizer that helped define the
Fender sound in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Blackface models typically date from 1963 to 1967,
with slight date variations according to model. The
The original tweed Deluxe is considered by many guitarists to be the amplifier with the
quintessential vintage sound. Steven Seagal Collection/Rick Gould
Opposite: Fender's classic tweed Bassman was created as a bass amp but quickly became the favorite of guitarists as
well. The amp has been reincarnated as the '59 Bassman Reissue, show here in the LTD "lacquered tweed" edition.
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
- 8
The blonde tolex Fender amps mark the transition from tweed to blackface. Shown here is a 1962 Tremolux head and
matching cabinet. Oliver Lieber Collection/Rick Gould
Fender "silverface" era generally ran from 1968 to
1981, again varying slightly with each model. Contrary
to popular conception, the sale of Fender to CBS, Inc. in
1965 does not mark the distinction between the black-
face and silverface models. In fact, blackfaces continued
to be made for a couple of years after the sale. Silverface
models, on the other hand, definitely are CBS-era
amps and, due largely to this fact, are at times unfairly
maligned and disregarded. The criticism is understand-
able when put in the context of the end of an era. Yet,
Fender Amp Timeline
1948: Leo Fender introduces t he famous
"tweed" Fenders
1948-1960: Tweed ampl ifiers
1960-1963: Blonde and brownface amplifiers
1963-1967: Blackface amp lifiers
1968-1981: Si lverface amplifiers
no one really twisted Leo Fender's arm and forced him
to sell his company.
Silverfaces can be divided into early models (1968 to
1972) and late models (1973 to 1981). The tipping point
between early silverfaces and later versions was the first
inclusion of the master volume control. Circuits differ
across the silverface era and this distinction is meant
to further clarify the differences. For actual dating of
a particular Fender, consult the appendix for websites
that can assist in that process.
Because of their fairly wide availability and still
moderate price tags, the first choice for modifications
is silverface-era Fenders, preferred models being Super
Reverb, Pro Reverb, Deluxe Reverb, Twin, Bandmaster,
Bassman, and Showman. It should be noted that the
silverface Bassman is worlds away from the original
tweed-era Bassman. Essentially, the different circuitry
between these amps makes them similar in name only.
Furthermore, silverface circuitry is fairly close to that
of the blackface, which is believed to be of the best
Fender circuit designs. Indeed, blackface models are
excellent choices for the modifications in this book,
but with the added caveat that in general they cost
twice as much as silverface models. For instance, while
a silverface Super Reverb costs around $700 to $800, a
Fender's great blackface reissue amps-such as these Twin Reverbs-look like the originals, but the mass-produced
circuit boards make them more difficult to hot rod. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
blackface Super Reverb will run about $1,500. Due to
their vintage value, therefore, any modifications done
to a blackface should be nondestructive and easily
reversible, as most modifications in this book are.
Blackface models are so popular that Fender has
manufactured reissues of certain models over the past
couple of decades. At first glance, these models might
seem to be perfect for modification since they are less
expensive than the originals and lack the vintage sta-
tus seen by many as taboo for modifying. However,
while the reissues are comparable in price to the sil-
verface (with some actually being more expensive than
comparable silverfaces), they tend to be more difficult
to modify due to their printed circuit boards and sub-
standard jacks and potentiometers, which are attached
directly to printed circuit boards. Some intermediate
to advanced modifications involve changing potenti-
ometers, for instance, and while the procedure proves
fairly straightforward on a silver, it can be a nightmare
on a reissue. Yet, the reissues can be hot rodded, and
to that end, I've included a number of modifications
for not only the blackface reissues but also the tweed
Bassman reissue.
Other less desirable choices for modifying include
newer tube amps, such as the Hot Rod Deluxe and
Deville. In addition to printed circuit boards with
- 10
The Hot Rod Deluxe-such as this Texas Red special with extension cabinet-and its big sibling, the Hot Rod Deville, can
be re-voiced without much trouble. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
A typical Fender silverface amplifier-such as this Super
Reverb-is an excellent candidate for hot-rodding.
Silverface amps were built from 1968 to 1981. This is the
amp used for many of the modifications in this book.
potentiometers and jacks attached to them, the tube
sockets are mounted on printed circuit boards rather
than the chassis. Besides discussing the wide range of
tubes that can be used on the Hot Rod models, there
is a special section in Chapter 5 dedicated to a series of
approaches for improving the Hot Rods overall. These
include re-voicing the overdrive channel to give it more
depth and warmth as well as smoothing the sometimes
brittle edge of the reverb effect. In fact, with some basic
capacitor and tube changes in addition to overdrive and
reverb mods, the Hot Rod models turn out to be nice,
full-toned amps.
Another choice for modification is a Fender clone
kit (from vendors such as tedweber.com and tubedepot.
com). These make great amps for a modification plat-
form and are much less expensive than original Fenders.
In fact, for the same price as a reissue blackface Deluxe
Reverb, tubedepot.com sells a blackface Deluxe Reverb
kit that, with its pine cabinet, American-made transform-
ers, and original-styled fiber circuit board, is far closer to
the original model than is the reissue. Also completing a
kit will be the best way to learn about the circuit design
of a classic tube amp, and the act of building one will
help you develop proper soldering techniques.
Starting Point for This Book
In looking for a Fender amp to use as the photo plat-
form for most of the modifications presented in this
book, I decided on 1970 silverface Super Reverb that
I found in a local music store. The amp sounded fine
in the store but had a slight background buzzing that
grew worse when I turned on the bright switch or
increased the treble setting. The noise didn't bother
me too much, though, since I planned to replace most
of the capacitors and resistors as detailed in Chapter
5. Moreover, the music store's building is old and
many other amps as well as other gear were plugged
into various outlets, not to mention the fair degree of
fluorescent lighting. Any of these factors can induce
interference in an amplifier, especially one in need of
some fresh capacitors. I paid about $800 for the Super
Reverb, which is more than it would have cost a few
years ago, but is still a fair price in today's market.
One thing to note about a decent working silverface is
that its price is definitely going to go up as time goes
on. Ruthless collectors are already beginning to eye
these amps, poised to snatch away yet another piece
of equipment from its rightful owner-the musician.
Still, I think we're safe for a few more years.
Once home, I pulled the chassis from the Super
Reverb to see what I might find. Not surprisingly, it
looked like every guy in the neighborhood who owned
a soldering iron had been inside this amp. Yet, one of
the beauties of a silverface is that they are fairly easy to
work on, and the damage can often be undone without
great effort. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see that
the filter capacitors had been replaced with good quality
Sprague Atom types by someone who knew what he or
she was doing. Judging from the manufacturer's date
stamp printed on the capacitors' jackets, they looked to
be about ten years old. Regarding the background buzz-
ing I had heard in the store, after replacing capacitors,
resistors, and about half of the wiring, it disappeared.
Modifications for Other Fender Amps
Many of the modifications in this book can be
applied to Fender amps not covered in this book.
With ingenuity and by consulting the schematic
and chassis layout for the amp not covered, a
knowledgeable reader can apply these and other
related modifications to the amp. As indicated in the
appendix, schematics and chassis layouts are widely
available online.
11 -
Amps of the Stars: Stevie Ray Vaughan
The '64 blackface Vibroverb has become legendary
as the favorite amp of Stevie Ray Vaughan. In fact,
Fender reissued a reengineered version of it based on
collaboration with Cesar Diaz, the famous amp technician
for people such Keith Richards and Stevie Ray Vaughan,
from 2003 to 2008. The amp wasn't actually a straight-up
version of the amps that Diaz modded for Vaughan, but
was made for a little broader audience. Plus, the Diaz mods
very much restricted the Vibroverb from most musicians'
uses, being tailored for Vaughan's unique playing style
and large venue shows. Because blackface Vibroverbs
typically cost more than $3,000, they're not really practical
candidates forthe destructive (i.e., nonreversable) mods
that Diaz performed on Vaughan's amps. For example, Diaz
typically replaced the stock 8-ohm output transformer with
a 2-ohm unit from a Super Reverb, a swap, by the way, that
cuts shortthe life of the output tubes as well as severely
stresses the output transformer.
Stevie RayVaughan "plays" his #1 Stratocaster at the Keystone Berkeley on August 19, 1983. Behind him is his
famous hot-rodded '64 blackface Vibroverb amp, getting an equal sonic workout. Clayton Call1RedfernslGetty Images
While I do not recommend these sets of
modifications, you might find them interesting.
To replicate the SRV mod, albeit notto the exact
specs, a Super Reverb is a much better candidate since
they are less expensive and have similar circuitry. Note
that SRV also used Super Reverbs on occasion.
If you don't feel comfortable stressing the tubes
and transformer, replace the four speakers with lO-inch
EVM types and skip the rest of this paragraph. The most
pronounced SRV mod is replacing the speaker. On a Super
Reverb you will not only need to pull the four speakers but
also to replace the baffle. For this you'll need a sheet of
1/2-inch plywood cutto the same width and height as the
original baffle. SRV usually used 3/4-inch baffles; you can
use that size, but it will take extra fashioning to get itto
fit properly. Next cut a hole forthe 15-inch replacement
speaker. This will not be a 15-inch hole but more like a 14-
inch. As forthe speaker, use an EVM-15L, 8-ohm speaker.
Using a 4-ohm version will be easier on the amp, butthat
isn't what Diaz used.
Next, convert the rectifier from tube to solid state.
The easiest way to do this is to use an SSR (solid-state
rectifier) plug-in, available from mosttube dealers for
about$lO. This will raise the high voltage in the amp, so
make sure to rebias your output tubes. They will already
be taking a beating if you go with transformer-speaker
mismatch. Diaz also replaced the two 70-uF, 350-volt
filter capacitors with 220-uF, 350-volt values. These are
located under the pan on the backside of the chassis.
Tweaks done to the circuitry include disconnecting the
vibrato effect (unhook the wire from the right lug of
the intensity potentiometer). disconnecting the normal
channel (unhook the wire that runs from the coupling
cap to the mixing resistor, identified by the "X" -markings
on the schematic). replacing the bass and midrange
capacitors on the vibrato channel with O.033-uF Orange
Drops, and replacing the 1-M-ohm resistors on the grid of
the phase inverter tube with 33-K-ohm values.
As for tubes, SRV often used a 5751 dual-triode for
the preamp tube (second from right when looking at the
back of the chassis). This tube has about two-thirds less
gain than the usual 12AX7 but is still plenty loud with a
great deal of headroom. These tubes are NOS and cost
about$25. More expensive and nearly unavailable are the
Philips 6L6-STR output tubes. You might consider current
production Tung-Sol or TAD 6L6-STR versions.
Amps of the Stars: Neil Young
The foundation for much of Neil Young's electric guitar
amplification comes from a hot-rodded tweed Deluxe.
While the tweed Deluxe usually only puts out about 15
watts max, it has a warm, richly harmonic distortion
when played at full throttle. Obviously, Young uses
microphones on the amp. He also uses a devices he calls
"the Whizzer," which essentially is a box with servo
motors that turn the tone and volume controls remotely
by a pedal signal.
The only real mod Young uses on the Deluxe is using
a pair of 6L6 tubes rather than the stock 6V6. When doing
this, the amp needs to be rebiased. Since it incorporates
Neil Young performs with his legendary 1953 Gibson Les Paul "Old Black" on stage at Trent FM Arena on June 23,
2009 in Nottingham, England. Steve Thorne/ Redferns/ Getty Images
Neil Young's Old Black and his Martin acoustic rest in front of his lineup of vintage Fender tweed Twin amplifiers and
his tweed Deluxe (left) on stage at Munich's Olympiahalle on June 17,2009. Sitting on top of the Deluxe is the device
known as the "Whizzer;' a servo-actuated mechanism designed for Young. The Whizzer allows him to automatically
control the settings of the amp's tone and volume controls while playing. Stefan M. Prager/Redferns/Getty Images
cathode biasing, the cathode resistor
needs to be replaced. If you are
doing this mod, replace the cathode
resistor with a 250-ohm, lO-watt
power resistor. These 6L6 output
tubes won't make the amp any louder
since the output transformer is rather
small, butthe distortion and tonal
coloration will change. One important
final step in this mod involves cooling
the power transformer since the extra
draw of filament current exceeds the
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transformers rating. Mounting or simply
placing a fan in the back ofthe amp cabinet will provide the
minimal protection.
While you might not want to put 6L6 tubes and
different cathode resistor into a vintage Deluxe, keep
in mind that Neil Young does just that. This mod can be
easily reversed, as well. The number of clone tweed
Deluxe kits are legion these days, and cost anywhere
from $500 on up. This is far more reasonable price than
an original tweed or a reissue (and easier to work on than
a reissue) . Furthermore, the power transformers usually
have higher rating than those ofthe original tweeds.
chapter 2
While this book is aimed at guitar players who have
a basic knowledge of electronics and such practices as
soldering and using a multimeter, to really understand
the principles of modifying amps the reader needs
to have a working knowledge of the fundamentals
of amplifier operation and technical terminology. (If
you're already familiar with these things, you might
want to skip ahead to the next chapter.)
Electrical Currents
In the most basic term, current refers to the flow of
electrons. Voltage is the force that causes the electrons
to flow, and resistance is opposition to the flow of elec-
trons. A common analogy for the relationship between
these concepts involves a water faucet. When the valve
is turned off, no water flows, but instead is stored
in the pipe, much like voltage stored in a battery.
Turning the valve slightly causes water to flow in a
trickle; turn the valve farther and water gushes. By
analogy, then, the flow of water represents the flow
of electrons or current. The pressure behind the valve
causing the water to flow represents voltage. The
valve itself presents opposition to the water flow in the
paradigmatic manner that a variable resistor opposes
the electron flow.
This analogy brings up another definition of volt-
age: As a force, voltage represents a difference in
potential that causes current to flow. In our analogy,
the water pressure in the pipe is greater than the air
pressure outside the faucet. This difference in potential
causes the water to flow from a high-pressure area to a
low-pressure area. The difference in potential regard-
ing voltage is between a negative charge or potential
and a positive charge or potential. Electrons flow from
negative to positive.
As for measurement, current, signified by the let-
ter I, is measured in amperes or amps, abbreviated
Oppposite:The 5-watt Fender Champ was meant as a
practi ce amp, butthe richly harmonic dist orti on t he amp
del ivers at full volume made it a studi o favorite. Shown
here is the '57 Champ Reissue. Fender Musical
Instruments Corporation
as A, and more commonly in milliamps (rnA) and
microamps (pA). Voltage, signified as V, is measured
in volts, and often given in kilovolts (kV), millivolts
(mV), and microvolts (pV). Finally, resistance, signified
as R, is measured in ohms, abbreviated as the Greek
symbol D or just written out as ohms, and often given
in megohms (M-ohms) and kilohms (K-ohms). These
measurements will be described in more detail later in
this chapter.
The flow of current through, resistance in, and
amount of voltage across the various components and
pathways of a circuit can be measured with a tool
known as a multimeter or volt-ohm meter (VOM),
sometimes simply called a meter.
Traditionally, multimeters come in two major
types: the analog multi meter, which uses a needle and
calibrated scale, and the digital multi meter (DMM),
which uses a digital display. Today, the DMM is far
more common that the older analog multimeter. Both
work fine on a guitar amp, but the DMM is easier and
more accurate to read. Good quality multi meters are
widely available from stores such as Radio Shack and
Sears and many online venders. You can buy one for
less than $50 that will work fine for basic guitar amp
repairs and modifications. Make certain that you get
a meter that can range from 0 millivolts to 1,000 volts
Taking Caution with Tube Amplifiers
Tube amplifiers contain high voltage that can cause
injury or death. These voltages can be stored in an
amplifier's capacitors after turning offthe power.
Do not open up an amplifier, do not attemptto
repair an amplifier, and do not attemptto modify an
amplifier unless you are absolutely certain of what
you are doing. Many of the procedures detailed in
this book are meant for individuals with knowledge
of electronics and proper safety procedures. The
author and the publ isher accept no responsibil ity for
any destruction of property or for any personal injury,
accident, or death.

17 -
- 18
DC, and definitely read the manual accompanymg
the meter.
Essentially, a multimeter has settings for read-
ing AC voltage, DC voltage, resistance, and current,
although you probably won't use the current setting
since reading current involves opening up a path in the
circuit, and current can more easily be determined by
measuring voltage and resistance. Each of these set-
tings includes additional settings for range, usually
in variables of 2. For example, for reading resistance,
a meter might have ranges of 0 to 200 ohms, 0 to 2
K-ohms, 0 to 20 K-ohms, etc., up to 0 to 20 M-ohms.
Likewise, for DC voltages, the meter might have ranges
of 0 to 200 millivolts, 0 to 2 volts, 0 to 20 volts, 0 to
200 volts, and 0 to 1,000 volts. Again, it's important
to have a meter that has a high-voltage range (0 to
1,000 volts being common) as guitar amps can carry
more than 500 volts DC. Some multimeters include an
auto-range feature that, as the name implies, automati-
cally sets the meter on a range according to the voltage
or resistance being measured.
When measuring resistance, make certain you turn
off all power to the amplifier. Also be aware that to
get an accurate measurement of a resistor might mean
Two excellent multimeters to consider for your work. On
the left is a Simpson analog multimeter. A Fluke digital
multimeter is on the right.
Measuring Unknown Voltages
If you do not have an auto-ranging meter and you' re
measuring an unknown voltage, place the meter on
the highest range, measure the voltage, and if the
reading is too low, lower the range and measure again.
That way, you won't burn out your meter.
removing the resistor from the circuit because electric-
ity always takes the path of least resistance. Therefore,
when placing the meter leads on each side of an in-
circuit resistor, the meter will only read the value of
the resistor if it is lower than the resistance of the
associated circuit, that is, the path from the meter lead
away from the resistor, through the circuit, and back
in to the other lead. Yet, measuring resistance doesn't
always mean measuring resistors. For instance, the
resistance setting is used to test for open circuits (such
as testing if a fuse is blown) or testing for a complete
circuit (such as testing the center conductor of a guitar
cable by placing a meter lead at the jack center points
at each end of the cable).
To test for closed or open circuits, or overall resis-
tance of a portion of a circuit, place a meter lead at one
end of the component or to whatever you'll be reading
through and the other meter lead to the other side of
the component or circuit. Move the range setting to a
higher or lower scale to get an accurate reading, unless
you are measuring for a completed circuit or an open
circuit, in which case use a low range. Don't let your
fingers touch the metal tips of the meter leads because
the resistance of your body can affect readings of high
resistance. Measuring resistance also means measur-
ing continuity, which means connectivity as in a closed
or open circuit.
When measuring DC voltage, place the negative
lead (black in color) on a ground, usually the chas-
sis. You might use an alligator clip to attach it to the
ground terminal of the power cord (usually the green
wire from the power cord attached to the chassis). Set
the voltage to a higher level than the voltage you expect
to measure, turn on the power to the amplifier and let
it reach operating conditions, and carefully place the
positive (red) lead to the point you want to measure.
When measuring an unknown voltage without an
auto-ranging meter, place the meter on the highest
range, measure the voltage, and if the reading is too
low, lower the range and measure again. For example,
suppose you are measuring an unknown DC voltage,
and after placing the meter range on the 1,000-volt,
you read 20 volts. You can now lower the range to the
200-volt range to get a more accurate reading of the
20 volts.
If you are unsure of whether you are measuring AC
or DC voltage, place the meter on AC at the highest
range; if nothing shows up (or a low voltage), set the
meter to DC. If you read nothing here, lower the range.
If you still read nothing, then go back to the AC setting
and measure the voltage as low AC.
Be aware that the voltage inside a guitar amplifier
can be lethal. Practice extreme care when measur-
ing voltage. If you have any misgivings, follow your
instincts and don't measure live circuits. Furthermore,
be aware that when you turn off the power to an
amplifier, the large electrolytic capacitors continue to
hold a charge. Bleeder resistors and tube plate circuits
will eventually drain the voltage as the amplifier sits,
but not right away. Always measure for voltage on
the plate of a power tube to see if the capacitors are
holding a charge. If there is voltage, drain the power
capacitors as described later in this chapter.
Soldering and Desoldering
Another tool essential for amplifier modification and
repair is a soldering iron. A 30-watt "pencil-style"
soldering iron works well for tube amps. Avoid using
trigger-operated soldering guns because they run hot-
ter than the typical soldering iron and therefore can
damage a circuit board. While a high-wattage (40
watts or greater) iron can damage a circuit board for
obvious reasons, a low-wattage iron (anything below
25 watts) can be equally as damaging since the user
ends ups holding it against a component for a longer
period of time to get the solder to melt.
Solder is an alloy made of tin and lead with a small
amount of silver added to higher quality types (most
solder for electronics has the designation 60/40, mean-
ing 60 percent tin and 40 percent lead). Currently,
lead-free varieties are available and work just as well,
although they tend to have a higher melting point. In
solder used for electronics, the core is filled with rosin
flux, which, being slightly corrosive, helps to bond the
solder to metal component leads and wire.
Just as with playing guitar, proper soldering
technique takes practice. If you're not comfortable
practicing your soldering skills on your thousand-dollar
amp (and you shouldn't be if you're not experienced), a
Rather than using the typical, inexpensive 30-watt
soldering iron, a soldering station usually has an adjustable
heat range and better thermostatic capability, making it
more versatile and safer on circuit boards. This Weller
hobbyist model sells for around $60.
myriad of inexpensive electronic project kits are avail-
able online at such places as electronkits.com, canakit.
com, and qkits.com. Another source for practice cir-
cuits could be broken radios, tape decks, televisions,
or any number of consumer electronics goods that we
humans throw in the trash hourly. With a broken piece
of electronics you can also practice desoldering, which
is as important to learn as soldering. One major dif-
ference between learning soldering skills and learning
guitar techniques is that learning to solder generally
takes less time.
For a proper solder joint, the surfaces that will
be soldered (be they wire or component lead) need
to be free of oxidation. A few swipes with a piece of
sandpaper will clean a tarnished surface. Make sure the
soldering iron is hot. Usually about five minutes proves
sufficient. Once the iron is hot, wipe the tip clean with
a damp sponge or rag. This cleaning process should be
performed periodically while soldering. Each time you
clean the tip make sure to "tin" it by melting a small
amount of solder on the tip and coating it.
Next, set the joint to be soldered by mechani-
cally connecting the wires or leads. With the iron in
one hand and solder in the other, hold the iron to the
joint and melt the solder onto the joint. Essentially,
you want to avoid melting the solder on the tip of the
iron and having it drop onto the joint. Rather, the trick
involves heating the joint and allowing the solder to
flow over it by melting the solder on the area of the
joint right next to the iron. Do this somewhat quickly
but not so quickly that the solder doesn't flow evenly.
Such poor technique can result in a cold solder joint
that won't conduct electricity properly. The knack of
soldering involves balancing the contact time on the
joint with adequate solder coverage. By the way, a cold
solder joint can occur for a variety of reasons, the most
common being moving the component lead or wire
before the solder hardens (which normally takes only
a second or two) and not allowing the solder to com-
pletely flow over the joint. In either case the solution
is easy: Simply reheat the joint. A cold solder joint
might not be easy to imme-
diately identify. Typically,
it appears grainy and often
slightly pitted, while a
decent solder joint has a
smooth surface.
The counterpart to soldering is de soldering. As
the name implies, de soldering means removing sol-
der from a joint so that a component or wire can be
removed. In most cases removing a wire or lead from
silverface or blackface amps, which use tag boards
rather than circuit boards, simply involves heating the
joint while pulling out the wire or lead, usually with a
pair of needle-nose pliers. Because tag board uses eye-
lets rather than traces and pads found on contemporary

19 -
- 20
Skillful soldering results from
balancing contacttime with solder
flow. Enough solder must melt and
flow over the joint without overheating
the components and wiring.
To use a trigger-operated desoldering tool, push down the plunger until it locks and hold the tip of the tool next to the joint
to be desoldered. Next, heat the joint with a solder iron. As soon as the solder melts, press the trigger or button. The tool's
plunger connects to a spring-loaded piston that draws the molten solder in through the tip when released.
circuit boards, it can take more heat without damage,
whereas the traces and pads can easily lift and become
torn from momentary heat of a soldering iron, not
to mention from prolonged or extended soldering or
desoldering. Someone with decent soldering skills can
usually remove a component form a circuit board with
minimal heat and a slight pull of needle-nose pliers.
Often, though, when working with circuit boards, or
with tag boards with excessive solder in the eyelets, for
that matter, solder needs to be removed from the joint
before a component lead can be pulled free. Circuit
board de soldering takes skill; there's no two ways
about it. The easiest, least expensive, and most practi-
cal method involves using suction, either in the form
of a desoldering bulb or a trigger-operated desoldering
tool. Bear in mind that these tools require practice to
be used adequately. The suction from these tools can
also damage circuit board pads, especially in the case
Basic desoldering tools: The desoldering bulb produces
vacuum when the bulb is squeezed and released,
pulling molten solder into the bulb. The trigger-operated
desoldering tool produces vacuum with a spring and
piston. After the plunger has been pushed into the body,
the trigger releases a lock, causing a spring to drive the
piston home and pull in molten solder on the way. Both
tools need to be cleaned of old solder periodically.
of the trigger-operated tool. These tools also need to
be periodically cleaned.
Miscellaneous Tools
Other useful tools for guitar amplifier modification and
repair include several sizes of needle-nose pliers, a small
wire cutter, a wire stripper, terminal crimper, and an
assortment of screw drivers, both Phillips and standard.
A 1I4-inch drive socket set or a set of nut drivers also
will prove essential, as will long-nosed tweezers, a metal
and nonmetal probe, as well as a nonmetal adjustment
tool (usually a long plastic stick-like instrument with a
standard screwdriver tip for adjusting trimmer pots).
You can make excellent jumper leads out of good qual-
ity wire by soldering alligator clips to each end.
Besides hand tools, you'll need some basic materials,
such as wire and heat-shrink tubing. Use good quality
wire rated at 600 volts. Insulation type can vary but
should be Teflon, PVC, or cloth-covered PVC. Wire
gauge can range from 18 to 22. Solid-core 20-gauge
wire works well in that it is easy to bend and will hold
its shape. Also, it's not too thick. Stranded wire works
fine as well but doesn't have the easy manipulation of
sold-core. While heat shrink tubing isn't a necessity,
it works far better than electrical tape. It must be slid
over the wire or lead before it is soldered into place.
Next, use a lighter or match to shrink the tubing to the
wire or lead.
As the name implies, resistors "resist" the flow of cur-
rent. As a result, resistors lower or drop voltage and in
The tubing shrinks with the application of heat from a few
brief passes of flame from a butane lighter.
the process convert electricity to heat. The amount of
heat dissipated by a resistor depends on the amount
of current flowing through it along with the amount of
voltage it drops. Because of this, a resistor can get quite
hot, and if its power rating is exceeded, it will burn out.
The power rating, measured in watts, is therefore deter-
mined by the amount of current, measured in amps, or
more likely milliamps, passing through a resistor multi-
plied by the voltage, measured in volts, that it drops.
Most resistors in guitar amps are rated at 112 watt, with
others carrying larger currents rated at 1 watt or greater.
The larger the power rating, the physically larger
the resistor.
The resistance or value of resistors is measured in
ohms, kilohms, and megohms, and is abbreviated by
the Greek letter omega, 0., for ohms (or just spelled
out); KD, K-ohms, or K for kilohms; and MD, M-ohm,
or M for megohms. While some resistors, especially
the larger ones, have their values printed on them,
most use colored bands to signify the value.
You can easily measure the voltage dropped by the
resistor, called the voltage drop, by placing each of the
meter leads on each side of the resistor, making sure
you've selected a meter range that exceeds the voltage
to be read (if you are not using an auto-ranging meter).
The current is more difficult to measure but can be eas-
ily determined if you know the voltage drop across the
resistor, which you then divide by the resistor's value in
ohms, kilohms, or megohms. For example, suppose you
read a voltage drop of 100 volts across a 100 K-ohm
resistor. Dividing 100 volts by 100,000 ohms equals
0.001 amps, or 1 milliamp. To find out the power dis-
sipated, or the wattage used, multiply 100 volts (the
voltage drop) by 1 milliamp, or 0.001 amp (the current

21 -
- 22
Four-Band Resistor Color Codes
Color First Band Second Band
(First Digit) (Second Digit)
Black 0 0
Brown 1 1
Red 2 2
Orange 3 3
Yellow 4 4
Green 5 5
Blue 6 6
Violet 7 7
Gray 8 8
White 9 9
'-.: L..
Five-Band Resistor Color Codes
Color First Band Second Band
(First Digit) (Second Digit)
Black 0 0
Brown 1 1
Red 2 2
Orange 3 3
Yellow 4 4
Green 5 5
Blue 6 6
Violet 7 7
Gray 8 8
White 9 9
Third Band
Third Band Fourth Band
(Third Digit) (Multiplier)
0 1
1 10
2 100
3 1000
4 10000
5 100000
6 1000000
7 10000000
8 100000000
9 1000000000
Fourth Band
Fifth Band
The upper table shows standard four-band resistor color codes; the bottom table shows the five-band resistor color codes
for precision resistors, such as those you'll find with many metal film types. The sample resistor represented for both
is 1 megohm with a 1 percent tolerance, which means that the actual value of the resistor may vary by 1 percent of the
indicated value.
passing through the resistor). The result is 0.1 watt. In
this case, a l/4-watt resistor would be sufficient.
The types of resistors used in guitar amplifiers
include carbon composition, carbon film, metal film,
metal oxide, wire-wound, and variable (i.e., potenti-
ometers). While you're not likely to find all of these
types as stock in a single amp (for example, pre-1970s
Fenders came with carbon composition resistors),
these resistors have differing characteristics that make
each type useful for particular purposes when replac-
ing stock resistors.
Carbon composition resistors: Also called car-
bon comp resistors or simply carbon comps, carbon
composition resistors are made by pressing carbon
particles along with a binder into a rod and attach-
ing the ends to metal caps, which in turn connect to
leads. The rod is either coated in varnish or encased in
plastic or ceramic. The proportion of carbon to binder
determines the value or resistance, while the physical
Resistor Color Codes
Typically, resistors do not indicate their value on the
resistor as many capacitors do. Instead, a universal
color code has been developed to identify resistor
values by a number of colored bands on the resistor
body. To allow the reader to easily identify resistor
values according to the color code, the charts on the
opposite page are included.
size determines the power rating or wattage. Carbon
comps are available in resistance ranges from less than
1 ohm to more than 20 megohms. Available power rat-
ings include Vs , 1;4, Y2 , 1, and 2 watts.
Carbon comps tend to be unstable at high tem-
peratures, meaning their resistance increases with a
corresponding increase in temperature. In other words,
they have what is called a large temperature coefficient.
Moreover, their values tend to drift with age. Not only
that, but they can be noisy at higher voltages. Yet even
with these disadvantages, carbon comps are often con-
sidered the paragon of resistors for guitar amplifiers.
Some designers and technicians believe this reputation
is unfounded since resistors don't really contribute
much to an amp's tone. However, other designers and
The types of resistors you're liable to find in tube amplifiers
include, from left to right, 5-watt and 10-watt wire-wound,
l-watt and 2-watt metal oxide, 1/2-watt and l-watt carbon
composition, 1/2-watt and l-watt carbon film, and 1/2-watt
metal film.
Basic Resistor Circuit Relationships
Total R = 50 + 50
E = I/R 10V = 1A/100
For R1 or R2, 5V = 1A/50
Two Resistors in Series
0.5 0.5
Amp Amp
1 0 V ~ /10V
R1 R2
200 200
Total R = (R1 x R2) + (R1 + R2) = 100
E = I/R 10V = 1A/100
For R1 or R2, 10V = 0.5A/200
Two Resistors in Parallel
Ohm's law states that voltage equals current divided by resistance, or E=I/R.
23 -
- 24
technicians claim there is a degree of warmth and
slight distortion associated with carbon comps and
that their large temperature coefficient contributes to
the desirable tonal qualities of a tube amp. Another
factor that plays into the reputation is their associa-
tion with the vintage ethos. Carbon comps were used
in the manufacture of Fender amps from their concep-
tion until well into the 1970s. I would hazard to say
that a 1955 Deluxe sounds different today than it did
when it arrived fresh from the factory, and that vintage
sound might well owe some of its distinction to worn
and drifted resistors. Add to this the diversity of tastes
among musicians and the bottom line becomes this:
Vintage sound is a complex phenomenon. I will have
more to say regarding resistor choice in later chapters.
Carbon film resistors: As just mentioned, Fender
amplifiers from their inception up until the 1970s
came equipped with carbon composition resistors,
primarily because of their mass availability and low
cost at that point in history. Today, the carbon film
resistor has eclipsed the carbon comp as the lowest
priced, most widely available resistor. Carbon film
resistors consist of a cylindrical ceramic substrate fit-
ted with end caps and leads. A thin layer of carbon,
the amount determining the resistance, coats the sub-
strate and is, in turn, covered with paint or ceramic
encasement. Their values typically range from less
than 1 ohm up to many megohms, with usual power
ratings of 118, 114, 112, and 1 watt. They are stable,
have excellent temperature ratings, and are less prone
to noise than carbon comps. Moreover, while carbon
comps have usual tolerances of 5 to 10 percent (that is,
the percentage that the value can vary), carbon films
can be as precise as 2 percent.
Metal film resistors: With the same ratings, values,
and stability of carbon film resistors, metal film resis-
tors have a more precise tolerance (1 percent or better)
and are quieter than either carbon comps or carbon
films. While their quiet operation has led some people
to label them as purveyors of sterile sound, that claim
is unfounded unless one considers noisy resistors to be
desirable. As with the carbon film variety, metal film
resistors have a cylindrical ceramic substrate with end
caps formed to leads, although glass is sometimes used
as a substrate. Rather than a thin layer of carbon, a
thin layer of metal is wrapped spiral-like around the
substrate, the amount of metal determining the resis-
tance. Due to their precision, metal film resistors are
more expensive to produce (although they are still
relatively low-priced). As a result, they are usually
only found stock in certain custom-made and high-
end amplifiers.
Metal oxide resistors: Metal oxide resistors are
constructed much the same as the film types in that
they typically have a ceramic core coated with tin
oxide that, in turn, is covered with a flame-retardant
coating. Because they offer excellent stability at high
temperatures and have a high power rating for their
size, they are especially suited for use in power supply
circuits and as screen resistors for power tubes. Metal
oxide resistors typically come in values of less than 1
ohm to about 1 megohm with 5 percent tolerance and
power ratings of 1/2 to 5 watts.
Wire-wound resistors: As the name implies, wire-
wound resistors consist of a coil of resistance wire
wrapped around a ceramic, porcelain, or cement core.
Typically this arrangement is then encased in an insu-
lating material, usually cement. These flame-retardant,
extremely stable, high-current-capability resistors
are commonly used in power supplies and, like metal
oxide types, also as screen resistors for power tubes.
While wire-wound resistors come in lower values (less
than 1 ohm to several kilohms), they have high power
ratings, from the common 5 and 10 watt sizes up to
more than 100 watts.
Potentiometers: While there are various types of
potentiometers, or pots, the type most commonly used
in guitar amps is the carbon-track variety. The two out-
side leads connect to opposite ends of a circular carbon
track with a fixed resistance (common values in ampli-
fiers include 10 K-ohm, 250 K-ohm, 500 K-ohm, and
1 M-ohm). The center lead connects to a wiper arm,
which sweeps along the carbon track, creating a vari-
able resistance between the wiper arm and each of the
outer leads. On a typical Fender volume control, one
outer lead connects to ground while the other outer
lead is fed by the output of the tone controls (called the
tone stack). The wiper arm is connected to the input of
the next preamp stage. In this arrangement the input
of the preamp stage is grounded (no volume) when the
wiper is turned all the way down, grounding the wiper
through the grounded outer lead. Alternately, when
the wiper is turned all the way up to the outer lead that
is connected to the tone stack, the input of the pre-
amp stage receives the full signal from the tone stack
(full volume).
The change in resistance read at the wiper deter-
mines what is called the taper of the potentiometer,
the two primary types being linear and audio, also
called logarithmic or log. The function of linear taper
is straightforward in that resistance changes propor-
tionately to the wiper's movement. For example, if the
wiper of a 1 megohm linear pot is in the center posi-
tion, halfway between each lead of the carbon track,
then the resistance between the wiper and each of the
leads is 112 megohm or 500 kilohms. At one-quarter
position, the wiper to one outer lead is 1/4 megohm
(250 kilohms) and 3/4 megohm (750 kilohms) to the
other lead. In other words, the movement on the wiper
in relation to resistance is linear.
Audio or log taper is more complicated and can be
thought of as working in stages, meaning rather than a
" .
.. 4-- ........ .
. . - j
gradual increase or decrease in resistance between the
wiper arm and the outer leads, the audio taper has a
large jump in resistance in the first quarter movement,
a smaller jump at the halfway position, and from then
on the resistance doesn't change much. As an example,
with a 1 megohm audio, placing the wiper at one-quar-
ter of the full run will result in a measurement of about
400 kilohms between the wiper and the lead closest to
it. Going halfway gives a measurement of about 800
kilohms between wiper and the same lead while at
The basic potentiometer used in guitar amplifiers consists
of a circular carbon track upon which a metal wiper slides.
Volume Potentiometer Function
Volume Full Down
Full Signal
Half Volume

s I S I' " . 800K-ohm
Igna p It
between Ground
and Preamp Input
Volume Full Up

Full Signal
Preamp Input
== 200K-ohm
The volume potentiometer function of a typical Fender amplifier.




25 -
- 26
three-quarters of a full turn the measurement is about
900 kilohms. The reason audio taper pots function
this way is that the human ear doesn't hear sound lin-
early. Therefore, a linear pot doesn't respond in a way
that complements our hearing, whereas an audio taper
pot does. However, this does not mean that our ears
"hear" an audio pot as if it were a linear pot. You've
probably noticed that on your amp most of the volume
seems to occur by the time you turn the knob halfway.
That's precisely because it has.
Fender amps use audio pots for volume and tone
controls (bass, treble, and midrange) and linear pots
for the reverb control. Since reverb is an effect, the
reverb potentiometer functions more like a mixer and
in that capacity the linear taper works best. Also some
models with a master volume, such as the Hot Rod
amps, use a linear taper pot for the master volume,
which doesn't function as a typical volume control but
as a low-resistance (100-K-ohm) output level control
for the full preamp signal before it enters the phase
inverter to the output stage of the amplifier. The Hot
Rod amps also use linear taper pots for the midrange
control that, while technically a midrange tone control,
is interactive with the treble and bass controls in such a
way that adjusting the midrange control actually shifts
the midrange in relation to the bass and treble settings.
In other words, the midrange adjustment isn't heard
by our ears the same way that the volume adjustment
is. We will have more to say about tone control func-
tions in Chapter 7. Specific resistor functions will be
discussed throughout the book, including the vacuum
tube section in this chapter.
Broadly speaking, capacitance IS the ability of an
electric circuit to store electricity. The higher the
capacitance, the higher the amount of electricity, in
volts, stored. To that end, a capacitor is an electronic
component used to store electricity. Capacitance is
measured in units called farads and given the symbol F.
One farad is large, and the values of individual capaci-
tors are much smaller. In guitar amplifiers, capacitors
typically range in values of 100 microfarads down to
10 picofarads. The microfarad is abbreviated as uF,
with 1 uF being one-millionth of a farad or .0000001
farad (10-6 in scientific notation). A picofarad (pF), by
extension, is one-millionth of a microfarad, thus one-
trillionth of a farad or .0000000000001 farad (10-12).
The nanofarad (nF), which is a billionth of a farad and
a thousandth of a microfarad, is also used to measure
capacitors, yet with Fender amps, you' ll usually only
encounter the uF and pF measurements.
The capacitor's ability to store voltage makes it
well-suited for power supplies, not because capacitors
can store voltage like a battery, but because the voltage
they store can be released. Thus, the discharge rate
is an important factor in designing a rectifier circuit
to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current
(DC), with capacitors storing and releasing the pulses
of voltage at such a rate that it smoothes the pulses,
or ripple, of voltage. I will explain the capacitor's role
in rectification when discussing electrolytic capacitors
later in this chapter.
The capacitor's ability to store voltage also makes
it useful for purposes that might not immediately
bring to mind the storage voltage. For this to make
sense, we have to first understand just what a capaci-
tor is. Essentially, it is two metal plates-also known
as electrodes-that have leads on the ends opposite to
one another and an insulator, or dielectric, between
the plates. The dielectric, which is usually used to
describe the types of capacitors, can be paper, waxed
paper, oil, ceramic, polyester, mica, polypropylene,
polystyrene, and even air. All of these materials offer
different qualities and degrees of capacitance. Now, an
important feature of all dielectrics is that they block
direct current (DC) while passing alternating current
(AC). How they do this is a function of their ability
to store electricity. In the case of DC voltage, because
the electron flows in one direction only, they collect
on only one of the plates of the capacitor, unable to
pass through the dielectric, giving that plate a negative
charge. Simultaneously, the other plate develops an
equivalent opposite, or positive charge. When the DC
voltage stops flowing, the capacitor holds the charge
(which is often weak but with a large capacitor strong
enough to cause injury). If the plates are now connected
across their leads (on the other sides of the plates from
the dielectric), the stored voltage discharges. Thus for
any portion of a circuit where DC voltage needs to be
blocked, a capacitor is employed.
To say that a capacitor passes AC is a bit mislead-
ing. Actually, because AC voltage rises positively and
falls negatively, the capacitor continually charges
and discharges in relation to the alternating current.
The ability to block DC while passing AC makes the
capacitor a primary component in an amplifier, spe-
cifically as a coupling capacitor. In this application, a
coupling capacitor is placed between tube stages of an
amplifier. In tube circuits the voltage at the output of a
tube functions at hundreds of volts DC. Yet, the input
of the next tube stage often needs to be at 0 volts DC
for the tube to operate properly. The AC signal at the
tube's output, however, needs to remain the same at
the next tube's input so that it can be amplified by the
tube. A coupling capacitor makes that possible.
Coupling capacitors, in their application, also
shape frequencies. Being AC voltage, the frequency of
audio signal is measured in cycles per second, or hertz,
and given the symbol Hz. One hertz is the time it takes
for an AC signal beginning at the 0 midpoint to swing
Audio Signal
200V dc
Coupling Capacitor Function
100 mVAC
Audio Signal
100 mVAC
Audio Signal
o V dc >- ______ ' - + - + - - \ - - + - - \ - - + - ~ + - ~ - A 100 m VAC
Audio Signal
Graphic representation of the coupling capacitor Cl blocking the DC operating voltage while passing the AC audio signal.
Measuring the Frequency of an Audio Signal
2 -- + ---------------- -1 --
- - ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ - -
-1 -- + ------------ -- -I --
-2 - - j. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ - -
14 1 second ~ I
One hertz is equivalent to one complete cycle of AC per second.
27 -
Capacitor in a DC Circuit
Flow of Electrons

No Return of Electrons
_ Build-up of
- electrons
(negative charge)
Subsequent lack of electrons
on opposite side of capacitor
causes a positive differential
(positive charge)
The capacitor charges and blocks flow of electrons.
Capacitor Function in an AC Circuit

-- -
I - -
t+ W I
+ i'
== == I

+- V-OLT- - - 0"'- ... -:::- - - - i - - - - - - - t- - - - - - - - -
/1'0..... I
G 01'

".v "" ...... 1

- - - - - - - -1- - - - - - - -t- - - - - - - - - - --
Capacitor in an AC circuit; capacitor alternately charges and discharges.
all the way positive, then swing all the way negative,
passing through the 0 midpoint, and, finally, swing
positive to the 0 midpoint where it began.
In its frequency-shaping ability, the capacitor's role
extends beyond that of coupling amplifier stage to that
of shaping tone via the tone controls: the bass, treble, and
midrange frequency bands in the arrangement of con-
trols known as the equalizer, tone stack, or simply tone
controls. In this role of signal shaping, certain values of
capacitors are used in conjunction with variable resistors
(i.e., potentiometers or pots) to cut specific frequency
ranges. For high range, the typical treble capacitor value
for most Fender amps is 250 pF. For low range, the typi-
cal bass capacitor value is .1 uF, and for midrange, the
typical capacitor value is either .022 or .047 uFo While
these controls focus on three specific bands of frequency,
the distinction isn't strict, meaning that the controls
interact with each other in such a way that varying the
degree of one will influence the range of another.
As mentioned earlier, capacitors are manufac-
tured with various materials, and as such, capacitors
are commonly identified by their type of dielectric.
Typical capacitors found in guitar amplifiers include
the following:
Ceramic capacitors: Also know as ceramic discs
due to their usual shape, ceramic capacitors consist of
a thin layer of ceramic material as a dielectric sand-
wiched between two silver plates or electrodes onto
which leads are connected. The unit is covered in a
moisture- and heat-resistant coating, often phenolic.
Ceramic discs are commonly used primarily because
of their low price and wide value and voltage range.
Fender amps from the 1960s up to today typically use
ceramic discs as treble capacitors and reverb input and
bypass capacitors. Fenders equipped with vibrato also
use ceramic discs in the oscillator circuit.
Silver mica capacitors: Compared to ceramic discs,
silver mica capacitors are more expensive but have far
better high-frequency response, high stability, and
more precise values. These characteristics make them
excellent choices for treble and reverb bypass capaci-
tors, and, therefore, should replace the ceramic discs in
Fender amps. To construct silver mica capacitors, thin
layers of mica are coated in silver, stacked together,
and interconnected. The whole works are then encased
in plastic or, more commonly, coated with an epoxy
hard shell. Silver mica caps are only available in low
values (picofarad range).
Paper capacitors: Once the most common and
inexpensive capacitors available, paper capacitors are
made by sandwiching a long strip of waxed or oiled
paper between long strips of metal foil and wrapped
tightly into a cylinder. The cylinder is then coated in
wax, encased in cardboard, or enclosed in plastic,
while some newer variations are covered in a metal
case. Paper capacitors are more prone to dielectric
leakage than their synthetic film counterparts, mean-
ing they don't hold a capacitive charge as steadily
as synthetic film types. This translates into impreci-
sion at high frequencies. However, they function fine
within the frequency range of guitar amplifiers. In fact,
paper capacitors are highly regarded by many guitar
amp gurus, primarily because of their wide usage in
vintage-era amplifiers, such as the Fender tweeds.
Indeed, paper capacitors possess a warm sound that
can't be found with most modern capacitors.
Current production, high-end paper capacitors
tend to be expensive and while they are an unbeatable
choice for audiophile-grade hi-fi amps, they are less
than perfect for use in guitar amps because they are
too precise and well-defined tonally to be suitable for
harmonically rich guitar amp applications. Some ven-
dors also sell NOS paper capacitors (NOS stands for
new-old stock, which is used to describe components
manufactured decades ago but never used), but I tend
to avoid these since paper capacitors dry out with age
whether they are used in amplifiers or left new on a
warehouse shelf. An even worse choice is used paper
capacitors, for obvious reasons.
A rule of thumb to follow is if you have a vintage
Fender, meaning any amp manufactured prior to the
late 1960s, do not replace the signal capacitors unless
they are bad. To determine if a capacitor is leaking DC
voltage, following the precautions stated in the intro-
duction, turn the amp on, set a multimeter to its highest
DC voltage range, ground the negative lead, and mea-
sure for DC voltage on each side of the capacitor. One
side should read well over 100 volts while the other side
should read 0 volts. You should measure the 0 volt side
of the capacitor while gradually setting the meter's volt-
age rang lower to ensure that there is no DC voltage
coming through. Keep in mind that other things could
go wrong with a capacitor, but this type of DC leakage
is easy to test on your own.
Film capacitors: These come in a variety of dielec-
tric types and are widely used in guitar amplifiers. The
blue-molded Mallory capacitors found in the blackface
is believed to be one of the best caps used by Fender,
while the brown-drop capacitors of the silverface
often receive the dubious distinction of being of the
worst. The distinction isn't entirely fair; however, the
brown-drops did tend to be leaky due to their inferior
construction in comparison to the blue caps. These
were part of the cost-cutting features introduced by
CBS, yet, it should be noted that Leo Fender never
actually sought out the highest quality parts and also
kept cost in mind. The success of Fender amps in some
way precipitated the mass-production of parts needed
to feed the ever-growing amp market. In general, leave
blue caps in the amp if they aren't bad, but replace
the brown-drops with either yellow Mallory 150M,
Illinois, Sozo, or SBE Orange Drop 716P capacitors.
= CI:)
= ...-
29 -
- 30
The two paper capacitors in the
middle are wax coated, while the
one on the top is plastic coated.
The capacitor on the bottom
consists of oil-treated paper
covered with a cardboard tube
and wax.
In the manufacture of film capacitors, a thin layer
of synthetic material, such as Mylar, polyester, polysty-
rene, or polypropylene, is wrapped tightly with metal
foil, as with paper capacitors, but because synthetic
dielectric is much thinner than paper, the capacitor has
a smaller physical size. In the case of the Mallory 150M
series, a thin layer of polyester is sprayed with a fine
layer of metal rather than wrapped between metal film.
While further reducing the physical size of the package,
this process also accounts for a more precise, stable,
and warmly toned capacitor. Equal in quality is the
Illinois metalized capacitor, made with the same pro-
cess but using polypropylene rather than polyester. Both
the Mallory and the Illinois are tubular in shape and
encased in a yellow plastic wrap, although some runs
of Mallory are white. Sozo capacitors use polyester for
the dielectric, but instead of being sprayed with metal,
a thin layer of metal foil is rolled tightly with the dielec-
tric. This process gives the capacitors a slightly higher
tonal quality at a slightly higher cost. A .1 uF Mallory
150M, for instance, costs about $1.50; whereas, a .1
uF Sozo Mustard cap costs about $2.50. Furthermore,
a .1 uF Sozo blue-molded vintage cap, made as a direct
replacement for the Fender blue-molded Mallory, costs
about $7.
Another common film capacitor is the Orange
Drop. While several brands of capacitors are called
Orange Drop, some of the better quality ones are made
Silver mica capacitors (such
as the two on the left) are far
superior for high-frequency tone
and coupling application than the
standard ceramic disc variety
(such as the two on the right).
by SB (Sprague-Barre) Electronics and include the SBE
716P, which has excellent precision and a shimmering
tonal quality. These are constructed with polypro-
pylene film and have a hard, orange plastic shell. The
Mallory and Illinois capacitors are tubular with axial
leads, and the Orange Drops are more rectangular
with radial leads. While some people find the Orange
Drops to be a little brittle in the high-frequency range,
others describe the highs as pleasantly chimey. Similar
in appearance to the Orange Drop, but smaller and not
as wide, the Xicon polypropylene capacitor is used in
many newer Fenders. While they are a fine capacitor
in their own right, they don't have the same tonal detail
as the Orange Drop and are considered somewhat infe-
rior. However, their smaller size and lower price make
them an excellent choice in amps using printed circuit
board, where space is often at a premium.
A word about determining a capacitor's value:
While Mallory and Illinois capacitors have their
value printed on the package, Orange Drop and Xicons
have a code stamped on their bodies. The three-number
code is followed by a letter, usually a J or a K, which in
turn is followed by the voltage rating, typically 400V,
600V, or 630V. Regarding capacitor voltage ratings,
when replacing a capacitors always use one with the
same or greater rating. If a capacitor faces more voltage
than it is rated at, it will be destroyed in short order.
The letter refers to the tolerance, or the precision of the
value. The letter K means that the value of the capaci-
tor is within 10 percent of its stated value; the letter]
means the capacitor value is within 5 percent.
Deciphering the code is easy. For example, 103K600V
means that the first number of the value is 1, the second
number is 0, and the multiplier is 3, meaning three Os
follow the second number (the value is in picofarads).
Thus 103 equals 10,000 picofarads or .01 microfarad.
This value is within 10 percent accuracy, and the rat-
ing is 600 volts. Similarly, 104J400V means 100,000
picofarads or .1 microfarad, 5 percent tolerance, and
400-volt rating. 223K600V means 22,000 picofarads
or .022 microfarad, 10 percent tolerance, and 600-volt
rating. Remember, to convert picofarads to microfarads,
you move the decimal six places to the left.
Electrolytic capacitors: Electrolytic capacitors have
two primary uses in Fender amps: as filter capacitors
in the power supply and as cathode bypass capacitors.
Because amplifiers need a high DC voltage to function,
filter capacitors are needed to smooth out the ripple
present in the voltage after it has been rectified from
AC to DC. In this application, larger electrolytic capac-
itors charge up as the unfiltered DC rises and discharge
after it falls. By holding the charge long enough, the
capacitor smoothes out the ripple of the falling voltage
as indicated in the below illustration.
In the role of cathode bypass, an electrolytic capac-
itor has the effect of passing the AC signal around the
cathode. This keeps the cathode at a DC voltage poten-
tial and also provides a boost in gain of the amplified
signal. It should be noted that the capacitor doesn't
actually pass an AC voltage, but, again, through its
charging and discharging properties it creates the
effect of passing it.
These film capacitors, from left to right, are Orange Drop
SBE 716P, Mallory 150M, Sozo Mustard, and Xicon.
To construct electrolytic capacitors, an electrolytic
paste is placed between foil plates and wrapped into a
cylinder. The assembly is then encased in an aluminum
"can" (older types used a cardboard tube). One side of
the plate is specially formed with a thin dielectric and
is designated positive, the result being that this side
must be kept positive in respect to the other side or
else the dielectric will be destroyed. In other words,
electrolytic capacitors are polarized, meaning they can
only be used with DC voltage, with one lead being kept
at a more positive voltage or potential than the other,
negative lead. Labeling on the capacitor indicates either
the positive (+) or negative (-) lead, sometimes both. In
their cathode bypass function, electrolytic capacitors
pass a degree of signal to ground, but the signal, even
though it is AC, doesn't go below ground potential,
and thus the polarity of the capacitor is maintained.
Electrolytic capacitors are physically larger than
other capacitors and have much higher values, typically
Electrolytic Capacitor Function
Full-wave Rectified
Voltage - DC with Ripple
Capacitor +
Charges and
Diodes pass only the positive portion of the
AC signal in this circuit arrangement.
---= .... _-- ..
The dashed lines indicate
the capacitor discharging voltage.
Because the discharge rate is
slower than the drop-off rate
of the DC ripple, the discharged
voltage fills in the "valleys" of
the ripple.
The function of an electrolytic capacitor in a full-wave rectifying power supply.
31 -
- 32
A variety of electrolytic capacitors, blue Spragues and an Illinois on the right, a small Sprague in the middle foreground,
and two "can" types on the left. The silver Sprague at the upper left has twist locks for the chassis mount, and the multi-
section capacitor with screw terminals uses a clamp-to-chassis mount. The Mallory on the middle left is a 1950s-era
multi-section, cardboard, and wax-coated electrolytic capacitor.
To drain power capacitors after shutting off an amplifier, attach a jumper lead from the plate of a tube to ground. Make
sure to remove the test lead when you are finished; if you turn the amplifier on with the test lead attached, you could
damage the amplifier.
from one to several thousand microfarads. In addition to
observing proper polarity, the voltage rating must never
be exceeded; doing either will destroy the capacitor.
Another important point has to do with the electrolytic
paste. Because it is semi-liquid, it eventually dries up,
rendering the capacitor useless. Ultimately, as electro-
lytic capacitors age, they dry out whether they are used
in circuits or kept unused. Because of this, it's a good
idea to replace the electrolytic capacitors in any amp
more than 30 years old, as detailed later in the book.
If you turn an amplifier on without anything plugged
into the inputs, turn up the volume control and hear a
hum that fluctuates, you might have one or more bad
filter capacitors. Yet, other things, such as the rectifier
tube, could also be bad. A visual inspection will also
help you determine if the capacitors are original or have
been replaced.
Precautions must be taken when dealing with
electrolytic capacitors. Because of their large values,
a dangerous amount of voltage can be stored and
held. When working on an amplifier that has just been
turned off, the capacitors should be discharged. Even
though the capacitors will usually drain down on their
own, it's a good idea to manually do it. A number of
procedures can be used, but one of the easiest methods
is to clip one end of a test lead to ground and the other
end to either pin 1 or 6 of one of the preamp tubes
(the small tubes beginning on the far right when look-
ing into the back of an amplifier). It only takes a few
seconds for the capacitors to drain, so you can remove
the lead after about a minute or so. A word of warn-
ing: Make certain that you remove the test lead soon
after using it so you don't forget about it. If you turn
the amplifier on with the test lead attached, you could
damage the amplifier.
Transformers and Inductors
If we pass DC current through a coil of wire, then
decrease the flow of current or shut it off completely, the
electromagnetic field created by the current through the
coil will continue to flow a certain amount of time and
resist the drop or fluctuation in current. In effect, this
electromagnetic force induces voltage with a property
called induction. If the rate of current flowing in our
coil of wire changes by 1 ampere per second and induces
1 volt in our coil, then we have induced 1 henry (H)
of induction. Since the henry is a rather large amount,
inductance is often measured in millihenries (mH),
which equals 1,000th of a henry.
In some ways we might think of inductance as the
opposite of capacitance, in that while capacitors block
the flow of DC but pass AC, inductors pass DC with
little or no resistance while opposing AC, especially at
high frequencies. Yet, it is important to note, induc-
tance does not actually block AC; it passes it with some
This 90-ma, 4-henry choke used in most 40-watt and
greater Fender amps, with Fender part number 022699, is
manufactured by Triode Electronics in Chicago.
Pi Section Filter
C1 C2
The pi (TT) section filter for power supply circuits looks
like the Greek letter TT in its circuit configuration.
degree of opposition. This opposition is called "induc-
tive reactance" and for our purposes can be thought of
as being similar to resistance. In guitar amps this prop-
erty of inductive reactance becomes especially useful
in power supply circuits, specifically in filtering the
choppy DC (ripple) that has been rectified from AC.
Here we want the DC to flow but without the ripple
of the AC remnant. Thus, a component that opposes
the rise and fall of the AC ripple in the DC by tending
to keep the flow of current moving in a forward direct
movement proves useful. Such a component is called
an inductor or, more commonly, a choke coil, a coil,
or a choke.
As the term coil implies, an inductor consists of
a coil of wire tightly wrapped around a core, usually
made of iron but it can also be a powdered-iron slug,
a cardboard tube, or simply air. In guitar amps, coils
have an iron core and the whole works is covered in a

33 -
- 34
metal case. The width of the coil in combination with
the thickness of the wire, the number of turns of wire
around the core, and the tightness of those turns deter-
mines the inductance of the coil. Most coils in Fenders
have a 4-henry value with a current-capacity rating
of 50 to 100 milliamps, and, in conjunction with two
electrolytic capacitors, form what is called a pi-section
filter, so-named because in its circuit design it resem-
bles the Greek letter 1T (pronounced "pi").
An important characteristic of inductance in rela-
tion to a coil of wire is this: If we pass a coil of wire
through a magnetic field, a current will be induced in
the coil. This phenomenon relates to another impor-
tant characteristic of inductance: If we pass electricity
through any wire, a magnetic field will be produced.
Moreover, if we wind that wire into a coil, the mag-
netic field becomes stronger. Now, if we were to take
the coil of wire with electricity flowing through it and
place it next to another coil of wire, one without elec-
tricity flowing through it, and then turn the electricity
off and on and off in the first coil, current will be
induced in the second coil. Depending on the number
of windings we've made in the second coil, the induced
voltage will vary. The reason we need to turn the elec-
tricity off and on in the first coil is that the second
coil has to cut magnetic lines of flux from the first coil
in order to produce electricity. Alternately, we could
physically move the second coil continually through
the magnetic field of the first coil, but that wouldn't be
practical. Instead, we could pass AC voltage (which in
effect is like turning DC on and off) through the first
coil and have the second coil produce an AC voltage
that is either higher or lower than the voltage we send
through the first coil. This principle is called mutual
inductance, and the device we have crudely created is
called a transformer.
A typical transformer has two separate coils of
wire, called windings. The primary winding is where
we apply the input voltage; this voltage, by the way,
has to be AC in order for the transformer to function.
In a power transformer, this voltage is the 120-volt
AC wall current coming in through the power cord
and switch. The secondary winding is the winding
in which current is induced and that connects to the
power supply circuit where its AC gets rectified into
DC. Depending on the ratio of the turns of wire
between these two windings, the output voltage is
either higher (step-up transformer) or lower (step-
down transformer) in comparison to the input voltage.
For example, a transformer with a 4:1 ratio would
be a step-down type in which the secondary voltage
would be one-quarter that of the primary. Conversely,
a transformer with a 1:4 ratio would be a step-up type
in which the secondary voltage would be four times
higher than the primary voltage.
Power transformers may be configured for vertical
mounting or horizontal mounting. Most Fenders use
horizontal mounting, as shown here.
The power transformer in a typical tube amplifier
has a primary winding and two or three secondary
windings and is essentially a combination step-up,
step-down transformer. A high-voltage secondary
winding delivers anywhere from 250 VAC to more
than 400 VAC to supply the plates and screens of the
tubes, while a low-voltage secondary winding delivers
the 6.3 VAC needed to heat the tubes' filaments. Older,
pre-1970s amps as well as Fender reissues that use tube
rectifiers instead of solid-state diodes also have a low-
voltage secondary winding of 5 VAC used to heat the
filament of the rectifier tube.
Besides a power transformer, guitar tube amplifi-
ers have an output transformer, or OT. Rather than
supply voltage, the output transformer converts the
high-voltage, low-current output signal of the power
tubes to a low-voltage, high-current signal that drives
the speaker. Because this high-voltage AC signal rides
on an even higher DC voltage, the output transformer
also has to isolate the speaker from this high DC. In
addition to this step-down isolating function, the out-
put transformer also converts the high impedance of
the tubes' output (2,000 to 10,000 ohms) to the low
impedance needed to match the speaker or speak-
ers (2, 4, or 8 ohms). The input or tube side of the
OT contains the primary winding, and its associated
impedance is called the OT's primary impedance. The
output or speaker side of the OT contains the second-
ary winding and its associated impedance is called the
OT's secondary impedance.
To define impedance (Z) which, like resistance, is
measured in ohms, we first have to define reactance.
The overall effect of capacitance and inductance in a
On the left is a replacement output transformer for a Deluxe Reverb, while the one on the right is for a Champ. The
physically larger an output transformer is, the higher the wattage it will deliver.
circUIt IS an oppositIOn to AC. Capacitive reactance
is represented by XC and inductive reactance by XL.
Now, the overall effect of reactance (X) and resistance
(R) in a circuit is an opposition to AC. This opposi-
tion is called impedance (Z). For those of you who like
to think mathematically, resistance and reactance in a
series circuit is represented as
and resistance and reactance in a parallel circuit as
where X = XC + XL.
As the above photo indicates, output transformers
come in a range of sizes, depending on the wattage of
the amp. The higher the wattage output of an amp, the
larger the transformer needed to handle that wattage.
Besides delivering high wattage capabilities, large out-
put transformers also offer greater bass response and
volume. In fact, replacing the stock output transformer
on some of the smaller Fenders, such as the Princeton
Reverb, with a larger OT having the same primary and
secondary impedance will both boost the amps' output
by up to 5 watts and improve the fidelity, particularly as
it defines bass response. Of course, new mounting holes
would need to be drilled in the chassis to accommodate
the larger transformer. If you've ever taken a look at the
OT in a Pro Reverb and compared it to that of a Super
Reverb, you will notice a much larger, heavier unit in
the former. While both amps use the same output tube
arrangement-dual 6L6 tubes with fixed bias-the Pro
Reverb claims nearly 10 more watts of output power,
and the amp is definitely louder. Yet, the Pro Reverb
doesn't necessarily put out an inferior tone or fidelity
in the comparison, one reason being the slightly lower
operating voltage, another being the speaker configura-
tion, both of which are well-suited to its smaller OT.
The quality of an output transformer has a pro-
found effect on the tone quality of an amplifier.
Moreover, while a larger OT can provide more vol-
ume and bass response than a smaller one, a poorly
constructed larger OT will be much more detrimen-
tal to the sound quality and not worth the boost in
volume and wattage. Along with the speaker, the OT
has perhaps the most pronounced effect on frequency
response and range as well as the overall tonal quality
of an amplifier. To that end, there are several high-
quality after-market output transformers offered as
replacements for most Fender models. One excellent
manufacturer is Mercury Magnetics, a U.S.-based
company that offers replacement transformers for
most brands of guitar amplifiers as well as custom-
made units for boutique and other independent amp
builders. While I don't necessarily recommend replac-
ing an OT in a blackface or silverface just for the sake
of it, I would definitely recommend using only a high-
quality replacement for any damaged transformer or
any inferior previous replacement.
Many factors go into manufacturing a high-quality
output transformer, such as the construction of the
core, the uniformity of the winding, the accuracy of
the impedance, and the insulation between the windings
and the core. The basic construction of the output trans-
former is similar to that of the power transformer. The
steel laminated core consists of stacked and interleaved
thin E- and I-shaped pieces of steel. A bobbin surrounds
the inner body of the EI-core, and copper wire coated
with an insulating varnish is wrapped onto the bobbin
to form the windings. Most bobbins today are made
out of nylon or plastic, but prior to the late 1960s they
were usually made of paper. Once wound on the bob-
bin, the windings are usually covered in paper, cloth, or

35 -
- 36
plastic and the transformer is then dipped in varnish for
sealing. Two metal face plates called endbells are often
installed over the bobbin and windings.
Due to the usual myths surrounding anything
vintage, some designers, technicians, and musicians
consider paper bobbins to be superior to nylon or plas-
tic types, so much so that certain manufacturers now
use paper bobbins in their current production trans-
formers. The original decision to use paper bobbins,
however, was based more on availability and budget
than on tone or quality, with paper bobbins being both
inexpensive and widely available. Indeed, some of the
highest quality transformers manufactured today
use nylon or plastic bobbins. As with most debates
involving the mythos of vintage amplifiers, evidence is
subjective and consensus unlikely.
Finally, a Fender amp with reverb also has a small
transformer to drive the reverb tank. This is essentially
an output transformer that matches the high imped-
ance of the plates of the reverb driver tube with the
low-impedance input of the reverb tank. This imped-
ance matching transformer doesn't directly affect
sound and definitely not to the extent of the output
transformer. Physically, the reverb driver transformer
is about the same size as a choke coil.
As previously mentioned, most Fender amplifiers made
before the 1970s, as well as most Fender reissues, have
tube rectifiers while those made after the early 1970s
tend to have solid-state diodes for rectifiers. Tube rec-
tifiers are actually two diodes in one envelope that
together form a full-wave rectifier. Referring to the
diagram in the capacitor section, full-wave rectifier
means that each half of the AC signal gets sent through
a diode, resulting in a fuller DC voltage.
A Fender reverb driver transformer.
In general terms, a diode, whether tube or solid
state, passes voltage only in one direction. With a tube
diode this works as follows: A metallic element, called
a cathode, emits electrons when heated. A metal enclo-
sure, called the anode or plate, surrounds the cathode
and is given a positive charge by being connected to the
high-voltage windings of the transformer. In the rectifi-
ers used in Fender amps, the cathode is directly heated,
meaning that the heater and cathode are integrated.
From the power transformer, 5 volts AC applied to
the cathode causes electrons to flow from the cathode
to the plate. When high-voltage AC swings positive,
the plate is positive and electrons flow; in this condi-
tion the diode is said to be forward biased. When the
AC voltage swings negative, the plate is negative and
no electrons flow; now the diode is said to be reverse
biased. Because the full-wave rectifier has two diodes,
one is forward biased while the other is reverse biased,
and vice versa. In effect, the rectifier conducts for the
full cycle of AC, but only in one direction, providing
the DC voltage that will be smoothed to full DC by
capacitors and the choke network.
With solid-state diodes the result is the same: AC
is converted to DC, but the means are different. Most
diodes used for rectifiers are made of silicon. In short,
silicon, an element of pure crystal, is "doped" with
an impurity to make P-type material (positive) and
N-type material (negative). Doping a crystal with
both N-type and P-type materials creates a junction
between the negative and positive portions of the crystal.
If positive voltage is applied to the P-side of the junc-
tion, electrons will flow through the silicon, forward
biasing it. However, if the positive voltage is applied to
the N -side of the junction, no current flows through the
crystal, reverse biasing it. Putting this together, we can
see that when an AC voltage is applied to the N-side, or
anode, the voltage flows through the silicon diode when
it swings positive, exiting out the P-side, or cathode.
Alternately, when the voltage swings negative, it doesn't
flow through the diode. As with the tube diode, voltage
flows only in one direction.
The lN4007 silicon diode (on top) has a l-amp, 1,OOO-PIV
rating, while the lN5408 has a 3-amp, 1,OOO-PIV rating.
Typical Fender Power Supply Circuits
To output tu bes'
output screens and
tubes' reverb driver
plates transformer
Current Flow)
R3 R4
~ v
6.3 VAC for tube filaments (heaters)
To output tubes'
output screens and
tubes' reverb driver
plates transformer
Current Flow)
01 02 03 0.. __ fYY"'\
R3 R4
0405 06
__ ..0
6.3 VAC for tube
filaments (heaters)
T1 = Power transformer
V1 = Full-wave rectifier tube
01 through 06 = Silicon diodes in full-wave rectifier application; more diodes in
series provide higher current rating.
C1 through C6 = Electrolytic capacitors for filtering DC voltage.
L 1 = Choke coil for filtering DC voltage.
R1 and R2 = Bleeder resistors to discharge residual voltage for C1 and C2 when
power is turned off; also provides a degrees of voltage regulation.
R3 and R4 = Voltage dropping resistors; in conjunction with C3 - C6 and L 1,
comprise the "power rail" from which varying voltages are drawn.
51 = Standby switch
Schematic diagrams oftypical Fender power supply circuits, vacuum tube (above) and silicon diode (below).
Component descriptions are from both circuits.
- 38
it swings positive, exiting out the P-side, or cathode.
Alternately, when the voltage swings negative, it doesn't
flow through the diode. As with the tube diode, voltage
flows only in one direction.
When replacing silicon diodes, polarity must be
observed for them to work properly. Most diodes,
like those used in Fenders, which are almost always
IN4007 types, are black with a white band indicat-
ing the cathode end. This side of the diode must be
placed opposite the transformer winding (diode input)
and toward the capacitor and coil network (diode
output). Diode specifications must also be considered
when replacing diodes. Along with current rating (the
amount of current a diode can pass), diodes are speci-
fied by their peak reverse voltage (PRV), also called
peak inverse voltage (PIV). This is the maximum volt-
age to which a diode can be reversed biased. Exceeding
the PIV will destroy the diode. The usual diode used in
Fender amps, the IN4007, has a I-amp current rating
and a 1,000 PlY.
Finally, here's some terminology regarding an ampli-
fier's operating voltage. You'll often hear the term B+ to
describe the high DC voltage applied to the plates of
tubes. This term, synonymous with operating voltage, is
an old term carried over from the early days of electronic
technology when batteries were used to supply voltage
Tube Rectifier or Silicon Diode Circuit?
A common question is this: Which is better, a tube
rectifier or a silicon diode circuit? The answer varies.
On one hand, silicon diodes are inexpensive,
about 25 cents, compared to around 20 dollars for a
tube rectifier. On the other hand, many people believe
a tube rectifier gives a warmer sound to the amp.
The truth is, a tube rectifier doesn't directly
affect the sound, but it does have an indirect effect
in that when driven hard a rectifier tube will "sag,"
meaning that the tube is slower to recover its voltage
than a solid-state diode, which is a fast-recovery
device. The sag, in turn, creates a compressed sound,
which can sound warm and musical. The 5Y3 rectifier
used in the tweed Deluxe, Champ, and Princeton
sags easily at high volumes, while the 5AR4 used in
most blackface amps takes more pushing to sag. At
lowerto moderate volumes, a guitarist might not even
notice an audible tone difference between a rectifier
tube and a silicon diode rectifier circuit. Yet even at
moderate volumes subtle differences can be heard or
felt in response to various pick attacks.
to vacuum tubes. The A-Battery, as it was called, pro-
vided low voltage to the vacuum tubes' filaments. The
C-Battery, likewise, provided low voltage, below 10
volts, to be used to bias the control grids of the tubes.
The B-battery, where the term B+ originates, ranged
from 22.5 to 135 volts, and B-batteries were often con-
nected in series to provide the high voltage necessary to
power the plates and screens of the tubes. The + indi-
cates positive DC voltage.
Vacuum Tubes
A vacuum tube is a glass envelope of electronic ele-
ments that, in guitar amplifiers, modifies or amplifies
the small electronic signal of the guitar. Like a light
bulb, it contains a filament, which in guitar amps is
typically run at 6.3 volts AC and produces the orange
glow inside a tube. The filament heats the cathode,
which in turn releases electrons that are drawn to the
anode or plate because it has been made much more
positive than the cathode. Generally, the plate is fed
with hundreds of volts DC while the cathode is kept
at 0 to a few volts DC. The tube is also equipped with
a control grid on which the guitar signal is carried.
Acting like a valve (which tubes are known as in the
United Kingdom), the signal on the control grid influ-
ences the flow of electrons from cathode to plate.
A positive or negative swinging signal on the grid
increases or decreases the flow of electrons, which
respond to the small grid swings with much larger
corresponding swings (i.e., amplification) due to the
much higher potential between cathode and plate in
relation to the potential between cathode and grid
(which is in the range of a few millivolts).
Tubes with these three elements-control grid,
cathode, and anode or plate-are called triodes. In
guitar amps triodes are used for preamp and phase
inverters (the small tubes). Power tubes, on the other
hand, are either tetrodes or pentodes. As the name sug-
gests, a tetrode has four elements and includes a screen
grid in addition to the control grid, cathode, and
plate, while the pentode has five with the addition of
a suppressor grid. These extra grids are used to focus
the flow of electrons since many of them bounce
off the plate. By focusing the electron flow, the efficien-
cy of the tube increases and thus allows for higher gain
and amplification.
The power tubes used in most Fenders, the 6V6
and the 6L6 or 5881, are designated either as a pen-
tode or beam tetrode, depending on the manufacturer.
The reason for this imprecise terminology involves
patent distinctions dating back to before World War
II. Specifically, the tube design designated "pentode,"
Care and Handling of Vacuum Tubes
So that the internal elements of your vacuum tubes
don't loosen and vibrate when you play through the
amp, use common sense in handling them: Don't hit
your tubes with tools; exercise care when loading your
amp; leave the back cover on your amp for protection;
and don't over-handle tubes by randomly
removing them.
which included a suppressor grid, was originally held
in patent by Philips. Therefore, the 6L6 tube, with its
fifth element-a pair of beam plates-became desig-
nated as a beam tetrode. While the suppressor grid and
the beam plate differ in construction, they perform
Vacuum Tube Noise and Microphonics
There are two common maladies of vacuum tubes ,
stemming in part from the beating they take in a
guitar amplifier: noise and microphonics. First, the
two are notthe same. Noise from a tube includes
rattles, crackles, pops, or hums that can range from
slightly audible to quite loud. Noise usually results
from age or physical abuse. All tubes age and stop
working eventually. Due to the vibrations and rough
handling often associated with guitar amps, their
lives can be reduced. One typical problem with
tubes is that the internal elements can loosen and
physically vibrate when you play through the amp.
Common sense rules here: Don't bang on your tubes
with tools, exercise care when loading your amp
(also leave the back cover on your amp). and don't
over-handle tubes by randomly removing them.
Pulling them out won't damage them, but each time
you remove them they become susceptible to being
dropped, knocked, and banged.
The condition of microphonics is somewhat
different. As the name implies, a microphonic tube
means a tube that acts sort of like a microphone
in that it picks up sounds and amplifies them.
Essentially, all tubes, especially preamp tubes, are
essentially the same function. In this way, the terms
beam tetrode and pentode can be considered some-
what synonymous.
Typically the beam plates or suppressor grids are
kept negative by being internally connected to the cath-
odes. However, the EL34 pentode used in Marshall
amplifiers has a separate pin connection for the sup-
pressor grid and is tied to the cathode at the tube
socket. The screen grid, in contrast to the beam plates
and suppressor grid, is made positive, but slightly less
positive than the plate. This is accomplished by using
an external connection that is separated from the plate
voltage supply by a choke and resistors. The slight
decrease in positive voltage ensures that the electrons
pass through the screen grid to the plate rather than
become absorbed by the screen, which would quickly
fry the tube.
Vacuum tubes will be discussed more fully in the
following chapters.
microphonic. With your amp running, if you lightly
tap a preamp tube with a chopstick or pencil eraser,
you'll hearthe sound come through your speaker,
amplified and possibly with a slight ring to it. Under
normal playing conditions, you shouldn't hear a
microphonic tube. If you do, it will probably be
heard as a ringing or howling effect and possibly
as feedback. This happens when the internal
elements in the tube vibrate. This can happen due
to age or damage. Occasionally, a new tube will be
microphonic either due to rough shipping or a factory
defect. Generally these are weeded out by reputable
tube venders, and if you ever receive a damaged
tube most venders will replace it. In the case of age
or damage, it might not seem obvious which tube
has become microphonic. To locate it, carefully tap
on each tube with a chopstick or pencil while the
amp is running on low volume. If upon tapping a
tube, you hear ringing that intensifies, sustains, and
possibly goes into feedback, then you've found the
microphonic tube. This same process can also be
used to find a noisy tube. Bear in mind that this test
needs to be performed with care. Tapping on a tube
can cause damage if done too hard.
39 -
Fender has used various brands of speakers through-
out its histor y, including j ensen, j BL, Utah, Oxford,
CTS, and Eminence. While these speakers have tonal
and performance distinctions of their own, all have
similar construction. Speakers identified as vintage-era,
meani ng roughly those manufact ured before the 1970s,
as well as those currently manufactured by j ensen, to
name just one company, are usually low-wattage (less
than 50 watts) and use alnico magnets.
Higher wattage speakers usuall y use cerami c
magnet s; however, thi s is not a hard, fas t rul e as
some current production, low-watt age vintage series
speakers use ceramic speakers. Alnico, which st ands
for aluminum-nickel-cobalt, is an alloy held together
primarily with iron that makes a powerful permanent
magnet. As a result, alnico magnets are physically
small er than ceramic magnets. Aside from this physi -
cal difference, alnico and ceramic speakers have the
same basic constr uction.
When a signal is applied to a speaker, it flows
through the voice coil, which consists of a coil of wire
suspended inside the magnet . The coil moves within
the magnetic fi eld according to the strength of the sig-
nal, and as it does it also pulls the speaker cone, to
which it is connected back and forth in relation to the
Opposite: Fender's Vintage Modified Bandmaster
head and speaker cabinet comes stocked with Celestion
G12P-80 speakers designed to deliver a fat, woody bass
response and clear highs. Fender Musical
Instruments Corporation
The Speaker's Effect on an Amp's Sound
Changing an amplifier's speaker or speakers has
perhaps the most significant effect on the amplifier's
sound. Yet the same speaker will sound different in
various amp models.
Speaker Impedance
Perhaps the most important specification of a
speaker is its impedance. Most speakers used in
Fenders have 8-ohm impedance; even the multi-
speaker amps, such as the Bassman, Super Reverb,
and Twin, usually have 8-ohm speakers. Often
the speakers are wired in parallel (positive + to
positive + and negative - to negative -). producing
an impedance of 4 ohms in the dual-speaker amps
and 2 ohms in the quad-speaker amps. Sometimes,
though, a quad-speaker amp will have an 8-ohm
impedance that is matched by speakers wired in
series-parallel, two pairs in series with the pairs
in parallel.
It is important to match the output impedance
of an amplifier with the impedance of the speaker.
Generally, besides possible degradation of tone, a
mismatch in impedance causes stress on the output
tubes and transformer. Good practice requires any
replacement speaker to be of the same impedance
as the one replaced. Furthermore, keep in mind that
some amps use 12-inch diameter speakers while
others use lO-inch diameter and others still, such as
older Champs, use 8-inch.
The truth is, a tube rectifier doesn't directly
affect the sound, but it does have an indirect
effect in that when driven hard a rectifier tube will
"sag," meaning that the tube is slower to recover
its voltage than a solid-state diode, which is a
fast-recovery device. The sag, in turn, creates a
compressed sound, which can sound warm and
musical. The 5Y3 rectifier used in the tweed Deluxe,
Champ, and Princeton sags easily at high volumes,
while the 5AR4 used in most blackface amps takes
more pushing to sag. At lower to moderate volumes
a guitarist might not even notice an audible tone
difference between a rectifier tube and a silicon
diode rectifier circuit. Yet even at moderate volumes
subtle differences can be heard or felt in response
to various pick attacks.
Speaker Hookups and Impedance
Fenders with multiple speakers, such as the Twin and the Super Reverb, have their speakers connected in a specific
order to match impedance between speakers and output transformers. When two speakers are connected in parallel,
for example, their combined impedance is halfthat of each speaker (two 16-ohm speakers in parallel yields 8-ohm
impedance). By contrast, two speakers connected in series results in a total impedance equivalentto the sum of the
speakers' individual impedance (two 4-ohm speakers in series yields 8-ohm impedance). The following diagrams
indicate common speaker connections in parallel and series to match an amplifier's output impedance.
Two 8-ohm speakers in parallel yield 4-ohm output. Ensure that the positive (+) speaker lugs connect to the center
pin of the jack.
Four 8-ohm speakers in parallel yield 2-ohm output. Ensure that the positive (+) speaker lugs connect to the center
pin of the jack.
louder Speakers

To find a louder speaker for your amp, you need to
match the proper wattage and use a speaker with a
higher sensitivity.
Breaking In New Speakers
When installing a new speaker, the speaker should
be broken in. Even though a new speaker won't be
f ully broken in until after hours of play, a brief initial
break in helps primarily because a speaker is tight
when new. Plus, a brand new speaker is susceptible
to damage if hit with a full volume blast.
To prevent damage, firstt urn on the amp with
a guitar connected and the volume at no more than
one-quarter. Let it run a few minutes without playing
the guitar, then strum full chords for about 10 minutes
or so. Gradually turn up the volume and play the guitar
a little harder for about 5 minutes. After that, playas
you normally do. Eventually the speaker will loosen,
perhaps after a few days or a few weeks, depending
on how frequently you play.
strength of the signal. This movement changes the air
pressure around the cone, which in turn creates the
sound waves our ears hear.
Speakers have various specifications and ratings,
one being the power rating or wattage. This rating
enables us to match the proper speaker to our amp.
One thing to be aware of: A speaker with a higher
power rating will not sound louder than one with a
lower power rating. In fact, if we replace the 25-watt
speaker in a Fender Princeton with a 120-watt speaker,
the Princeton will actually sound quieter. Basically, a
high-wattage speaker has a much st iffer cone to handle
the output of a high-wattage amplifier. The Princeton
will have a tough time pushing that stiff a cone enough
to produce a loud sound.
To find a speaker t hat will produce a louder sound,
we need to match the proper wattage and use a speaker
with a higher sensitivity. Sensitivity is measured in db,
with a 100-db speaker generally being louder t han a
97-db speaker; however, it's important to keep in mind
that a louder speaker may not sound better. For sound
quality we need to also consider a speaker's frequency
range and frequency response. While frequency range
is generally an accurate measurement, frequency
response specifications are not.
Essentially, frequency response becomes influ-
enced by the size and material construction of the
speaker cabinet as well as the dimensions of the room
in which the speaker is used. The stated frequency
response, therefore, isn't the best specification to go
by and should be considered primarily as reference.
Moreover, it needs to be taken in conjunction with
two other specifications: speaker efficiency, which
represents a speaker's accuracy in converting an elec-
tric signal into sound, and transient response, which
specifies the quickness of a speaker's reaction to a
signal without distorting it. It seems that interpreting
a speaker's specifications is almost a science in itself.
Yet, if you match the power rating of a good qual-
ity speaker, such as a Jensen, Eminence, or Weber to
your amp's power rating, you'll be in good shape. To
become a connoisseur of speakers requires trying out
a variety of speakers in a variety of amps and allowing
your ears to be the judge.
Fender amps use two varieties of switches: toggle
switches for power, standby, and ground, and
slide swi tches for bright control. These swi tches are
usually of the single-pole, single-throw (SPST) type.
Other common types of switches include double-pole,
single-throw (DPST) and double-pole, double-throw
(DPDT). A SPST-type switch operates in a typical
on-off fashion. Specifically, when the toggle or slide
is moved from the off position to the on position, a
small slider pushes one set of contacts together. The
single set of contacts make contact in only one posi-
tion. In a DPST switch, two separate sets of contacts
make contact in only one position. Physically, the
SPST switch has two outer terminals on which to
attach wires, whereas the DPST switch has four outer
terminals for four wires and is essentially two indi-
vidual SPST switches with actuators that are linked
or "ganged" together so t hat one toggle or slide moves
both switch poles. The DPDT switch functions like a
DPST except that it has six terminals so t hat no mat-
ter which position the switch is in, a set of contacts is
actuated. An SPDT (single-pole, double-throw), which
has t hree terminals, by the same token, functions like
half of DPDT in that a DPDT essentially consists of
two ganged SPDT switches.
The DPDT toggle switch comes in handy for such
modifications as adding a gain stage. Roughly put,
t he output of a preamp stage can be connected to the
middle terminal of the switch so that in one position
it feeds the output while in the other position it feeds
the gain stage, which in turn feeds the output through
the other independent set of contacts. I wil l elabo-
rate and further clarify this switching operation in
Chapter 10.
43 -
- 44
Schematics and layouts
Schematics for the major models of Fender amps are
widely available on the web (consult the appendix for
useful websites). These are a must for amp modifica-
tions, and so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself
with these documents. Fender schematics are reader-
friendly and can easily be followed from the input to
the output, especially in conjunction with the Fender
layout, which is basically a drawing of the inside of the
chassis, showing the components on the circuit board
as well as the major internal wiring. See the facing page
for examples of both a schematic and a layout.
To describe the amp's operation as represented by the
schematic, let's look at it in four pieces: the power supply
(which we discussed in Chapter 2), the preamp,
the phase inverter, and the output stage. The reverb cir-
cuit will be discussed in Chapter 7 and the vibrato circuit
in Chapter 4. While there are two preamplifier circuits in
this dual channel Fender, we will focus on only the nor-
mal channel as it is the same as the vibrato channel
preamp minus the vibrato oscillator.
With a guitar plugged into input 1, the first thing
the signal encounters is the input jack. The sleeve of
the jack, being grounded, connects the grounded side
of the guitar's pickups to the amp's ground via the
shield of the guitar cable. This sets the reference for
the small signal coming from the pickup, passing
through the center of the guitar cord, and entering the
tip of the input jack. Obviously a key component in this
chain is the guitar cord, which can provide a great deal
of unwanted noise. Constant flexing and yanking on
it can result in damage to its shield, center conductor,
and the insulation between the shield and conductor.
When troubleshooting any unwanted noise, be sure
to check the cord as well as the guitar before turning to
the amp. Often noises that originate in a guitar or cord
get blamed on the amp. It should go without saying:
Use high-quality cords and pickups.
Referring to the schematic on page 48, the 1 M-ohm
resistor located on the input jack is the grid-load resistor
for the first triode and it provides impedance match-
ing between the guitar and the triode. In addition, the
gird-load resistor, which, even though it's attached
to the jack, connects between the triode's grid and
ground, setting the reference for the triode's cathode
in its relationship with the grid. The two 68-K-ohm
resistors that are also attached to the input jacks help
to snub radio frequency (rf) interference (as rf con-
stantly fills the air around us) and parasitic oscillation,
which is extremely high frequencies that can be picked
up by a tube's grid, causing the tube to oscillate. As a
result, these resistors are often called grid-stopper or
swamp resistors. Also, these resistors work in conjunc-
tion with the 1 M-ohm resistor to act as an impedance
switching network making input 1 the high-level input
for an electric guitar and input 2 the low-level input for
acoustic pickups used on guitars, banjos, violins, and
other stringed instruments as well as for such instru-
ments as accordions and organs. When plugged into
input 1, the 1 M-ohm grid-load resistor shunts little
of the signal to ground. When plugged into input 2,
on the other hand, the 1 M-ohm resistor is effectively
replaced by a 68-K-ohm resistor, which shunts more
of the signal to ground, thus making the overall signal
lower in level.
The two triodes share the same tube envelope. The
Fender standard 7025 tube (which was later replaced
by a nearly equivalent tube, the now standard 12AX7)
is therefore known as a dual triode. The 100-K-ohm
plate resistors determine the gain of each triode while
the 1.5-K-ohm and 820-ohm (the reason for the dif-
fering values will be explained soon) cathode resistors
set the operating bias for each tube (as explained later,
"bias" signifies the idle current of the tube, the operat-
ing condition needed for a tube to amplify a signal).
The 25-uF cathode bypass capacitors keep the AC
signal out of the DC bias, which, in turn, provides a
gain boost for each triode and, as indicated by the +,
are electrolytic.
Once the first triode amplifies the signal, it passes
from the plate to the tone controls (also called the tone
stack) where the signal is modified via filtering by the
250 pF, .047 uF, and .1 uF capacitors, the 100-K-ohm
slope resistor, the 6.8-K-ohm midrange resistor, and
the two potentiometers. After being shaped by these
filters, the signal passes to the volume control, which
adjusts its level. Because the signal passes through these
capacitors, resistors, and potentiometers, it loses much
of its strength through an effect known as insertion
loss. The second triode functions as a second preamp
stage to amplify the signal as it exits the tone stack.
Besides setting the input level of the signal for the sec-
ond triode, the volume control also acts as a grid-load
resistor for the triode.
The cathode resistor for the second triode is 820
ohms rather than 1.5 kilohms because it, along with
the bypass capacitor, is shared with the cathode of the
second triode of the vibrato channel preamp. When
two cathodes share a resistor, the value of the resis-
tor has to be approximately halved to give the same
bias as that of a solitary cathode. Coupling these cath-
odes amounts to a component-saving-and therefore
price-saving-method and doesn't really affect the
performance of the triodes; however some people
believe the tubes sound better with cathodes separated
and given their own 1.5-K-ohm resistor and 25-uF
capacitor. Yet, if you want to run a 12AT7 tube in
one channel and a 12AX7 in the other while retain-
ing the shared cathode resistor/capacitor arrangement,
the tubes won't function properly because the 12A T7
draws more current than the 12AX7. However, using
a 12AY7 with a 12AX7 works fine with coupled



Fender Model Deluxe-Amp AB 763 Schematic Notice


{ ::;:: . 4

+-...... ' .. 'K'-+-..... 4' .. 0_-+ +90V

I. g #
\ .
'-"""" +180V
TR3 r


- 125P23B
TRI - 125C3A
TR2 6-
iii lijl 1
27K 10K + T",
,, '6. i'6. i -'6.
450 450 450
TRjio' >-f-..:::G::.:Z::..:3:.,4-=-_-+ , . , SWITCH

.. '*' AC SWITCH
-r 16
1. Voltages read to ground with electronic
voltmeter. Values shown + or - 20%
2. All resistors 1/2 watt, 10% tolerance. if not specified.
3. All capacitors at least 400 volt rating. if not specified.
A schematic is a visual representation of an amplifier's operation while the layout shows the location of components
and wiring. Shown here are the schematic (top) and layout (bottom) for a 1963 Fender Deluxe.
Fender Model Deluxe-Amp AB 763 Layout
12AT7 7025 7025
NOTE - All resistors 1/2 watt, 1-% tolerance if not specified. NOTE - All capacitors at least 400 volt rating if not specified.
45 -
- 46
~ - - I
(Coil or Choke)
Schematic Symbols
v 1'1.-__ :

Input Jacks
Power Transformer
with only two
terminals connected
Rotary Switch
Pentode Tube
~ I
Shielded Cable
Zener Diode
cathodes. In Chapter 4 we'll look at various tubes that
can be used as preamps, while Chapter 9 will cover
separating cathodes.
Finally, the .047 uF coupling capacitor blocks DC
voltage from the next stage while also shaping the sig-
nal after it's been amplified by the second triode. The
220-K-ohm resistor after the coupling capacitor acts
as a mixer by being matched with another 220-K-ohm
resistor at the end of the vibrato channel preamp.
Effectively, the signal passes through the resistor and
onto the phase inverter, while the second 220-K-ohm
resistor, the one at the end of the other channel, pre-
vents the signal from backing into that channel.
As we will learn in Chapter 5, Fender has used a
variety of phase inverters, but the one most commonly
used is a common-cathode type called a long-tailed
pair due to the "tail" created by the resistor connected
to the grid and cathode bias resistors. Phase inverters
are employed with "push-pull" output stages, which
are used in all but the smallest Fender amps (i.e.,
Champ and tweed Princeton). While push-pull output
will be discussed more thoroughly in the schematic
description of the output stage, essentially it consists
of a pair or quad of output tubes that operate out-
of-phase with each other. A phase inverter is used to
provide two 180-degree-out-of-phase signals for the
pair or quad.
The long-tailed pair has two inputs, the first
from the preamp and through the .001 coupling capac-
itor, the second at near ground potential through the
.1 uF coupling capacitor. The negative feedback loop
also feeds this input. The negative feedback loop (NFB)
consists of a signal taken from the speaker and fed
back into the circuit, here through the phase inverter.
Being out of phase, NFB subtracts from the audio sig-
nal just enough to cancel high-frequency noises carried
along with the audio signal. The amount of NFB is
determined by the resistive divider formed by the 820-
ohm and 47-ohm resistors, as shown in the schematic.
Much of the NFB gets shunted to ground through the
47 ohm resistor since too much NFB will adversely
affect the signal.
As you can see, the phase inverter uses both triodes
of a dual-triode tube, usually a 12AT7 or 12AX7. The
cathodes are tied together and operating bias is set by
the 470-ohm resistor. The tail resistor, on the other
hand, holds the cathode well above ground, allowing
around +90 VDC on the cathode. The 1-M-ohm resis-
tors tie the grids to the above-ground potential and
help keep the triodes balanced. Simplifying a some-
what complex operation, when the audio signal swings
positive at the upper triode grid, the cathode drives the
other triode to produce an output signal 180-degrees
out of phase with the output of the upper triode. Recall
that electrons are drawn from the cathode to the plate,
providing current flow through the tube. With current
flowing in the upper triode and its cathode held well
above ground, a signal swinging positive at the grid
will produce a rise in voltage at the plate and a sub-
sequent drop in voltage at the cathode. These two
signals, while not equal in voltage, are 180-degrees out
of phase. The lower voltage signal at the cathode, in
turn, drives the bottom triode to amplify the signal,
therefore producing two amplified, out-of-phase sig-
nals at the plates of both tubes. You will note that the
plate resistors (100-K-ohm and 82-K-ohm) are not of
the same value. This is to compensate for the slightly
unequal gain of the triodes since one is directly fed
with the signal. Finally, the .1-uF coupling capacitors
keep the high-voltage DC from the output tube grids
and also shape the tonal quality of the signal.
Most guitar amplifiers use push-pull output, mean-
ing that, at its basic level, a pair of output tubes operate
in opposite phase (180 degrees) of one another. This
is accomplished by using an output transformer with
a center tap in the primary winding, as shown in the
schematic. B+ voltage is applied to the center tap with
each end of the transformer connected to the plate
of each of the output tubes. Higher power amps, typi-
cally 100 watts, such as the Fender Twin, use four
output tubes (called a "quad") rather than two. In the
quad arrangement, two tubes are connected in the same
fashion as the pair of tubes shown in the schematic.
Another tube is connected in parallel to each of these
two (making the quad). A parallel connection means
that the plates and cathodes of the tubes are connected
together. In most Fenders, the grid and screen have their
own resistors (1.5-K-ohm and 470-ohm, respectively, as
shown in the schematic), which, in turn are connected
at the ends opposite the tube. With this setup the signal
drives both tubes, and the output power of both tubes is
combined at the transformer.
In a push-pull output, each tube (or set of parallel
tubes) conducts on alternate cycles of the input signal.
In most cases, there is an overlap, or crossover, when
the two tubes conduct together near the O-volt line
of the AC signal (on the schematic, the center line over
which the AC signal, or sine wave, is drawn). The
advantage of the push-pull output includes more effi-
cient power delivery and quiet operation. The primary
"disadvantage," although subjective, is the tendency to
cancel even order harmonics, which contrasts single-
ended output amplifiers, such as the Champ. These
amps emphasize even order harmonics, which many
guitarists consider advantageous to full tonal quality.
Harmonics are tones whose frequencies are multiples
(either even, 2, 4, etc., or odd, 3, 5, etc.) of a fundamen-
tal tone. Even order harmonics tend to be rich, making
the tone thicker, while odd levels often sound harsh.
While even order harmonics sound musical, single-
ended output amplifiers tend to be lower wattage and
require more energy and are less efficient than push-pull
47 -
Input 2
Input 1
- 48
Fender Deluxe Preamp Schematic and Layout
1f2 of
1 Treble
220K --
Mixer Resistor
Pin 8 of Vibrato
Preamp Tube
F= 6.3VAC
Filament Voltage
1f2 of
( 12Ax7)
To Cathode
of Vibrato
+ Channel
Triode 2
2 1
To Phase
Fender Deluxe Phase Inverter Schematic and Layout
.001 uf
F= 6.3VAC
Negative Feedback
from Speaker
1 .1 uf
t-I To OutputTube
- - To Normal Channel Preamp
- - To Vibrato Channel Preamp
49 -
- 50
Fender Deluxe Output Stage Schematic and Layout
From 1.5K
Potentiometer ~ + 25uf
Power - ~
470 n IN4007
+ 25uf
To Output
F= 6.3VAC
Filament Voltage
-- To Output
To Phase
amplifiers. While push-pull output tubes conduct only
half the time, a single-ended output, which typically
uses only one tube, conducts all the time, throughout
the full signal. By using a parallel arrangement, more
than one tube can be used in a single-ended output;
however, the output power and volume are still low in
comparison to the amount of energy dissipated by the
tubes. Obviously what we have here is a trade off.
Getting back to the schematic, the 220-K-ohm grid
resistors evenly distribute the negative bias voltage to the
output tubes. For tubes to properly amplify, they need to
have their current set to an operating point. On fixed-
bias amps, such as most Fenders, this is usually done by
applying a negative voltage to the grid to make it more
negative than the cathode. Too much negative voltage
and the tube will cut off, yet with too little negative volt-
age, the tube will saturate. Either way the tube will not
conduct. To set the bias, adjust the bias potentiometer
while measuring the negative voltage at the 220-K-ohm
junction. Bias is basically set when you adjust the poten-
tiometer to read the negative voltage as stated on the
schematic. However, this is a general setting. There are
better methods of achieving a more efficient bias setting.
Bias will be discussed in detail in Chapter 4.
In Fenders, the negative bias voltage is usually
obtained by using a single-wave rectifier circuit (the
IN4007 diode and associated capacitor) . Note, refer-
ring to the schematic, that the diode and capacitor are
installed " backwards" to rectify the negative side or
cycle of the AC voltage rather than the positive cycle.
The resistors are essentially voltage dropping resistors
used to get the voltage in range, with a potentiometer
as a fine adjustment for the voltage drop.
With the bias current set to the proper operat-
ing point, the out-of-phase signal passes through the
1.5-K-ohm resistors on the grids of each tube. Like the
68-K-ohm resistors on the grid of the preamp tube,
these are swamp or grid-stopper resistors, used to pre-
vent parasitic oscillations. The 470-ohm resistors on
the output tubes are the screen-grid resistors. These
are normally 1 watt or greater and set the voltage at
the screens of the tubes.
Screen-grid resistors (also simply called screen
resistors) do at least two things: One, they keep a
tube's screen grid less positive than the plate so the
electron flow focuses on the plate. In amplifiers that
use a voltage-dropping resistor rather than a choke in
the B+ power rail (the row of choke, capacitors, and
resistors in the power supply from where voltage is
Push-Pull Output
Most common guitar amps use push-pull output, with
a pair of output tubes operating in opposite phase (180
degrees) of one another. Higher-powered amps of
about 100 watts or more, typically use four
output tubes.
drawn-see the discussion of rectifiers in the previ-
ous chapter) and where the plate voltage is drawn
from one side of the voltage-dropping resistor and
the screen voltage from the other side, the screen
grids will already be adequately less positive than
the plates. However, most Fenders use a choke in the
power rail and while at idle a 2- to 10-volt difference
exists between plates and screens; when the amp is
driven that voltage difference is negligible. Because
the screens and plates can be at the same positive volt-
age potential, screen-grid resistors become necessary,
which brings us to point two: Screen-grid resistors
also protect the screens from exceeding their power
dissipation ratings. Basically, when the input signal
on a power tube's control grid swings hard, the plate
can temporarily become more negative than the screen
grid. A screen resistor will limit the amount of current
going to the screen grid and, by extension, limits the
amount of power dissipation.
Fender amps typically come equipped with screen
resistors valued at 470 ohms with a I-watt or greater
power rating. While the 470-ohm value isn't necessar-
ily arbitrary, the value isn't critical. Yet, if the value
is too high, the resistor will starve the screen grid,
resulting in a poor sounding amp. On the other hand,
a value that is too low should be avoided for the above
reasons. Fender manufactured a few tweed-era ampli-
fiers that used a choke in the power supply but no
screen resistors on the power tubes. If you have such
an amp, it would be a good idea to install screen resis-
tors (see screen resistor replacement discussed in the
following chapters for instruction). Installing screen
resistors will not decrease the value of the vintage amp
since the installation is nondestructive, meaning it can
be reversed. This is especially important if you are run-
ning an expensive set of vintage output tubes.
51 -
While biasing an amp isn't technically considered a
modification, it is an easy and free method to improve
the sound of any tube amplifier. An amp that isn't prop-
erly biased will not sound at its peak. Furthermore,
by experimenting with bias settings, you can find the
tones that you prefer and not have to rely on whatever
bias point the factory set or the last tech who repaired
you amp believed to the optimal (or, in some cases,
good enough).
The term "bias" refers to setting a tube's operating
condition, or current, while it is idle or determining
its no-signal (quiescent) condition. Essentially for the
tube to operate properly, the control grid must be at
a negative potential (DC) in relation to the cathode.
This relationship allows the guitar signal, which is
an alternating current (AC), to rise positively and fall
negatively (swing) along a "zero" line (determined
by a negative bias voltage). If the control grid is not
at a more negative voltage (potential) than the cath-
ode, when the guitar signal swings it will be cut off
as it reaches the cathode voltage. Basically, if the volt-
age on a tube's grid is set too low (more negative), the
tube will cut off and not conduct (pass or amplify) the
signal. On the other hand, if it is set too high (less neg-
ative), the tube will saturate and most likely burn out.
While bias voltage is necessary for all tubes to operate,
when speaking of bias, it is usually meant in terms of
Biasing Your Amp
" Bias" refers to setting a tube's operat ing current
while it is idle. An amp t hat isn't properly biased will
not sound at its peak. And by experimenting with bias
settings, you can find overal l amp tones that
you prefer.
Opposite: The Twin reissue replicates the vintage circuit
design and two 12-inch nwin") speakers of the tweed-era
original. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
chapter 4
the output tubes only. Furthermore, the term "bias" is
not equivalent to "bias voltage"; "bias" is an operating
condition that involves a tube's ability to conduct cur-
rent, while "bias voltage" refers to the both the actual
voltage applied to a tube's grid and the difference in
potential between a tube's grid and cathode, measured
as voltage.
One of the most common questions asked regard-
ing tube amplifiers is, "Do I need to bias my amp
whenever I replace the output tubes?" The common
answers are yes, no, or maybe. Believe it or not, all these
answers are relatively correct. First off, with cathode-
biased amps, discussed below, there is no adjustable
bias, and, therefore, the answer is no. For fixed-bias
amps, the answer is technically yes, but in practice
maybe. Why the ambiguity? A bias voltage supply of
say -60 volts maximum usually would have an adjust-
able range of 10 to 15 volts (for instance, -45 VDC to
-60VDC) and as such replacement tubes of the same
variety will probably be within a tolerable range based
on the setting of the tubes being replaced. Yet, why
take chances? More precisely, why not set your amp
to optimum? Biasing an amp is really not difficult and
requires only a minimum of tools, most importantly
a multimeter.
There are two methods used in most amplifiers to
set or determine bias voltage for output tubes. Cathode
On this Fender Deluxe clone, the cathode resistor is the
white 5-watt, 250-ohm resistor in the center. The cathode
resistor in cathode-biased Fenders could also look like one
ofthose being held in the foreground.
53 -
- 54
bias (found in smaller and older Fenders, such as the
tweed Deluxes, Champs, and Princetons) sets the tubes
bias by raising the cathode above ground potential
(typically around +20 to +30 VDC), which in turn
makes the control grid more negative than the cathode.
This type of bias is not adjustable. Instead the cathode
resister (250-ohm, 5-watt in a tweed Deluxe) must be
replaced to change the bias. Typically this is not done;
however, if you want to experiment, raising the value
of the resistor by about 50 ohms won't harm the amp.
If you decide to lower the resistor, though, you should
measure the bias to ensure that the tube's plate dissipa-
tion is within limits. This procedure will be covered
later in this chapter. Cathode bias is how bias is set for
the preamp, reverb, and phase inverter tubes.
The second method for biasing output tubes is
called fixed bias, even though this type of bias is often
adjustable. With fixed bias the control grid is made
more negative than the cathode by supplying a negative
voltage (typically -30 to -60 VDC) to the control grid
of the output tube. This requires a separate power sup-
ply that is adjusted via a potentiometer whenever the
output tubes are replaced. There is no "correct" voltage
setting for fixed bias but, rather, a voltage range. Lower
or colder bias (more negative voltage on the grids) tends
to make the tubes sound clean but with a thinner tone
and a tendency toward unpleasant crossover distortion
if set too low. Higher or hotter bias (less negative volt-
age on the grids) makes the amp louder with a thicker
tone but also with the risk of saturation, which will
cause the plates to glow red and eventually melt if set
too high.
Removing the Chassis
The first step in any modification, including biasing
the power tubes, is gaining access to the tubes and cir-
cuitry. While you can often reach into the back of the
cabinet or head and grab the tubes, the safest and easi-
est approach requires removing the rear access panel.
On blackface and silverface heads and combos, this is
a thin piece of wood with two screws on each side.
On Fender tweed-era amps and reissues, such as
the 59 Bassman Reissue, as well as the Hot Rod series,
all of which have the controls on the top of the cabi-
net, removing the rear panel also exposes the circuitry.
Easy access, indeed. In fact, most of the mods on these
models can be done without removing the chassis.
With blackface, silverface, and blackface reissues,
the chassis must be removed to gain access to the cir-
cuitry. Before removing the chassis, it's a good idea to
remove the output tubes first. The output tubes are held
in by spring clamps and must be worked out gradu-
ally while holding open the clamps. Be aware also that
Our silverface Super Reverb project amp with the back panel removed.
On the Hot Rod models, remove six screws and lift the panel away.
To remove output tubes, push the clamp open with one hand and gently rock the tube out.
55 -
- 56
In time the spring clamps begin to lose their tension and
need to be retensioned by squeezing the jaws together so
they will secure the tubes tightly.
Remove preamp tube shields by slightly twisting them
counterclockwise. Preamp shields not only help to retain
the tube in the socket, they also keep stray RF away from
preamp tubes.
tubes get extremely hot, and therefore the tubes should
be allowed to cool down before removing them.
The preamp tubes, on the other hand, are secured
simply from tension exerted on their pins by the socket
and by a tube shield that twists slightly onto the socket.
The shield has an internal spring that presses against
the top of the tube. Often, though, the tube shields are
missing from older amps. Since they are inexpensive,
it's a good idea to replace them.
Fender speaker connections consist of a 1/4-inch jack that
should be removed by pulling the jack and notthe cable.
In addition to removing the output tubes, unplug
the speaker connection, the foot switches if they're
plugged in, and the reverb tank if so equipped. When
removing cables, always pull by the connector and
not the cable or wire itself. Note, also, that the reverb
connections are color coded, red for input and white
for output . Sometimes the cables themselves are color-
matched and other times it's not so easy to determine.
You can always mark each cable with a piece of tape.
Next, remove the four chassis-to-cabinet screws.
Be aware that on older amps there are nuts under the
chassis that must be held while unfastening the screws.
Getting a nut-driver or a wrench on them is difficult
due to the tight spaces. Luckily, you can often hold
them tight enough by hand.
On reissues, the chassis has a lip on the back edge
through which several small Phillips-head screws secure
the chassis to cabinet. These are easily visible from the
back of the amp. Remove the screws. The chassis is
held in place across the front by the speaker baffle (the
board on which the speaker or speakers are mounted)
and the rear corners by the rear panel mounting strips.
However, the chassis is unstable without the mounting
screws as the transformers are heavy and can cause
the chassis to drop with much force. Remove the chas-
sis by pulling it back and out, using the transformers
as handles.
If you are going to be turning on the amp, for bias-
ing, for example, install the tubes. If the circuitry needs
to be accessible, which it will have to be for biasing,
the chassis will have to be supported so the tubes have
enough clearance. Wood blocks under the transform-
ers work fine as long as they are stable.
Also make sure the speaker connector will hook
up. Never run your amp without the speaker attached
The color coding on the reverb connections of this amp is
faint. White indicates reverb output, while red indicates
reverb input. Some amps have more clearly colored jacks.
as this can destroy the output tubes and possibly the
output transformer in a matter of minutes.
Reverb doesn't need to be hooked up unless you are
checking the reverb circuit or if you are going to use
reverb when you play the amp for the ever-important
ear test. If more slack is needed in the reverb cable,
unscrew the cable clamp from the side of the cabinet.
To work on the chassis on a bench, you'll need to
either make an extension cable to connect the chassis
to the cabinet speaker(s) or consider using a loose
speaker or speakers-quality doesn't matter-as a sort
of dummy load. An extension cable can be made from
a length of 18-guage speaker wire with a male jack
connected to one end and a female jack to the other.
Make sure to observe polarity; that is, connect the ground
lugs of the jacks to the same wire. Jacks and speaker wire
are widely available at places like Radio Shack. If you
decide to connect loose speakers to the chassis speaker
output rather than the cabinet speakers, make certain you
know the output impedance of your amplifier. A Fender
with two speakers, such as a Twin, is usually 4-ohm
while one with four speakers, such as the Super Reverb or
Bassman, is 2-ohm. In those cases, use a 4-ohm speaker
(or two 8-ohm speakers in parallel) for the former and
two 4-ohms in parallel (or four 8-ohm speakers in parallel)
for the latter.
You could also purchase a dummy load with the
proper impedance, but for the average do-it-yourselfer,
these are often not worth the cost. As an alternative you
can build your own dummy load with large resistors as
long as the impedance matches the amp's impedance.
Also make sure that if the amp is 50-watt, the combined
resistor rating of the load needs to be at least 50-watt.
This might mean some large resistors. Instructions for
making various loads are available online.
Because the power cord comes out with the chassis,
make sure to remove the screw holding the cable clamp
to the cabinet.
Each chassis strap has two screws. Use yourfree hand
to hold the fastener nuts underneath the chassis. A small
wrench or nut-driver may be necessary.
Never, ever run your amp without the speaker or
speakers attached. This can destroy the output
tubes-and even the output transformer-in a matter
of moments.
57 -
- 58
Using the power and output transformers as handles. pull the chassis straight back and out.
Once the chassis is removed. place it on your bench or on top of the cabinet.
With the chassis out of the cabinet, make sure that the tubes have adequate clearance. Here, the tubes are situated over
the edge ofthe cabinet. Cautious attention must be used when the chassis sits atop the cabinet.
Removing the speaker junction board on multi -speaker combos should allow enough slack in the speaker cable to hook the
connector to the chassis. Never operate a tube amp without the speaker connected.
59 -
- 60
How to Set Bias
To accurately adjust t he bias voltage, t he plate current
and volt age of each output tube is used to determine
the tube's plate dissipation. Datasheets for tubes
Output Impedance of Common Fender Amps
Amplifer Output Impedance
Bandmaster 40
Bassman Combo 20
Bassman Head 80
Concert 20
Champ 40
Deluxe 80
Princeton 80
Pro 80
Pro Reverb 40
Showman Combo 40
Showman Head 80
Super Reverb 20
Twin 40
Vibrolux One Speaker 80
Virbolux Two Speakers 40
Vibroverb One Speaker 80
Vibroverb Two Speakers 40
Care in Working with High Voltages
It always bears repeating: The voltages inside an
amplifier chassis are lethal. If you are not careful, you
can be seriously injured or even killed. If you are not
comfortable working around high voltage, don't do
it. Remember, never place anything, especially your
hand, inside a running circuit except a meter lead.
If you are making adjustments to the bias top, touch
only the bias pot with a small screwdriver. Unless you
are a skilled technician, I recommend a nonmetallic
screwdriver or adjustment tool made from plastic.
Even if you are skilled, a nonmetallic adjustmenttool
is a good idea.
are available onl ine and can be consulted to find a
tube's maximum plate dissipat ion. Typica ll y, a tube
at idle is adjusted to no more than 75 percent of maxi-
mum combined plate and screen dissipation at idle.
Anything bet ween 60 and 75 percent is fine. I've even
seen amps biased at 60 percent t hat st ill sounded fine.
Whatever set t ing within that range sounds best is the
setting you should use. Keep in mind, t hough, t hat
biasing above 75 percent will drastically reduce the
life of your t ubes. Multiplying the plate current in
milliamps by the plate volt age in volts DC equals the
plat e dissipation in watts (plus a few watts of screen-
gri d dissipat ion) . Refer to the accompanying t able for
a quick overview of the specifications for most popu-
lar guit ar amp tubes.
An easy way to adjust bias is to measure plate volt-
age at t he tube wit h a mult i meter and to determine
plate current by inst alling I -ohm resistors (I-watt
or greater) between the cathode of each power tube
and ground and measuring volt age drop across them.
Here's how it works.
According to Ohm's Law, current equals voltage
divided by resistance (I = E/R). Therefore, if resistance
is I ohm, current will be equal to vol tage. For exam-
ple, a reading of 0.030 volts (which is 30 millivolts)
divided by I ohm equals 0030 amperes (which is 30
milliamps). For convenience, I've included bias charts
in this sect ion. After measuring plate voltage, consult
the chart for your particular t ube and find the recom-
mended cathode voltage (across the I -ohm resistor)
for the percent of plate dissipation you want (from 60
percent to 75 percent). After adjust ing to the cat hode
voltage, measure plate voltage again since it will prob-
ably have changed. Adjust cathode volt age again to
Dummy load constructed from two 15-ohm, 25-watt resistors
in parallel. The result is a 7.5-ohm, 50-watt dummy load that
will work with most Fender amps of 8-ohm impedance.
match new plate voltage reading. Continue until plate
and cat hode vol tages match.
The following procedure wi ll work for all black-
face, si lverface (see silverface biasi ng sect ion to
determine if modification of bias circuit is required),
and all Fender reissue amps. Biasing of the Hot Rod
Del uxe and Devi lle is det ailed later as is the modi fica-
tion and biasing of the mid-to-Iate silverface.
Even though the bias adj ustment potentiometer is
accessible through the bottom of the chassis, adjusting
it wi thout measuring vol tages is ill-advised. To accu-
rately adjust the bias potentiometer, the chassis
should first be removed from the cabinet . (Except for
the later 1959 Bassman Reissue, simply remove the
back cover to expose the circuit ; note t hat early
Bassman reissues have nonadjustable fixed bias like
the original tweed version.) To avoid breaking the
tubes, it 's best to remove them first from t he chassis.
Place the chassis on top of the cabinet or on a bench
close to the cabinet . It may be necessary to place blocks
under the transformers to ensure t ube clearance
between chassis and cabinet .
Unsolder the ground wire from pin 8 of each of t he
two 6L6 or 6V6 output tubes. Solder a I -ohm, I -watt,
or greater resistor between the pin and the unsoldered
end of t he wire. Because current product ion output
tubes are matched, you could get by with adjusting t he
bias by using only one out put t ube as reference. It's
good practice to monitor both tubes, however.
Install t he tubes. Also, make sure to reconnect the
speaker to the speaker jack on the chassis (or use a
spare speaker or adequately rated dummy load) . Never
run an amplifier without the speaker attached because
Specifications of Popular Guitar Amp Tubes
Tube Max. Plate 75% of Max
KT88 and 6550 42 watts 31.5 watts
6L6GC and 7027 30 watts 22.5 watts
5881, EL34, and KT77 25 watts 19.0 watts
6V6 14 watts 10.5 watts
EL84 and 68Q5 12 watts 9.0 watts
Plate dissipation is the voltage in milli volts across a l-ohm cathode
resistor multiplied by the voltage in hundreds of volts at th e plate.
Bias Chart for 3U-Watt Maximum Plate Dissipation for 6L6GC and Sovtek 5881/6L6WXT
Dissipation Plate Voltage DC Measured at Pin 3
400 410 415 420 425 430 435 440 445 450 455 460 465 470 475
60% 45.0 44.0 43.3 42.8 42.3 41.8 41.3 41 .0 40.5 40.0 39.5 39.0 38.7 38.2 37.8
65% 48.7 47.5 47.0 46.4 45.8 45.3 45.0 44.0 43.8 43.3 42.8 42.3 42.0 41.4 41.0
70% 52.5 51.2 50.6 50.0 49.4 48.8 48.2 47.7 47.0 46.6 46.0 45.6 45.0 44.6 44.2
75% 56.2 54.8 54.2 53.5 53.0 52.3 51.7 51.0 50.5 50.0 49.4 49.0 48.3 47.8 47.3
Milli volts DC measur ed across l-ohm cathode resi stor from pin 8to ground
60% = 18.0 watts 65% = 19.5 watts 70 % = 21.0 watts 75% = 22.5 watts
Bias Chart for 25-Watt Maximum Plate Dissipation for 5881/6L6 non-GC, KT66, and EL34/6CA7
Dissipation Plate Voltage DC Measured at Pin 3
400 410 415 420 425 430 435 440 445 450 455 460 465 470 475
60% 37.5 36.5 36.0 35.7 35.0 34.8 34.4 34.0 33.7 33.3 32.9 32.6 32.2 31.9 31.5
65% 40.6 39.6 39.0 38.6 38.0 37.7 37.3 36.9 36.5 36.0 35.7 35.3 34.9 34.5 34.2
70% 43.7 42.6 42.0 41.6 41.0 40.6 40.0 39.7 39.3 38.8 38.4 38.0 37.6 37.2 36.8
75% 46.8 45.7 45.0 44.6 44.0 43.6 43.0 42.6 42.0 41.6 41.2 40.7 40.3 39.8 39.4
Milli volts DC measured across l-ohm cathode resistor from pin 8 to ground
60% = 15.00 watts 65% = 16.25 watts 70% = 17.50 watts 75% = 18.75 watts
61 -
- 62
Bias Chart for 14-Watt Maximum Plate Dissipation for 6V6
Dissipation Plate Voltage DC Measured at Pin 3
365 370 375 380 385 390 395 400 405 410 415 420 425 430 440 450
60% 23.0 22.7 22.4 22.0 21 .8 21.5 21.2 21.0 20.7 20.4 20.2 20.0 19.7 19.5 19.0 18.6
65% 24.6 24.3 24.0 23.6 23.3 23.0 22.7 22.5 22.2 21.9 21.6 21.4 21.2 20.9 20.4 20.0
70% 26.8 26.4 26.0 25.7 25.4 25.0 24.8 24.5 24.0 23.9 23.6 23.3 23.0 22.7 22.2 24.7
75% 28.7 28.3 28.0 27.6 27.2 26.9 26.5 26.2 26.6 25.6 25.3 25.0 24.7 24.4 23.8 23.3
Millivolts 0 C measured across l-ohm cathode resistor from pin 8 to ground
60% = 8.4 watts 65% = 9.0 watts 70% = 9.8 watts 75% = 10.5 watts
Making a Bias Board
Because the voltages inside an amplifier are lethal,
extreme care must be taken when measuring them.
The use of a bias board makes adjusting bias safer
(essentially a small board with a terminal
strip attached).
A bias board can be made from a piece of wood
and terminal strips. Before applying power to the
chassis, connect jumpers from the components to the
terminal strip. Measuring voltages ofthe components
can then be done remotely to reduce risk of shock or
meter probe slippage.
this can destroy the output tubes and the output t rans-
former. Att ach jumper wires from the tube side of each
resistor and pin 3 of one of the power tubes to the bias
board. Ground the multimeter negative lead to the
amp chassis. Set your mult i meter to read DC voltage.
You will be using bot h t he highest (at least 1,000-volt)
and lowest (200-mill ivolt) DC voltage ranges.
Set volume and reverb to 0 and turn on the amp. Let
it run for about 60 seconds in standby. After taking the
amp off of standby, wait about 30 seconds or so, and
then with the positive meter lead measure the plate volt-
age (at bias board jumper from pin 3 of one power tube)
on the 1,000-volt scale. Write down this figure.
Next, measure the voltage at each jumper end of
the I-ohm resistors. Voltage will be in millivolt s so
set the meter range accordi ngly. Record these numbers
Whi le the bias adj ustment pot is accessible f rom the
outside of the chassis and can be turned with the chassis
mounted inside the amp, voltages cannot be measured and
monitored unless the chassis is removed.
as well. If the readings vary by less than 10 millivolts,
the tubes are matched within adequate range. Multiply
each of the millivolt readings with the plate voltage to
determine plate dissipation of each tube. If the read-
ing is low or high, adjust the bias potentiometer while
measuring the voltage at one of the resistors.
Measure the plate voltage again (it will have
changed). Continue until proper dissipation is found.
For example, if plate voltage is 460 VDC and one
resistor measures 43 mVDC (or 0.043 VDC) and the
other reads 40mvDC (or 0.040 VDC), tube dissipation
is approximately 20 watts and 18 watts, respectively.
This is approximately 65 percent of maximum plate
dissipation for 6L6GC (30-watt rated) tubes and is
thus fine, just slightly cold. Play through the amplifier
for several minutes, and recheck the bias as it might
have changed. Also take a look at the power tubes to
make sure the plates are not turning red. This would
most likely appear as a dull, dark red in a fold or center
of the plate. It is normal to see the orange glow of the
filament and sometimes a faint bluish, cloud-like color
around the plate. If one or more of the power tubes are
red-plating, make the bias colder.
While this process of adjusting bias might seem
complicated, practicing it will make it second nature.
When soldering the l-ohm resistor between pin 8 and
ground, wires should be pushed away from the socket to
prevent them from being burned.
Remove excess resistor leads ("pigtails") once the resistors are soldered in place. After completion ensure proper wire
dressing by keeping the filament wires up and away from the other wires.
63 -
- 64
Using an alligator clip to attach the negative meter lead to chassis ground will keep your hand safely clear of high voltage.
Any of the lugs attached to the power supply mounting bolts provide excellent grounding points.
I should mention that when taking your amplifier to a
shop to have tubes installed and bias adjusted, there
are occasions when the technician won't be as pre-
cise in checking bias as has just been demonstrated.
Sometimes bias is set in the ballpark range by simply
adjusting the potentiometer for the negative DC bias
supply voltage as measured at the junction of the
220-K-ohm output tubes' grid resistors. Schematics
for Fenders usually show this to be somewhere around
-SOVDC. The main problem with this adjustment is
that the current flow through the output tubes cannot
be determined accurately, only at best estimated; the
result being optimal tone as well as tube performance
is neglected.
Obtaining a schematic for your amplifier from one
of the free online sources listed in the appendix will go
a long way to help you understand the practical work-
ing of the bias supply and circuitry as well as the overall
operation of the amplifier. Most of the schematics show
voltage readings at various locations within the cir-
cuitry; bear in mind that these voltages will vary slightly
among amplifiers.
Using a bias board allows for safe, hands-free-from-
chassis measuring of voltages. Attach one lead from the
board to the cathode resistor (the l-ohm resistor just
installed) at pin 8 and attach another lead from the board to
pin 3 for plate voltage.
Measure plate voltage, which will be at high DC voltage.
Biasing the Hot Rod Deluxe and Deville
Biasing Hot Rod Deluxe and Deville and other newer
Fender tube amps is a relatively straight-forward pro-
cess, easier than for the older Fenders. First of all, each
of these amps has a I-ohm resistor installed between
ground and the output tube cathodes, easily accessible
at a designated test point. One important detail to bear
in mind is that this resistor connects to both tubes'
cathodes and therefore passes the combined current of
the tubes. What this means is that the voltage you mea-
sure will be twice as high as in amps where you install
one resistor per cathode. Plate dissipation of each tube
is approximated by halving this voltage reading before
multiplying it by the plate voltage. Bias instructions on
the Hot Rod schematic are simple: Adjust pot R82 to
read 60 mV at test point TP30. All of these points and
parts are clearly marked on the printed circuit board.
As indicated in the photo on the next page, TP30 is a
solder point located on the front left corner of the tube
socket board and labeled bias test point. Plus, the chas-
sis doesn't have to be removed from the cabinet. Simply
unfasten six screws to remove the rear panel and expose
the circuitry.
While the above procedure will set the bias to fac-
tory specifications, these specifications are rather on
the cold side. A common complaint regarding these
amps is that they tend to feel somewhat sterile and
colorless, symptoms of too cold bias. To bring these
Adjust bias potentiometer while reading cathode voltage.
Voltage will be low in the millivolt range.
amps to life and really get coloration from a decent set
of output tubes, try adjusting the voltage on TP30 to
around 70 mY. Even the less than desirable overdrive
feature on these amps will have a notably improved
sound, the sterile harshness often characterizing the
overdrive becoming warmer and more complex.
Above all, when you want to set your amp for
optimum bias operation, or when using other tubes,
such as 6V6 or KT66, plate voltage should also be
measured and multiplied by the cathode voltage
(found at TP30) to determine plate dissipation. The
process is similar to that detailed previously for
blackface and early silver face amps. Plate voltage can
be read at TP27 or TP28. Note that the voltage read-
ing printed on the schematic for these points is for
signal voltage (which is in AC) and not for the +DC
voltage of the plates. Following the process detailed
above, you will find approximately +430 volts on
the plates of the Deluxe and +480 volts on the plates
of the Deville, which will change when the bias pot
(R82) is adjusted.
I've gotten quite a different range of breakup on
the Hot Rod Deluxe by varying the bias setting. As
discussed in the next chapter, there are a variety of
output tubes that can be used in these amps to provide
a range of sonic quality. It is vital to provide proper
bias for each of these variations. The factory setting of
60 mV isn't accurate for these tubes.
65 -
- 66
Outputtube bias can be roughly setto a ballpark range by adjusting the bias potto obtain the predetermined bias supply
voltage atthe junction ofthe cathode resistors of the outputtubes (as shown). For a blackface Super Reverb, the voltage
should be -52 VDC, while for a blackface Deluxe Reverb it is -35 VDC. Refer to the appropriate schematics.
After grounding the negative meter lead to the chassis, adjust the pot while measuring voltage, in millivolts, attest point
30. The factory setting is 60 millivolts.
Biasing the 6l6-Tubed Silverface
The most common and affordable pre-197S Fenders
you're likely to find are the 6L6-tubed silver face mod-
els, such as the Bandmaster, Bassman, Pro Reverb,
Showman, Super Reverb, Twin, and Vibrolux. One
major difference between blackface and silverface
circuitry lies in the output tube bias design. While
blackface Fenders have adjustable fixed bias, most
silverface Fenders with only a few early exceptions
have what amounts to a nonadjustable fixed bias.
Technically, the silverface has an adjustment pot, but
rather than adjust tube bias, it balances the negative
bias voltage going to the output tubes' grids. Why did
Fender switch from bias adjustment to bias balance?
The common belief is that converting to a balance
control allowed unmatched output tubes to be used.
This would not only save money at the factory but
would also allow the user to replace only one tube
at a time (commonly recommended practice is to
replace both output tubes). Whatever the reason,
a balance adjustment for output tubes is no longer
needed as current production tubes are normally sold
in matched pairs (or quartets, for Twins and other
four-tube, lOO-watt amps).
Replacing the balance circuit with a bias control
is perhaps the most common modification of Fender
silverfaces. Moreover, many guitar shops selling used
amps often perform this and other blackface modi-
fications routinely. In fact, it's getting rare to find a
silverface amp that hasn't been blackfaced or at least
had the bias control modification. For the most part,
this is a good thing, as long as the mod has been done
correctly. There are various extents to which this mod
can be made, as I indicate later. A quick way to see if
your silverface has already had the bias modification
done is to locate the wire on the number 2 lug (middle
lug) of the adjustment pot. Follow this wire to where
it connects on the circuit board. If it connects to the
junction of two 220-K-ohm resistors (red-red-yellow
banded), then you don't need to modify your bias. It
is already adjustable. If, however, lug number 2 of the
pot has a resistor soldered to it, which, in turn, has
the other end soldered to the pot, the bias modifica-
tion hasn't been done. If there is a wire coming from
lug number 2 that connects to a single lOO-K-ohm
resistor (brown-black-yellow banded), which in turn
is attached to the circuit board, the bias modification
hasn't been done.
Silverface balance pots are easily recogniz-
able because most have four connection lugs rather
than three. Some, however, have three lugs but are
distinguishable by a pair of lO-K-ohm (brown-black-
orange-sliver banded) resistors with one end connected
to each other and a lOO-K-ohm resistor (brown-black-
yellow-silver banded) going to the circuit board and the
other end connected to the outermost lugs of the pot.
Plate voltage of a Hot Rod can be measured at pin 3 of
either of the outputtubes. Here the measurement is taken
at test point 27, which is a short distance from the pin and
allows a safer measurement.
This 1970 Super Reverb has a balance adjustmentthatwill
be converted into a bias adjustment. If your amp has a four-
lug pot but nothing attached to the fourth lug (on the left by
itself), your amp most likely has the bias modification
done already.
In addition to the balance pot, some silverfaces also
have ISO-ohm, 7-watt cathode resistors going from
pin 8 of each output tube to ground. A S-uF capacitor
bridges the cathode end of the resistors.
67 -
--1 + 50uf
(5 )

1971 Silverface Bias Circuit
~ (2)
The wires and resistors in red should be removed or replaced to match the 1963 blackface circuit.
Numbers correspond to the steps for converting to bias control.
1969 Silverface Bias Circuit
The wires and resistors in red should be removed or replaced to match the 1963 blackface circuit.
Numbers correspond to the steps for converting to bias control.
A 1968 Silverface Bias Circuit
--1 + 50uf I 15K
( 5)
The wires and resistors in red should be removed or replaced to match the 1963 blackface circuit.
Numbers correspond to the steps for converting to bias control.
A 1963 Blackface Bias Circuit
(1 )
- --II + 25ufl I--- '
The wires and resistors shown in red indicate bias circuit.
Numbers correspond to the steps for converting to bias control.
(1 )
- 70
First, refer to the diagrams and photographs to identify your silverface, then do the following:
1. Locate and remove lOOK resistors (and 10K resistors on pot, if so equipped).
2. Next, locate the resistor that is soldered to the balance potentiometer and unsolder the lead that
is soldered to the middle lug of the pot.
3. Unsolder the wire from the upper lug.
4. Remove the 3.3K resistor and electrolytic capacitor, if so equipped, attached to the left lug of the
pot. The other end of the capacitor is soldered to ground while that of the resistor is soldered to
the small bias power supply circuit board located in the left upper corner of the chassis; if your
amp has no resistor and capacitor at this location, remove, instead, the wire from the left lug of
the pot.
5. It's also a good idea to replace the electrolytic capacitor located on the bias power supply board.
A 47-uF capacitor rated at 100 volt works well here.
(1) Remove the 100-K-ohm resistors from the board and
the potentiometer.
(2) Unsolder the resistor on the pentiometer from the
middle lug and (3) the wire from the top lug.
(4) Completely remove the 3.3-K-ohm and
the electrolytic capacitor that are attached
to the potentiometer.
(5) Replace the electrolytic capacitor
on the bias supply board. Use a 22-uf or
47-uf cap rated at 100 volts. Make sure to
observe polarity. The positive end of the
cap goes to ground (left side of board).
Referring to the diagram for the 1963 blackface bias circuit and the following photographs:
1. Install two 220K resistors (red-red-yellow-gold banded or red-red-black-orange-brown banded
for metal film resistors) in the positions indicated.
2. Solder wire that was originally on the upper lug to the middle lug of the potentiometer.
3. Solder the wire from the bias supply board to the lower lug of the pot; if you removed a 3.3K
resistor from between the bias supply board and the pot, (3a) install a wire (20-guage is fine) as
just indicated.
4. Finally, solder the loose lead from the resistor that is attached to the pot, to the upper lug of
the pot.
(1) Two 220-K-ohm resistors should be installed here.
(3) If not already equipped, solder a wire from where the
negative lead of the electrolytic capacitor on the bias
supply board connects to the lower lug of the pot. (4)
Solder the resistor connected to the pot to the upper lug.
(2) Solder the wire that comes from the circuit board to
middle lug ofthe potentiometer.
The Silverface Super Reverb with completed blackfaced
bias control.
71 -
- 72
If your silverface has 150-
ohm resistors on pins 8 of
the outputtube sockets,
replace them with l-ohm,
2-watt resistors to modify
the amp for adjustable bias.
Afterfinishing the bias modification, turn the amp on but leave it in standby. With your meter set to read DC voltage, ground
the black lead and place the red lead atthe junction of the newly installed 220-K-ohm resistors. While turning the bias pot
from one end to the other, the voltage should read between approximately -47VDC and -54VDC.
If your amp has the 150-ohm cathode resistors with
adjoining 5-uF capacitor, remove them and replace the
resistors with l-ohm, 1- to 5-watt resistors.
Once these modifications are completed, set your
multimeter to read DC voltage with range set to 100
volts or greater. Attach the negative lead to ground and,
once the amp is turned on, place the positive lead to the
junction of the two 220-K-ohm resistors just installed.
You'll be reading negative voltage. Turn the amp on, but
leave it in standby. While holding the positive lead to
the 220-K resistor junction, turn the bias pot adjust-
ment from one extreme to the other. The voltages you
read while adjusting the pot should be about -47 volts
to -54 volts, give or take a volt or two. Adjust the pot to
read the highest negative voltage and turn off the amp.
When you adjust the bias, you will be starting from the
extremely cold bias.
If the voltage range you measure cannot rise above
or below -50 volts, the 15-K-ohm resistor on the pot
will have to be changed. If the voltage range cannot rise
above -50 volts, try a 27-K-ohm resistor (a higher value
resistor will raise the voltage threshold). If the voltage
range will not drop below -50 volts, try a 10-K-ohm
resistor (a lower value resistor will lower the voltage
threshold). The 15-K-ohm resistor will most likely be
fine, but it is good to know how the value of this resis-
tor will affect bias. By the same token, when you adjust
the output tube bias, following the procedure described
earlier in the chapter, if the voltage across the l-ohm
resistor for one of the output tubes can't be adjusted
high enough to reach 75 percent plate dissipation (usu-
ally around 35 to 40 millivolts), the 15-K-ohm resistor
on the pot should be lowered in value (less negative DC
voltage at 220-K resistor junction). On the other hand,
if the voltage is too high across one of the l-ohm resis-
tors (can't go below about 35 millivolts), the 15-K-ohm
will have to be raised in value (more negative DC volt-
age at the 220-K resistor junction). What this means
is that the plate current of the tube (what you're mea-
suring as DC millivolts across the cathode resistor) is
indirectly proportional to the negative voltage being
applied to the control grid of the tube. The more nega-
tive the control grid voltage, the less current drawn by
the plate; the less negative the grid voltage, the more
current drawn by the plate.
With the Super Reverb photographed in this chap-
ter, which is equipped with a pair of Sovtek 5881WXT,
we ended up adjusting the bias for 45 mV (0.045 VDC)
across the l-ohm resistor of one output tube and 42
mV (0.042 VDC) on the resistor of the other. With a
plate voltage of 430 VDC, the plate dissipation of the
higher drawing tube is 19.3 watts, a little cold for the
30-watt tube, but the amp sounds great. As a loud,
clean amp, the Super Reverb actually seems a little
mellower at this lower bias. It just goes to show that
the best judge for setting bias is your ears.
Biasing the Deluxe Reverb, Princetons,
and Tweeds
The Deluxe, Deluxe Reverb, Princeton, and Princeton
Reverb all use a pair of 6V6 for output tubes. The
Princeton and the Princeton Reverb, while being fixed
bias, have nonadjustable bias. With these amps the bias
circuit is more integral to the tremolo or vibrato circuit
than the Deluxe Reverb, which is adjustable. In fact,
the silverface Deluxe Reverb didn't employ the change
toward balance control as did its 6L6 big brothers and,
typically, is adjusted in the same manner as blackface
amps discussed earlier.
It should be noted that while tweed-era and brown-
face Fenders also use nonadjustable fixed bias, the
reason that the bias is nonadjustable in the Princeton,
Princeton Reverb, and brown face Deluxe is due to the
vibrato feature. (On a side note, the vibrato circuit
in Fender might more accurately be called a tremolo
circuit, the difference being that tremolo involves
amplitude modulation rather than the frequency mod-
ulation associated with vibrato. But that is probably
talking apples and oranges here.) Princetons, like the
brownface Deluxe models, use what's called bias mod-
ulating tremolo, which manipulates the bias on the
output tubes to give the familiar oscillating sound of
tremolo. Bias modulating tremolo works fine on small-
er amps, but on the larger Fenders this doesn't sound
good. The Deluxe Reverb, like the 6L6 blackface and
silverface, use an opto-isolator for the oscillator circuit
and therefore does not manipulate bias.
On Princeton Reverb amps, lowering the value of this
resistor will give the output tubes a hotter bias; raising the
value, on the other hand, will give them a colder bias.
73 -
- 74
To give tweed and brownface amps adjustable bias,
replace the 56-K-ohm resistor with a 27-K-ohm resistor in
series with a 50-K-ohm trimmer pot. The trimmer pot can
be adjusted with a small screwdriver.
For the most part, the Princetons, and any other
Fender with bias modulating tremolo, are probably best
left as is unless installing anything other than recom-
mended or stock tubes. The integral relationship between
the bias and tremolo circuits requires changing a resistor
in the bias power supply to determine the range of bias
voltage that is effectively varied by the intensity control.
If you choose to experiment with the bias, locate the
22-K-ohm or 27-K-ohm resistor that is connected across
the leads of the electrolytic capacitor on the bias power
supply circuit board mounted in the upper left corner of
the chassis. Lowering the value of this resistor (for exam-
ple, to 18 K-ohms) will give the output tubes a hotter
bias, while raising it (for example, to 28 or 33 K-ohms)
will give the tubes a colder bias. Follow the procedures
above for measuring voltages to determine plate dissipa-
tion, using the bias chart for 6V6 tubes. Make sure that
the vibrato effect is turned off.
The Value of Proper Biasing
Learning to properly adjust outputtube bias is
probably the most important step in modifying any
amplifier. Not only will you save yourself money by not
havi ng t o hire someone to adjust your bias whenever
you change output tubes, but you wi ll also be able to
quickly swi t ch between various outputtubes. In fact,
running differenttubes, power as wel l as preamp,
can prove to be one of the most nondestructive (i.e.,
reversible), tone-effective modifications you
can perform.
By the way, the above procedure of replacing the
resistor situated across the electrolytic capacitor of
the bias voltage power supply, also works for adjust-
ing the nonadjustable fixed bias on the tweed-era and
brownface amps, both 6L6 and 6V6 models. Again,
though, unless you are going to use KT66s or EL34s
on the 6L6 models, or 6L6 on the 6V6 models, it's
best to leave the nonadjustable fixed-bias circuits as
is. Yet, if you're interested in achieving optimal out-
put tube performance, being able to adjust the bias
is essential.
A common trick to use on tweeds and brownfaces
is to remove the bias resistor and replace it with one
of about half the value (specifically, the 56-K-ohm of
the type used on tweed and brownface amps with a
27-K-ohm, and the 22-K-ohm of the Princetons and
brownface Deluxe with a 10-K-ohm). Attach one end
of the resistor to the first or third leg of a 50-K-ohm,
small (112-watt) trim potentiometer (with the 6V6
amps, use a 25-K-ohm trimmer). Next, tie the middle
leg of the trimmer to whichever leg was not installed
to the resistor (the trimmer has three legs). From the
connected legs, run a short wire to the negative end
of the electrolytic cap. Attach the free end of the resis-
tor to the positive (i.e., ground) end of the electrolytic
capacitor. Now you can adjust the bias using the black-
face procedure discussed earlier. Note that tweed amps
don't have a separate bias supply board. Instead, the
resistor and capacitor is on the left end of the main
circuit board between the two 8-uFbias supply elec-
trolytic capacitors. On the early Bassman reissues
(later reissues come with adjustable bias) the resistor is
located in the center of the board, below and between
the mid and bass potentiometers.
Things to Keep in Mind Regarding Biasing Power Tubes
While we've just gone into depth regarding basic
techniques for biasing power tubes of a typical
Fender guitar amp, a few overall points still need
to be addressed . There often exists disagreement
concerning not only the proper method for biasing
tubes, but also the need for doing it in the first
place. This last point speaks to the fact that while
most amps have a bias adjustment potentiometer,
the variance among similar tube types won't be
enough to warrant making a precise adjustment.
Indeed, when replacing a pair of output tubes, many
technicians will simply adjust the negative bias
voltage at the junction of the 220-K-ohm output tube
grid resistors according to the voltage indicated
on the schematic for that particular model (usually
between -48 and -52 VOC). Obviously, this is an
inaccurate procedure, and guitarists often pay
good money just to have that done. Furthermore,
even certain reputable amplifier manufacturers
tell us that there is no need to set the bias on
fixed-bias amps since they believe it's not a critical
measurement. It should be stated, though, thatthis
critique of procedure does not apply to cathode-
biased amps, because, as has been discussed, they
use a different method of setting bias than the more
prevalent fixed-bias amps.
Atthe other end ofthe spectrum reside the gurus
and venerated experts who claim that proper tube
biasing can only be accomplished with an oscilloscope
and a signal generator. Of course there's nothing wrong
with being overly precise; it's just unnecessary. Most
technicians land in the middle of these two camps of
extremes. So, who's right in all of this? Maybe it's not a
question of right but of enjoyment. Many guitarists who
learn aboutthe various techniques for biasing an amp
eventually try it on their own. They might bias hot, bias
cold, bias in the middle, bias, and rebias again perhaps for
the challenge of getting the optimum tone from an amp, or
perhaps forthe fun of it and the enjoyment of being able
to work on your their amps.
On a related, closing note, back in the old days
when people used to replace their own spark plus in their
cars, they were often warned about the need to properly
gap the spark plugs. Yet, some people felt comfortable
installing them as is, knowing thatthe factory setting was
close enough. Other people bought gapping tools and set
the gaps of the new plugs precisely, even if many ofthem
seemed to be already set pretty close. All in all, most
everyone's cars started, and invariably some ran more
efficiently than others. Did it have anything to do with
gapping their own plugs, or did it have more to do with the
care given during the tune-up?
75 -
chapter 5
Fewer things in the amp world receive more hype than
the NOS tube. In fact, not only has the term become
synonymous with the "best" tubes but also an entire
industry of collectors and vendors has developed over
the past 20 years. But just what is NOS? Basically,
NOS stands for "new old stock," meaning tubes manu-
factured, primarily in the United States and Western
Europe, more than 25 years ago but that are still new
in that they haven't been used. Because the companies
that once manufactured these tubes no longer do so and
haven't done so for decades, NOS tubes are in finite
supply and will eventually run out. In fact, many are
becoming quite rare. Along with the diminishing supply,
the collecting-or hoarding-of these tubes has driven
their price beyond, in my opinion, their actual value, and
soon the common guitar amp types, such as the 6L6,
will no longer be available at all. Don't get me wrong.
There are excellent NOS tubes out there; however, there
are also some not-so-excellent ones and worse yet, used
and substandard tubes being sold as NOS.
The fundamental question for most musicians is
this: Should I pay $150-plus for a pair of NOS tubes
that may not be closely matched, or should I pay less
than $50 for a high-quality, matched pair of current
production tubes? While guitar amps are quality
equipment, they are not high-fidelity audio amplifiers.
In other words, the precision stylus on an audiophile
quality stereo system comes from a different world
when compared to a high-gain guitar pickup with
its tendency to act as an antenna for electromagnetic
force. I can't dispute the claims of those who hear a
significant difference between NOS tubes and current
New Sensor or JJ tubes. As in all cases musical, let
your ears be the final judge. If your amp sounds its best
with NOS tubes, and you don't mind the high prices,
definitely use only NOS tubes. At the same time, if
Here's a typical tube layout in Fender silverface and blackface amps. From left to right, the tube functions are rectifier
(5U4 or 5AR4/GZ34), output (6L6/5881 or 6V6), output (same as previous), phase inverter (12AT7), vibrato (12AX7),
reverb recovery (12AX7/7025), reverb driver (12AT7), preamp vibrato channel (12AX7/7025), and preamp normal channel
(12AX7/7025). Most amps will have a tube layout chart with designated tube types attached to the inner cabinet.
Opposite: Using a current rather than reissue design, the Hot Rod Deluxe has been available in a variety of coverings and
colors. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
77 -
- 78
your budget has you deciding between a pair of NOS
output tubes for your amp or a quality hum bucker for
your guitar, and your goal is improved sound, I'd go
with the hum bucker.
Preamp Tubes
The standard issue preamp tube for Fender amps has
usually been the 7025 or the later 12AX7. While these
tubes are interchangeable and not much different, the
7025 is considered a lower noise version of the 12AX7.
The 7025, being no longer produced, is becoming rare
and expensive. Luckily, there are many varieties of
the 12AX7 in current production and many of them
are excellent tubes for guitar amp application. Some
manufacturers, such as Electro-Harmonix and JJ, make
gold-pin variety 12AX7 tubes that cost slightly more
than nongold pin versions. The idea behind this involves
making better contact with the tube socket. This is vital
in the first-stage preamp since this is the first tube that
the tiny guitar signal reaches, and adequate tone shaping
at this stage is vital. Yet, if the pins of your tube socket
aren't also gold plated, these tubes won't really matter.
The Value of Good Preamp Tubes
One ofthe easiest and quickest modifications you
can make to your Fender amp is to install an excellent
preamp tube. And keep a variety of preamp tubes
available to alter or shape your sound for
different uses.
The JJ EC83S and Sovtek 12AX7LPS preamp tubes have
spiral filaments for reducing background hum.
A spiral filament tube, such as the JJ
ECC83SI12AX7S (ECC83 is a European designation
for a 12AX7) or the Sovtek 12AX7LPS, is a bet-
ter choice for standard tube sockets. In fact, the JJ
ECC83S is considered by many to be the best sounding
current production preamp tube. It has rich tones and
excellent frequency separation, and the complex har-
monics make this tube musical. By the same token, the
Sovtek 12AX7LPS is extremely responsive tonally and
as musical and rich as the JJ tube. It should definitely
replace the Sovtek 12AX7WA, which, while being the
standard issue for new Fender amps (and many others),
is markedly inferior to its spiral filament, long-plate
brother (LPS standing for long-plate spiral, by the
way). Both the JJ and Sovtek tubes cost less than $15.
But what is spiral filament? Because the preamp
tube has to amplify the tiny guitar signal, it has the
capacity of amplifying every other tiny signal presented
to it. Often in this situation, the AC filament used to
heat the tube's cathode can also generate a signal of its
own in the form of a background hum. One method of
eliminating this interference that you may have noticed
is the twisted wires going to the pins of the tube socket
feeding the filament. Tightly twisted wire forces
the signal radiating from the wires to cross itself at
90-degree angles which, in effect, works to cancel the
signal radiation. This same principle is applied to spi-
ral filament tubes. Simply put, the 90-degree wrapping
of the wires is continued inside the tube. The result is
a much quieter tube, not quiet in the sense of gain, but
quiet in the sense of canceled background hum.
One of the quickest and easiest modifications for
your Fender is installing an excellent preamp tube.
Another quick and easy mod is keeping on hand a vari-
ety of preamp tubes to alter or shape your sound for
The Sovtek 12AX7LPS on the left has larger plates than
the Philco 12AX7A (center) and Sovtek 12AX7WXT (right).
The larger plates render an excellent balance across the
frequency spectrum with rich tones; however, in small
combos at high volumes, the larger plates can sometimes
become micro phonic and pick up vibrations.
Preamp Tube Distortion
The distortion you hear from your Fender amp is
usually from the preamp tube. Using a lower gain,
higher current preamp tube will give you more
headroom before preamp breakup and a
cleaner sound.
various applications. For this purpose, other preamp
tubes in current production include 12AY7, 12AT7,
and 12AU7. The primary difference between these
tubes is their voltage gain, which is a tube's amplifica-
tion factor. The chart below indicates the amplification
factor of common preamp tubes used in Fender amps.
One thing to keep in mind is that the gain of tubes is
not in direct ratio; that is, an amplification factor of
100 is not twice as loud as that of 50. In fact, with
the tubes listed, those with lower gain have a higher
current capacity, meaning, they can push the follow-
ing stage harder. This becomes important for phase
inverters and reverb drivers where the higher current
capacity and ability to drive power tubes and reverb
tanks makes the lower-gain tubes more suitable for
these applications.
The 12AY7 tube is perhaps best known for its pre-
amp application in the famous Fender tweed Bassman
and Deluxe, where their rich tone and warm color-
ation contributed to the bluesy breakup distortion
these amps are famous for. In fact, Fender's move to
the 7025112AX7 wasn't so much aimed at improving
preamp tone as it was at developing a cleaner sound.
Simply put, the higher gain, louder 12AX7 stays clean
at low to mid-volume; therefore, the tube was used
not for its higher gain but for its ability to stay clean
longer. Of course at the volumes rock musician use,
the 12AX7 is definitely used for its high gain, which
brings with it a rich breakup. NOS versions of 12AY7
tubes currently sell for around $25 and thus make
excellent choices for trying out good NOS tubes (the
7025/12AX7, on the other hand, goes for well over
$100). Electro-Harmonix, the only current producer
Gain of Common Preamp Tubes
The 12AY7 was the standard preamp tube for tweed-era
Fenders. It has lower gain than the 12AX7 and a warm,
bluesy quality.
The 12AU7 and 12AT7 are normally used as phase inverter
or driver tubes due to their high current ratings. They are
also good choices for experimenting with different
preamp tones.
of this tube, puts out a fine version, the 6027A/12AY7,
which is also worth trying. This tube is well-balanced
along the frequency spectrum and produces a smooth,
warm, thick tone. The bottom line, here, is that the
12AY7 has a characteristic sound of its own, and while
it is not as loud as the 12AX7, it does provide plenty
of drive. Indeed, a popular and easy modification to
the Bassman reissue is to replace the first preamp tube
Tube Type Amplification Factor Max. Plate Dissipation Max. Plate Current w/25DV on Plate
12AX7 100 1.20 watts 1.2 milliamps
12AT7 60 2.50 watts 100.0 milliamps
12AY7 40 1.50watts 3.0 milliamps
12AU7 17 2.75 watts 10.5 milliamps
79 -
- 80
Replacing Vacuum Tubes
How do you replace tubes? This is probably the
easiest modification you can perform since all that
needs to be done is remove the back panel, pull out
the tube (in silverface and blackface, the first one
on the rightfor normal channel and the second
one from the right for vibrato/reverb channel), and
push in the replacement. Preamp tubes are not keyed
like larger power tubes. Instead, they have a gap
between the first and ninth pin, which needs to line up
with the gap in the tube socket. Furthermore, preamp
tubes don't need to have bias adjusted as they are
cathode biased.
Sockets for 9-pin tubes have a gap that matches the
space between pins 1 and 9.
Sockets for 8-pin tubes have a gap on the side of the
center hole that matches the key in the tube stem
between pins 1 and 8.
on the right (12AX7) with a 12 AY 7. This will help to
restore some of the original vintage Bassman sound.
The 12AU7 and 12AT7 tubes are perhaps best
known as phase inverters and output stage drivers,
as discussed below. When used as preamp tubes they
provide varying degrees of gain and variety in sound.
Some people find their sound to be thinner than that
of the 12AX7 and 12A Y7, but they are worth a try,
especially since even NOS versions of these tubes are
relatively inexpensive.
Why replace preamp tubes? First, as stated, this is
a quick, cheap, easy, and reversible modification that
will definitely alter the sound of your amp. Second, sub-
stituting a 12AY7 for a 12AX7 will result in a more
responsive and wider range volume control. As you've
most likely noticed, a common feature of high-gain
amplifiers is an often overly sensitive volume control
that goes from nothing to loud in about 2 notches. The
lower-gain tube will allow you to dial in your volume
more easily. Third, a lower-gain, higher-current tube
can complement effects boxes used between guitar
and amp input. Also, for acoustic instruments and
harmonica, a lower-gain input tube is a must. Finally,
on the Fender 6L6-pair amps, it takes a great amount
of volume and drive to get the output power tubes to
break up into distortion. Often the distortion you hear
is that of the preamp tube, which for some musicians
is more harsh than the dynamic texture of output tube
distortion. Using a lower-gain, higher-current preamp
tube will give you more headroom
before preamp breakup and a cleaner
sound. When the amp does go into
distortion, more of the dynam-
ic character of the output
tubes will come through.
Another popular pre-
amp tube used primarily
in some boutique ampli-
fiers and made famous
by its use in early AC-30
Vox amps is the EF86
pentode. Being a pentode
means that the EF86
has well over twice the
gain of a triode such as
the 12AX7. While this
is a beautiful sounding
tube with a warm con-
toured distortion (unlike
a triode), this tube is not
without problems. One reason
While the EF86 pentode will physically fit into the standard
dual-triode socket, extensive modification needs to be
performed to make it work in Fender amps.
Vox stopped using them was due to their susceptibil-
ity to vibration damage, especially considering that
the AC-30 is a medium-sized combo stuffed with
either a 1S-inch speaker or a pair of 12-inch speakers.
Because of its more complex construction (the pentode
has the added screen grid), shock and vibration can
rattle the tube innards, which, when amplified, become
extremely noisy. Also the tubes tend to be microphonic,
meaning that without proper shielding (but sometimes
even with proper shielding) the high gain of the tube
basically turns it into a small microphone that picks
up rattles and hums and sends them through the amp
along with the guitar signal. But having said all that, I
have made several 20-watt heads using the EF86 and
can report that it is a magnificent tube in the proper
application. The overdrive produced by this pentode is
nothing less than stellar. Back to the downside, how-
ever, modifying a 12AX7 preamp circuit to work with
the EF86 is not for the squeamish. While the tube will
fit easily into the 9-pin socket, all the pins need to be
rewired and virtually every associated component has
to be replaced. Nonetheless, I will provide step-by-step
instructions in Chapter 10 for those with more-than-
basic technical skills and for those who feel it's time
to boldly dig into their Fender chassis. To those in the
latter camp, though, no guarantees will be made.
Phase Inverter, Reverb, and Vibrato Tubes
The phase inverter, reverb, and vibrato tubes are the
middle tubes in the standard Fender chassis. On sil-
verface and blackface, the third tube from the right is
the reverb driver, which, as the name implies, drives the
signal through the reverb tank mounted on the floor of
the amp cabinet. Since the signal suffers immense inser-
tion loss in passing through the reverb tank, a reverb
recovery tube, fourth from the right, brings the signal
back up to strength (and then some). The fifth tube
from the right is the vibrato tube, which produces the
tremolo effect. The sixth tube from the right is the phase
inverter/driver tube, which essentially splits the signal
into two out-of-phase signals, one for each of the two
output tubes (or, in the case of the Twin and other 100-
watt amplifiers, the four output tubes).
Through the 1960s and 1970s, Fender's standard
tube for both the phase inverter and the reverb driver
was the 12AT7. In older amps, the 702S/12AX7 was
used, but most of these amps have different types of
phase inverter circuits, most notably the cathode fol-
lower (used in the famous tweed Deluxe), which isn't
as symmetrical and doesn't have as much drive capa-
bility as the long-tailed pair 12AT7 circuit. The name
"long-tailed pair" refers to the long tail of resistors
that tie the cathodes of the 12AT7 together. This type
of phase inverter is actually a differential amp and,
basically, what it does is take the difference between
the two inputs to the grids of a dual triode tube (the
12AT7) to produce two out-of-phase outputs to drive
the power tubes. The 12AT7 is especially suited for
this task, since it has the high current plate capability
needed to drive the output tube grids, plus a smooth,
well-balanced character.
Recently, with the Hot Rod series, for example,
the phase inverter was switched to the 12AX7 and the
reverb became solid state (thus no tube). Replacing the
phase inverter with a 12AT7, with its lower-gain and
higher-current capability, will tighten up the sound of
the Hot Rod and place the sonic focus more on the
output tubes. In effect, the driver signals have more
current to back them up, while the lower gain helps
to reduce the phase inverter distortion. On the other
hand, replacing a 12AT7 inverter with a 12AX7 boosts
overall preamp gain (preamp plus inverter) as well as
pushes the output tubes into breakup earlier, and even
though the current capability is lower, the 12AX7
will still function well. Therefore, if you want higher
gain and more preamp breakup from your silverface
or blackface, definitely try a 12AX7 in the phase
. . .
lllverter posItIOn.
As for the reverb driver tube, there are mixed opin-
ions regarding the types of tubes that can be used.
Given the fact that in a Fender, between the high plate
voltage and the heavy drive requirements, this tube
takes a beating, I recommend only using the 12AT7.
Moreover, of all the tubes other than the two output
tubes, the reverb driver is likely to be the one with the
shortest lifespan. Yet, if you find your Fender's reverb
to be a little overwhelming (as some guitarists do) or if
you'd like to have a lower range on the reverb control,
you might consider using a 12AU7 for the reverb driv-
er. This tube will perform just as well as the 12AT7
but with much lower gain (and thus less reverb drive).
I've even used a 12AY7 in this position with good
results since it falls between the 12AT7 and 12AU7
in gain. Again, give it a try. As I've said all along, gui-
tarists can really tailor their sounds by incorporating
tube changes.
Another means of manipulating the amount and
control of reverb involves the reverb recovery tube.
While the 12AX7 is standard for this duty, a 12A Y7
in the recovery position not only lowers the reverb
threshold, it also results in higher headroom and
a cleaner preamp signal. I recall one guitarist who
wanted a cleaner amp so that he could get more versa-
tility out of his effects pedals. I swapped out the first
preamp tube with a 12A Y7. He indicated there was
improvement but something was still not right. After a
couple of inquiries I realized that he was reacting more
to the distortion in the reverb section rather than in
the input preamp. I reinstalled a 12AX7 in the input
preamp and used the 12AY7 as the reverb recovery
tube. This fixed it for him. The point is that gain and
81 -
- 82
Signal In
.... ..........
~ ~
Long-Tailed Pair Phase Inverter Function

~ A
____ 1
..... ....
---- J
Signal" .
Out . '-/
The "long-tailed pair" phase inverter so named for the resistor "tail" tying the dual triodes' cathodes
together. The meter lead in the photo indicates the junction of the two grid resistors (A, in the schematic),
the cathode resistor (B). and the "tail" resistor (e), which sets the bias for the phase inverter.
headroom obviously aren't things that are equally dis-
persed throughout the amp. Rather, there are differing
types of distortion associated with the input preamp,
reverb, and the phase inverter. By experimenting with
these tubes, you'll discover the interesting sonic quali-
ties that your Fender is able to produce.
The last tube to discuss in this section is the 12AX7
vibrato tube. Essentially, this tube is not part of the
signal chain and has little sonic effect on the amp.
Instead, it functions in the tremolo circuit to either cut
the bias on and off in the smaller Fenders or to run a
phase-shifting oscillator in the larger Fenders that in
effect cuts the signal on and off prior to its entering the
phase inverter. Replacing this tube with other types
won't change your sound. It might, however, alter you
tremolo effect. One useful feature of this tube not really
intended by Fender is as an emergency place holder.
This means if your preamp tube becomes noisy or
microphonic, you can swap it with the 12AX7 vibrato
tube (providing that tube isn't noisy or microphonic).
Basically, it doesn't matter if this tube is replaced by a
noisy one since all it does is oscillate.
Output Tubes
The mainstay of Fender power has been the legendary
5881/6L6 output tube. While some tubes are marked
with both designations (for example, the Sovtek
5881/6L6WGC), the 5881 and the various 6L6 types
are slightly different. In fact, the 6L6GC has a 30-watt
maximum plate dissipation rating, while most 5881 as
well as 6L6WGB tubes are rated at 25 watts. However,
the Sovtek 5881 WXT is a 30-watt tube. This can defi -
nitely be confusing. Yet, keep in mind that most 6L6
tubes manufactured today are of the GC or WGC, STR,
and WXT variety and thus have the 30-watt rating. One
way through this is to treat tubes without a GC in the
suffix as if they have a 25-watt rating; they'll still sound
good biased a little cold.
Sonically, there are subtle textural differences,
mainly in the definition (some feel a little "punchier"
than others). For example, I've found the Sovtek
5881WXT, a standard in many amps, to be a little
lackluster when it comes to overdriven dynamics and
tonal harmonics. The Groove Tube 6L6GC has a simi-
lar crispness, but more dynamic harmonics, while the
Power Output
An amp's overall power output is determi ned
primarily by the output transformer as well as the
amount of voltage.
Winged "C" 6L6GC has a warm, clear breakup and
amazing definition. In general, the Sovtek varieties
are bold, loud, and have a distinctly heavy breakup,
and the 11 is tonally complex, being both bright with
highs and thick with lows. While being loud like the
Sovteks and 11, the Electro-Harmonix 6L6 tends to be
a little darker and slightly more subtle in saturation
during breakup. Overall, I've found that the differ-
ences between brands and types are relative to the amp
you're using. In other words, a pair of 11 6L6GCs will
sound different in a Super Reverb than in a Pro Reverb,
because even though these amps have similar circuitry
and wattage rating, the output transformers, not to
mention the speaker arrangements, differ considerably.
The best way to determine which tubes sound optimal
in your amp is to try a few for yourself. Most current
production 5881/6L6 tubes are less than $50 a pair
(EH, 11, and most Sovteks are less than $30 a pair).
Finding out what rates as the best sounding tube is a
relative and subjective process indeed.
The Sovtek 5881/6L6WGC and Sovtek 5881WXT are found
in many Fender amps.
The Groove Tube 6L6 is standard equipment in many
Fender amps.
83 -
- 84
The new production Tung-SoI6L6GC STR comes in a short
bottle and is a rugged, bold tube.
To me, the classic Fender sound comes not as much
from the 6L6 amps as it does from the lower power 6V6
amps, such as the Deluxe Reverb and Princeton Reverb,
and the even lower power Princeton and Champ, the
primary difference between the two groups being that
the former uses a push-pull design (using a pair of
output tubes) and the latter uses a single-ended design
(using a single output tube). The downside for many
guitar players regarding these amps is precisely their
lower power capability. The Deluxe Reverb pushes an
albeit loud 20 watts, while the Champ measures a mere
but sonically impressive 5 watts. Yet, the relatively
lower power of the 6V6 amps is largely responsible for
their excellent sound. Simply put, cranking these amps
to get loud volume drives the output tubes into distor-
tion much earlier than their 6L6 counterparts. Add to
this the fact that the 6V6 has a creamy, smooth distor-
tion that comes on early. Now, even though these tubes
are considered lower power, when used at the higher
voltages that they are in the Deluxe Reverb, these tubes
are plenty loud. The tweed Deluxe, on the other hand,
and more so the Champ, can be overpowered on stage
by even a moderately loud drummer; however, in the
studio or when microphoned and run through a ven-
ue's sound system, the warm tones and deep, smooth
overdrive of these amps are hard to beat.
As fine as the 6V6 sounds, it's interesting to experi-
ment with different tube types in the Fender 6V6 amps.
The obvious choice is to try a pair of 6L6s. This is a
piece of cake with a Fender Reverb, which has adjust-
able bias allowing various levels of plate dissipation
to be dialed in. The matter is a little more complex
with the tweed Deluxe and the single-ended Fenders.
These use cathode bias and can't be adjusted (as dis-
cussed in the previous chapter). However, don't let
that deter you. While it is a good idea to increase the
The Electro-Harmonix and JJ 6V6tubes have a very
different look. The EH bears the classic 6V6 shape,
while the JJ uses a larger bottle. Both tubes have vastly
improved ratings over earlier current production 6V6s.
wattage of the cathode resistor and tweak to find the
right value, if you're experimenting with tone, a simple
swap won't hurt things. For permanent use of 6L6s,
you should up the rating of the cathode resistor to 10
watts. A more pressing matter is the extra filament
current drawn by the 6L6 in comparison with a 6V6.
On the other hand, my experience has been that the
Fender power transformers do fine with the extra fila-
ment draw. Still, you should perform the simple test
regarding filament draw that I discuss later in this
chapter. One thing you really don't want to do is to
burn out your power transformer.
One thing warrants mentioning here. While swap-
ping lower powered 6V6 tubes with their higher
powered 6L6 counterparts will give your amp a dif-
ferent tone, it will not make the amp much louder. An
amp's overall power output is primarily determined by
the output transformer as well as the amount of volt-
age. Yet, there will be an appreciable difference in sound
and it will be somewhat louder. I've found the current
production Tung-Sol 5881 to be an excellent candidate
to replace the 6V6. In fact, this particular 5881 has a
lower plate voltage rating, about 400 VDC, much lower
than other current production 5881 or 6L6 tubes. It's an
excellent choice, by the way, for the Bassman Reissue or
blackfaces using a tube rectifier. These Tung-Sols have a
complex compression and vintage tone quality.
While an excellent pair of NOS 6V6 tubes runs
around $90, a pair of Electro-Harmonix runs around
$20. Indeed, EH tubes are an excellent choice not only
price-wise but sonically, especially with their great
sustain and smooth tone that grows ever richer when
overdriven. Another excellent new production tube
is the JJ 6V6. Besides having a well-defined charac-
ter, crystal clear when clean and thick and detailed
when overdriven, these tubes can take higher voltages
The current production Tung-Sol 5881 is a 23-watt tube with
a 400-volt plate rating, making it unfit for use in amps with
solid-state rectification; however, it's a perfect choice for
Bassman reissues, tweeds, early blackfaces, and 6V6 amps.
Typical Fender Power Tube Sockets
Screen Grid
(+420 to 460 VCD)
(6.3 VAC)
Screen Grid
(+420 to 460 VCD)
....:::::::= Signal
(6.3 VAC)
Pins 1 & 2 are not
connected inside tube.
The 7027, or "Ampeg tube," is virtually the same as a 6L6
except for internal pin connections. This fact and the
necessary removal of wires and resistors from pins 1 and
6 on the output sockets mean that installing these tubes in
Fender silver- and blackfaces is not worth the bother. They
can be used, however, in the Hot Rod series without
any problems.
The typical Fender power tube sockets have two unused pins, 1 and 6, which serve as binding posts for the output
tubes' screen and control grid resistors in blackface and silverface models. Screen-grid resistors are 470 ohms,
1 watt, while the control grid resistors, or "grid stoppers" as they are often called, measure 1.5 K-ohm, 1/2 watt.
Note that many ofthe early Fenders didn't use grid stoppers on the outputtubes. Also, in Hot Rods and reissues
with printed circuit (pc) boards, pins 1 and 6 have nothing connected to them.
than most other 6V6 representatives. Because of their
ruggedness and higher power capability, 11 6V6s
can successfully replace the 6L6 tubes in a Hot Rod
Deluxe, and really make that amp come alive. Current-
production Tung-Sol6V6s also work great. If you have
a Hot Rod, I recommend giving these tubes a shot;
they add more growl and color to the sometimes
uninspiring tone of the Hot Rod when run at lower
volumes. Also, they sound better and their detail really
comes out when you play the Hot Rod with its clean
channel and avoid the often brittle overdrive function.
The biggest thing to remember is that you have to ade-
quately bias the Hot Rod after installing the tubes, as
described in the previous chapter.
With simple bias changes, other output tubes that
can be used in the Hot Rod amp series include the KT66
85 -
- 86
The bigger bottle KT66 requires different clamps and won't
work in all applications. Shown here are a Tung-Sol and
a Sino.
A 616 "bear trap" clamp is on the left and KT66 spring
retainer clamp is on the right. To replace tube clamps,
remove the two socket mounting screws.
(discussed below) and the 7027 (used in most Ampegs).
One thing you need to be aware of is that the 7027 is
basically the same tube as a 6L6, except internally pin
1 is connected to pin 4 and pin 5 to pin 6, thus making
them unusable in blackface or silverfaces unless you
remove the wires and resistors from pins 1 and 6 of
the sockets. The 6L6 does not use these pins and, as a
result, Fender used them for binding posts. Since the
Hot Rod series and most of the reissues don't use pins
1 and 6, you can swap in the 7027 with a basic bias
adjustment. Yet, it is always a good idea to ensure that
nothing is connected to pins 1 and 5. You can do this
by removing an output tube and measuring for ohms
between the socket pins 1 and 5, then between socket
pins 1 and 6, with the meter set to about a 20-K-ohm
range. There should be no reading (or infinite ohms).
One tube to keep in mind, albeit somewhat cau-
tiously, is the KT66, which was originally a British
complement to the American 6L6 and was reputed to
be a better quality tube. Those distinctions no longer
apply since tube production ended in Britain and the
United States. With the proper bias, the KT66 does
offer a louder, bolder tone with dynamic lows. Overall,
it's a better sounding tube than the 6L6. As with the
588116L6, subtle differences in tone and texture exist
among the various brands of KT66, and sound distinc-
tion depends on the amp used. Note that in blackface
and silverface, the KT66 Sino generally works best at a
higher bias, typically 70 to 75 percent of max plate dis-
sipation. See the bias information in Chapter 3. That
being said, though, whenever changing power tubes,
it's a good idea first to bias them cold-around 60 to
65 percent max plate dissipation-and see how you like
the sound. Also, check to make sure the plates aren't
getting red, which indicates too high a bias setting.
In general, KT66s have a lower rating (25 watts) than
6L6GCs (30 watts). There are exceptions, though. I've
found that Tung-Sol KT66s sound best in the Hot Rod
Deluxe when biased around 80 mV (for the pair, which
equals 40 mV per tube).
There are several caveats regarding the KT66
that need to be considered. First, this tube is physi-
cally larger than the 6L6 and sometimes won't fit in
an amp head. In combos, the standard tube clip has
to be replaced with the spring-type retainer made
for these larger tubes. That replacement, though, is
pretty straightforward and not difficult. It would be
foolhardy to install KT66s in a combo without any
clamps since vibration combined with the tube's heavi-
ness will certainly cause them to work loose from the
socket. Even in the somewhat roomier combo, the
tubes sit close together. Thus, adequate airflow is a
must. This can be as simple as keeping plenty of open
room behind the amp, or even running a small fan
into the back of the amp.
Perhaps the most important point to consider
regarding the use of KT66s is their increased filament
current. At 1.3 amps compared to the 0.9 amp of
a 6L6, a pair of KT66s will draw an extra 0.8 amp.
Depending on your amp's power transformer, this could
overheat the transformer and eventually cause it to burn
out (although, I've only had this become an issue with
single-ended Champ and Princeton amps). If the extra
current draw becomes a concern, one way to reduce the
load on silverface and blackface models is to remove
the vibrato tube, which in turn will reduce the cur-
rent draw by about a third of an ampere. The overall
extra current draw will now be about a half ampere,
which the transformers on these amps can easily handle.
I've used KT66s in early Bassman reissues, as well as
various silverface and blackface 6L6 models with no
problem, but the filament draw should still be checked
as described at the end of this section. The same goes for
the Hot Rod series. A pair of KT66s sounds especially
dynamic and bold in these amps and vastly improves
their sonic qualities. When using the clean channel, the
Hot Rod comes alive with such a smooth, rich breakup
coming early on that you will forget all about using the
Hot Rod's noisy overdrive channel.
The Tung-Sol KT66s, in combination with a Sovtek 12AX7LPS as the first-stage preamp tube, gives this Hot Rod Deluxe a
bold, richly dynamic sound that rivals many vintage amps.
There is one thing to be aware of regarding any
KT66 that has a metal base (namely the current
production Tung-Sol version). The Tung-
Sol KT66 uses the same bottle
as the Tung-Sol 6550, which has
the metal base attached to pin 1.
In the Fender reissues and Hot
Rod models this doesn't mat-
ter since pin 1 of the socket is
not connected to anything, but
on the silverface and blackface
models, pin 1 is used as a bind-
ing post for the grid resistor and
its input wire. Never use the metal-
based tubes in these amps unless you
unsolder the resistor leg and wire from
the socket, leaving them connected and
free-standing. See the photo and instruc-
tions at the end of this section. If you have
any suspicion regarding pin 1 of the tube,
place your multi meter on resistance or ohms
setting, hold one lead on the metal ring and
the other lead on pin 1. The meter should read
infinity. If it reads or close to ohms, then pin 1 is
connected to the shield.
Finally, there is the EL34/6CA7 "Marshall tube."
First the obvious point: Replacing a Fender's 6L6s with
On any KT66 with a metal base, check for resistance
between pin 1 and the base. If it reads 0 or near 0 ohms,
and you still want to use this tube, read the instructions
regarding the EL34 tube.
87 -
- 88
a pair of EL34s will not make the amp sound like a
Marshall since, for one thing, the output transformers
have different specs. Yet, both types of output trans-
formers will work with both types of tubes. In fact, I
once built an amp for a guitarist who wanted a Fender
output transformer driving a pair of Marshall tubes.
For that build, I used an OT with Bandmaster specs
and fed it with a pair of 6CA7 Electro-Harmonix tubes
(excellent tubes, by the way). The amp didn't sound like
a Fender or a Marshall, and that was the point. The gui-
tarist wanted a somewhat unique sound without paying
big bucks for a custom output transformer. This hybrid
did the trick. But back to the discussion at hand.
The primary difference between the 6L615881 and
the EL34/6CA7 is a thicker midrange and quicker
breakup on the part of the EL34, while the 6L6 tends
to remain cleaner yet bold longer. Again, this is rela-
tive to the amps. A common belief is that the EL34 has
more midrange than the 6L6, and while that is partially
true, the primary reason why Marshall amps sound
more mid-heavy than Fenders lies with the tone circuit.
A case in point is the tweed Bassman (which, by the
way, is the amp that "inspired" Jim Marshall's ampli-
fier circuitry). Situated at the end of the preamp stages
and driven by a cathode follower, the Bassman's tone
stack delivers a rich midrange tone due to the capaci-
tor, resistor, and potentiometer values. The sound
produced through the 6L6s in that amp are mid-heavy
indeed. So, what makes the EL34 unique? Aside from
its use in Marshall amps, the tube does have a distinct
tonal definition with harmonics that are extremely
rich and lush. And, yes, the characteristic mids of the
tube are there, but closely tied to the lows without a
great deal of separation in the mid- to low-frequency
range, making for the legendary sound of the Les Paul
coupled to the Marshall stack. While this isn't a book
about Marshall amps, if you want more separation
in the mid-low range with slightly later breakup in a
Marshall amp, swap out the EL34s for a pair (or, more
likely, a quad) of KT77s or 6550s, both amazing tubes
in their own right, loud yet smooth and thick.
While the EL34/6CA7 tube and its cousins the
6550, KT77, and KT88 have been successfully installed
in Fender, I would advise against it, primarily due to
the fact that, first, these tubes draw even more filament
current than the KT66 and, second, the bias circuit has
to be modified. I have ran 6550s in Hot Rod Devilles
with no perceivable problems, but I've never ran them
for long stretches at a time, and I do not endorse or
recommend it. Basically, when using 6550s, replace
R61 and R62, the large 470-ohm, I-watt resistors to
the right of each output tube socket, with even larger
l-K-ohm, 5-watt resistors. This might be tricky, since
the tube socket circuit board needs to be removed
and the resistors are physically larger. After that,
replace R76 (a 1.5-K-ohm, 112-watt resistor) with a
The 6550, 6CA7, and EL34 can only be used in Fenders with
modifications to the tube sockets and bias circuitry.
larger value; try 22-K-ohm, I-watt up to 39-K-ohm,
1-watt until you can read around 33 mV to 38 mVon
pin 5 of one of the output tube sockets. Since the 6550,
with its 35-watt plate dissipation, draws more cur-
rent than should be drawn through the Deville, bias
it cold, around 65 percent, or better yet use JJ EL34s
or Electro-Harmonix 6CA7s (a darker, more com-
plex tube). Just to stress the point, if you use 6550s or
KT88s in your Fender, beware that you are operating
the transformer beyond its ratings. Don't be surprised
if everything goes dead and puffs of smoke rise in an
expensive disaster from the back of your amp.
If you would like to try 6CA7 or EL34 tubes in your
Fender, be warned that you will not be able to use 6L6s
again unless you reverse modification. In other words,
you can't easily switch between EL34s and 6L6s like you
can switch between KT66s and 6L6s. First, if the amp
is a blackface or silverface, referring to the next pho-
tograph, remove the resistor and wire from pin 1. Skip
this step if the amp is an early Bassman reissue (those
with printed circuit boards) or Hot Rod model. In other
words, if nothing is hooked up to pin 1, skip this step.
Second, run a short piece of wire from pin 1 (which
you've just freed up) to pin 8. Don't forget this step or
your EL34/6CA7 won't work. If you have freed up pin
1 in order to run metal-based 6550s in your Fender,
though, you don't need to use the jumper. Confusing?
Well, some tube swaps aren't all that straightforward. If
you want to know the reason, here it is: Beam tetrodes,
such as the 6L615881 and the 6550, have a pair of beam
plates (like a pentode's suppressor grid) that are inter-
nally connected to the cathode in the tube, while the
EL34/6CA7 pentode has a suppressor grid connected
to pin 1; therefore, you're connecting the suppressor
when you add the jumper. Some hi-fi applications, by
the way, make use of the separate suppressor connection
for added stability and distortion elimination at higher
volumes, which is something we don't want with guitar
amps. As a side note, there is somewhat of a historical
controversy over whether a beam power tube such as
the 6L6 is a pentode or a tetrode. Svetlana, for instance,
calls its 6L6 a beam power tetrode. The confusion dates
back to the 1930s when RCA first developed the 6L6
and designed it as a beam tetrode to avoid a patent dis-
pute with Phillips over the pentode design. There are
interesting differences between the designs that you can
research on your own.
Third, referring to the diagram on page 85, replace
the 470-ohm screen resistors between pins 4 and 6
on the output tube sockets with 1-K-ohm, 5-watt resis-
tors. For Hot Rod models, replace R61 and R62, as
previously discussed. Fourth, these tubes will draw
more filament current from the power transformer. If
you proceed with this modification, make sure that you
monitor the power transformer. An accurate method for
monitoring the power transformer is to measure the 6.3
VAC filament voltage. If you are measuring the filament
When using EL34s or any tube that has pin 1 tied to the
tube shield, remove the wire and resistor (1.5-K-ohm,
brown-green-red banded) from pin 1 of the outputtube
sockets and leave them attached only to each other. Make
sure the exposed junction of the wire and resistor won't
come in contact with the chassis or other socket pins.
To install EL34tubes in a Hot Rod model, replace R61 and R62 with 1-K-ohm, 5-watt resistors and R76
with a 1-watt resistor (22-K-ohm to 39-K-ohm)thatwill bring voltage to pin 5 on one of the outputtube
sockets in a range of about 33 mV to 38 mV while the bias potentiometer is turned.
89 -
- 90
Filament voltage can also be
measured across the power lamp
because it runs on the same 6.3 VAG
line as the tube filaments. Here, I'm
checking the filament voltage across
the power lamp socket of a Hot Rod
Deluxe after having installed a pair
of KT66s.
voltage of a Hot Rod amp or a Bassman reissue, you
simply need to remove the back cover, which you will
already have done since you've changed tubes. For most
Fenders, you'll need to remove the chassis to gain access
to the tube sockets. The good news with this method is
that you leave the amp in standby and don't run high
voltage to the tubes. The photograph above demon-
strates the method.
If the filament voltage reads 6.2 to 6.4 VAC, you're
fine (note that some amps can run as high as 6.7 volts).
A reading of 6.15 VAC is marginal and may be fine,
but the life of your power transformer will be reduced.
Anything below 6.1 VAC, even 6.0 VAC, means that
the current draw on your transformer is too great. If
you still want to use the tubes, you'll need to do one
of two things: Either find a replacement power trans-
former or install an extra filament transformer. Both
require rewiring, drilling holes in the chassis, and,
with a replacement transformer, possibly enlarging the
mounting holes (not much fun, by the way).
Finally, and very important, if you decide to use
these tubes, bias them as per the directions found in
The filament wires are the greenish
twisted wires that run from tube to
tube. Turn the amp on, but leave it in
standby. Allow the filaments to heat
for about 60 seconds. Next, with your
meter setto read AG voltage on a low
scale, place one lead on pin 2 of an
outputtube and the other lead on pin 7.
You can measure the filament voltage
at any tube, but the output tubes offer
more room to help prevent meter lead
slippage. Also, for added safety, you
can run jumper leads from the pins to
the meter leads.
Chapter 4. This will mean replacing the bias supply
resistor. On silverface and blackfaces the value will be
either 470 ohms, 1 watt, or 1 K-ohm up to 1.8 K-ohms,
while on the Hot Rod models the value will be 1.5
K-ohms. Try various resistors from 22 K-ohms, 1 watt
up to 39 K-ohms, 1 watt until you can read about 33
mV to 38 mV on pin 5 of an output tube socket while
turning the bias adjustment potentiometer. You can
also use a 50-K-ohm, 1-watt potentiometer in place of
the resistor.
Rectifier Tubes
While the choice of rectifier tube doesn't affect sound
directly, it does determine the voltage level that in turn
does affect sound. Note that not all Fender tube amps
have rectifier tubes. Newer amps such as the Hot Rod
models as well as some mid- to late silverface era amps
use solid-state diodes instead of tube rectifiers. The
easiest way to tell if your amp has a tube rectifier is to
check the first tube on the left as you look in the back
of the amp. If the tube is labeled 5AR4, GZ33, 5U4, or
5Y3, it is a rectifier. If, on the other hand, you find an
output tube (6L6 or 6V6) as the first tube on the left,
you have a solid-sstate rectifier.
The three primary types of rectifier tubes Fender
uses are the 5Y3 in tweed Deluxe and Princeton models;
the 5AR4/GZ34 in tweed 6L6 models, most black-
faces, and a few silverfaces; and the 5U4 in early sil-
verfaces and some late blackfaces. The basic differences
between these tubes are their current capacities and the
output voltage levels. Even though these tubes may be
somewhat interchangeable, there are a few factors you
need to keep in mind. First, the 5Y3 has a lower current
rating and a lower output voltage than the other two.
Most single-ended amps originally equipped with this
tube, such as the Champ, should probably stick to using
it since replacing it with a 5U4 or a 5AR4 will result in
a higher operating voltage that might exceed the rat-
ings of the circuitry made for the 5Y3. NOS versions
of this tube are still plentiful and should be your first
choice in replacement. Sovtek does make a 5Y3, but the
tube is actually closer to a 5U4 and puts out more volt-
age than the standard 5Y3. A tweed Deluxe will work
with this tube, but the voltage on the 6V6 plates can
increase up to about the +400 VDC range rather than
the usual +365 or so VDC, making the amp less bluesy.
In other words, it will change the sound that made this
amp famous. Yet, there are guitarists who prefer the
increased headroom and louder sound this amp pro-
duces with the Sovtek 5Y3 or 5U4.
The case of the 5AR4/GZ34 and 5U4 swap is a
little more forgiving. In a Fender, the 5AR4 will prob-
ably put out around 20 to 25 more volts than the
5U4. It's common practice to replace the 5U4 with
the 5AR4, especially as it concerns blackface mod-
els. Replacing the 5U4 in a silverface with a 5AR4 is
also quite common, but you should consider that in
most cases, silverface amps employ higher voltages
than their blackface counterparts, the main reason
being that higher voltages usually result in cleaner
tones with higher headroom. Boosting the voltage
even more means you have to push the volume even
louder to get the output tubes to breakup. One other
point to consider is that some silverfaces use a smaller
value cathode resistor (1.5-K-ohm) on the reverb driv-
er. This tube already operates at or beyond its rating
with a 5U4. Punishing it with more voltage by using
a 5AR4 might not be a good idea. As discussed later
in the book, you should consider replacing the reverb
driver's cathode resistor with a 2.2-K-ohm value if it
is stocked with anything smaller. Fender wasn't neces-
sarily consistent with this resistor value in mid- to late
silverface models. My advice is to stick with the type of
rectifier tube designated for a particular amp.
As for replacement tube choices, NOS versions
of the 5AR4/GZ34 are becoming scarce and so the
price is high (well over $100). Fortunately, JJ makes
Converting from Solid-State to
Tube Rectification
Converting a Fender from solid-state to tube
rectification requires not only drilling a hole in the
chassis for the tube but also replacing the power
transformer. The bottom line is that converting to a
tube rectifier is by no means practical.
The exception, of course, is the early Bassman
teissue. From 1990 to around 2004, this amp came
with solid-state diodes inside of a plastic plug that
sits in the chassis where one usually finds a rectifier
tube. Because the socket of the solid-state plug is
wired the same as a rectifier tube socket, all you
need to do is replace the plug with a 5AR4/GS34. Be
aware that the high voltage will drop about +40 VDC,
which means a few less watts of power but also a
sound more akin to the vintage Bassman. In fact, if
you buy a used reissue, chances are pretty good that
it might already have the tube installed. If not, this is
one of the easiest and most essential modifications
you can give this amp.
These are 5Y3 NOS, 5U4 NOS, 5AR4/GZ34 JJ, and 5AR4
Sino rectifier tubes. Plate voltage can increase by 25 VDC
when going from a 5Y3 to a 5U4 and increase by another 25
VDC when going from a 5U4 to a 5AR4/GZ34.
an excellent version for around $20, as does Sovtek
and Sino. NOS versions of the 5U4 are a little cheap-
er than those of the 5AR4 but are still expensive.
Fortunately, again, JJ and Electro-Harmonix make
great versions of this tube for less than $20. While
tube purists will insist that these current production
tubes have nowhere near the ruggedness of their NOS
counterparts, you could buy more than a half-dozen
JJ 5AR4/GZ34 tubes for the price of one NOS. I'd
much rather have to replace a JJ prematurely than
have to worry about my $130 NOS rectifier getting
shaken to pieces every time I crank my Deluxe Reverb
(which is all the time).
91 -
The chances are good that if you purchase a Fender sil-
verface amp, it will already be "blackfaced." For decades
the much maligned silverface sound led not only techni-
cians but almost anyone with a soldering iron to attempt
reverting the silverface circuit to that of a blackface.
Several books published in the 1990s as well as numer-
ous web sites take the reader on a step-by-step course of
rebuilding his or her silverface to blackface specs.
At least two problems exist with this approach.
First, the obvious: Circuits were mutilated. Because
proper soldering is a skill, many would-be techs burned
wires as well as components to get the blackface sound.
Not only that, but often substandard parts were used or
the wrong part altogether. The second problem is much
simpler: No matter what you do, you will never turn a
silverface into a blackface. While replacing the capaci-
tors and resistors with higher quality components and
rewiring the amp to blackface specifications will defi-
nitely improve the silverface's fidelity, the amp will never
sound like a blackface, because the output trans-
former, power transformer, and speakers are not the
same. These parts can be replaced, but the cost may not
be worth the result.
This chapter, therefore, will describe the silver-
to-blackface conversion not with the goal of making
your silverface sound like a blackface, but rather to
offer suggestions for improving silverface tone. In fact,
I've met more than a few people who like the silver-
face sound, especially its ability to stay clean. Surf
Opposite:The Hot Rod Deluxe boasts a bold, dynamic
sound that rivals many vintage amps. This amp and
extension cabinet are finished in the White Lightning
scheme. Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
and country music guitarists find the silverface's high
headroom beneficial, but guitarists who extensively
use effects pedals also benefit from these characteris-
tics. The clean, loud sound of the silverface definitely
takes pedals well. However, as discussed in Chapter 5,
the silverface's lack of a true bias adjustment makes at
least that blackface mod necessary.
Overhauling the Silverface
After purchasing a silverface it is essential to remove the
chassis and inspect the circuitry. If you're lucky, you'll
find the old parts replaced with high-quality capacitors
and resistors. Unfortunately, you're more likely to find a
hodge-podge of parts with a wire or board burned here
and there by a reckless soldering iron. However, that's
fine in that these amps are relatively easy to work on and
you can replace all the components with good quality
parts for a reasonable price.
One silver-to-blackface modification is vital: per-
forming the bias modification demonstrated in Chapter
5. Another common, less vital, but easy modification
is removing the 2,000-pf suppressor capacitors from
pin 5 of each output tube. While these capacitors do
shunt some of the higher frequencies to ground, don't
Silverface lore
Many guitarists love the classic silverface sound
and the amps' high headroom. And if you use effects
pedals often, the silverface's clean, loud sound
is ideal.

93 -
- 94
This silverface shows the typical hodge-podge of replacement parts normally encountered.
expect to hear a great deal of a difference after clip-
ping them from the sockets. However, removing them
does eliminate an impediment to fidelity in the overall
signal chain.
The suppressor capacitors were installed by Fender
to reduce the chance of parasitic oscillation caused
by a change in lead dressing. Legend has it that when
Fender changed from cloth-covered wire to plastic-cov-
ered wire around 1969, proper lead dressing (the way
the wires are arranged) became difficult since the plas-
tic wires were not as rigid as their cloth counterparts.
Whether that's true or not, lead dressing did get mess-
ier with wires often jumbled together and randomly
placed. Moreover, wires no longer passed under the
board through holes drilled for that purpose; instead,
they passed over the board in a rather haphazard man-
ner. Why is lead dressing important? Because wires
carrying high voltage emit slight electrical waves while
other wires, such as grid input wires, are extremely
sensitive; they must be kept at a distance or pass each
other at 90-degree angles. When this doesn't happen,
noise as well as oscillation can be induced.
Removing the suppressor capacitors will improve
the tone; however, if you do encounter oscillation,
which would sound like your amp has suddenly lost
half its power, simply replace the caps. You might
also try to redress the wiring by referring to a black-
face chassis as a model. There are many photos of
blackface chassis on the web if a blackface amp isn't
available. Toward the end of this section, I've provided
a photo of a blackfaced silverface with proper lead
dressing. Basically, keep the heater wires tightly twist-
ed together and away from the other wires (running up
above the sockets) and the input wires (those connected
to pins 2 and 7 of the preamp, reverb, and phase inverter
tubes) away from or at least not parallel to other wires.
Also if the wires that run from the input jacks and volume
controls to the tubes are not shielded, replacing them
with shielded cable will help. In all likelihood, remov-
ing the suppressor capacitors probably won't cause
any problems.
After removing the suppressor caps, replacing input
wiring with shielded cable, if necessary, and performing
the bias modification, bias the amp and play through
it. If you are happy with the tone, then you won't need
to do any more "blackfacing." If, on the other hand,
you want a little more gain feeding the output tubes
as well as what many consider to be improved fidelity,
try replacing the two 47-K-ohm phase inverter plate
resistors with a 100-K-ohm resistor on the left and an
82-K-ohm resistor on the right (when viewing the cir-
cuit board with the tube connection side down), the
standard blackface values. The reason these two resis-
tors have different values is, broadly, that only one of
the phase inverter's inputs receives a signal (the second
input receives negative feedback, which technically is a
Shielded wire from the input jacks and volume controls
should have the shielding connected to ground at only one
end-that of the jacks and pots.
signal but not a signal straight from the preamp). The
side of the inverter that receives the preamp signal will
have more gain than the side that doesn't; therefore,
a lower value resistor is used as a means of providing
balanced output signals. So why use the same value
of 47 K-ohms for the plate resistors? Without getting
into the technicalities of the role that biasing and plate
resistance play with the phase inverter or of the overall
functioning of the output stage regarding such things
as impedance and loading, with the lower gain result-
ing from the lower valued plate resistors, the degree
of unbalanced output is also lowered and, as a result,
plays less of a factor.
If you replace the phase inverter plate resistors,
make sure that the grid-to-cathode, cathode, and tail
resistors on the phase inverter (the infamous "long-
tailed pair") are 1M-ohm, 470 ohms, and 22 K-ohms,
respectively. The tail resistor might also be a 27-K-ohm,
which is fine.
While you are modding the phase inverter, you
might want to replace the coupling capacitor connect-
ed to the right-hand 1M-ohm resistor (as indicated in
the top left photo on page 100) with a Mallory 150 or
an SBE Orange Drop 716. Blackface amps generally
used a O.OOl-uFcap while silverfaces tended toward
a O.Ol-uFcap. Using a .0047-uF will give great bass
response but not be flabby as it could be with anything
larger than a O.Ol-uF, or not as attenuated as could be
the cause with anything less than O.OOl-uF. I've seen a
0.022-uFused here as well. If you have several capaci-
tors of varying values, go ahead and try each to find
the sound you prefer.
Finally, another blackfacing modification involves
swapping the silverface SU4 rectifier tube with the
SAR4 used in blackface models. Later silverface mod-
els use solid-state rectifiers, so this mod is for early
The shield of the cables is left ungrounded at the tube end.
silverface amps. While switching the tube might seem
like a restoration to the blackface models, this isn't
entirely so. The SAR64 drops less voltage than the
SU4, and, as a result, the voltages will be raised in
the silverface. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but
again it isn't restoration because the silverface power
transformers differ from those of the blackface in
that the high-voltage windings put out more voltage
than the blackface models. Thus, the silverface volt-
age will probably be closer to the blackface voltages by
retaining the SU4.
Some people claim, though, that rectifier tubes have
different sonic qualities. This is doubtful. Probably
more to the point is that the SAR4 has higher current
capability than the SU4, and when pushed extremely
hard the SU4 might sag, resulting in a compressed
sound. I recommend leaving the SU4, but if you do use
a SAR4 make sure that you check the cathode resistor
on the reverb driver tube (the 12AT7 tube that is third
from the right when looking into the back of the amp).
This cathode resistor was lowered in some silverfaces
from the usual 2.2-K-ohm blackface value. The reverb
driver in Fender amps is already driven at or near its
maximum rating so raising the voltage on the plate
without raising the cathode resistor will decrease the
tube's life. In fact, even if you retain the SU4, or if
your amp has a solid-state rectifier, you should change
the cathode resistor to 2.2 K-ohms (red, red, and red
banded) if it hasn't already been changed. Bear in
mind that a higher amp voltage yields a cleaner, louder
sound. If your goal is high gain with warm tube distor-
tion, you probably don't want to raise the voltage.
Regardless of whether or not you blackface your
silverface, you should replace the capacitors with
Mallory lS0Ms or high-quality Orange Drops.
Each replacement coupling capacitor should have a
95 -
- 96
RG-174 shielded from Hoffman Amplifiers is 1/4-inch
thick with 24-gauge center conductor.
Carefully trim the plastic coating from the cable without
cutting the shielding.
minimum rating of 400 VDC, and preferably a 600 or
630 VDC rating. Furthermore, all resistors should be
checked (by measuring the resistance) and those more
than 10 percent out of range should be replaced. Few
things cause more argument in the world of amplifier
restoration than the choice of resistors. As discussed
in the first chapter, types of resistors include carbon
composition (used in blackface and silverface amps),
carbon film, metal film, and metal oxide. I recommend
metal oxide for the power supply (under the capaci-
tor panel), metal film for plate, cathode, and slope
resistors, and carbon composition for signal resis-
tors. While silverface Fenders haven't really reached
the collectible status of their blackface counterparts,
who knows what the future may hold. Thus, if you are
concerned about retaining the originality of a silver-
face, make sure to keep all the capacitors and resistors
you remove. Store them in a zip-lock bag and if the
day arrives when an original silverface becomes more
valuable than it's worth as a working amp, you can
reinstall the old parts and sell the amp to a collector
who will probably never playa guitar through it.
Replace all carbon composition resistors with
metal film type where the resistor value is most critical
(plate and cathode resistors as well as the tone stack
A wire stripper can be set to the same gauge as the wire
being stripped.
slope resistor). The value of the reverb mixing resistor
(3.3-M-ohm), on the other hand, needs not be precise.
The carbon comp can stay there, as well as on the input
jacks (one 1 M-ohm and two 68-K-ohm resistors on
each pair of jacks). The grid resistor used for the reverb
driver and recovery tubes can also retain the carbon
comps (1 M-ohm and 220 K-ohms, respectively, with
the latter being mounted on the reverb input jack) as
can the 470-K-ohm isolation resistor associated with
the reverb control pot wiper arm. Another use where
resistor value isn't critical and where the carbon comps
can be retained is as mixing resistors for the normal
and vibrato channels (each at 220 K-ohms). The output
tube grid stoppers could stay with the carbon comps
except that the screen resistors mounted on the same
sockets usually run hot, exposing the grid stoppers to
constant high temperatures over decades. I recommend
replacing the screen resistors with 470-ohm, 2-watt, or
greater, metal oxide types and the grid stoppers with
1.5-K-ohm, 112-watt metal film or new carbon com-
position resistors.
In all cases, when retaining a carbon composition
resistor you should check its value with a meter, being
aware that the resistance can drift with temperature
and voltage, meaning that it might check fine while
Second, replace the 47-K-ohm
resistors with a 100-K-ohm on the
left and an 82-K-ohm on the right
(when viewing the circuit board with
the tube connection side down).
cold and disconnected from the circuit but could
change to a different value during operation. Yet, in
the few places mentioned above, if a carbon comp
resistor is in range when cold, the possible drift dur-
ing use shouldn't affect the amp's operation. 1 usually
change out all the resistors of the long-tailed pair with
metal films; however, you could retain the I-M-ohm
grid resistors if they are matched to within 5 percent
of each other. As for the plate resistors, 1 recommend
using new metal films there. Carbon comps are often
noisy as plate resistors (hiss and crackling).
There is debate involving resistor choice for the
second-stage preamp (the plate resistors wired to pin
6 of the first two tubes on the right). Legend has it
that "mojo" resides here. If you decide to use carbon
When blackfacing the phase inverter
circuit, first remove the 47-K-ohm
phase inverter plate resistors.
comps as plate resistors, 1 recommend using new ones
with a 1/2-watt rating. Finally, as for the bias splitter
resistors, 1 recommend any resistors that are closely
matched (1 prefer within 1 percent) to aim for the same
amount of negative bias voltage on the output tube
grids. I've used both carbon film and metal film, again,
as long as their resistance is closely matched. As for the
vibrato circuit, check the values of the resistors; more
than likely they will be fine. Since this is an oscillator
circuit and not part of the signal chain, I usually retain
the original caps and resistors unless they are out of
range. The type of resistors and capacitors employed
here won't affect the sound.
Regarding the reverb mixing resistor mentioned
earlier, you can reduce it to 1 M-ohm (carbon comp
97 -
Blackface Circuit Board
Output Coupling
Ca acitors
Ne ative Feedback Resistors
~ F
Phase Inverter Grid Resistors
o to-Isolator
Resistors &
Typical blackface circuit board showing component functions.
Reverb Control
Isolation Resistor
25 25
+ +
Resistor &
Reverb I
Reverb Driver Cathode
Resi r & Capacitor
Reverb Driver
Grid Resistor
Vibrato Channel
Treble, Mid, & Bass
~ e v e r b
Reverb Input
Coupling Capacitor
25 25
!-IF !-IF
+ +
Normal &
2nd Preamp
Resistor &
Reverb Output
Vibrato Channel
Slope Resistor
Vibrato Channel
Preamp Plate
Vibrato Channel
Coupling Capacitor
1 st Preamp
Resistor &
1st Preamp
Resistor &
Normal Channel
Treble, Mid, & Bass
Ca citor
Normal Channel
Slope Resistor
Normal Channel
Preamp Plate
Typical blackface circuit board showing component functions.
- 100
For a completed blackface phase inverter circuit, the
resistors should be a 22-K-ohm on top, l-M-ohm on left
and right, and a 470-ohm in the center. If not, replace them.
Also replacing the coupling capacitor atthe phase inverter
input will improve overall tone.
It's a good idea to replace the old silverface capacitors.
Here, the bass capacitor in the normal channel tone stack
is being removed.
or metal film} without losing substantial reverb. Also,
make sure to replace the bypass capacitor with a sil-
ver mica. The original is 10 pf, but you can raise the
value up to 68 pf. The purpose of this resistor/capaci-
tor combination is to shunt most of the signal to the
reverb driver and pass a small, high-frequency signal,
which will mix with the returning reverb signal. If the
capacitor is too large or the resistor too small, more
frequency or a wider frequency signal will pass with-
out going through the reverb, resulting in weak reverb
with a possibly muddier tone.
For optimum reverb driver tube life, make sure its cathode
resistor is 2.2 K-ohms.
The originaI3.3-M-ohm reverb mixing resistor (on left) as
well as the 220-K-ohm channel mixing resistors (on right)
can be retained unless they have drifted far out of range
(beyond 20 percent).
After replacing the coupling capacitors with Mallory
lS0Ms or high-quality Orange Drops (including
0.0033 blocking cap between plate and reverb control),
also make sure to replace the SOO-pf reverb coupling
capacitor as well as the 2S0-pf treble capacitors with
silver mica capacitors. (As will be discussed in Chapter
8, you might experiment with 330 pf and 500 pf for
treble capacitors.)
If you were to replace only one type of capaci-
tor on the circuit board, make sure it would be the
electrolytic cathode bypass capacitors. If these are
These plate resistors are being replaced with metal film
variety. The color-band resistor code often differs with
metal film resistors; refer to the appendix for
an explanation.
These original carbon composition power resistors will
be replaced with metal oxide resistors. The 220-K-ohm
bleeder resistors on each side of the 100-uF capacitor
on the right are less critical so the carbon comps could
remain; however, it's best to replace them as well.
The electrolytic power capacitors in this amp have been replaced with Sprague Atom brand capacitors while the power
resistors are now high-quality metal oxide type.
101 -
- 102
the original white plastic type or the golden brown
cardboard variety they are sure to be leaky. When a
preamp cathode bypass cap opens, the gain drops and
with it volume. If they short, the resulting bias shift of
the tube produces nasty distortion-and not the kind
of distortion you want-as well as reduced volume.
Often these don't completely short or open, but leak,
in which case you get fluctuating volume with awful
tone. The stock value for these capacitors is 25 uF with
a 25-volt rating. Sprague Atom brand capacitors are
available in that value; however, you can use any good
quality 22-uF electrolytic capacitor with a 35-volt
rating. Make sure to observe polarity when replacing
these caps. The positive end should go toward the bot-
tom, or tube-side, of the circuit board.
Finally, replace the electrolytic power capacitors
and power resistors located under the metal pan fast-
ened to the back of the chassis. There are two to four
I-watt power resistors under the pan, depending on
year and model, usually two at 220 K-ohms, one at 1
K-ohm, and one at 4.7 K-ohms. Again, just as with the
number, the values of the resistors may vary. In any
case, replace all of them with 2-watt or greater metal-
oxide resistors of the same value.
As for the electrolytic capacitors, these too should
be replaced if they haven't already been. Sprague Atom
capacitors come close in physical size to the originals.
Ceramic disc treble capacitors should be replaced
with a higher quality silver mica variety.
A silverface board with newly installed Mallory
150M capacitors, silver mica caps, and metal
film resistors.
There are other physically smaller brands, such as
Illinois, that can also be used. While Sprague Atoms
tend to be more expensive, sometimes by twice as
much, most technicians prefer them, largely because
of reputation but also due to their size proximity.
Whichever type you use, make sure that the voltage
rating is at least equal to the originals (normally 500-
and 350-volt).
You can be less precise with the capacitance value.
For example, it is difficult to find the 70-uF, 350-volt
original capacitor values. In that case, you can use
either an 80-uF or 100-uF at 350-volt. Also, a 20-uF
can be replaced with a 22-uF and a 40-uF with a 47-uF.
Check, double-check, then triple-check the polarity
when replacing electrolytic capacitors; that is, make
sure the positive end of the new cap goes to the same
point as the positive end of the old cap. And, once
again, make sure not to go below the voltage ratings.
Few components put on as spectacular of a display as
do electrolytic capacitors when they explode due to
being under-rated and put in backwards.
One distinct difference between the blackface and
silverface models is the type of speaker used. In
fact, changing an amplifier's speaker or speakers has
When removing speakers on most amplifiers, the wires
need to be unsoldered.
When briefly tapping a low-voltage battery to the
speaker terminals, clicks will be heard through a
functioning speaker.
perhaps the most significant effect on the amplifier's
sound. While Fender used various brands of speakers,
the most prevalent brands used during the tweed and
blackface eras were Jensen and Oxford. Again, replac-
ing the speakers in a silverface with Jensen Alnico types
won't make the amp a blackface, but it will definitely
improve the sound.
One of the first things to check on an older model
Fender amp should be the speaker, especially in a
multi-speaker unit. If, for instance, one of the four
speakers of a Super Reverb isn't working, it might not
be readily apparent . With the amp set to a low volume,
strum your guitar and listen to each of the speakers. If
it seems like one is dead, pull it out and check it out.
First, if the speaker has slide-on connectors, remove
them from the speaker terminals, making sure to mark
which connector goes to which terminal. More than
If the speaker won't budge after removing the screws,
carefully run a putty knife or other flat blade between
the baffle and speaker, being especially cautious not to
damage the speaker.
Jensen Alnico (right) and ceramic (left) speakers are great
choices for replacement speakers in any silverface.
likely, rather than slide-on connectors, the wires will
be soldering directly to the speaker input terminals. In
that case, place a small piece of cardboard or shop rag
behind the terminal board to keep solder from dropping
onto the speaker cone and unsolder the connectors.
Next, remove the nuts or screws that attach the
speaker frame to the baffle. Support the speaker by
holding its magnet. Once the fasteners are removed, if
the speaker isn't loose, gently rock it free, using the mag-
net as a handle. Sometimes on an old amp, the speaker
gasket can stick like glue to baffle. In that case, care-
fully and gently run a flat blade, such as a putty knife,
around the edge of speaker against the baffle, trying not
to damage the gasket.
Once the speaker has been removed, attach a jumper
lead to each of the terminals. Hold the other end of one
of the leads to the end of a flashlight battery. When
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tapping the other lead to the other end of the battery, you
should hear clicks and pops coming from the speaker
if the voice coil and thus the speaker are functioning.
Don't hold the lead to the battery as even the small DC
voltage can overheat the coil over time. To replace the
speaker, simply reverse the removal procedures, making
sure not to let solder drip onto the speaker cone.
Currently there are some excellent guitar amp speakers
on the market. Jensen manufactures an Alnico series that
works extremely well in the Fender silverfaces. While a set
of four PI0R speakers sound amazing in a Super Reverb, it
will cost around $400. For half the price, a Super Reverb
could be equipped with Jensen's Vintage Ceramic speakers
(CI0R). These are fine speakers in their own right, having
a wider tonal range and more clarity at high volumes than
the Alnicos but not as warm and reactive at low volumes.
For a guitarist looking for a definitive vintage sound,
Alnico is the choice; however, for a guitarist who wants
versatility at a lower price tag as well as plenty of bite in
overdrive, ceramic is the way to go. Other excellent speak-
ers to consider are the Eminence Legend series as well as
the various lines of Weber speakers.
Hot Rodding the Hot Rod
As discussed in the previous chapter, the easiest modi-
fication to make to a Hot Rod is to switch tubes. In
that chapter we discussed mainly the power tubes;
however, the preamp and phase inverter tubes also can
be swapped. First, the I2AX7 phase inverter, third
tube from the right, provides plenty of gain along with
adequate signal swing for the output tubes. A I2AT7
in this position will lower phase inverter gain while
also providing ample signal swing for the output tubes.
Lower phase inverter gain will help to tighten up the
overall tone, increase headroom, and, as a result, deliver
a cleaner sound at lower volumes. Of course, many gui-
tarists want the full tonal blast of the I2AX7 phase
inverter, so you should judge for yourself, especially
since this is an inexpensive, easy, and easily reversible
experiment to perform.
The same goes for second preamp tube, located
second from the right, between the first preamp
tube and the phase inverter. The second triode of
this tube is used for the overdrive channel, specifically
providing the distortion, while the first triode is used
The tube layout in the Hot Rod models is, starting from the left, the two power tubes, the phase inverter, the overdrive and
third-stage preamp tube, and the first- and second-stage preamp tube. The foam-like material around the two preamp
tubes serves as a shield against interference and should be kept on the tubes.
for both channels. Try substituting the 12AX7 tube
with a 12AY7 to reduce some of the overdrive's edge
while warming it. Otherwise, for the first and second
preamp tubes, try a JJ EC83S or Sovtek 12AX7LPS.
There has been a misconception that the overdrive of
the Hot Rod models is solid-state generated. On the
contrary, the overdrive is tube-derived. Two JFETs,
which are solid-state devices, merely act as switches to
turn on the more drive effect, essentially by engaging
bypass capacitors across the cathode resistors of both
triodes of the second preamp tube. When a triode is
run without a cathode bypass resistor, a form of nega-
tive feedback works to keep the triode from distorting,
resulting in a cleaner, quieter output. Adding a cathode
bypass capacitor reduces this negative feedback effect,
thus allowing the tube to produce more gain as well as
distort. The reason that the overdrive channel might
sound less than stellar has more to do with the voicing
of that tube, as will be discussed.
If you would like more range on the volume control
and reduced volume at lower settings, try a 12AY7 or
an NOS 5751 in the first preamp position. Because the
Hot Rods are loud amps, either of these tubes will give
a lower volume with smooth tone. Otherwise, again,
go with a JJ or Sovtek or experiment with the variety
of 12AX7 tubes currently available. Finally, for full-
bodied tone and seat-grabbing growl, install a set of
KT66s. Working bias will probably range from 78 to
84 mY, both tubes combined, measured at the test point
30. Keep in mind that you might not be able to set the
bias voltage any lower than 82 or 84 mV (depending on
the brand of KT66). The KT66 draws current differently
than a 6L6 and thus the negative bias voltage range dif-
fers as well. KT66s should be fine biased at 84 mV as
they will still be idling around 70 to 75 percent of maxi-
mum plate dissipation. In fact, I've run these tubes at 90
mY, which gives amazingly warm overdriven tone yet
at the cost of somewhat shortened tube life. In order to
get the bias to drop below 80 mY, the negative bias volt-
age supplying the KT66s would need to be increased,
but there's only about -53 VDC available from the
power supply. You may be able to get the bias down
a few millivolts by lowering the value of R76 from its
stock 1.5 K-ohms to 820 or 680 ohms but probably not
below 80 mv' Yet, it's really not worth the bother, since
KT66s sound best when biased slightly hot.
If you're more into sweet, warm distortion that
comes on early and gets richer with more volume, try
a pair of JJ or Electro-Harmonix 6V6s. Working bias
for these will be much lower than for either KT66s or
6L6s, between 42 to 46 mV measured at test point 30.
The Hot Rod Printed Circuit Board
The biggest challenge to modifying the Hot Rod mod-
els is dealing with the printed circuit board (PCB).
Removing the board can be a chore and because the
potentiometers and jacks are mounted directly on it,
care must be taken not to damage the board, pots, or
jacks when sliding it out of the chassis. Also complete
removal of the board is difficult due to the wires and
cables soldered to it. I recommend leaving them in place
and only pulling the board out as far as is necessary to
gain an adequate work area.
Remove the knobs
by using a small
standard screwdriver
to loosen the set
105 -
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Remove the chassis mounting screws with a medium-sized Phillips screwdriver.
Gradually and carefully pull the board down and tiltthe top toward you. If you encounter resistance, stop until you find the
source, which will usually be a wire bundle.
Once the board is turned backwards there will be plenty of access to the solder point.
When removing components from a PCB, first remove the solder. A desoldering tool makes the job easier and helps
prevent damage to the circuit trace. First push down the plunger and place the tip next to the trace to be unsoldered. As
soon as the solder begins to melt, remove the soldering iron while pushing the button on the tool to release the plunger,
creating vacuum that draws in the solder. Remember to only hold the iron to trace long enough to melt the solder.
107 -
- 108
To improve the tone of Hot Rod models, replace the components indicated.
To remove the circuit board, first loosen the set
screws recessed in the back of the eight knobs. Do not
remove the set screws all the way to avoid losing them.
The knobs will easily pull off.
Remove the nuts from the five jacks (14 mm and 16
mm) as well as the nuts (11 mm) from the eight potenti-
ometers. Nut drivers, sockets, or small wrenches work
best. Avoid using pliers or an adjustable wrench since
they can slip and strip the edges of the nuts or scratch
the faceplate. When installing the nuts back onto the
jacks, be careful not to over-tighten them. Newer
Fenders used plastic jacks that can be easily broken.
It's a good idea to place the loose knobs, nuts, and
washers in a small box or bag so they won't be mis-
placed. Next, remove the six Phillips-head screws from
across the lower-middle portion of the board. Also
remove the screw attaching the terminal of the ground
wire to the chassis on the right-side of the board.
Pull the board down slightly until the potentiometers
clear their installation holes on the chassis. You have to
work the wires at the bottom left of the board, pushing
them down and back against the chassis, in order to clear
the potentiometers from their holes and from the top
corner of the chassis. Carefully pull the top of the board
toward you until the board rests upside down with the
back facing you. This requires close attention, care, and
patience as the jacks, potentiometers, and board can be
damaged by reckless and raging practices.
To reinstall the circuit board, carefully slide it in
place, aligning the potentiometers, jacks, and switches
with their respective holes. When pushing the board
upward, if you feel any resistance, stop and investi-
gate. Sometimes a wire can catch or the "more drive"
lamp become misaligned. Once the board is in place,
install all washers and attach all jack and potentiom-
eter nuts. Be careful not to over-tighten the nuts. Next,
attach the six screws located across the middle of the
board, and secure the ground wire to the chassis with
its screw. Finally, install the knobs. Turn all the poten-
tiometers to their lowest position and align the knobs
so that the indicator lines point to "1." Don't push the
knobs all the way down, but maintain a slight clear-
ance between the bottom of the knobs and the
potentiometer nuts so that the knobs won't drag
when turned.
A second challenge to modifying a Hot Rod
involves the more intricate soldering required when
replacing components on the PCB. The circuit traces
can be easily damaged if a soldering iron is too hot
or held too long on them, which can often happen
when unsoldering a component. Refer to Chapter 2 for
proper soldering practices. If you damage the mount-
ing trace for a component, all you can really do is to
run a short jumper wire from the component associ-
ated with the damaged trace to the next component
to which the trace runs. While this will work, it looks
sloppy and unprofessional. It's best to avoid this last
resort altogether by being careful when soldering and
de soldering. Practice is the best avoidance. In our cul-
ture of throw-away appliances there is no shortage of
broken electronic gear on which to practice. You can
quickly gain adequate skills by desoldering the com-
ponents from a broken radio or tape player and then
resoldering them back in. The largest cause of dam-
aged traces comes from holding the soldering iron too
long on a component. Even two seconds of an overly
hot iron can destroy a trace.
Hot Rod Reverb Tanks and Tone Stacks
Because the Hot Rod models use a solid-state reverb cir-
cuit, some musicians automatically condemn the reverb
as having an artificial sound. While the amps do use
solid state op-amps to drive and recover the reverb
signal, the tank itself is a traditional spring and trans-
ducer unit; such as those found in older tube amps. To
be honest, the Hot Rod reverb can be overwhelming
and somewhat mushy at middle and high settings. The
culprit isn't so much the solid-state driver or recovery
op-amps, as is often claimed (although they do con-
tribute), but the use of a bypass resistor and capacitor
around the reverb control. The purpose of the bypass is
to boost high frequencies at low reverb settings, which
it does while also sending some of the full reverb signal
around the control potentiometer.
There is a common modification that techs perform
to help alleviate the overwhelming reverb. Yet, you can
easily do this yourself without shelling out the money
to have it done-essentially, eliminate the treble bypass
cap and resistor from the reverb control circuit. In fact,
since the resistor and capacitor are in series, you only
need to remove one of them. Some techs don't even
bother to remove the board for this mod, but simply
The clean space of a properly removed reverb bypass resistor.
clip the resistor leads from the face of the board. You
can do this also, but if you plan on doing the total
overhaull'm suggesting, then pull the board and unsol-
der the resistor. After performing this mod, don't expect
the Hot Rod's reverb to suddenly sound like that of a
Deluxe Reverb or any other tube-driven reverb circuit.
However, you should notice a more easily controllable
reverb level with a clearly defined sound.
Now that the reverb circuit has been dealt with,
it's time to tackle the tone stack. As will be discussed
in Chapter 8, lowering the value of the slope resistor
boosts midrange tones by adding more low-end and
reducing the top-end; however, it also limits the effec-
tiveness of the tone controls. Essentially, the slope
resistor sets the center of the frequency range over
which the tone controls operate. By slightly lowering
the slope resistor in the Hot Rod while also lower-
ing the bass capacitor, the lows become more defined
and tightened.
The reverb bypass resistor is removed.
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The tone capacitors and resistor are in close quarters with the tone controls.
Newer Fenders use polyester capacitors that are
of fairly decent quality. Yet, the tone can be improved
by using high-quality Orange Drops. Sozo or Mallory
150Ms are also excellent choices and, like Orange
Drops, are larger than the standard polyester vari-
ety. Whatever capacitor you use, make sure it has a
minimum rating of 400 VDC. To fit them into the
mounting holes, you'll need to run the leads along
the capacitor body and then bend them outward to
match the distance of the mounting holes.
Getting back to the slope resistor, replace the
130-K-ohm carbon film resistor with a resistor of
the 100-K metal film variety. Actually you could go
as low as 56-K-ohm if you prefer more bass and low
midrange. Next replace C27, the 250-pf ceramic disc
treble capacitor, with a 220- to 390-pf higher qual-
ity silver mica (I prefer a 220-pf). Replace C6, the
.022-uF midrange polyester capacitor, with a same
value Orange Drop. Finally, replace C5, the .1-uF bass
polyester capacitor with a .047 Orange Drop.
Replacing the .1 bass cap with a .047 passes a
narrower spectrum of bass frequencies and has the
audible effect of tightening the lows but not enough
to attenuate them. I've also used a .022-uF capacitor
in this position for guitarists who want a more upper-
low emphasis. An occasional complaint regarding the
Hot Rod models is that they can sound "boomy" when
the bass is set at around the halfway level and beyond.
While the cabinet and speaker baffle material and
construction contributes to this, tightening up the low
frequencies via the tone stack modification helps to
reduce the boominess. Another complaint involves the
tone stack design. In this case, there are modifications
that essentially replace the Hot Rod tone stack with
that of a blackface. Yet, I find the Hot Rod's tone stack
to have a wide range of tonal possibilities. Setting the
bass to 2, the midrange to 4, and the treble to 8, and
then, alternately, setting the bass to 6, midrange to
8, and treble to 4, for instance, sounds more diverse
than respective ranges on a blackface. This is not to
say that one is better than the other; they just have dif-
ferent voices.
The most prevalent complaint I hear regarding the
Hot Rod amps involves the overdrive channel. While I
don't believe the overdrive to be as horrible as reported,
I do think there is plenty of room for improvement.
Let's start with C23, the 1.5-nf (or .0015-uF) over-
drive channel coupling capacitor. As well as blocking
the DC plate voltage from the previous tube stage, a
coupling capacitor also attenuates the signal being
passed. Because the overdrive channel functions by
adding an extra gain stage, a capacitor with a large
value would pass too wide of a signal, resulting in a
muddy, over-emphasized low-mid tone. While it might
seem like passing a wide signal would give more sound,
that's not the case.
By the same token, if the coupling capacitor is made
too small, the resulting tone will be thin and brittle.
Most complaints regarding the Hot Rod overdrive
address the latter case: that the amps are brittle, harsh,
and sterile. The tone can be improved by increasing
the value of the coupling cap. I recommend a .0047-uF
Orange Drop or Mallory. If you don't like the sound
of the overdrive after that, try going midway between
stock and .0047 with a .0022-uF capacitor. Or even go
a little higher, say .01 uFo Be aware, though, that the
higher you raise the capacitor value, the looser the tonal
definition will be. Yet, I've seen values as high as .022
uF. For some musicians, myself included, that value ren-
ders the overdrive completely useless, while for others,
that value delivers the distortion they've been seeking
from this amp. Perhaps you find the overdrive to be fine
To avoid damaging solder traces as well as repeatedly
removing the circuit board when experimenting with
various component values, solder short pigtails to the
original component's mounting holes.
Components can be easily soldered and unsoldered to the
pigtails. Be aware that even short runs of wire can pick up
interference that could influence your sound.
The mounting screws for the tube socket PCB are easily accessible. Use a medium-sized Phillips screwdriver. Make sure
to remove the tubes.
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just as it is. In that case, leave the C23 alone or replace
it with a high-quality capacitor of the same value. Keep
in mind, though, that it doesn't hurt to do some experi-
menting to try to find the elusive prime tone.
One thing to be aware of when using repeated
component changes is the damage to the delicate PCB
traces. When searching for the right sound means
repeated component change, I recommend temporarily
soldering some short wires (pigtails) into the compo-
nent's mounting holes and using these to solder in and
out the components you are trying. It's best to keep
the wires short as they will pick up interference if
The phase inverter input coupling
capacitor has been replaced with a
.0047-uF high-performance SBE Orange
Drop rated at 600VDC.
This Hot Rod has had the plate resistors
replaced with metal-film resistors and
the coupling capacitors with SBE 716P
Orange Drops.
too long. The excess lead lengths that you cut from a
resistor or capacitor work well as pigtails. Once you've
found the capacitor or resistor you want to use, you could
wrap the pigtails around the leads, close to the compo-
nent and flush with the circuit board, and solder the
leads in place.
On the other end of the overdrive circuit sits the mas-
ter volume. If you look at a Hot Rod schematic, you'll
see that it is bypassed with Cll, a 390-pf ceramic capaci-
tor. The purpose of this capacitor is to shunt some of the
higher frequencies to ground since the extra gain doesn't
really discriminate what it amplifies and, as a result, can
give you unwanted noise. Basically, this capacitor, in con-
junction with the resistance of the master volume pot,
works as a filter to help tame unwieldy high-frequency
preamp distortion. The stock value of 390 pf might be
fine, but if you've made any changes to the tone stack (dif-
ferent value capacitors and/or slope resistor) you might
find that the overdrive has become a little thin. Be aware
that changing this capacitor will have only a subtle effect
and you might not find it worth the trouble to replace it.
Changing C23, as just discussed, will have a more notice-
able effect. Yet if you want to hear for yourself, or if you
just want to experiment, try replacing CII with a 250-pf
cap or even a 47-pf. You can use a less expensive ceramic
disc as C11 doesn't pass any signal through the preamp
chain, but just shunts top edge frequencies to ground.
You might even go the other way slightly; that is, increase
the size of C11 to, say 500 pf, for a tamer overdrive. I'd
be reluctant about raising the value of the cap much more
than that, because you can really knee-cap the overdrive
with too much signal-to-ground filtering, making it
sound truly pathetic. Overall, the best way to tame the
overdrive is to use a 12AY7 or even a 12AU7 in place of
the 12AX7. The capacitor change can be thought of more
as fine tuning the tube's circuit.
With the tone stack modification and overdrive
revoicing, it's a good idea to lower the value of C24,
the phase inverter input coupling capacitor, from the
standard .022 uF value to .0047 uFo The lower value
will further tighten the lows and clarify the highs as
well as complement the revoiced overdrive channel.
Keep in mind that the change is subtle yet noticeable.
Also note that C24 is located on the tube socket PCB,
which must be removed to access it. To do so, first
remove the tubes. Next remove the nine mounting
screws from the bottom of the chassis.
Once the screws are removed, pull the circuit board up
and flip it to access enough room to desolder the capaci-
tor and solder in the replacement. Be careful to avoid
burning the ribbon connector that runs from the socket
board to the main board. Once the replacement capaci-
tor is installed and the extra lead lengths clipped, install
the circuit board by reversing the removal process.
Finally, replace coupling capacitors C2 (.047), ClO
(.047), and Cl8 (.022) with higher quality capacitors
of the same value. Again, Orange Drops rated at 600
VCD or Mallory 150Ms rated at 630 VDC are good
choices, as are Sozo capacitors. Next, replace plate
resistors R4, Rll, R16, and R22 with 100-K-ohm,
1/2-watt metal film resistors and, on the tube socket
board, R58 with a 100-K-ohm, 1/2-watt metal film
and R57 with 82-K-ohm, 1/2-watt metal film.
Rebuilding the Reissue
Externally, the Fender reissue amps look identical to their
antecedents. One look under the hood, however, reveals
a completely different layout, yet with the same design.
In other words, even though the schematics are the same,
the original amps use the traditional tag-board layout.
The reissues use printed circuit boards. This distinction
has led a number of users to have their amps converted to
the original blackface (or tweed, in terms of the Bassman
reissue) layout. Essentially, this is a complex modification
that involves replacing the printed circuit board with an
epoxy-based board replication of the original tag-board.
The conversion also entails replacing the jacks and poten-
tiometers since on the reissue they are mounted to a PCB.
While the conversion improves sounds and also makes
further modifications easier to perform, it does not really
make the amps sound like the originals. To get the origi-
nal sound, you'd need to replace the speaker, or speakers,
as well as the speaker baffle, the output transformer, and
ultimately the cabinet-in other words, the entire amp.
Seriously, though, the reissues do sound similar to their
original counterparts, and, in their own right, they sound
In this section I will describe how to rebuild a reis-
sue with the aim of both making it sound closer to
the original and, more importantly, how to improve
an already excellent amp. To that end, some users
might be content to leave their amps as is. This sec-
tion is for those who want to experiment with sound
improvement, beginning with basic modifications and
culminating with the advanced modification of con-
verting the PCB layout to a vintage-type layout. Let
me state right up front, this is an advanced modifica-
tion, perhaps the most complex one in this book, and
should be performed only by someone with advanced
technical skills. Therefore, rather than step-by-step
instructions, which due to the complexity could easily
be a book in itself, I will provide an overview. This will
be enough information to get you familiar with the
procedures of a total rebuild and perhaps inspire you
to research and learn the essential skills required for a
total rebuild. Yet between leaving the reissue alone and
completely rebuilding it, there are a number of other
modifications to consider.
The first modification to perform on any reissue is
easy and has one of the most pronounced effects. The reis-
sues have a factory-set bias that is cold by any standards.
Setting the bias at about 75 percent of plate dissipation,
as detailed in Chapter 4, will go a long way toward
improving the sound, even with the factory-equipped
tubes, which leads me to the next equally easy modifica-
tion that will provide results that are just as pronounced:
tube replacement. Tube choice is covered in Chapter 5. Of
the many choices for preamp tubes, J], Sovtek LPS, and,
of course, NOS varieties stand out as great choices. For
power tubes, try a pair of Electro-Harmonix, Tung-Sol,
or J] 6V6s in the Deluxe Reverb and Princeton Reverb
reissues. Winged C, J], or TAD 6L6s are good choices
for Super Reverb, Vibroverb, Vibrolux Reverb, and Twin
113 -
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The location ofthe coupling capacitors and plate resistors on a typical Fender reissue are indicated here with the letters C
and R, respectively.
Component Changes for Popular Fender Amp reissues
Capacitors 65 Princeton 65 Deluxe Reverb 65 Super Reverb 65 Twin Reverb 59 Bassman
Preamp Coupling C4.0220 C5.0470 C5.047 C12.0220 C2,C3.0220
C12.0220 C12.022 C18 .0470
C18.1000 C18.1 C19.1000
Reverb Coupling C3500pf C14500pf C14500pf C13500pf NA
C13.0033 C17 .0033 C17 .0033 C16.0033
Phase Inverter C14.0220 C25.0010 C25 .001 C20.0010 C8.0220
Output Coupling ClO, C16 .1000 C27, C28 .1000 C27, C28 .1 C22, C23 .1000 C12, C13 .1000
Reverb Bypass C5 lOpf C1310pf C1310pf C1710pf NA
Phase Inverter NFB n/a C26.1000 C26.1 C21 .1000 C9 .1000
Treble C19250pf* C2, C7 250pf* C2, C7 250pf* C2, C7 250pf* C5250pf*
Midrange C23.0470* C4,C9.0470* C4, C9 .022* C4, C9 .0470* C7 .0220*
Bass C24.1000* C3, C8 .1000* C3, C8 .1* C3, C8 .1000* C6.1000*
Slope Resistors R46100K* R6, R18 100K* R6, R18 100k* R6, R17 100K* R17100K*
Plate and R4, R36, R37, R4, Rll, R16, R23, R4, Rll, R16, R23, R4, Rll, R15, R22, R8, R9, R14,
R45100K-1W R29,R34100K R29, R34, R55 lOOK R28,R33 R29100K
Other Resistors R17, R26 56K 100KR5482K-1W R5482K 100KR42100K-1W R2882K
R55100K-1W R4382K-1W
Components located on the tone control board. Component designations as printed on PCB Capacitor values in microfarads unless otherwi se
designated. Resistor ratings are 1/ 2 watt unless otherwise noted.
reissues, while Tung-Sol 5881s work well in the Bassman
reissue. There are many decent new production tubes
from which to choose. A set of quality power tubes, prop-
erly biased, proves to be the most practical improvement
you can make to any reissue.
As discussed earlier in this chapter, one of the
quickest ways to change the sound of any amp is to
replace the speaker. As with tube changes, this is
a subjective process. To top it off, the same speaker
will sound different in the various amp models. For
a single-speaker amp, such as the Deluxe Reverb reis-
sue, replacing the speaker can be done for around or
just under $100, depending on the quality. The situa-
tion gets more expensive, however, with multi-speaker
amps like the 2x12 Twin or, especially, the 4xlO Super
Reverb. Replacing speakers in these amps can really be
an expensive proposition. When shelling out $300 to
$400 to replace speakers in a Super Reverb, you should
think twice about following someone's recommenda-
tion regarding speaker choice. The reissue amps all
come with fairly decent speakers and so the choice of
replacing them is something you might want to weigh
with some research. An excellent choice for speaker
replacement in the reissue models can be found among
the variety of Weber brand speakers. The Weber
Vintage series offers both ceramic and alnico speakers
that work well with the reissues.
When in tight quarters the leads of a capacitor need to be
kept long; use heat shrink tubing to help isolate them.
After removing the knobs and pot and jack nuts, pull the tone control board down and away from the chassis.
After removing the mounting screws, flip the top of the main PCB down to expose the solder points. If you can't gain
enough access, refer to the next photo.
115 -
- 116
As described on the Hot Rod models, replacing
coupling capacitors with high-quality Orange Drop,
Mallory, or Sozo brands will improve tone and fidel-
ity. Also, replace the ceramic capacitors used for reverb
bypass and treble with silver mica. Whichever type you
use, make sure they have a minimum rating of 400 VDC.
To allow more freedom of PCB movement, remove some
of the power wires by carefully pulling them off by their
connectors. Mark their positions for easier reconnection if
not already marked on the terminal connectors.
An epoxy-based circuit board can be cut to desired length
using a hacksaw. You can drill holes fairly easily with an
l/8-inch general purpose drill bit and crimp into the holes
either turret lugs around which to wrap the component
leads or eyelets into which the component leads are
inserted. With either method, the leads are then soldered.
While you're at it, replace the plate resistors with metal
film or carbon composition types. A number of the reis-
sues use resistors rated at 1 watt. Most metal films are
112 watt but will still work as replacements; however,
you might want to go with I-watt and 112-watt carbon
composition resistors as these were the types used in the
original blackfaces. The table on page 114 identifies the
resistors by rating (wattage) as well as value (ohms). Since
the reissues typically use the same value components as
the originals, you can stick with those values. However,
due to differences in cabinet construction and materials
as well as speakers, some improvement can be found
by using a higher value phase inverter input coupling
capacitor. The blackface reissues usually come with a
.00l-uF value. I recommend anything from .0047 uF to
.01 uFo By the same token, on the Bassman reissue the
phase inverter input coupling capacitor is .022 uFo Here,
you could go lower, say .01 uFo This will tighten up the
bass and clarify the tonal separation. Bear in mind,
though, that the Bassman is highly prized for its bluesy
sound, which is partly attributable to this .022 coupling
cap. On the other hand, there are potentials beyond
that designation. Whatever components you decide to
change, I highly recommend obtaining a schematic and
board layout for your particular reissue. Some can be
downloaded from the Fender website while others can
be found at schematicheaven.com.
As with the Hot Rod models, the printed circuit
boards of the reissues present challenges to component
replacement, especially the PCB holding the control
potentiometers. Tight quarters are found here. When
replacing capacitors with larger types (which will be
the case if using high-quality caps), you may have to
keep the leads somewhat longer if the capacitor needs
to be situated above or alongside the mounting holes
and other nearby components. Where this positioning
is required, make sure the leads don't touch anything,
especially metal. It's a good idea to use heat-shrink
tubing on them.
To gain access to the solder points on the back of
the PCB, you'll need to unfasten it from the chassis.
Rather than disconnect the wiring, you only need to
remove it partially. I recommend reviewing the previous
section on the Hot Rod PCB removal and installation
as it is similar to that of the reissues. Furthermore,
the same care and precautions should be taken. First,
if you're going to be replacing the tone stack capaci-
tors, the control PCB needs to be removed. Loosen the
set screws on the knobs without removing them. Pull
the knobs from the potentiometers. Next, remove the
nuts and washers from the jacks. Disconnect the rib-
bon cables from the main board by carefully pulling
them by their connectors. Some boards have a plastic
strap that needs to be cut in order to slide the board
out. These can replaced with a small zip tie. Once the
control board is free, remove the mounting screws
r -
Use double-face tape on
the board and line up the
components, sticking them
to the tape. Here, a blackface
Princeton Reverb circuit is
being laid out.
After the parts are laid out, mark their positions on the board as you remove them.
from the main circuit board and carefully pull it back
and flip it over. If you encounter even slight resistance,
stop and investigate. Wires can get easily snagged. The
board should now be free enough to replace the com-
ponents. See the Hot Rod section earlier in this chapter
and Chapter 2 for soldering instructions.
With the control board removed, you might con-
sider a tone stack modification as described in Chapter
8. Regardless of whether you replace the tone capaci-
tors with different values as discussed in Chapter 8, you
should install higher quality component, silver mica
types for treble capacitors and Orange Drop, Mallory,
or Sozo varieties for midrange and bass capacitors.
Slope resistors can be improved by using metal film or
carbon composition types. As discussed in Chapter 8,
changing the value of the slope resistor will shift the
center frequency of the tone controls. A common tone
modification for the tweed Bassman, and therefore
also for the reissue, is to change the slope resistor to
56-K-ohm value. The resulting midrange enhancement
will resemble that of vintage Marshall amps but still
be uniquely Fender.
To boost midrange on the Deluxe Reverb reIs-
sue, replace R9 for the normal channel and R21 for
the vibrato channel, both being a 6.8-K-ohm resistor
located below the bass potentiometers on the control
board. Using a lOoK-ohm resistor will emulate the tone
of a three-band blackface with the midrange control
turned all the way up. For an even greater mid-boost,
you could try a 15-K-ohm resistor, but I wouldn't go
too much higher than that, as the tone will get muddy.
You might consider leaving one channel stock and
modifying the other. Further, you might bring reverb
to both channels according to Chapter 7, and thus have
two differently voiced reverb channels. On a Princeton
Reverb reissue, the midrange resistor is R52, also a
6.8-K-ohm resistor, located between the volume and
treble potentiometers next to the ribbon connector
on the tone control board. Try the same values as with
the Deluxe Reverb. Before reinstalling the tone con-
trol board, make sure that with the replacement caps
the board will still fit. You might need to reposition the
caps, making sure that the leads don't come in contact
with anything else.
117 -
- 118
As mentioned earlier, the most radical modifica-
tion you can perform on a reissue is to replace the
PCBs with an epoxy-based circuit board to replicate
the tag-board construction of the blackface and sil-
verface models. As well as giving the reissue more
authentic circuitry, replacing the PCBs also simplifies
the component layout, making it easier to perform
other modifications, such as bringing reverb to both
channels or using the normal channel for an extra
gain stage. You need to weigh the benefits with the
risks, however. You can literally destroy your ampli-
fier if you're not familiar with the complexities of
this modification.
Before ripping the guts out of your reissue, try
building a circuit board first. Epoxy-based board
material is sold by the inch and can be purchased
from Hoffman Amps as well as other vendors listed
in the appendix. Make sure to order eyelets or tur-
rets. I highly recommend studying Doug Hoffman's
website regarding board building. Measure the size of
the original board to determine the length to order,
Left: You will need to drill1/8-inch holes for the eyelets
and then crimp the eyelets in the holes. The pair of holes
for each component should line up. To do this accurately,
measure equal distances from the edges of the board for
the holes.
Below Left: After the holes have been drilled, crimp the
eyelets into place. An eyelet crimping tool, which will make
this task easier, is available from Hoffman Amplifiers, but a
pair of needle-nose pliers, an awl, a punch, or a similartool
with a tapered, pointed end works if used carefully. First,
widen the edge of eyelet or turret hole by stretching it and
pressing it outward toward the board.
Below: Next, use a pair of pliers or a small C-clamp to
crimp the edge of the eyelet ortu rret to the board.
rounding up instead of down (for example, order a
14-inch piece of material for any board size between
13 and 14 inches). Before laying out the components
on the board material, line up the mounting holes
with the board material and mark where the mount-
ing holes will go. Next obtain a circuit layout of the
amplifier you are replicating. Schematic Heaven and
other places online have free downloadable Fender
schematics that also contain the circuit layouts. You
can also refer to the diagram of a typical blackface cir-
cuit layer earlier in this chapter. Using the schematic
and layout, make a list of all the components you'll
need and order them.
If the idea of building your own board seems
like too much work, consider purchasing an already
populated board, commonly called a Hoffman board.
These boards are so-named because Doug Hoffman
originally made kits to replace printed circuit boards
in a variety of amplifiers. While he no longer sells
these kits, other manufacturers do. It is well worth
your while to read about these kits at www.el34world.
com/boardmakerloldboardkitpage.htm. You can also
purchase these kits by visiting the online vendors I've
included in the appendix. Note that you may have to
drill new mounting holes in the chassis to properly
mount some of these boards.
Whether you build your own board or purchase
a kit, the next step is removing all pots, jacks, and
PCBs from the chassis. Potentiometers can be replaced
with Alpha pots, which will fit easily into the mount-
ing holes. Standard jacks, such as Switchcraft brand,
will also fit the pre-existing mounting holes, but if you
decide to isolate the jacks from the chassis to reduce
the potential of hum, you will need to enlarge the holes
to 112 inch. Jack isolating washers are available from
Hoffman. Some of the original power wires can be
used, but you will more than likely have to replace the
wiring for the tube sockets and definitely for the pots.
Shielded wire should be used for all jacks. If this seems
to be a complex operation, that's because it is. Techs
will usually charge anywhere from $450 to $600 (and
even higher), parts and labor included, to do this for
you. You might find it to be worth it. Then again, you
might be able to do this yourself for less than $100.
What lies in between is the Hoffman board kit sold
by most vendors for around $250. The nice thing
about these kits is that they include everything you
need and are really a great step for anyone with mod-
erate technical experience. Check out the kits at the
Airtight Garage online, for example. The bottom line,
however, is that you do not need to blackface the reis-
sue to make a great-sounding amp; it's just one option
to consider.
Populate the board with the components and tack them in with solder. The large Orange Drop capacitor on the right end of
this clone tweed Princeton board is used to make a variable gain control as described in Chapter 8.
This is a modified Bassman clone board. Note the extra cathode capacitor used to enable gain changes via a boost switch.
119 -
Originally derived from the reverb unit used in
Hammond organs, the Fender reverb has proven to be
a standard for reverb effects in guitar tube amplifiers.
While major manufacturers, such as Ampeg and Gibson,
use different reverb circuit designs than Fender, many
manufacturers, especially in the booming boutique amp
market, have similar-if not the same-circuit design
as traditional Fender tube amps. Apart from circuit
design, though, the defining sound of reverb has been
that of the classic Fender blackface with its warm, wet
treble-focused reverb.
Fender Reverb Operation and Basic Mods
In Chapter 6 we discussed modification of the reverb
circuit in Fender Hot Rod models, which use solid-
state reverb units. In this section we're going to cover
the reverb circuits in Fender amps that don't feature
solid-state reverb units.
As the schematic on the next page indicates, the
signal from the preamp runs up against a large resis-
tor (3.3 M-ohms) with a 10-pF bypass capacitor that
allows high-treble frequency to pass across the resis-
tor and directly on to the phase inverter. However,
this high frequency also mixes with the out-going
reverb signal. It would be a mistake to think that the
3.3-M-ohm mixing resistor blocks the signal; most of
The current production Vibro-King
incorporates the reverb circuitry of
the 1963 stand-alone unit. The array
of Vibro-Kings here belongs to Peter
Townshend of The Who. Rick Gould
Opposite:The '63 Fender Reverb is
a reissue of the famous stand-alone
reverb unit. Fender Musical
Instruments Corporation
chapter 7
it passes, but with much lower gain. While the value
of this resistor isn't critical, lowering it drastically, say
below 1 M-ohm, will definitely start swamping the
reverb signal. The 3.3-M-ohm value was originally
chosen as the optimum value for allowing the proper
mix of reverb to preamp signal, giving the distinctive
reverb-heavy Fender sound. However, that doesn't
mean you shouldn't experiment by trying lower value
resistors. One of the easiest modifications of the reverb
circuit simply involves lowering this resistor, although
many guitarists find the Fender reverb to be fine as is.
Another important factor in determining not only
how much of the preamp signal goes to the reverb cir-
cuit, but also how the reverb sounds, is the 500 pF
coupling capacitor at the input of the reverb driver
tube. This capacitor may not be the best focus for
modification, since going much higher than .001 uF
can start to muddy the reverb. The treble-rich signal
reaching the driver tube through the 500-pF coupling
capacitor is boosted by the tube. Note that this dual
triode 12AT7 tube has a parallel connection, meaning
the plates, grids, and cathodes of the triodes share the
same connections. While running the triodes in par-
allel won't add more gain than if only one triode is
used, it will increase the current capacity of the driver.
With well over 400 VDC on the plates of the triodes,
drawn from same power rail node as that of the power
121 -
- 122
Blackface and Early Silverface Reverb Circuit
1 6
Reverb - H--(>
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3.3 M-ohm
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Rev erb Level
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The schematic of a typical Fender blackface and early silverface reverb circuit.
tubes' screens, the driver tube takes quite a beating.
The 2.2-K-ohm cathodes resistor maintains a current
flow that keeps the tube at a high level of power dis-
sipation. Do not use resistors with values lower than
2.2 K-ohms. Because the driver tube will affect sound
quality, a decent quality tube should be used. A good
NOS JAN tube works well here, especially since they
cost about the same as current production tubes.
The reverb driver tube and its output transformer
act like a small wattage output stage, but rather than
drive a speaker, the tube and transformer drive a reverb
tank, which has some similarities to a speaker in that
it uses transducers to vibrate the springs, much like
a speaker's voice coil moves the cone to create sound
waves. Essentially, the springs in the reverb tank cause
a delay in the signal so when the reverb signal (called
the "wet" signal) mixes with the nonreverb signal
(called the "dry" signal), the delay will create the reverb
effect. Specifically, a pair of transducers at the tank's
input convert the electric signal to a mechanical signal
that sets the springs vibrating. Another pair of trans-
ducers at the other end of the springs then converts the
mechanical signal back into an electric signal.
The 7025112AX7 triode receiving the signal from
the tank is a recovery tube, meaning it amplifies the
low gain signal back into a higher range. The reverb
pedal functions by grounding the control grid of the
recovery triode, sending the reverb signal to ground,
effectively turning it off. The second triode of the tube
further amplifies the signal and even with the reverb
turned off provides an extra gain stage that adds a har-
monically warm distortion to the preamp signal. Both
triodes use a lOO-K-ohm plate resistor, each drawing
B+ voltage from the same power rail node as the pre-
amp tubes. The triodes also share an 820-ohm cathode
resistor with associated bypass capacitor. These are
standard Fender values.
Like the 500-pF reverb input coupling capacitor,
the .003-uF reverb output coupling capacitor proves
to be a fairly optimal value. A .0047-uF or .OOl-uF in
its place doesn't drastically alter the sound, but sound
does suffer when going higher or lower, respectively,
than those values. The reverb control operates in a
straightforward manner. It provides a lOO-K-ohm sep-
aration between the reverb signal and ground, along
with a wiper to pick-off the full signal, a portion of the
The primary reverb components in a typical silverface or blackface amp include (1) driver tube; (2) recovery tube; (3) driver
tube cathode resistor and capacitor; (4) recovery tube triode plate resistor; (5) recovery tube triode cathode resistor and
capacitor; (6) lO-pF bypass capacitor; (7) 3.3-M-ohm mixing resistor; (8) and (9) 220-K-ohm and 470-K-ohm output resistors;
(10) 0.003-uF output coupling capacitor; (11) 500-pF input coupling capacitor; and (12) 1-M-ohm drivertube grid resistor.
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The primary reverb components in a typical blackface reissue amp include (1) driver tube; (2) recovery tube; (3) 220-K-ohm
output resistor; (4) recovery tube triode plate resistor; (5) 0.003-uF output coupling capacitor; (6) recovery tube triode
plate resistor; (7) 470-K-ohm output resistor; (8) lO-pF bypass capacitor; (9) 3.3-M-ohm mixing resistor; (10) 500-pF input
coupling capacitor; (11) 1-M-ohm driver tube grid resistor; and (12) driver tube cathode resistor and capacitor.
123 -
- 124
signal, or provide no signal at all. Basically, the reverb
level functions as a mixer control for adding the wet
reverb signal to the dry preamp signal.
When looking at their respective schematics, the
most apparent difference between the reverb circuits
of a blackface and silverface is the .002 uF suppres-
sion capacitor that runs from the input jack of the
reverb tank to ground. Like the .002-uF suppression
capacitors on the power tubes, this capacitor shunts
high-frequency noises to ground and also reduces
the chance of parasitic oscillation. Some technicians
remove this capacitor in the belief that it cuts some of
the sparkle from the reverb. I tend to leave the capaci-
tor in place because I don't notice any difference with
it removed. On the silverface Twin as well as most later
model silverface amps, this capacitor runs parallel with
the 220-K-ohm resistor on the reverb tank output jack.
Minor differences exist between the reverb circuits of
the early silverface amps and the late 1970s silver-
face amps, such as the addition of a 560-pF capacitor
across the plates and cathodes of the paralleled driver
To separate the cathodes of the reverb recovery tube
on a typical blackface or silverface, locate the following
components: (A) 820-ohm cathode resistor; (8 and C) pins
3 and 8 of the recovery tube; and (0) the grounding point of
the 220-K-ohm grid-to-ground resistor.
tube. Most of these can be left alone except for one
low-value cathode resistor (usually 470 or 680 ohms)
used for the 12AT7 reverb driver tube. This should be
replaced with a 2.2-K-ohm resistor and bypassed with
a 22-uF electrolytic capacitor of the type used in the
early silverface and blackface amps.
The 470-K-ohm resistor connected to the wiper
of the reverb level pot is necessary, for one thing, to
keep the control grid of the second triode from being
grounded when the reverb level potentiometer is turned
all the way down. If the grid were to be at ground
potential, no signal would pass and no sound would be
heard. Furthermore, the combination of the 470-K-ohm
resistor and the 220-K-ohm resistor connected to it
determines the amount of reverb available to the sec-
ond triode. Changing the value of the combination
by increasing the value of the 470-K-ohm resistor and
decreasing the value of the 220-K-ohm resistor will
lower the amount of reverb in such a way that the overall
range of "wet" signal available from the reverb level con-
trol will decrease. On the other hand, lowering the value
of the 470-K-ohm resistor and increasing the value of
the 220-K-ohm resistor won't really provide much more
useable reverb. One common modification to reduce
the overall reverb of the amp is to replace the
470-K-ohm resistor with a 1-M-ohm resistor and
the 220-K-ohm resistor with a 200-K-ohm resistor.
While this mod will lower the overall reverb range,
a better way to decrease the overall reverb range and
increase preamp gain in the process is to replace the
3.3-M-ohm mixer resistor with a 2.2-M-ohm, or even
go down to aIM-ohm resistor, and replace the lO-pF
bypass capacitor with a 47-pF silver mica capacitor.
Going below the 1 M-ohm value for the mixer resistor
will definitely degrade the strength of the reverb signal,
and, for that matter, anything below 2.2 M-ohms will
degrade the reverb to the ears of some guitarists. Besides
blackface and silverface Fenders, this modification can
also be done on dual channel Fender blackface reissues.
On these amps, the mixer resistor is usually designated
as R25 and the bypass capacitor as C13. Even if you
don't change the values of the resistor and capacitor,
you should at least replace the 10-pF ceramic disc with
a 10-pF 500-volt silver mica capacitor.
If deciding to go below a 1-M-ohm value for the
mixing resistor, you might consider the following pro-
cedure. Leave the 3.3-M-ohm resistor in place. Take
a 1-M-ohm trimmer potentiometer and solder the
middle leg to one of the outer legs; to the other outer
leg solder a 470-K-ohm resistor. Set the trimmer to its
maximum so a multimeter reads about 1.5-M-ohm
across the resistor and trimmer combination. Solder
the combination across the 3.3-M-ohm resistor and
play through the amp, adjusting the trimmer until
you find the sound you like. Of course, you'll have to
play with the chassis out of the cabinet and arranged
such that the reverb tank and speaker are connected to
it. Take extreme care when doing this, both for your
safety and that of the precariously positioned chassis.
Once you've found the optimal sound, you can leave
the resistor-trimmer combination in place or, better yet,
remove it and measure the resistance across it with the
trimmer set at the same position to which you adjusted
it when playing through the amp. Next, solder a resistor
close to this value across the 3.3-M-ohm mixer resis-
tor. Alternatively, you might remove the 3.3-M-ohm
resistor and measure the resistance of it in parallel with
the resistor-trimmer combination and replace the whole
works with a signal resistor. On the other hand, you can
use math. Since the value of two resistances in parallel
is expressed as (RI x R2)+(RI + R2), insert 3.3-M-ohm
(or 3,300-K-ohm) for RI, and for R2 use the measured
value of the resistor-trimmer combination.
As a price-saving measure Fender often used shared
cathode resistors on the second-stage preamp triodes as
well as on the reverb recovery tube. While separating
the cathodes and giving them their own resistors and
capacitors may not be readily noticeable in the overall
tone or reverb sound, it will enhance the overall func-
tion of the triodes by improving dynamic response. On
a black- or silverface model, first, remove the chassis
and locate the reverb recovery, which will be next to the
reverb transformer on the side closest to the power tubes.
Remove the wire that runs from pin 3 to pin 8, leaving
the wire on pin 3 that runs to the circuit board. On the
circuit board, locate the 820-ohm resistor to which the
wire from pin 3 connects and replace this resistor with
a 1.5-K-ohm, II2-watt metal film resistor. Back on the
tube socket, solder one lead of a 1.5-K-ohm, II2-watt
metal film resistor and the positive lead of a 22-uF,
25-volt electrolytic capacitor to pin 8. Solder the other
lead of the resistor and the negative lead of the capacitor
to ground, for example, where the 220-K-ohm resis-
tor from the reverb jack connects to the chassis. For a
To separate the cathodes of the
reverb recovery tube on a typical
blackface reissue, locate the
following components: (A) 820-ohm
cathode resistor; (8 and C) pins 3
and 8 of the recovery tube; and (D)
the grounding point of the 220-K-
ohm grid-to-ground resistor.
125 -
- 126
reissue, the process is essentially the same, except that
the 820-ohm shared cathode resistor is designated as
R30. You can use this same basic procedure to sepa-
rate the cathodes of the second stages of the normal and
vibrato channels' preamps.
Dual Channel Reverb Mod
The primary versatility of the dual channel reverb
Fenders obviously centers on one channel being equipped
with the reverb effect and the other channel not. The
idea of equipping both channels with reverb might not
immediately make sense since that would mean mak-
ing the two channels nearly identical. However, as
detailed earlier, a simple tube change, say a 12AY7 in
one channel and a 12AX7 in the other, creates two dis-
tinct channels. Moreover, the upcoming chapters will
describe how to install different tone stacks and gain
stages in each channel, making the presence of reverb
on both channels practical. On the other hand, having
reverb only on one channel does have its merits in terms
of overall versatility; therefore, the following modifica-
tion should be considered optional. This modification is
nondestructive, though, meaning it can be undone.
There are several different methods for incor-
porating reverb into both channels of most dual
channel silverface and blackface Fenders. The most
direct involves removing the wire from point X2
shown in the photograph below and soldering it to
point Z. While this method will definitely give you
reverb in both channels, it also allows a fair amount of
cross-feed interference between the channels, resulting
mainly in some signal reduction. This mayor may not
pose problems for guitarists, yet I prefer to use mixing
(1) Remove the wire running from points Xl to X2. (2) Unsolder the top lead of the lower capacitor at point Z and lift it up. (3)
Solder one lead of a 220-K-ohm resistor to the lead of the capacitor you just lifted and the other lead of the resistor to point
Z. (4) Solder one lead of another 220-K-ohm resistor to point Xl and solder a 4-inch wire to the other resistor lead, then
solder the other end ofthe wire to point Z. (5) (optional step) Solder a short jumper wire across the 220-K-ohm resistor that
connects to point Y.
The silverface board shown on the previous photograph now with completed mod for dual channel reverb.
resIstors to enable sonic clarity and channel separa-
tion. If after trying the direct approach you don't find
the amp's tone to your satisfaction, or if you'd rather
skip that approach altogether, the photographs on this
spread present two alternative methods, both using
mixing resistors. For both, first remove the chassis.
Review the instructions in Chapter 4.
The downside of the previous modification involves
the placement of the mixing resistors, one of which needs
to be squeezed between the vibrato channel's coupling
capacitor and the reverb input's coupling capacitor,
while the other more or less rests unsupported between
the normal channel's coupling capacitor and the chan-
nel bridging wire. Fortunately, the tag board layout
itself provides a solution, allowing for a cleaner, more
professional mixing resistor mounting. Simply move the
normal channel's treble capacitor closer to its slope resis-
tor, and move the filter cap wire for the vibrato channel's
plate resistors to the same eyelet as the plate resistor. As
the upper photo on this page shows, the metal jumpers
between the slope resistor and coupling capacitor and
the filter cap wire and plate resistors can be removed and
the treble capacitor and the filter cap wire put in their
respective places, freeing up two mounting eyelets. Now
the mixing resistors can be placed between the freed
eyelets and the coupling capacitor of each channel.
To incorporate dual channel reverb in a Fender
blackface reissue, refer to chassis removal instruc-
tions in Chapter 6. Next, follow the directions in the
two photographs on this page and page 128.
When the channels are linked according to the pre-
ceding procedures, they will also be in phase. To explain
why this matters, first recall that the normal channel
of the typical Fender uses a single dual-triode preamp
tube, whereas the vibrato reverb channel, in addition to
a single dual-triode preamp tube, has an extra triode for
a third-stage preamp. Because, as described in Chapter
3, the phase of a signal shifts 180 degrees when being
amplified by a triode, if the signal is split and simultane-
ously applied to a two-stage preamp and a three-stage
preamp, the two subsequent output signals will be 180
Here the jumper between the filter capacitor wire and
the junction ofthe vibrato channel's plate resistors is
being removed. The wire will be connected directly to the
resistors' junction. Next, the jumper between the normal
channel's treble capacitor and its slope resistor will be
removed, and the treble capacitor moved next to the
slope resistor.
Once the treble capacitor and filter cap wire have been relocated and the wire removed between points Xl and X2,
instructions are as follows: (1) Unsolder the lower lead of the upper capacitor (500 pF) and the wire from Z and solder them
into Zl . (2) Solder a 220-K-ohm resistor between Z and Z1. (3) Solder a 220-K-ohm resistor between Xl and X3. (4) Solder
one end of a 4-inch wire to X3 and the other end to Zl where the lead of 500-pF capacitor and wire from step 1 are located.
(5) (optional step) Solder a jumper wire across the 20-K-ohm resistor at Y.
127 -
- 128
(1) Unsolder and lift the lead of C12 indicated at point X. (2) Solder one lead each of two 220-K-ohm 1/2-watt resistors to
point X, the hole from which C12's lead was just removed. If only one lead fits into the mounting hole, solder the other lead
to it. (3) Connectthe loose lead of C12 to a loose lead from one ofthe two 220-K-ohm resistors just installed. (4) Unsolder
and lift the lead of C5 indicated at point Y, then run a short wire from the lifted lead of C5 to the loose lead of the other
220-K-ohm resistor. (5) (optional step) Solder a wire across resistor R35 indicated at point Z.
N ,."
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The Deluxe Reverb reissue board shown in the previous photograph now with completed mod for dual channel reverb.
degrees out of phase with each other. Thus, at the input
of the phase inverter, the reverb channel signal, passing
through an odd number of stages, will be out of phase
with a signal applied to the normal channel and passing
through its even number of stages. Actually, in Fender
amps, the reverb channel signal passes through five
stages with the reverb tank circuit taken into account:
the parallel-connected reverb driver tube being one and
the recovery triode being one, added to the three pre-
amp stages make five. Even with the reverb circuit
taken into account, the vibrato channel still has an
odd number of stages, making it out of phase with
the even number staging of the normal channel.
Due to the phase difference, or cancellation, of the
two channels, operating both at once-that is, plug-
ging a guitar into each channel input-will result in
Reverb Troubleshooting
While modifying the reverb is always an option, proper
functioning of the reverb is obviously more important.
Because reverb involves the mechanical operation
of thin springs attached to small transducers using
small-diameter wi res, the effects of vibration and rough
handling can take a toll on the reverb tank. Fortunately,
reverb tanks, even the Accutronics brand standard in
Fenders, are fairly inexpensive and readily available. A
broken spring is often the cause of a reverb tank's failure,
and even though reforming the end of a broken spring to
repair it proves an easy repair, spending less than $30 for
a new tank seems the better option.
If you have an amp with inoperative reverb, first
check the reverb drivertube and then the reverb recovery
tube. If you don't have a spare 12AT7, you can use the
12AX7 vibrato effecttube or normal channel preamp tube
to temporarily replace the driver tube. If the reverb now
works, then the driver is bad. If the reverb still doesn't
work, swap the recovery tube with the vibrato effect or
normal channel preamp tube. If the reverb still doesn't
work, check the reverb input and output cables. Unplug
both ends of each cable and check the continuity ofthe
cable from center pin to center pin with a multimeter. It
should read 0 or close to 0 ohms. Do the same with the
outer shell of the plug that connects the shield. It should
also read 0 ohms. Next place one meter lead on the
center pin and the other on the outer shell of the plug.
You should read infinity (infinite ohms) . When plugging
the cables back in (if they check good) or if you replace
one or both, make sure to clean all contacting surfaces
of the cables with a high-quality contact cleaner, usually
in the form of a spray.
Now, suppose you've checked the tubes and the
cables and the reverb still doesn't work. Atthis point,
it's a good bet that the reverb tank is faulty. To remove
it, unscrew the vinyl bag from the inside bottom of the
amp cabinet. Usually there are two screws, one at each
end of the bag, that attach it to the floor of the cabinet.
The bag holds the reverb tank, isolating and insulating
it from vibration. The tank itself will often be attached
to cardboard orthe like. Unfasten itfrom the board and
physically inspect the inside of the tank, making sure the
thin wires and springs are attached at each end. If one
of the small wires happens to be broken, it can usually be
resoldered.lf it is broken offflush with the transducer,
however, it's bestto replace the tank. If all looks good,
measure the tank with a multimeter on a low resistance
range. Atthe input of the tank, place one meter lead on
the center pin ofthe jack and the other lead on the shell
of the jack. The reading should be about 1 ohm. Use the
same procedure to measure the tank atthe output jack.
Here you should read around 200 ohm, yetthis may vary.
The important point is that you shouldn't read infinity
or extremely high resistance; on the other hand, you
shouldn't read below 100 ohms either. Any abnormal
reading means the tank should be replaced.
The components of a reverb tank: transducers, springs, input, and output.
To check a reverb tank with a multimeter, measure
for resistance between the center pin and outer shell
of both input and output jacks.
129 -
- 130
Gibson Reverb Variation Mod
Fender reverb is generally regarded as the best sounding
reverb for guitar amps. Yet, I've used a variation of
older Gibson designs that, while not necessarily
better or worse than Fender reverb, provides an easily
incorporated option. I have to say up front that this
alternative is not for everyone. For instance, where
Fender reverb is somewhattreble-focused with a rich
dwell and chime, the Gibson variation is mellower
with a subtle darkness. Also, the standard 100-K-ohm
potentiometer used for Fender reverb level doesn't allow
the full extent of the Gibson variation to come through.
To take full advantage of the variation,l recommend
replacing the 100-K-ohm pot with a l-M-ohm linear-taper
pot. While changing a pot doesn't require a great deal of
work, it does make switching between the stock Fender
and the Gibson variation somewhat impractical.
Referring to the following diagram for silverface
and blackface models, fi rst unsolder the lower lead of
the 500-pF reverb coupling capacitor (when viewing the
circuit board with the tube sockets at bottom) and solder
it to the lower lead of the 250-pF treble capacitor of the
vibrato channel. Note that this modification will work for
one channel only. Next, atthe junction ofthe 3.3-M-ohm
mixing resistor and 1 O-pF bypass capacitor, unsolder the
leads of the 470-K-ohm and 220-K-ohm resistors from
the junction. Solder the leads of these two resistors
together along with a piece of wire long enough to reach
the volume control of the vibrato channel. At that volume
control, unsolderthe wi re from the middle lug and in its
place solder one lead each oftwo 220-K-ohm resistors.
Finally, solder the disconnected volume lead to one of the
220-K-ohm resistors and the wire you ran from the circuit
board to the other 220-K-ohm resistor. While this setup
will now work, it will sound better if you replace
the 3.3-M-ohm mixing resistor with 220-K-ohm to
470-K-ohm resistor. You could also solder a 330-K-ohm
resistor across the 3.3-M-ohm resistor. You might
consider trying lower as well as higher value resistors
to find the optimum sound. As mentioned earlier, you
might find that the stock reverb level control won't yield
an adequate range. Try a l-M-ohm linear-taper pot in its
place. Also, be aware that when you turn this channel 's
volume control all the way down, you can still get volume
through the amp by turning up the reverb level.
Installing the Gibson reverb variation in blackface
reissues is impractical not as much due to complexity as
to the probable noise factor, not to mention the limitations
arising from component location. Of course, ifthe reissue
has a Hoffman board, as explained in Chapter 6, just follow
the directions above for the silverface and blackface.
Gibson Reverb Variation Modification.
Existing wire
Solder wi re to
leads and run to
Unsolder leads of
220K + 470K resistors
from board
..... - -..
Unsolder leads of 500pf cap
and solder it to lower lead
of 250pf cap
~ , ~ 1 1
With both channels ofthis Super Reverb in phase, the Bassman channel bridging technique can be used.
a reduced output signal. You' ll still be able to hear
both guitars playing, but the overall volume will be
reduced and the tone degraded. Yet, when you con-
nect both channels of a Fender using the dual channel
reverb mod, both channels will have the same number
of stages. This setup will allow a guitarist to use the
old Bassman trick of bridging the inputs and allowing
the guitarist to mix both channels. In the case of the
Bassman, with its bright channel and normal channel,
the volume controls also function as mix level controls
for the channels. Moreover, running both channels at
once gives a thicker, fuller tone. With our dual channel
reverb mod, we have two channels voiced slightly dif-
ferently as well as a bright control for each. As with the
Bassman, the volume controls have the extra function
of mixing the levels of the channels. While these chan-
nels might not be too distinct, the tone will be thicker
and the dual channels will have a noticeable crunch.
Furthermore, you can modify the tone stack or add
extra gain to one of the channels, as detailed in the
following chapters. This would result in two distinct
To apply the Bassman channel bridging technique,
simply take a patch cord, plug one end into the number
2 jack of either channel, and plug the other end into the
number 1 jack of the other channel. Now, plug your
guitar into the unused number 1 jack. It's as simple
as that.
131 -
chapter 8
Historically, Fender tone stacks have come in a vari-
ety of arrangements. Here we will cover four major
types: the single-knob tone control of the tweed era,
the three-band cathode follower configuration also
of the tweed era, the short-lived two-band bass and
treble arrangement found in some brownface amps,
and the well-known three-band bass, mid, and treble
design of the blackface and silver face amps.
All four designs are of the passive tone control
variety, meaning that unlike active tone control, they
Four Classic Fender Tone Stack Designs
Tone Volume

i .005 uf
500 pf
><J----''---- OUT
.01 uf
Coupling Cap

Coupling Cap
100K Out
.01 uf
250 KA )<J----I
Mid Bass
.02 uf
$ .02 uf
Bass Mid Treble


On Circuit Board
2nd Preamp
(A) tweed-era tone control; (B) tweed-era bass, mid, and treble configuration; (C) brownface 6G series
bass and treble arrangement; and (D) blackface bass, mid, and treble design.
Opposite:The "LTD" in the '59 Bassman LTD Reissue stands for "lacquered tweed" rather than "limited edition." Fender
Musical Instruments Corporation
133 -
- 134
don't amplify or boost frequencies but rather attenuate
or cut specific bands of frequency by shunting them to
ground. Yet, the interaction between the controls of
these specific bands provides amazing tone shaping
capabilities as well as practical manipulation of gain.
In the case of the tweed-era single tone control, plac-
ing the potentiometer on the highest setting allows
full passage of high or treble frequencies through the
500-pF capacitor and around the volume control.
Treble-rich gain and a relatively pure signal also flow
easily through the volume control. However, as the
potentiometer is turned to lower settings, it acts as
a variable resistor connected to the 500-pF capacitor
and as such limits the amount of high-frequency signal
passing around the volume control. In addition, high-
and high mid-frequency signals are passed to ground
through the 0.005-uF capacitor as the potentiometer
moves through lower settings. At the lowest potenti-
ometer settings, high frequencies pass to ground rather
than around the volume control, the effect being a
more mellow, bassy-mid sound even though no mid or
low frequencies have been boosted. While the single
tone knob design lacks the separate control ranges of a
three-band tone stack, it is still quite versatile and has
the lowest insertion loss of the four designs.
During the 1950s tweed-era, Fender also
introduced a three-band tone stack in a cathode-
follower design, used most famously in the 5F6 and
5F6A Bassman models and adopted by Marshall for
use initially in its JTM45 model. While Fender only
used the cathode-follower tone stack for a few years,
replacing it with the cleaner plate-driven design,
Marshall continued to use the design in its plexi- and
metal-panel models. The term cathode follower refers
to the way the signal feeds the tone stack. Typically
the signal comes from the plate of a triode, but with
a cathode follower the signal comes from the cathode
of a triode. While this doesn't produce any gain, less
signal is lost due to the low impedance of the cathode
follower design. Many guitarists consider this design
to have a harmonically rich, slightly overdriven tone
with a more dynamic response than the usual plate-
driven tone stack. Because the triode serving as the
"cathode follower" stage generates no gain, however,
Fender Tone-Stack Controls Timeline
Tweed amps: Single-knob tone control and three-band
cathode follower.
Brownface amps: Some featured a short-lived two-
band bass and treble arrangement.
Blackface and silverface amps: Three-band bass, mid,
and treble design.
the cathode follower configuration requires an extra
triode besides the usual two used as the first and sec-
ond preamp stages. The components that comprise the
three-band tone stack of the cathode-follower design
operate essentially the same as those of the plate-
driven design discussed below.
The next tone stack under discussion came with
the 6G series, specifically the brownface Bandmaster,
Concert, Pro-Amp, and Super-Amp. While the slightly
later 6G-A series used a 350-K-ohm potentiometer
with a 70-K-ohm tap for the treble control, the 6G
brownfaces used a 250-K-ohm treble potentiometer
with a linear taper rather than the usual 250-K-ohm
audio taper pot found on later blackface and silver-
face amps. The 6G series also used a 0.05-uF coupling
capacitor at the input of the tone stack, a feature not
found on the 6G-A and later blackface and silverface
models. Personally, the 6G series tone stack ranks as
my favorite among all other Fender types. It has amaz-
ing midrange and a thick span of tone control. In fact,
I've used a variation of the design on custom amps I've
manufactured for customers who prefer rich midrange
frequencies that don't cloud the tonal spectrum of the
amp. Indeed, the 6G tone stack can fairly easily replace
the standard two-band stack of the blackface and sil-
verface normal channel. A little later in this chapter we
will do just that as well as provide a mid-cut switch for
added versatility.
With the treble control of the 6G stack set to full,
high frequencies pass unhindered through the 250-pF
capacitor to the volume control. Concurrently, setting
the bass control to full effectively situates the low and
mid frequencies between the two 250-K-ohm pots and
at the junction of the 0.01 capacitor. Here, a good share
of the midrange goes through the capacitor to ground
while the low frequencies pass through the treble pot to
the volume control. Turning down the treble, by exten-
sion, allows more lows to pass through the treble pot
and fewer highs through the 250-pF cap. Furthermore,
turning down the bass enables the 10-K-ohm midrange
resistor to come into play. Since it is in series with the
O.Ol-uF capacitor, which in turn is parallel to the bass
pot as it gets turned down, more of the mids along with
the lows pass through the treble pot on to the volume con-
trol rather than through the midrange resistor to ground.
The 10-K-ohm resistor provides a set-point for the mid
frequencies. Lowering its value to around 5 K-ohms
will scoop some of the mids. However, raising the value
will not boost the mids much. In fact, it will make the
treble and bass controls less effective. A somewhat com-
plex interplay exists between the midrange resistor and
the 100-K-ohm slope resistor at the tone stack's input,
but that goes beyond our scope here. Finally, because
this tone stack design uses a 0.05 coupling capacitor at
its input, some highs and lows are attenuated but not
starved, resulting in a thick, mid-rich signal.
The classic blackface tone stack bears some resem-
blance to the 6G stack just discussed, specifically in
the role of the treble potentiometer. More important,
though, is the lack of an input coupling capacitor and
the addition of a midrange control. By omitting the
coupling cap, we see that the separation of frequen-
cies becomes more distinct as individual capacitors
pass specific bands of frequency rather than the entire
spectrum being shaped by the single coupling capaci-
tor. Depending on your tastes this could be good or
bad, or, more appropriately, just different. Overall, the
design of the blackface tone stack, with the distinct
separation into frequency bands, creates an interactive
tone control.
As with the 6G design, if all three controls are
set to full, the high frequencies pass unobstructed
through the 250-pF capacitor to the volume control.
The lows pass through the 0.1 capacitor and then
through the treble pot, onward to the volume con-
trol. The mids, on the other hand, pass through the
0.022-uF capacitor and split between the mid pot and
the combination of the bass and treble pots. The mid
pot setting determines how much of the mid band gets
cut by being shunted to ground and how much passes
on to the bass and treble pots. The process is more
complex than has just been described, but the idea is
to express the midrange scoop of the classic Fender
tone stack. Further, the mid potentiometer does more
than control midrange frequencies; it also affects the
bass and treble, causing them to somewhat shift along
with the mid setting. In fact, if you disconnect the mid
potentiometer from ground, the entire tone stack will
be inoperative and the amp will get a massive boost
in gain. I recommend giving it a try and maybe even
converting the bright switch into an on-off switch for
this feature, a technique we will examine in the next
chapter. Furthermore, if you turn the three controls
all the way down, the signal passes to ground and no
sound comes out of the amp.
The slope resistor, common to all these tone stacks
except the tweed-era single tone control, sets the center
of the frequency range over which the tone controls
operate. Lowering the value of the slope resistor has
the sonic effect of adding more low-end midrange and
bass while also reducing the top-end. For instance,
lowering the resistor value to 56 K-ohm puts you in
tweed Bassman and Marshall territory. I've seen val-
ues as low as 39 K-ohms; however, the effectiveness
of the tone controls begins to suffer with values that
low. Keep in mind also that changing the slope resis-
tor doesn't actually boost mid and low frequencies.
Rather, it accentuates certain frequency bands since
the slope resistor sets the center point of the frequency
range. Bear in mind that this concept is actually more
complex than what I've indicated. Theory and prac-
tice don't always mesh, so, as usual, let your ears be
the judge. If you like, first try lowering the standard
100-K-ohm value to 56-K-ohm, then try raising it
to around 150-K-ohm. See, or rather, hear what
you discover.
Regardless of whether you modify your Fender's
tone stack, consider a general improvement by
upgrading the components. Chapter 6 gives a thor-
ough overview of upgrades and modifications to
consider for the Hot Rod models. For blackface
and silverface as well as reissues, any ceramic disc
treble capacitor (usually 250 pF) should be replaced
with a silver mica capacitor. Silver mica capacitors,
besides being more precise and less prone to drift-
ing than their ceramic disc counterparts, produce
more shimmering highs than the brittle highs of an
inferior capacitor. The quality of an amp's higher
tone frequencies will often determine the entire
sound spectrum of the amp since the human ear
tends to be far more sensitive to high rather than
low frequencies.
The Importance of High Tone Frequencies
The quality of an amp's higher tone frequencies often
determines the entire sound spectrum ofthe amp. This
is because the human ear is far more sensitive to high,
rather than low, frequencies.
Vibrato channel slope resistor at A and normal channel slope
resistor at B in a typical silverface.
135 -
- 136
Tone capacitors of
vibrato channel on
blackface and silverface
amps: (A) treble, (B)
mid,and (C) bass. Tone
capacitors of normal
channel on blackface
and silverface amps:
(0) treble, (E) mid, and
(F) bass.
Silver mica capacitors, on left,
are better choices tonally for
treble capacitors. Stock treble
capacitors are usually ofthe
ceramic disc variety as shown
on the right.
Slope resistor at A
in a tweed Bassman
"Hoffman board."
The two other capacitors associated with the tone
stack, the O.l-uF bass frequency capacitor and the
0.047-uF or 0.022-uF midrange capacitor, will usu-
ally be the blue Mallory blackface variety, the brown
silverface variety, or the reddish-brown Xicon-type
of the reissue. While it is usually held as a rule to leave
the blue Mallorys alone, switching out these capaci-
tors with new, high-quality Sozos, Mallory 150s, or
Orange Drop 716s will improve tone shape and sepa-
ration. That swap might prove to be sacrilegious to
vintage amp purist, so you'll want to safely store the
blue caps and reinstall them if you decide to sell your
blackface. You might also experiment by replacing
the 0.047-uF midrange cap with a 0.022-uF capacitor
or vice versa, and the 0.1- uF bass capacitor with a
0.047- uF capacitor.
The remainder of this chapter provides instructions
for various tone stack modifications for silverface,
blackface, and reissues that have had the "Hoffman
board" mod (see Chapter 6). Two of the modifications,
though, will work on reissues that retain their original
printed circuit board. The tone stack modifications
in this chapter are technically nondestructive, mean-
ing the amp can be placed back into original state.
Essentially only a few components (capacitors and
potentiometers) are replaced; these can be removed
and the original components reinstalled. However,
care needs to be exercised to avoid overheating com-
ponents and wires with the soldering iron. Also, keep
in mind that components and wires can become over-
stressed by excessive manipulation.
Revoicing the Two-Band Tone Stack
The most common modifications of tone stacks con-
sist of revoicing the tone, which usually means either
boosting or scooping (cutting) specific bands of fre-
quencies but can also involve shifting the center of the
amp's frequency range and, by extension, shifting the
entire frequency range over which the tone controls
function. As stated earlier, this is most easily done by
changing the value of the slope resistor.
With the typical dual channel silverface and black-
face models, both channels are voiced pretty much
the same way. Revoicing the normal channel allows a
guitarist to have two different tonal characteristics in
the same amp. On models having a 0.047-uF midrange
capacitor, such as the Deluxe Reverb and Princeton
Reverb, including reissues, you might replace this
capacitor with a 0.022-uF and the O.l-uF bass capaci-
tor with a 0.047-uF (perhaps use the midrange cap you
just replaced). This will tighten up the bass and focus
the tone more toward the upper midrange. Not all gui-
tarists will enjoy this tonal shift. In fact, these amps
tend to have a slightly more pronounced upper mid-
range already. Compared to the larger Fenders, these
amps have overall reduced bass characteristics due
to their smaller cabinet design and single rather than
multiple speaker usage (especially the Princeton with
its single lO-inch speaker). Using a 0.047-uF midrange
capacitor and a fixed midrange resistor shunts more of
the high mid frequencies to ground, allowing more low
mid and bass frequencies to be heard. Replacing the
stock midrange cap with a O.022-uF cap will slightly
emphasize the high-mid frequencies, resulting in a tone
that not all guitarists will find desirable. One thing to
keep in mind is that replacing the .0047-uF cap with
a 0.022 uF cap won't make the smaller Fenders sound
more like larger Fenders. It just makes them different.
A similar relationship exists with the silverface and
blackface models that come with a 0.022-uF midrange
capacitors, such as the Super Reverb, Pro Reverb, and
Bandmaster. Namely, these amps tend toward a lower
midrange and the 0.022 cap works to tighten this. The
option of using a 0.047-uF cap in its place, likewise,
doesn't work for all guitarists; however, plenty of gui-
tarists enjoy a mid-focused sound and so this mod is
intended for that camp. By and large, these are easy
mods and well worth the experimentation.
Now, it should be said, that swapping the mid-
range caps has a somewhat subtle effect. In other
words, again, a Deluxe Reverb isn't going to sound
like a Super Reverb. Tonal characteristics are complex
and dynamic, dependent on variables such as volume,
speaker configuration, and room shape and size. When
replacing the midrange and bass capacitors, making an
immediate determination proves difficult. It's best to
test the component swaps by playing at a variety of
volume levels and in several various spatial settings.
A more noticeable tone revoicing can be heard when
replacing the midrange resistor. The 6.8-K-ohm mid-
range resistor has a mid-scoop comparable to that of
setting the vibrato channel's mid control around the 11
o'clock position. Replacing the midrange resistor with
one of a lO-K-ohm to 15-K-ohm value will result in a
noticeable midrange boost. I've seen up to a 22-K-ohm
mid resistor, but the tone starts getting muddy at
that value.
Tweed Tone Control Mod
This modification, which works best on the two-band
normal channel of most blackface and silverface models,
is derived from the tone stack design of a 1959 Princeton
5F2-A tweed amp. It has low insertion loss, meaning
that the gain of the normal channel will be higher than
it is with its standard tone controls. Taken in conjunc-
tion with the reverb bridging mod described in Chapter
7, the tweed-converted normal channel will out blast the
vibrato channel, being much louder, with an amazing
amount of crunchy distortion. As you increase the tone
control, so too will the gain and distortion increase.
In fact, many guitarists might find increasing the tone
137 -
- 138
The components of the tweed tone mod include a
l-M-ohm pot (here in between the volume on the right
and inoperable bass on the left). 0.0047 Mallory cap,
500-pF silver mica cap, and down on the board (not
shown) a 0.022 Mallory coupling cap.
control to its upper limit to be overwhelming and an
unusable setting. You be the judge.
When doing this modification, refer to the dia-
gram for the schematic and chassis layout of a tweed
Princeton 5F2-A tone stack. Installing this mod will
make the bass control inoperable while the treble con-
trol becomes the single tone control. You can leave the
bass control in place. Also note that you will have to
replace the treble-turned-tone control potentiometer.
To get started, first remove the chassis (see Chapter
4 for instructions, if necessary). Next, remove the
100-K-ohm slope resistor and the 250-pF treble capac-
itor for the normal channel. The location of these
components can be seen in the photograph below. In
place of the 250-pF treble capacitor, install a O.022-uF
Mallory, Illinois, or SOlO capacitor. An Orange Drop
or Xicon will also work but may produce a slightly
more sharp-edged tone.
At the treble potentiometer, remove the wire run-
ning from its left lug to the middle lug of the bass
potentiometer. Next, remove the wire from the right
lug and solder it to the right lug of the volume potenti-
ometer. Finally, unsolder the wire from the middle lug
but leave it attached to the volume potentiometer. The
treble potentiometer should now have nothing attached
to it. Remove the knob by loosening the recessed screw
and then remove the potentiometer's mounting nut
with a small wrench, socket, or nut driver. The poten-
tiometer can now be pulled out from inside the chassis.
In its place install a 1-M-ohm audio taper potentiom-
eter. After installing the potentiometer and its knob,
solder the wire that comes from the volume potenti-
ometer (the one you unsoldered from the middle lug
of the old treble pot) to the center lug of the new tone
potentiometer. Solder one lead of a O.0047-uF capaci-
tor (again, a Mallory, Illinois, or SOlO will work well)
to the left lug of the tone pot and the other lead to
the grounding point for the left lug of the volume pot.
Finally, solder one lead of a 500-pF silver mica capaci-
tor to the right lug of the tone potentiometer and the
other lead to the center lug of the volume pot, making
sure that the wire attached to it remains so. Now, get
ready for some crunch.
Brownface Mod for Blackface and Silverface
The blackface and silverface two-band normal channel
lends itself especially well to a brownface 6G tone stack
conversion. With its rich, mid-heavy vintage tone, the
6G tone stack makes the dual channels truly distinct.
The first step is to remove the chassis. If necessary, refer
to Chapter 4 for instructions. Viewing the inside of the
chassis with the tube sockets on the bottom, the nor-
mal channel tone stack is on the far right. Remove the
lOO-K-ohm slope resistor and 250-pF treble capacitor.
Solder a O.047-uF capacitor in the place where the treble
capacitor was originally situated. A Mallory 150M or
SOlO works best.
At the tone controls, unsolder the wires and
6.8-K-ohm resistor from the bass potentiometer.
Connect the wire that was attached to the middle lug
To replace a blackface or silverface normal channel tone
stack with that of brownface 6G, remove (A) 100-K-ohm
slope resistor and (B) 250 pFtreble capacitor. Next, install
a 0.047 capacitor in place of A.
To add a mid-cut switch to the
brownfaced tone stack, run
a wire from the bright switch
to the middle lug of the bass
potentiometer and a resistor
(see text) from the other
terminal of the bright switch
to ground.
of the potentiometer to the left lug. This wire should
be the one coming from the left lug of the treble poten-
tiometer. Connect a O.OI-uF capacitor between the
left and center lugs of the bass potentiometer. Again,
a 150M or Sozo works well. Finally, at the treble
potentiometer, disconnect the wire from the right lug.
Next, solder one lead of a 250-pF silver mica capacitor
(you could also use the treble cap you removed from
the circuit board) to the right lug of the treble poten-
tiometer. Likewise, solder one leg of a 100-K-ohm
1/2-watt metal film resistor (again, you could use the
slope resistor you removed from the circuit board) to
the left lug, making sure that the wire already attached
to it remains connected. Connect the unattached
leads of the resistor and capacitor together, and solder
the wire you disconnected from the right lug to that
lead junction.
Once the tone stack has been brown faced, a
mid-cut function can be installed using the bright
switch. Of course, this will render the bright func-
tion inoperative. Essentially, the mid-cut works by
cutting the resistance of the 10-K-ohm midrange
resistor (on the bass pot) in half. If you'd like a more
The brownfaced normal
channel should resemble
that in the photo.
noticeable mid-scoop, the resistance can be low-
ered by three-quarters. Changing the resistance is
accomplished by switching a resistor into a parallel
configuration with the 10-K-ohm midrange resistor.
For half-value use another 10-K-ohm 1/2-watt resistor
and for three-quarter-value use a 3.3-K-ohm 112-
watt resistor.
To install the mid-cut switch, first remove the wire
and capacitor from the bright switch. Next, solder one
lead of either a 10-K-ohm resistor (for half cut) or a
3.3-K-ohm resistor (for three-quarter cut) to one of
the switch terminals. Solder the unattached lead of the
resistor to the left lug (ground) of the volume control.
Run a short length of wire from the other terminal of
the bright switch to the middle lug of the bass potenti-
ometer, making sure the resistor and capacitor already
attached to the lug remain attached to it. Be aware
that adding a mid-cut switch might introduce some
background noise as a portion of the midrange signal
takes an extra path through the switch. Keep wires as
short as possible or, better yet, use shielded cable. In
any case, if you encounter unwanted noise, the mod is
easily reversible.
139 -
- 140
Installing a Mid-Boost Switch
This modification follows up the mid-cut switch from
the previous section. In fact, it is basically the same
modification, except it is for use on the unmodified
normal channel of a silverface, blackface, or reissue
amp with a bright switch. In this rendition, the
6.S-K-ohm midrange resistor is replaced with a 12-K
or 15-K-ohm resistor. I wouldn't go much higher
than that. For the parallel resistor use either a 15-K
(with the 12-K) or a 12-K (with the 15-K). For normal
operation, the mid switch (converted bright switch)
is in the "on" position, so thatthe midrange resistors
are placed in parallel. Moving the switch into the
"off" position switches one of the resistors out of
the parallel configuration and thus sets the midrange
resistor to 12 K or 15 K, delivering the mid boost.
This is probably a good place to describe the
bright circuit used on most silverface and blackface
Fenders. Essentially, the switch simply places a
120-pF capacitor in a circuit around the volume control.
This enables the highest of the highs to bypass the
volume control and pass at full signal strength to
the next preamp stage while the rest of the tonal
frequencies are subject to the volume control. If you
like the bright feature and always play with it on, you
can simply unsolder the lead of the 120-pF capacitor
from the switch and solder itto the middle lug of the
volume potentiometer. In other words, when
viewing the volume potentiometer inside the open
chassis, the bright cap should have one lead connected
to the right lug and the other lead to the middle lug of
the pot. After you unsolder the remaining wire from the
bright switch, it is now free to use for other purposes.
Make sure that if you remove the wire from the
bright switch that you also remove it from the middle
lug of the volume pot, removing it from the chassis
completely. Additionally, it's a good idea to replace the
original ceramic disc bright cap with a silver mica type
of the same value. Actually, anything from around SO pF
to 160 pF will result in a bright sound.
Bassman/Marshall Mod for Blackface,
Silverface, and Reissue
What I'm calling the Marshall/Bassman mod is the
tweed-era three-band tone stack described at the begin-
ning of the chapter. Made famous by its use in the tweed
Bassman amps of the late 1950s and, with slight varia-
tion, in classic Marshall amps, this tone stack does not
appear on blackface and later Bassman models. These
amps contain the standard blackface tone stack design
also described earlier. The primary distinction of what
I'm calling the tweed Bassman tone stack from the
standard blackface-type tone stack is that it is fed by
a cathode follower tube stage at the end of the preamp
chain rather than after the first preamp stage. Another
major distinction, besides the different values of capaci-
tors, potentiometers, and slope resistor, involves the
connection of the midrange capacitor, which is con-
nected to the wiper of the midrange potentiometer rather
than between the bridged ends of the bass and midrange
potentiometers. In the later, standard configuration, the
mid pot functions more like a variable resistor between
the midrange capacitor and ground, while in the wiper
connection the capacitor's relationship with the mid pot
is more like that of a signal fed into a voltage divider.
This means that at the capacitor's connection to the
pot, the resistance to ground, is inversely proportional
to the resistance to the bass potentiometer and the rest
of the tone stack. Simply put, this arrangement enables
more linearity in the midrange adjustment, a feature
that in this mid-pronounced design allows a smooth,
gradual range from mid scoop to mid boost.
Chapter 10 will provide instructions for the actual
conversion of a silverface/blackface tone stack to the
Bassman/Marshall cathode follower using a MOSFET
(short for metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect tran-
sistor) rather than a tube for the cathode follower. Yes,
you read that correctly: a solid-state device in a tube
amp. As I will explain in Chapter 10, the MOSFET is
not only a practical choice for a cathode follower but
also an excellent one in that it doesn't interfere with
the tone of a tube amp in any way. In this chapter,
though, the Bassman/Marshall mod involves replacing
the midrange and bass capacitors, the slope resistor,
and all three potentiometers of the vibrato channel.
It should be stated up front that this mod isn't going
to make your silverface or blackface sound like a tweed-
era Bassman. It will, however, add more midrange and
tighten up the bass. If you like a deep low end, or if your
amp is shy in the bass range, this mod probably won't
suit your needs. Besides cutting deep lows, there will be
less brightness; in other words, the amp gets mid-heavy
at the expense of the high and low ends of the tone spec-
trum. Furthermore, you might want to try the first half
of the mod before continuing on with the more compli-
cated second half. The first half involves replacing the
0.047-uF midrange capacitor, if so equipped, and
the O.l-uF bass capacitor with 0.022-uF valued caps.
Note that most silverfaces and blackfaces use a 0.02-uF
midrange cap and so only the bass cap needs to be
replaced. However, tone can be improved by replacing
the old midrange cap, even if it is a 0.02 and especially
if it is a "chocolate drop" variety, with a new Mallory,
Sozo, Illinois, or Orange Drop type.
Replacing the midrange and bass capacitors with
0.022-uF values has been a fairly common technique
The vibrato channel tone controls afterthe Bassman/Marshall mod. Besides the different value potentiometers, the only
difference from the original silver/blackface configuration is that the wire that once ran from the bass pot left lug to the
midrange pot center lug now runs from the bass pot left lug to the midrange pot right lug.
since the blackface days. The next step-replacing the
slope resistor and the potentiometers-is a little more
uncommon, primarily due to the extra work involved,
but not rare. I suggest only replacing the slope resistor
if you replace the pots, but then again, it's a fairly easy
swap and, in the name of experimentation, worth the
effort to hear the difference.
Essentially, the stock 100-K-ohm resistor gets
replaced by a 56-K-ohm value resistor. The potentiom-
eters you'll need for the full mod are as follows: Use
a 250-K-ohm linear taper pot for the treble, a 25-K-
ohm linear taper pot for the midrange, and a 1-M-ohm
audio taper pot for the bass. For the first step, remove
the chassis from the amp (if you reinstalled it after
replacing the tone capacitors). Next, remove the
knobs for the treble, mid, and bass controls using a
small standard screwdriver. It might be a good idea to
replace one pot at a time so that you don't mix-up the
wiring. It can be a little confusing to have a bunch of
disconnected wires hanging over empty pot holes in the
chassis. To remove each potentiometer, first unsolder
the wires, keeping note of the lug each wire belongs to.
Next, remove the mounting nut with a small socket or
nut driver and slide the pot out. Install the new pot in
reverse order; however, when installing the midrange
pot make sure that the wire that ran from the left lug
of the bass pot to the center lug of the midrange pot,
now instead goes from the left lug of the bass pot to
the right lug of the midrange pot. The other wire that
connected to the center lug of the midrange pot, the
one that connects to the capacitor on the circuit board,
needs to stay connected to the center lug.
Baxandall-Styled Tone Stack
Ampeg, Orange, and other amps often use a variation
of the Baxandall tone circuit, a type of tone circuit
designed by Peter Baxandall in the 1950s and primar-
ily used in hi-fi audio equipment. The Baxandall tone
stack uses two controls-bass and treble-which
are more independent, (less interactive) than those of
Fender tone stacks. In addition, the Baxandall has a
fairly low degree of insertion loss. Moreover, unlike
Fender controls, lowering the settings of the bass and
treble controls has the sonic effect of boosting the mids,
while increasing the settings cuts the mids. Some gui-
tarists find the Baxandall's lack of bass and treble
interactivity to be detrimental, and, by contrast, others,
especially jazz guitarists, find the tonal separation to be
beneficial. Furthermore, this tone stack can make a gui-
tar amp more suitable for use with a bass guitar, as long
as the speaker can take the extra lows of the bass.
In the Baxandall tone stack presented here, I've
chosen capacitor and resistor values geared more for
a guitar frequency range, but will also complement a
bass guitar. Additionally, this modification works best
with the normal channel for the obvious reason that it
employs two rather than three controls. Keep in mind
that this stack uses more components than the Fender
designs and the bass and treble potentiometers need to
141 -


- 142
Baxandall Tone Stack
Bass Treble Volume
INPUT >---11--.---------,
120K 500pl
Bass 120K
As shown in the schematic and chassis layout, our variation of the Baxandall tone stack is tuned for guitar frequencies.
be replaced with I-M-ohm audio taper varieties. Due
to the increased number of components that need to be
attached to the pots as well as the physically small area
they need to occupy, this can be a challenging modifi-
cation. If this is to be your first tone stack installation,
I suggest taking your time and being careful, or bet-
ter yet, reconsider this attempt. Maybe go with the 6G
tone stack mod instead.
Begin the Baxandall modification by first remov-
ing the chassis. Next, remove the 100-K-ohm slope
resistor and 250-pF treble capacitor for the normal
channel. These components are on the lower right por-
tion of the board. To find their exact location, refer
to the photograph on page 138. Unlike the standard
blackface or silverface tone stack, the Baxandall needs
a coupling capacitor at the input of the tone stack. I
prefer a O.022-uF Mallory 150M, but you can also use
a Sozo, Illinois, or Orange Drop. The coupling capaci-
tor should be soldered into the place from where you
just removed the 250-pF treble capacitor.
Unsolder the wires and the resistor from the treble
and bass potentiometers. Next, remove the bass and
treble knobs by loosening the recessed set screws;
remove the bass and treble potentiometers by using
a small wrench, socket, or nut driver to remove the
mounting nuts. Install I-M-ohm audio taper poten-
tiometers in their places. Reinstall the knobs. Now
comes the real work. Since in most uses more than one
component lead attaches to each pot lug, you might
find it easier to solder them to the lugs after insert-
ing all the leads into the lug. Also
,# '
' .... . ,.. ....... ,.
be careful that the bare leads don't
touch the chassis or anywhere
they shouldn't. In fact, you might
consider using heat-shrink tubing
on the leads. As far as component
types, I recommend 1/2-watt metal
film resistors and either Mallory,
Illinois, Sozo, or Orange Drop
capacitors. While considered to be
somewhat inferior to the caps just
listed, Xicon capacitors actually
are more physically suited to fit the
pots. Finally, use silver mica wher-
ever indicated.
,1 '7' '" . l
The component arrangement of your newly installed Baxandall-style tone stack
should resemble that in this photo.
The order of installation
regarding the components doesn't
really matter. Yet, the following
order might prove easiest:
1. Bridge the center lugs of the treble and bass poten-
tiometers with a 120-K-ohm resistor.
2. Install a 0.022-uF capacitor between the left and
center lugs and a 0.0022 capacitor between the
right and center lugs of the bass potentiometer.
3. If the original resistor that ran from the left
lug of the original bass pot to ground is still
attached, remove it. In its place install a 22-K-ohm
resistor with one lead soldered to ground and the
other to the left lug of the bass pot.
4. On the treble potentiometer, solder one lead of a
0.0047-uF capacitor to the left lug and the other
lead to ground. You can use the same grounding
point as the 22-K-ohm resistor or, alternately, you
could solder it to the left lug of the volume pot or
its grounding point on the chassis.
5. Locate the wire that originates at the right lug
of the volume pot, once attached to the original
treble pot, and solder it to the center lug of the
new treble pot. One lead of the 120-K-ohm resistor
should also be connected to that lug.
6. Solder one lead of a SOO-pF silver mica capacitor to
the right lug of the treble pot.
7. Back at the bass potentiometer, solder one lead of
a 120-K-ohm resistor to the right lug where the
0.0022 cap also connects.
8. Solder together the open leads of the SOO-pf cap
and 120-K-ohm resistor just installed.
9. Locate the wire that attaches to the 0.022 coupling
capacitor you soldered to the circuit board in place
of the 2S0-pF treble cap. This wire was originally
connected to the right lug of the original treble pot.
Solder the open end of this wire to the lead junction
of the SOO-pf cap and 120-K-ohm resistor that you
just made.
10. Make sure all the component leads are soldered to the
pot lugs and ensure that they aren't shorted anywhere
and that they connect where they're supposed to.
11. After double-and triple-checking your work, install
the chassis into the amp cabinet and tryout your
Baxandall tone stack.
Dumble-Inspired Mod
This mod is called Dumble-inspired because it is derived
from a typical Dumble tone stack but without the usual
switches with positions such as "Rock" and "Jazz." I
will include a variation of this mod that uses a deep
switch for low-end tone augmentation. Historically a
fair amount of mystery has surrounded Dumble ampli-
fier designs, encouraged somewhat by Howard Dumble
himself with his penchant for burying his preamp cir-
cuitry under layers of opaque epoxy (although it's not
impossible to figure out what lies under the epoxy, at
least in approximation; after all, these are guitar amps
and not high-tech missile defense systems).
A typical Dumble tone stack doesn't differ too
drastically from the usual blackface Fender design. The
main uniqueness of the Dumble tone stack involves the
use of various switches. Primarily the capacitors and
potentiometers have values that deliver a heavy mid-
range and low-end tone focus, which is the opposite of
Fender's mid-scooped, rich high-end tone. Moreover,
the midrange control functions more independently
than that of a Fender blackface. Where the Fender mid-
range potentiometer is tied to the bass potentiometer,
the Dumble midrange pot, at least in the design that
inspired this modified design, isn't tied to any of the
other tone potentiometers. For one thing, this allows a
higher value pot to be used since there is little interac-
tion between it and the other pots.
While our Dumble-inspired design doesn't have a
Jazz-Rock switch, it in fact functions as if it does have
one set to the Rock position. It can also be used on
either the normal or vibrato channel of blackface or
silverface amps, although it works with slightly less
functionality on the two-band channel. Basically the
difference lies between a functioning midrange control
and a stationary midrange setting. Note that all resis-
tors used for this modification should have a 112-watt
rating. I prefer using metal film variety, yet carbon
composition or carbon film varieties can also be used.
For capacitors use Mallory, Illinois, Sozo, or Orange
Drop brands, unless otherwise noted.
On a two-band normal channel, after remov-
ing the chassis from the cabinet, disconnect the wire
from the left lug of the bass potentiometer and either
replace the 6.8-K-ohm resistor also located on that lug
with a l.S-K-ohm resistor or simply solder a 2.2-K-ohm
resistor across the existing resistor. Next solder a 112-
watt resistor with a value between 33 K-ohms and 68
K-ohms to the left lug of the volume potentiometer
(this lug is wired to ground), and solder the wire you
removed from the bass potentiometer to the unattached
lead of the resistor. Note that this resistor sets the mid-
range for the channel; a lower value will scoop the
mids and a higher value will boost them. Any resistor up
to 100 K-ohms can be used. Alternatively, a 100-K-ohm
trimmer pot with a 112-watt rating could be installed
in place of the resistor and set to the desired midrange
level while playing through the amp. This requires you
A typical Howard Dumble tone stack is similarto a
bl ackface Fender. The chief difference lies in the
use of various switches. Primarily the capacitors
and potentiomet ers have values t hat deliver a heavy
midrange and low-end tone focus- opposite of
Fender's mid-scooped, rich high-end tone.
143 -
- 144
to play through the amp with the chassis removed from
the cabinet. Finally, on the tag board, replace the 250-
pF treble cap with a 330-pF capacitor and the 0.022-uF
midrange capacitor with a 0.047-uF capacitor. Some
amps, such as the Deluxe Reverb, already use a 0.047-
uF midrange capacitor. To fully round out the mod,
replace the I20-pF capacitor on the bright switch, if so
equipped, with a 500-pF silver mica capacitor.
For a three-band tone stack, after removing the
chassis from the cabinet, remove the wire that runs
from the left lug of the bass potentiometer to the mid-
dle lug of the midrange potentiometer. This isolates
the midrange potentiometer from the rest of the tone
stack. In place of the wire on the left lug of the bass
potentiometer, attach one lead of a 1.5-K-ohm resistor
and connect the other lead to ground (for example to
the grounded left lug of the midrange potentiometer).
On the tag board, replace the 250-pF treble capacitor
with a 330-pF silver mica capacitor and the 0.022-uF
midrange capacitor with a 0.047-uF capacitor unless it
already has one. If you use the bright switch, replace
the I20-pF capacitor attached to it with a 500-pF sil-
ver mica capacitor.
Finally, replace the midrange potentiometer with
a IOO-K-ohm linear taper potentiometer. If you don't
replace the potentiometer, the full effect of boosting the
mid frequencies won't be felt. In fact, the full range of
the original IO-K-ohm potentiometer, if not replaced,
would be comparable to changing the setting of the
IOO-K-ohm potentiometer from 0 to 1. If, however,
you solder a 47-K-ohm resistor between the middle lug
of the IO-K-ohm midrange potentiometer and the wire
that connects to it, the full range of the potentiometer
would now be equivalent to changing the setting of the
IOO-K-ohm potentiometer from 5 to 6. Accordingly,
using a 68-K-ohm resistor would be comparable to
changing the setting from 7 to 8, while going lower, for
example, to a 27-K-ohm resistor, would be comparable
to changing the setting from 3 to 4.
Completed Dumble-inspired modification of a silverface
vibrato channel.
All in all, if you don't want to replace the original
lO-K-ohm mid pot, you can find your preferred mid-
range setting by using the appropriate resistor. Rather
than switching out a series of resistors, you can find
your preferred setting by using a 100-K-ohm, II2-watt
trimmer pot in place of the resistor. Solder one of the
outer legs to the middle lug of the IO-K-ohm midrange
pot and the wire that goes to the center lug of the pot
to the middle leg of the trimmer pot. You can now
adjust the trimmer until you find the setting you prefer.
To give more of a Dumble feel to our mod, you can
add a deep switch, which, as the name implies, adds
a little more tonal depth to the amp. Broadly speak-
ing, the deep switch allows a portion of the low bass
frequencies to bypass the treble and volume pots, pick-
ing the signal from the wiper of the bass potentiometer
and sending it to the wiper (i.e., output) of the volume
potentiometer. A resistor-capacitor (RC) filter strips
the mid frequencies from the bypasses signal and also
stabilizes the function of the tone controls. Without
the RC filter the deep switch would work more as a
gain boost switch, essentially bypassing much of the
tone stack and thus counteracting the usual insertion
loss. The installation of this type of gain boost switch
is detailed in Chapter 9.
To install the deep switch, you' ll need to remove
the bright switch from the Dumble designated chan-
nel (held in by two small screws on each end of the
switch) and replace it with a miniature-type double-
pole, double-throw (DPDT) toggle switch, such as
those available from Radio Shack. If you don't want to
disable the bright switch, you can instead remove the
number 2 input jack. A standard-sized toggle switch
may be too large for the 3/8-inch diameter hole left
by the jack once it's removed. Likewise, a miniature-
type toggle switch will be too small unless you use
two washers with an outside diameter larger than 3/8-
inch and a hole slightly larger than 1I4-inch (the usual
diameter of a miniature toggle switch). One washer
will go on each side of the chassis, over the empty
jack hole.
To remove the number 2 input jack, unsolder the
68-K-ohm resistor attached to it and either cut or
unsolder the jack's connection to the number I input
jack. Solder the lead of the 68-K-ohm resistor that
you just unsoldered from the jack to the point where
the other 68 K-ohm resistor attaches to the number I
input jack. The two resistors should now be parallel
with each other. This arrangement will retain the same
input impedance as when the number 2 input jack was
installed and connected. Finally, use a small wrench,
socket, or nut driver to loosen the mounting nut on the
outside of the number 2 jack and pull the jack out from
inside the chassis.
To Left Lug
of Volume
To Center
Lug of Bass
Deep Switch Design
To Center
Lug of Volume
Toggle Switch
When installing a deep switch, it often proves easierto solderthe components to the toggle switch
before it is attached to the chassis. Once it is attached, connect the components by short runs of wire,
if necessary, to the points indicated.
Completed Dumble-inspired modification with added deep switch.
~ .
145 -
When technicians and musicians speak of modifying an
amplifier, they most often mean modifying an ampli-
fier's gain. Indeed, the various techniques commonly
used for modifications, ranging from the basic to the
mind-numbingly complex, usually involve manipulat-
ing gain in some form or another. Almost always the
manipulation involves boosting preamp gain, which not
only makes the amp louder but also enables preamp tube
distortion. Through modification, preamp gain can be
increased to a level similar to that of a typical distortion
pedal. Without a means of switching this high degree
of gain in and out of the circuit, the modified ampli-
fier's versatility would be drastically narrowed. Besides
a switch, another means of controlling the added gain is
to use a potentiometer to vary and control the amount
of gain produced in the preamp. Yet when adding only a
modest boost of gain, neither a pot nor a switch is neces-
sary since the slight gain boost simply thickens tone and
adds a warm edge of distortion. Indeed, the questions to
consider when it comes to boosting gain is not only how
much gain to add but how much gain is too much gain.
For our purpose and at its most general, gain can
be defined as the ratio of an amplifier's (or ampli-
fier stage's) output signal, measured in AC volts, to
its input signal, also measured in AC volts. In other
words, the degree to which an AC signal increases is a
function of gain. Each tube or, in the case of a dual tri-
ode, each triode, is limited in the amount of gain it can
deliver as defined by its amplification factor. Because
only a certain amount of gain can be produced by a
tube, a high-gain amplifier will employ several tube
stages. Even in a guitar amp, though, there could be
such a thing as too much gain. If you couple together
even more than several high-gain tubes stages, you
could end up with a buzzing, squealing, and loud amp.
Although such an amp might have its place in the
diverse world of music, most of the mods presented in
this chapter won't get us into the territory. Yet a couple
of them add an additional tube stage to the preamp,
which delivers a healthy dose of overdrive. While the
Opposite: The Twin Reverb reissue reintroduces perhaps
the most popular-and loudest-of the blackface amps.
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
Gaining Background Noise
One thing to keep in mind: With added gain comes the
potential for added background noise.
gain can be controlled with the amp's existing poten-
tiometers, some guitarists might find the gain to be
excessive. However, it's worth detailing the technique
if only to demonstrate the high-gain capability of a
typical Fender amp.
Basic Gain Boosting Modifications
As the first gain-boost modification in this chapter
shows, we don' t need to do much to get an incredible
amount of gain out of a typical Fender. With a simple
patch cord and a resistor you can give any Fender with
tube-driven reverb a rich overdrive effect without remov-
ing the chassis. The reverb will be disabled; however,
the effect can be easily reversed and the reverb restored
in about five seconds. This was a fairly common tech-
nique a few decades ago. Essentially, you disconnect the
reverb tank from the reverb circuit. By bridging the input
and output reverb connections on the back of the chas-
sis with a resistor cable, the signal passing through the
reverb circuit is first boosted by the 12AT7 reverb driver
tube and, instead of passing through the reverb tank,
runs directly to the recovery triode of the 12AX7 via
the resistor cable, where it is boosted again. Instead of
reverb, this circuit now produces tube overdrive.
First, if you don't already have one, buy an inex-
pensive audio or AV patch cord with phono plugs, like
the ones that come with most DVD players, televisions,
or audio equipment. Using a wire cutter, clip off two
of the plugs with about 3 to 5 inches of cable attached
to each. Strip back and remove about 1 112 inches of
the shielding and then strip about 112 inch of insula-
tion from the center conductor. A wire-stripping tool
works best; be careful as the center conductor usually
consists of a small-gauge collection of thinly stranded
wire. Make a resistor cable by soldering a resistor-any

147 -
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II" I ....... _ .... __ /

value between 330 K-ohms to 470 K-ohms will do-to
each of the center conductors leading from the plugs.
Cover the exposed leads and conductors or the entire
resistor and solder joints with heat shrink tubing or
electrician's tape. Remember to place the heat-shrink
tubing over the cable before connecting the resistor.
That might sound obvious, but it is an easy thing to
forget. To complete the modification, unplug the
~ reverb cables from the back of the chassis, and insert
the resistor cable in their place. The vibrato channel
will now have an overdrive effect that can be turned
on and off by the reverb pedal. Moreover, the reverb
level control will now be the overdrive level control.
Be aware that you will no longer have reverb, but you
can simply unplug the resistor cable and reconnect the
reverb cables.
Another common modification, even easier than
An inexpensive AV cable can be converted into a resistor
cable to be used for a reverb channel jumper when
converting the reverb circuit into extra gain stages for
the preamp.
the previous one, for any dual channel silverface,
blackface, or blackface reissue is to remove the normal
channel preamp tube, the first tube on the right when
looking into the back of the amp. The normal channel
will be inoperable, but the vibrato channel will have a
A silverface with the resistor cable replacing the reverb tank. To reverse the mod, simply unplug the resistor cable and
plug the reverb cables back in.
modest boost of gain that will enable preamp crunch at
moderate volume levels. While removing a tube might
seem counterintuitive when it comes to boosting the
gain of amp, the reason it works involves preamp tube
bias. As discussed in Chapter 2, the useable gain of a
tube is determined by the value of both the plate and
cathode resistors. Typical Fender values of 100 K-ohms
and 1.5 K-ohms, respectively, deliver a healthy amount
of gain. As an aside, the combination of a 220-K-ohm
plate resistor with a 2.2-K-ohm cathode resistor also
delivers another optimal combination for gain and
overall performance.
Regarding the dual channel Fenders under discussion
here, the preamp tube for each channel has an indepen-
dent cathode resistor (1.5 K-ohms) for its triode, while
the other triode of each tube serves as the second-stage
preamp for its respective channel. These second-
stage triodes are tied together and share an 820-ohm
cathode resistor (believed to be a cost-saving measure,
according to Fender lore). The 820-ohm resistor is
roughly half the value of the typical1.5-K-ohm because
preamp tube biasing works in such a way that when
cathodes of two triodes share a cathode resistor, to get
the equivalent bias of an independent cathode resistor,
the shared cathode resistor needs to be half the value.
Pulling the normal channel preamp tube, therefore,
has the same effect as replacing a 1.5-K-ohm cathode
resistor with an 820-ohm resistor, which in turn read-
justs the triode's bias voltage, increasing the gain of the
triode. Although raising the value of a triode's plate
resistor is a more effective and better way of boosting
gain, manipulating the tube's bias by lowering the value
of the cathode resistor will also yield an increase of gain.
This is an extremely nondestructive modification; it can
be undone by simply reinstalling the tube.
As discussed in Chapter 8, an amplifier's tone stack
introduces insertion loss, meaning that when the sig-
nal passes through the potentiometers, capacitors, and
resistors of a tone stack, the signal becomes weakened.
As a result, a second-stage preamp is employed to
restore the signal's gain. Deductive reasoning tells us
that if we eliminate the tone stack, we eliminate the
insertion loss. Furthermore, because a second stage of
preamp is in play, the full strength of the signal, freed
from its insertion loss, will get a large boost from this
second stage. Therefore, our next gain boosting mod
involves removing the tone stack from the circuit. Of
course, we're not going to physically remove it but
simply disconnect it, which has the same effect. This
process is much easier than it sounds. For the normal
channel, simply disconnect the 6.8-K-ohm midrange
resistor from the left lug of the bass pot. For the vibrato
channel, unsolder the ground connection from the left
lug of the midrange pot.
The obvious disadvantage of disconnecting the
tone stack involves the lack of tone control. The
coupling capacitors provide the only attenuation of
this pure, high-gain signal, and, by the way, that isn't
much attenuation. If you don't want to disable the tone
controls, a similar boost of gain can be garnered by
disconnecting the vibrato effect. Viewing the schemat-
ic for a dual channel Fender with vibrato shows a
connection between the vibrato intensity 50-K-ohm
potentiometer and the 220K channel mixing resistor of
the vibrato channel. This connection has the effect
of putting a 50-K-ohm resistor (the value of the poten-
tiometer) between the vibrato channel's preamp output
and ground, and, as such, pulls some of the signal to
ground. Removing this wire from the right lug of the
intensity potentiometer will free the signal from
the 50-K-ohm drain and, as a result, add some gain
to the signal. Of course, vibrato will be lost. Ultimately,
using either one of these gain boosts means sacrificing
something; however, one solution would be to sacrifice
instead one of the bright switches to use as a boost
switch that lifts either the vibrato pot from the signal
path or the mid pot from ground.
If you want to lift both vibrato and tone stack,
and you never use either bright switch, you could use
one bright switch to lift the tone stack and one to lift
the vibrato pot. Another option would be to replace the
bright switch for the vibrato channel with a miniature
DPST (double-pole, single-throw) or DPDT (double-
pole, double-throw) toggle switch and wire it to lift
both the vibrato channel's tone stack and intensity pot
simultaneously. To do this, simply combine the general
instructions for tone stack and vibrato intensity pot
lifting, as detailed below. Finally, if you use the bright
feature most of the time, consider "hard-wiring" it to
the circuit by disconnecting the lead of the bright cap
from the switch and soldering it to the middle lug of
the volume pot. By the way, this permanent bright fea-
ture is the stock configuration of the Deluxe Reverb's
vibrato channel.
Locate the intensity potentiometer and the mid-
range potentiometer for the vibrato channel. To remove
the intensity pot from the circuit (and by extension the
vibrato effect), disconnect the wire from the right lug of
the intensity pot. To make the modification switchable,
remove the wire and the capacitor from the bright switch.
In their place, connect the disconnected wire from the
intensity pot to one of the terminals, and to the other
terminal solder one end of an 8- to lO-inch wire; solder
the other end of the wire to the right lug of the intensity
pot. Now, when the switch is closed, the signal modu-
lation effect from the vibrato circuit functions as the
intensity pot remains connected, through the switch, to
the 220-K-ohm resistor on the circuit board. Conversely,
opening the switch prevents signal modulation since the
intensity pot's connection to the resistor opens, effective-
ly disabling the effect but keeping the intensity pot from
pulling any of the preamp signal to ground.
149 -
- 150
To liftthe vibrato effect, remove wire A from the intensity potentiometer. To liftthe tone stack, remove ground wire B from
the midrange potentiometer.
To lift the tone stack of the vibrato channel, discon-
nect the ground lead from the left lug of the midrange
potentiometer. To make this gain boost switchable,
remove the wire and capacitor from the bright switch
terminals and run a 4- to 5-inch wire from one ter-
minal of the switch to the disconnected left lug of the
midrange pot. Next, run a short jumper wire from
the other terminal of the bright switch to the left
(grounded) lug of the volume pot.
To add both of the mods-vibrato disabling and
tone stack lifting-I suggest replacing the bright switch
with a DPST or DPDT miniature toggle switch, as
mentioned earlier. The hookup is the same as with the
bright switches, but make sure to use the proper termi-
nals. Specifically, if the toggle has six terminals (as a
DPDT does), when viewing it from the back, connect
the wire you removed from the intensity pot to either
one of the center terminals and connect the new wire
running to the intensity pot to the terminal above that
one. Likewise, for the tone stack lift, connect the wire
you ran from the left lug of the mid pot to the other
center terminal of the switch and the jumper wire from
the left lug of the volume pot to the terminal above that
center terminal. Now, if you are using a DPST switch,
which has only four terminals, the hookup configura-
tion should be the same; that is, the pair of wires for
the intensity pot should be attached with one above the
other and, similarly, the pair from the mid and volume
pots should be attached one above the other.
If adding either or both of these modifications to
a Deluxe Reverb or similar Fender without a bright
switch and you want the mod to be switchable, you can
remove the number 2 input jack on the front of the amp
or the external speaker jack on the back. To use a min-
iature toggle switch, add a washer on either side of the
empty jack hole since the switch mount is too small for
the existing hole. Otherwise, a standard-sized toggle
switch will work. If using the external speaker jack,
make sure the negative feedback wire connecting to it
from the circuit board gets connected to the speaker
jack at the same connection point. This negative feed-
back configuration will be discussed shortly.
If you want to use the typical two-band normal
channel for the tone stack lift, the process is simi-
lar except, of course, there is no midrange pot from
which to remove the stack from ground. Instead, you'll
need to locate the resistor connected between the left
lug of the bass potentiometer and ground. Next, unsol-
der the resistor's connection to ground and run a wire
from the disconnected resistor lead to one of terminals
of the bright switch (after disconnecting the existing
wire and capacitor from the bright switch). The other
terminal of the bright switch should then be connected
via a jumper wire to the left (grounded) lug of the vol-
ume potentiometer.
So far, we've increased gain by locating areas of
the amp where gain becomes most apparently reduced,
specifically, the tone stack and the effects (reverb and
vibrato). Another area of gain reduction involves the
negative feedback loop. All Fender amps except for
some of the small, early tweed models, such as the
Champ, incorporate negative feedback as a means of
reducing interference and noise while increasing head-
room and overall stability. Feedback is perhaps most
familiar when describing the squeal that occurs when
placing a guitar against a live amp's speaker. While this
effect is indeed called feedback, it is more accurately
termed positive feedback, meaning that an output
signal-or part of an output signal-is fed back into
the input of the amp, or an earlier portion of the amp.
This output signal is in phase with the input signal and
so the overall signal builds upon itself positively until
oscillation occurs: thus the squealing sound. Negative
feedback, on the other hand, signifies an out-of-phase
or opposing output signal, or a portion of the output
signal, fed back into an earlier stage of the amp. In
terms of a Fender amplifier's negative feedback loop,
a small amount of signal from the speaker jack passes
through a resistor connected to the phase inverter.
Being out of phase with the incoming signal, it tends to
cancel the signal. Because the negative feedback signal
is small, the cancellation is small, yet large enough to
cancel unwanted noise. Since cancellation doesn't dis-
criminate, the overall signal is affected and, as a result,
gain is reduced.
An old trick entails disconnecting
the negative feedback wire from the
speaker to jack to get back gain and, by
extension, distortion. While in an older
amp such as a tweed model, this might
be practical, on a blackface or newer
model this technique often becomes a
direct path to oscillation. Granted you
might not always encounter oscillation;
it might come on gradually or even not
at all. The amp, though, will undoubt-
edly feel unstable. I suggest giving it a try
and see for yourself, as we will discuss
shortly. To retain stability and still retain
lost gain, technicians often use larger
value negative feedback (NFB) resistors,
thus reducing the amount of signal can-
cellation. This technique is simple and
will be our next modification.
suffers. A better approach, and the centerpiece of this
mod, involves replacing the jumper with a 1.5-K-ohm,
1/2-watt resistor. Anything up to 10 K-ohms will work.
Be aware that with this configuration the external
speaker jack won't function properly. If you still want
the jack to function, instead of replacing the jumper,
disconnect from the jack the wire coming from the cir-
cuit board and place the resistor between that wire and
its former connection on the external speaker jack. See
the photo on the next page for that wire's location. To
make this gain boost technique switch able, use either
Note that this mod isn't necessary
with Hot Rod or Bassman tweed and
Bassman reiss ue models since these am pli-
fiers have a presence control that more or
less adjusts the negative feedback. When
turning the presence control full blast
on these amps, you'll notice an increase
in background hiss; this is a result of
negative feedback being decreased. For
other Fender amps, first locate the wire
that runs from the speaker jack to the
circuit board. On most Fenders this wire
will actually be connected to the exter-
nal speaker jack, located right next to
the usual speaker jack. There will then
be a small jumper wire between the
speaker jack and the external speaker
jack, soldered to the same lug as the
negative feedback (NFB) wire coming
from the circuit board. Refer to the
top photo on page 152 for the jumper
wire's location.
To use this Radio Shack DPDT miniature toggle for a combined vibrato
and tone stack lift, connect wires from the intensity potentiometer
By disconnecting the jumper, NFB
will be removed from the circuit. You
to terminals A and B; connect wires from the mid and volume
potentiometers to terminals C and D.
may be able to run the amp with the To lift the tone stack of a typical two-band Fender normal channel,
jumper disconnected but, again, stability disconnect resistor A from ground.
151 -
- 152
one of the bright switches or install a SPST toggle
switch in place of the external speaker jack. Simply
run a wire from each end of the newly installed resis-
tor to each terminal of the switch. The idea is to have
the switch, when engaged, function as a jumper across
the resistor and thus restore the NFB loop to its orig-
inal configuration.
In Chapter 8 when describing the Dumble-inspired
modification, I briefly discussed how the added deep
switch could be converted to a gain boost switch. When
viewing a typical Fender schematic, you'll see that the
signal coming into the tone stack splits between the 250-
pF treble cap and the 100-K-ohm slope resistor. Once
past the slope resistor the signal splits again between
the O.l-uF bass cap and 0.022-uF midrange cap. This
mod takes the bass signal from the O.l-uF cap, passes
it through a resistor, a switch, and another resistor,
and then feeds it into the wiper of the volume control,
which, as the schematic shows, is on the other end of
the tone stack. Essentially, a large portion of the bass
signal bypasses the tone stack and volume pot, resulting
in a noticeable low-end boost. We will pick up on this
explanation again after detailing the
instructions for the mod.
The first step is to disconnect the
wire and cap from one of the bright
switches (whichever one you use least).
If you want the boost to be for the
vibrato channel, you don't have to dis-
able the vibrato channel bright switch;
you can use the normal channel bright
switch, and vice versa (normal chan-
nel boost with vibrato channel bright
switch). Also be aware that besides dis-
abling a bright switch, the tone controls
will have a noticeably reduced function.
In fact, the bass potentiometer will act
more like a level control for the boost
than as a bass control. Also note that this
is a bass-focused boost; treble will be
somewhat diminished.
Replace jumper wire A with a 1.5-K-ohm to 10-K-ohm, 1/2-watt resistor
as a means of reducing negative feedback and increasing gain. To keep
the external speaker jack functioning, instead of replacing the jumper,
disconnect wire B and install the resistor between it and its original
connecting pointto the external speaker jack.
Solder a 270-K-ohm resistor to the
wiper (middle lug) of the volume pot
and a 270-K-ohm resistor to the left lug
of the treble pot (when viewing it with
the lugs positioned upward). Make sure
Here, the switchable deep gain boost mod has been installed in the normal channel ofthis silverface.
to keep the existing wires attached to the pot lugs when
soldering the resistors to them. Solder a wire from each
of the open leads of the resistors (two wires, one for
each resistor). Next, solder the other ends of the wires
to the open terminals of the disabled bright switch
(one wire to each of the two terminals) . The function
should be such that when you engage the bright switch,
the two resistors become connected to one another.
This arrangement causes much of the low-frequency
signal from the first-stage preamp to bypass the tone
stack and flow directly into the second-stage preamp,
thus limiting the insertion loss, at least of the low end.
Enough signal will run through the tone stack to ren-
der minimal tone shaping control. Mostly, you'll have
a heavy, rich, and deep low-mid and bass tone boost,
not to mention markedly increased volume. For accu-
racy, we should call this modification "the switch able
deep gain boost mod."
Switchable deep gain boost will also work in Fender
reissue amps that have a bright switch, although it may
prove challenging to work with the pots and switch due
to the use of pc boards in these amps. For all reissues
as well as silverface and blackface models that don' t
have a bright switch, you'll need to install a switch
elsewhere, such as in the hole for the number 2 input
after removing its jack. On amps with pc boards this
process will be difficult and nerve-wracking. In that
case, definitely reconsider installing this mod. For Hot
Rod models, there is no need to install gain boosting
modifications as long as you tune-up the overdrive cir-
cuit as detailed in Chapter 6.
Adding Gain Stages to the Preamp
As we've seen, many different techniques exist for boost-
ing preamp gain. The ones detailed here involve disa bling
various circuits or parts of circuits to enable more gain.
While guitar amplifiers have a large gain potential on
their own, the addition of tone stacks, effects, and nega-
tive feedback all tend to reduce that gain potential. Take
the typical blackface vibrato channel, for instance-the
first triode amplifies the input signal, which then passes
through the tone stack to a second triode after which
the signal is split, sent through two more amplifying
stages around the reverb tank, after which the signal is
combined and sent through yet one more triode before
entering the phase inverter. That's plenty of triodes. In
the normal channel, by contrast, the signal only passes
through two triodes, one on each side of the tone stack,
before heading to the phase inverter. While these chan-
nels aren't quite equal in terms of loudness, the levels
aren't that much different. The point here is that due to
the addition of reverb and vibrato effects, the vibrato
channel uses more than twice the triode stages than
does the normal channel.
In this section we will approach gain boosting by
adding an extra tube stage. Instead of adding an extra
tu be, though, we will be redirecting, as it were, the
existing tube's function, replacing its designated use
with the alternative duty of delivering lots of gain.
Since even the addition of one triode has the poten-
tial to provide an overwhelming amount of gain to the
preamp, we need a means of controlling the delivery of
that gain. As indicated at the beginning of the chap-
ter, switches and potentiometers offer the pri mary
For an added gain stage, remove connections from A and B, solder a 220-K-ohm resistor to B, solder the cable from
A to the resistor, and solder the cable from B to point A. For full gain potential, liftthe tone stack as detailed in the
accompanying text.
153 -
- 154
methods of controlling gain. To that end, our first mod
uses one of the amp's existing volume controls to vary
gain, while the second mod makes use of the multiple
input jacks to provide a high-gain input in addition to
the standard input. Finally, the last mod outlines the
procedure for incorporating a switch or relay to flip
between normal gain and high gain.
Adding a gain stage for overdrive to a dual chan-
nel silverface, blackface, or blackface reissue isn't as
difficult as it sounds. Be aware, though, that the amp
becomes a single channel due to the disabling of the
normal channel's functionality (although the normal
channel's input jacks become the only functioning
input). Moreover, the larger the increase in gain, the
greater the accompanying background noise. Expect
your amp to have some added interference. First,
locate the shielded cable coming from normal volume
from pin 7 of the first tube on the right (tube VI).
On a reissue this will be a wire that runs from the
circuit board to pin 7 of VI. Unsolder this cable or
wire from pin 7. Next, locate the shielded cable that
runs from the vibrato channel's input jacks (actually the
input jacks' resistors) to pin 2 of the second tube from
the right (tube V2). Again, on a reissue this is a wire
that comes from the circuit board. Unsolder this cable
or wire from pin 2 of V2. Next, solder a 220-K-ohm
resistor to pin 2 of V2. The resistor value isn't critical
but should be close to 220-K-ohm. In fact, you can go
quite a bit lower for a little more gain boost; however,
the resistor functions to reduce parasitic oscillation
as well as to properly couple the triodes. Now, solder
the volume cable or wire that was on pin 7 of VI to the
other end of this resistor, and install the cable or wire
that was on pin 2 of V2 to pin 7 of VI. The reason for
Adding an extra gain stage to a blackface reissue is essentially the same as adding one to an original blackface. Remove
the wires from A and B, solder a 220-K-ohm resistor to B, solder the wire from A to the resistor, and solder the wire
from B to point A. Lifting the tone stack on a reissue requires more work than lifting a blackface's tone stack. See the
accompanying text.
To lift the tone stack in a dual channel blackface reissue requires flipping the tone control pc board around. Unsolder one
lead of normal channel's midrange resistor (usually designated as R9) and remove the lead from its mounting hole.
making this last connection on VI is to ground the
grid of the unused triode of VI; otherwise the tube will
generate noise and could go into a runaway condition,
which is definitely not good for the tube. As long as
the vibrato channel's input jacks stay ground-that is,
unused-the grid will stay ground.
Finally, to get the full gain potential from the added
triode, consider lifting the normal channel's tone stack.
Perhaps try the amp with the tone stack connected and
hear if you like it. The amp is still going to have plenty of
added gain with the tone stack engaged. Furthermore,
a functioning treble control on the normal channel acts
like a high-cut filter that helps eliminate background
noises. Lifting the tone, as you might recall, is fairly
easy on a silverface or blackface model. Simply unsolder
either lead of the resistor attached to the left lug of the
bass potentiometer. Also, consider converting the nor-
mal channel's bright switch into a tone stack disabling
switch as detailed earlier in this chapter. On a blackface
reissue, lifting the tone stack proves more difficult since
the pc board to which all the pots and jacks mount has
to be removed. Removing the board involves removing
all the knobs and all the pot and jack mounting nuts.
The board doesn't need to come all the way out, though;
it just needs to come out far enough to flip it downward.
Locate the normal channel's midrange resistor (usually
designated R9, but check the schematic, as I've also seen
it designated RS) just below the bass potentiometer,
unsolder one of the leads, and then lift the lead out of
its mounting hole. After considering these procedures,
you might decide to keep the tone stack engaged. The
extra work may not be worth the extra gain with
the extra background noise.
After the mod's completion, plugging a guitar into
the normal channel input will give you the full pre-
amp chain. Use the normal channel volume control as
a gain control or preamp volume control (both mean
the same thing here). The volume control of the vibrato
channel, on the other hand, now acts like a master
volume or second preamp volume (again, the same
thing). If you didn't lift the tone stack, both of the
channels' tone controls will function, with, again, the
treble control making a handy high-cut filter. Turning
the normal channel volume to near full and using the
vibrato channel volume at a lower setting to set overall
volume will give the overdrive effect at lower volumes,
or vice versa, meaning either volume control can be
used to control the overall volume. Conversely, turning
both volume controls to a high setting gives a huge gain
boost. Be aware that if you plug a guitar into either
jack of the vibrato channel, you will be plugging into a
triode with no volume control, meaning the signal will
155 -
- 156
For the next modification, locate the vibrato channel's number one input jack. The connection
between the jack's grounding ring, A, and its shorting blade, B, needs to be opened. The 68-K-ohm
resistor, C, for input jack number two also gets disconnected.
be at full blast. Yet, this full-throttle half-tube channel
won't be as loud as a full-tube channel. It will have
an interesting compressed sound to it, but with a fair
amount of background noise. Give it a try for the heck
of it; the guitar's volume and tone controls will be the
only controls over the half-channel.
As an extra precaution, though, consider ground-
ing pin 7 of VI (the unused triode's grid). One way to
do this is to unsolder the other end of the cable you
connected to VI from the two 68-K-ohm resistors at
the vibrato channel's input jacks, and solder it to the
input jack lug to which its shielding attaches. In other
words, solder the center conductor to ground. On a
blackface reissue, unsolder the other end of the wire
you connected to VI from the circuit and solder it to
ground, such as the grounding lug for the footswitch
jack or the upper (negative) lead of one of the cathode
capacitors, such as C6, on the circuit board. You might
have to extend the wire if it won't reach. Note that now
the vibrato input jacks will essentially be useless since
they are disconnected from everything.
Rather than leaving the second triode of VI unused,
it too can be added to the chain of preamp stages, the
result being, not surprisingly, an immense amount
of gain with an annoying amount of noise. I advise
against adding this second triode since making it func-
tion properly requires a major amp overhaul. Without
changing key components, replacing potentiometers,
and rewiring the controls, adding both triodes as they
are configured will not have desirable tone and, in fact,
might be quite noisy.
A variation of the previous configuration for adding
an extra gain stage allows you to use the normal chan-
nel input as a high-gain channel and the vibrato channel
input as a standard gain channel. Because blackface reis-
sues have their input jacks attached to a pc board, the
modification is meant only for silverface and blackface
models. The setup works basically the same as above:
A triode from the normal channel becomes the first
preamp stage. Yet, whereas with the previous configu-
ration the extra preamp remains continuously engaged,
this configuration makes use of the input jack's short-
ing feature (refer to the photo above). Normally, when
a guitar is not plugged in, the input blade of the jack
contacts another blade that connects to ground through
the jack's grounding ring. Once a guitar is plugged in,
As detailed in the instructions, after removing the cable from pin 7 of Vl, the empty pin should be grounded to either the
reverb jack ground, orthe cathode resistor and capacitor ground. Here, the reverb jack ground is indicated atA.
the input blade's connection to the grounded shorting
blade opens, allowing the guitar signal to enter the pre-
amp. This arrangement keeps the grid of the first triode
grounded when nothing is plugged into the amp and,
by extension, keeps the amp stable and quiet. If we
disconnect the shorting blade and instead connect it to
the output of an extra preamp stage, when nothing is
plugged into the jack, this extra preamp will feed into
the input of the existing preamp. Conversely, if we plug
a guitar into the jack, the extra preamp disengages from
the jack and therefore from the existing preamp, allow-
ing only the guitar signal into the existing preamp.
Referring to the photograph above, locate and
disconnect the shielded cable from pin 7 of the nor-
mal channel's preamp tube, the first tube on the right
(tube VI). Referring to the previous photo, locate
the number 1 vibrato channel input jack and discon-
nect or cut the wire between the grounding ring lug
and the shorting blade lug (the wire is the lower lead
of the I-M-ohm resistor that bridges the lugs; the
shorting blade lug is the uppermost one). Also discon-
nect the 68-ohm resistor from the number 2 vibrato
channel input. Next, solder the cable you unhooked
from pin 7 of VI to the shorting blade lug of the
number 1 vibrato channel input (the lug that you dis-
connected from the grounding ring). Finally, solder a
5- to 6-inch wire from the now-empty pin 7 of VI
to ground. Good grounding spots include the ground-
ing lug of the reverb out jack (where the black wire
from the reverb transformer connects) or the ground
junction of the cathode resistors and capacitors from
VI and V2. When plugging into the normal channel
input, the normal channel's tone and volume controls
function with the first gain stage (the normal channel)
while the vibrato channel's tone and volume controls
act somewhat like master controls. On the other hand,
when plugged into the vibrato channel input, the amp
works as usual. Note, that the number 2 vibrato chan-
nel input will be inoperative.
As guitar amp technicians have known for decades,
the tweed-era Bassman is especially suited for convert-
ing one of its two input preamp stages into an extra
gain stage. Whereas later dual channel Fenders have
more-or-Iess two distinct channels, the tweed Bassman
essentially has two slightly different input channels,
meaning that a dual triode is split, with one triode for
each input. The resulting signals are then mixed by the
volume controls and sent to the second preamp stage.
One glance at the schematic reveals that the only dif-
ference between these two input channels, one labeled
"bright" and the other "normal," is the presence of a
IOO-pF capacitor across the bright channel's volume
potentiometer. Just like the bright switch capacitor
on later Fenders, the Bassman bright cap allows high
tonal frequencies to pass around the volume pot, giv-
ing this channel its name. One of the beauties of this
arrangement, at least in my mind, is the ease at which
one of the input triodes can be staged in front of the
other, allowing for the mid-heavy crunch of this amp
to really come through.
Now, I realize that I could be drawn and quartered
for suggesting that a tweed-era Bassman should be
modified in such a way. I assure you that the mod is
nondestructive and the amp easily restored, as long as
you have decent soldering skills and don't burn up wires
while you're poking around in the chassis. Yet, if you or
someone you know owns an original tweed Bassman
and you want to leave it alone, by all means don't do
this mod. On the other hand, chances are fairly slim
that you'll find a tweed Bassman that hasn't had some
sort of work done on it, possibly even have been the
victim of a butcher's soldering iron. The good news is,
157 -
- 158
this mod can also be done on a' 59 Bassman Reissue, even
without replacing its printed circuit board (although, I
think it's always a good idea to have it replaced with a
point-to-point-style epoxy board or tag board).
First, the sacrilegious suggestion: On a tweed
Bassman, remove the wire that runs from the center
lug of the normal channel's volume pot to the board.
Solder one lead of a 220-K-ohm, 112-watt resistor to
the volume pot's center lug and the other lead to the
lug on the bright channel's number 1 input jack, which
connects to the lug of the number 2 input jack (the
1-M -ohm resistor and a wire going to the circuit board
also connect here; leave those in place). That's all there
is to it. If the leads of the resistor aren't long enough,
just add an extension wire to one end. Furthermore,
make sure to cover the exposed resistor leads with heat
shrink tubing or, at the least, electrician's tape. Now,
plug your guitar into the normal channel. The normal
channel volume control sets the gain level of the added
triode stage while the bright channel volume control
sets the overall preamp volume. I would suggest not
plugging anything into the bright channel inputs as
things will sound bad. In fact, I strongly recommend a
more professional way to perform this mod: Unsolder
the wire from the number 1 bright channel input jack
and instead of soldering the 220-K-ohm resistor to the
volume wiper, solder it right to this wire, completely
bypassing the input jack. This will ensure that if any-
one plugs into the bright channel number 1 input,
nothing will happen.
For the '59 Bassman Reissue the operation is only
slightly more complex. Because the potentiometers on
the reissue are soldered to a printed circuit board rather
than having wires run from them, we can't use the same
approach as before. (It is possible that your reissue might
have had the pots replaced without using the pc board,
but not likely.) There are several different approaches
that can be used. The one I favor is to disconnect the
wire from pin 7 of the first tube on the right (tube V1).
This wire brings the input signal to the grid of the bright
channel's input triode. Either remove this wire com-
pletely (preferred method) or tape the exposed end and
tie the wire away. Next, on the right side of the circuit
board, locate R12, the 270-K-ohm resistor right next to
C24, the large 22-uF electrolytic capacitor, which is just
to the left of another large 22 uF electrolytic capacitor
(C24 being the second electrolytic cap from the right).
Lift the lower lead of R12 by carefully heating it with
a soldering iron while simultaneously either pulling the
lead up gently with small needle-nose pliers or lightly
prying it upward with a small screwdriver between it
and the board. Take your time, remain patient, and be
limited with the application of the soldering iron. Once
the lead has been removed from its mounting hole,
solder one end of a wire to it and the other end of the
wire to the empty pin 7 of Vl. The volume controls will
function as they do with the tweed Bassman mod above;
however, you won't need to take precautions regarding
the bright channel inputs since they become completely
disabled when the first wire has been removed from pin
While adding an extra gain stage from one of an
amplifier's existing tubes may not be a difficult proce-
dure, adding a switch that can enable and disable the
added gain stage or stages proves to be more compli-
cated. While finding a location for the switch may not
present a challenge-a DPDT miniature toggle switch
could replace a bright switch, or a number 2 input jack
might be sacrificed for standard size DPDT toggle-
running numerous wires that carry signals does pose
problems of potential buzzing and hissing. The poten-
tial introduction of noise necessitates the use of shielded
cable and using the shortest runs as possible. Finally,
because cables are thicker and less flexible than wires,
and because space is at a premium behind the front
panel of a typical silverface, soldering cables to the back
of the switch can be challenging, as can be preventing
the surrounding wires from being burned by the solder-
ing iron. One solution entails leaving the switch loose,
unmounted until after you attach the cables. Of course,
the easiest solution involves forgoing the use of switches
entirely. Indeed, with the previous modification of add-
ing separate high-gain and standard inputs, the use of
a switch is unnecessary. And certainly, adding a switch
to a vintage tweed Bassman seems down-right wrong;
whereas, adding one to a Bassman reissue presents
unnecessary challenges. That leaves our first modifica-
tion of this section. However, be aware that the large
sound level difference between normal gain and gain
boost makes flipping in and out of gain during a song
impractical, unless of course you're aiming for a volume
boost, such as during a lead.
The gain modification procedure we'll use when
incorporating the switch differs slightly from what we
previously did. Specifically, rather than switching the
cable at the tube sockets, we'll switch them at the pots
and jacks, close to the location of the switch.
The terminal numbers in the following instructions
refer to the number designations for the terminals in
the diagram. First, determine whether to replace the
normal channel bright switch or the number 1 or 2
input jacks of the vibrato channel with a double-pole,
double-throw switch. Next remove either the bright
switch or jack. Note that it will be easier to wire the
DPDT switch before mounting it to the chassis.
Solder a jumper wire from terminal 2 to terminal
5 of the switch.
Run a wire from terminal 1 to ground, such as the
left lug of either volume pot.
Unsolder the cable from 68-K-ohm resistors of the
normal channel's input jacks and solder the cable to
terminal 3 of the switch.
Double-Pole, Double-Throw Switch Terminals
To Ground
To Pin 2 ofV1
To Normal Input
-+- Jumper 2 to 5
4_ +-
To Pin 20fV2
From Normal
Volume Pot
This diagram shows the connections to the terminals atthe rear of a double-pole, double-throw switch.
Unsolder the cable from the
middle of the vibrato channel's vol-
ume pot and solder it to terminal 4
of the switch.
Run a new shielded cable from
the 68-K-ohm resistors of the nor-
mal channel's input jacks, the same
place from where you removed the
cable in step C to terminal 5 of
the switch. Ground the shielding to
terminal 1. Refer to Chapter 6 for
instructions regarding the prepara-
tion of shielded cable.
16 THS ' 1 2
Unsolder the cable from the A low-voltage, physically small relay suitable for use as a remote gain switch.
middle lug of the normal channel's
volume pot and solder it to the left
lug of the pot, effectively grounding it and, in turn, the
grid of the unused triode of the normal channel.
Run a new shielded cable from the middle lug of
the normal channel's volume pot to terminal 6 of the
switch. Again, ground the shielding to terminal 1.
You now have switch able gain. The normal chan-
nel's input jacks now become the only functioning
jacks. Flipping the gain switch will switch a triode in
and out of the first preamp stage position.
Enabling high-gain at the flip of a switch is fine if
you aren't planning on using it in the middle of a song,
in which case, the presence of a switch seems unnec-
essary. A better plan would be to use a footswitch
so that you can flip in and out of high gain without
your hands leaving the guitar. It's extremely unwise,
not to mention impractical, to run signal wires out
of an amp, 6 feet across the floor, into a footswitch,
and then 6 feet back across the floor and back into the
amp. The length and twists of the previous sentence
demonstrates the stretch the amp signal would have
to take, and besides being weakened by that obstacle
course, the signal would invariably pick up all man-
ner of interference. If one follows that course, I assure
you, there will be anguish. The solution, then, involves
some form of remote switching, a way to keep the
signal in the amp while being able to engage and dis-
engage gain from a distance. The most common device
suitable for this purpose is a small relay consisting of a
low-voltage winding, which, when engaged, pulls a set
of internal contacts closed. Furthermore, the contacts
need to be configured in a double-pole, double-throw
(DPDT) arrangement, just like our switch. In fact, the
configuration is exactly the same, except instead of
flipping a toggle to move the switch contacts, a relay
159 -
- 160
uses electromagnetism to pull them open and closed.
Additionally, a small relay can be mounted in the
amp's chassis with a dab of silicon adhesive.
When properly connected to a power supply, low
voltage will be present in the winding at all times and
when we engage a footswitch it will ground the oppo-
site end of the winding from where the voltage enters. In
this way only a small voltage surrounded by grounded
shielding passes through the cord to the footswitch,
which grounds the voltage to the shielding, allowing
the winding of the relay to move the contacts.
Several different ratings determine the uses of a
typical relay, for our purposes the most relevant being
the voltage rating of the winding. Since the signal
wires going to the relay contacts draw a miniscule
amount of current and carry low voltages, the contact
ratings aren't as important. The winding, on the other
hand, should be rated at 5 or 6 volts so that the low-
voltage tube filament and lamp supply can be used to
power the relay. Note that the voltage requirement for
the winding will be for DC voltage. Also note that
the filament voltage supply is AC. Batteries have been
Variable Gain Modification
While this modification doesn't add an extra gain
stage, it does provide a way to switch between
a lower preamp gain (for clean guitar playing,
for instance) and the regular preamplifier gain.
As discussed in Chapter 3, the gain of a triode
is partially determined by the cathode bypass
capacitor. Because a capacitor passes AC voltage,
portions of the signal that collect at the cathode
are shunted to ground. Withoutthis shunting, the
signal will act as negative feedback that reduces
the gain of the triode while also quieting background
noise. The standard Fender value of 25 uF allows
a relatively high amount of gain and doesn't really
differ from the more contemporary value of 22 uF
(which is essentially the same as 25 uF when typical
10 percenttolerance range is taken into account) .
Marshall, though, sometimes uses a 250-uF as a
cathode bypass capacitor on the first-stage preamp.
Atfirst glance, the gain difference between a
25-uF and 250-uF might seem rather pronounced.
Yet a more dramatic sonic contrast exists between
a 25-uF capacitor and none at all. With no cathode
bypass capacitor, the preamp volume level will
be reduced and the tone clean, making the amp
well-suited for an acoustic guitar pickup or general
rhythm guitar. If you find the gain too low with no
capacitor, you can instead use a 0.47- or 0.68-
uF film capacitor. For a little more gain a 2.2-uF
electrolytic capacitor will also work. Even though
used successfully to power small relays and can be
mounted in the cabinet with wires running to the
relay mounted inside the chassis. A more permanent
solution consists of building a small voltage rectifier
for the relay. Of course things get much more compli-
cated here, and we're pushing the limits of the scope of
this book. I recommend visiting Doug Hoffman's web-
site, www.el34world.com. where he provides detailed
instructions on not only how to install and wire a relay
in an amp, but also how to build a power supply for
the relay.
Personally, I usually don't bother with relays but
do occasionally incorporate a switch in the chassis. For
the most part, my approach for boosting the gain of a
Fender isn't so much to provide an additional overdrive
distortion effect-pedals work great for that. Rather,
I consider boosting gain in a Fender to be an enhance-
ment measure, something that adds bolder, thicker
tone with overtones of distortion, such as the proce-
dures at the beginning of this chapter. Yet, on the other
hand, it's important to explore many of the potentials
that can be unlocked in a single amp.
The normal channel on this silverface has switchable low
gain feature through the normal channel bright switch.
the reduction in gain makes an amp quieter, it
allows a broader range of the volume control
and encourages more harmonic distortion from
the outputtubes. By converting a bright switch
away from its usual function of passing high-
treble frequencies, you can flip the switch from
normal gain to a clean, quieter low-gain effect.
There are basically three places where
you can provide a normal gain to low gain
switching option: the first stage of the normal
channel, the first stage of the vibrato channel,
or the combined second stages of the normal
and vibrato channels. The later position is
possible because the second-stage triodes of
both channels use a linked cathode design with
shared cathode resistor and bypass capacitor.
The tonal distinctions among these positions
are slight, so the primary decision should be
based on which channel you wantto have the
low-gain option.
The procedure is simple. Unsolder the lead
atthe negative end of the bypass capacitor,
solder a wire to the disconnected lead, long
enough to reach one of the bright switches,
and cover the lead with heat shrink tubing or
tape. Because only one lead of the capacitor
is left connected, the mounting may be a little
unstable. A small drop of silicon adhesive
between the cap and the board will keep it
secure. Unlike glue, silicon adhesive is flexible
and is fairly easy to remove. Be aware that
one of the bright switches will be disabled. If
your amp doesn't have a bright switch, you can
install a switch in the spot normally occupied
by the number 2 input jack after unsoldering the
wire and resistor from the jack and removing
Here the normal channel switches between standard gain
and a lower gain due to the lower value cathode capacitor
added to the circuit. The SPST mini-toggle switch is shown
unmounted to reveal the terminal hookup.
it. If using the brightswitch, unsolder the existing wire and capacitor from it and solder a 100-K-ohm or larger (up
to l-M-ohm) resistor across the switch (one lead to each ofthe switch terminals). The purpose ofthe resistor is to
eliminate any "popping" sound when switching the bypass capacitor into the circuit while the amp is running. Next,
solder one end of a wire to the volume potentiometer's ground lug (the left one) and the other end to one of the
switch terminals. Finally, solder the free end ofthe wire from the bypass capacitor lead to the other terminal of
the switch. If adding a switch in place of an input jack, follow the same procedure, making sure to solder the
shielding from the cable to the ground lug of the number 1 input jack if you unsoldered it from the number 2 input
jack. Also, solder the lead from the 68-K-ohm resistor, originally connected to the number 2 input, to the same
lug of the number 1 input to which the other 68-K-ohm resistor is soldered. This puts the resistors in parallel and
therefore replicates the original jack hookup.
To enable switching between the 25-uF bypass resistor and an added 0.47-, 0.68-, or 2.2-uF capacitor, replace
the bright switch with a single-pole, double-throw (SPOT) switch. A OPOT can also be used, but you'll only use
one side of it. Mountthe additional capacitor nextto the existing cathode capacitor by soldering its lower lead
(with the chassis oriented with the tubes at bottom) into the same mounting hole as the cathode resistor's lower
lead. Rememberto observe polarity if using a 2.2 electrolytic capacitor. Use a small amount of silicone adhesive to
secure the cap to the board. Follow the steps above for installing and wiring the switch, except connect the middle
terminal ofthe switch to ground and solder each wire from the upper leads of each capacitorto the top and bottom
terminals (one wire to each terminal). Now when flipping the switch the gain will shift from normal gain (using the
25-uF cathode resistor) to a lower gain (the additional capacitor), but higherthan if no capacitor is used.
161 -
chapter 1 0
The modifications in this chapter are advanced and
meant for those with a decent grasp of electronics
and more than basic soldering skills. However, the
information in this chapter should prove instruc-
tive to anyone wanting to move beyond basic Fender
modifications. There are only two modifications in this
chapter, one for installing a classic Marshall-style preamp
and one for installing an early Vox-style preamp. These
are followed by a brief discussion of the Bassman chan-
nel-bridging technique and the ways in which it can and
cannot be used with these modifications.
Since most blackface and silverface Fenders have
two channels, the normal channel preamp can be con-
verted into a Marshall or Vox preamp and the vibrato
channel can retain its Fender preamp with reverb. It
will be somewhat like having two amps in one cabinet.
I say "somewhat" because the output stage remains the
same. Another option might be to convert the normal
channel preamp to a Vox and the vibrato channel pre-
amp to a Marshall; however, as will be mentioned later,
due to its reverb effect, the vibrato channel won't have
that rich, mid-heavy tone. In fact, the mid-frequency
boost tends to muddy the reverb, which ultimately
responds better to the treble-focused, mid-scooped
tone of the standard Fender preamp.
Marshall Channel Modification
First of all, this modification involves the preamp and
not the power amp, meaning this will not make your
Fender sound like a vintage Marshall. The output
remains clearly Fender. First of all, in a Fender dual-
channel amp, two preamp channels share a single
output stage. But beyond that, even if a dual channel
had two separate output stages, replacing the Fender
output with a Marshall output wouldn't be worth the
cost or effort. A quality output transformer alone costs
more than $100, and to make it fit means drilling new
mounting holes in the chassis.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's
point out what will change. Converting one of the
Derek Trucks' blackface Super Reverb. Derek Trucks
Collection/Rick Gould
preamp channels to a Marshall configuration adds
more mid-rich gain. In fact, the amp will sound more
like a vintage tweed Bassman than a Marshall, since
the preamp of a vintage Marshall is basically the same
as that of a tweed Bassman.
The following instructions focus on converting the
normal channel of a dual blackface or silverface model
and will not work on a blackface reissue unless it has
had the pc board swapped with what I've been calling
a Hoffman board. The normal channel configura-
tion brings us closer to the classic Marshall/Bassman
sound than does that of the vibrato channel with its
additional reverb and vibrato effects circuitry, neither
of which belongs to a classic Marshall or Bassman.
However, you can easily adapt these instructions to
the vibrato channel in which case I recommend using
an added cathode follower (to be explained shortly)
after the second triode, prior to the signal split into
the reverb circuit. In this way, the signal will have its
tone shaped before being run through the reverb tank.
While it doesn't make a world of difference, I feel that
the tone sounds better when shaped prior to reverb,
which tends to complicate frequency separation.
An obvious disadvantage to using the typical nor-
mal channel involves the two-band tone stack. Since
Marshalls have three-band tone stacks, the vibrato
channel seems the better choice for conversion, yet,
again, the inclusion of reverb and vibrato moves us fur-
ther away from Marshall territory than does the lack
of a midrange control. Moreover, I originally intended
this modification for the silverface Fender Twin, which
does have a three-band tone stack for its normal chan-
nel. The following rendition of the Twin mod attempts
to universalize the mod, adapting it to the typical
blackface and silverface two-band normal channel.
As discussed in Chapter 8, a primary difference
between the preamp of a tweed Bassman, and by exten-
sion a classic Marshall, and that of a blackface or later
Fender entails both the location of the tone stack and
the use of a cathode follower between it and the pre-
vious second-stage triode preamp circuit. As pointed
out, even though the cathode follower contributes no
gain to the signal, its design allows for less insertion
loss from the tone stack and therefore allows more gain
to be retained and passed on to the output stage of the
163 -
- 164
V212 AX7
Standard Blackface Fender Twin Channel
V212 AX7
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Middle Treble Volume
10K-A 250K-A 1 M-A
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165 -
- 166
amp. The technical reason for this retention of signal
gain involves the high-input impedance of the cathode
follower design in conjunction with its low-output
impedance. This means, roughly, that its high-input
impedance more easily accepts the signal from the lower
(but still high) impedance output of the previous stage
and doesn't load down that stage as it would if its input
impedance were lower. Furthermore, the low-output
impedance of the cathode follower more adequately
matches the low impedance of a tone stack so that little
of the signal's strength is lost in the passage.
18 TH8 1
The IRF820 with TO-262 package design, a standard power
MOSFET. Lead 1 is the gate, lead 2 is the drain, and lead 3
is the source.
Of course, the main difficulty with using a cathode
follower in a Fender amp entails using another triode.
Drilling an extra hole in the chassis to fit a new tube
proves impractical and disabling the vibrato effect to
use its tube may be undesirable, and, at least in my
opinion, unnecessary. This latter choice, by the way,
has been the usual route taken when adding a cath-
ode follower to a Fender. Yet, an increasingly common
technique for adding a cathode follower involves using
a MOSFET, or metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect
transistor. The MOSFET, a solid-state device, works
here as an impedance matching device and in no way
alters the signal, but instead reproduces it exactly,
meaning it's a highly linear device. Using a MOSFET
rather than a tube as a cathode follower also means
that you don't have to worry about high-cathode volt-
age. The reason for this relates to the rating limit of the
insulation between the filament and cathode of a typi-
cal indirectly heated cathode tube (such as those used
in guitar amps). In short, MOSFETs don' t use heaters
and cathodes. The specific type of MOSFET doesn't
matter too much, as long as it is rated for 500 volts or
higher and uses a TO-220, TO-262, or similar pack-
age design. An IRF 820 is an excellent candidate as are
the IRF 830, MTP 3N50, and BUZ74.
Recall that with a typical
triode, electron flow is from the
cathode to the plate, with the
control grid influencing that
flow. A similar process occurs
with the MOSFET; the source's
operation roughly equates to
that of the cathode, the drain to
that of the plate, and the gate to
that of the control grid. A similar
comparison exists with a typical
transistor; the source is roughly
equivalent to the emitter, the
drain to the collector, and the
gate to the base. Of course, all
three devices have unique func-
tioning and these comparisons
are only meant to give a general
idea of MOSFET operation as it
relates to our use.
Key components involved in the Marshall preamp channel conversion include
(A) midrange resistor, (8) normal channel coupling capacitor, (C) slope resistor,
(D) midrange capacitor, (E) bass capacitor, (F) and (G) plate wires, (H) triode
one plate resistor, (J) vibrato channel coupling capacitor, (K) jumper for vibrato
channel plate resistors, and (L) grounding point.
After removing the chas-
SIS from the cabinet, let's
begin with the potentiometers.
Typical Marshall values include
250-K-ohm linear taper for
treble, 1-M -ohm audio taper for
bass, and 25-K-ohm linear taper
for middle. Obviously, these
differ from our Fender values.
While I suggest replacing the
stock potentiometers with those
of the Marshall values, the mod still functions with
the original pots but will lack the thick, rich mids
that characterize the classic Marshall tone. For the
non-Twin Fenders, as a stand-in for the middle con-
trol, we can use two resistors whose combined value
roughly equals 25 kilohms. After connecting the resis-
tors in series, the signal from the midrange capacitor,
via the hookup wire, enters the junction of the resis-
tors. The differing values of the resistors determine
an approximately equivalent position of the middle
potentiometer. For example, the junction between two
12-K-ohm resistors roughly corresponds to a middle
control set at half position, while a combination of a
15-K-ohm and 10-K-ohm resistor correspond to either
a one-third or two-thirds control setting, depending
upon which resistor is connected to ground, as will be
explained soon.
To avoid mixing wires, consider replacing one
potentiometer at a time. Before doing anything,
though, disconnect the wire that runs between the
middle lug of the treble pot and the right lug of the vol-
ume pot. This wire will not be used in the conversion.
Now remove the remaining wires from the treble pot,
taking careful note of where they connect. Alternately,
you can leave the wires attached to the pot until after
you've replaced it and then transfer the wires to the
newly installed pot. Remove the knob and mount-
ing nut. Slide the pot out from behind the chassis.
Install a 250-K-ohm linear tapered pot and reconnect
the wires. If you're modifying a Twin or the vibrato
channel, replace the mid pot with a 25-K-ohm linear
tapered type, following the same procedure as with the
treble pot. However, in the case of the wire that runs
between the left lug of the bass pot to the middle lug of
the mid pot, instead of the usual connection, solder it
to the right lug of the mid pot.
Finally, replace the bass pot with a 1-M -ohm audio
tapered pot. If converting a two-band normal channel,
remove the 6.8-K-ohm resistor entirely (designated as
A in the previous photo). In its place, solder a lead of a
10-K-ohm resistor to the left lug of the pot. Next sol-
der one lead of a 15-K-ohm resistor to the grounding
point to which the 6.8-K-ohm resistor was originally
attached. Solder the unattached resistor leads together,
and to this junction solder the wire that was originally
soldered to the left lug of the bass pot. This arrange-
ment roughly equates to setting the middle pot at
two-thirds position. If you reverse the order of these
resistors, the rough equivalent would be one-third
position. Because the Marshall middle potentiometer
operates with a linear taper, placing in series two resis-
tors of various values adding up to 25 kilohms allows
us to determine, from the resistors' junction, a roughly
equivalent position of the pot. In this way, you can set
the midrange to the value you prefer. Of course, this
will be a nonadjustable setting.
The list of parts needed for this modification includes
the following:
One l-M-ohm audio taper potentiometer, 3/8-inch
bushing, 1/4-inch shaft (such as Alpha brand)
One 250-K-ohm linear taper potentiometer (design
characteristics as above)
One 25-K-ohm linear taper potentiometer
(design characteristics as above). for three-band
channel only
One each of the following values of l/2-watt
resistor: 100 to 270 ohms, 10 K-ohms, 15 K-ohms,
56 K-ohms, and 100 K-ohms
Three 0.022-uF capacitors (see text)
One MOSFET, minimum 500-volt rating with
TO-220, TO-262, or similar package design;
suitable types include IRG820, IRF 830, MTP 3N50,
or BUZ 74
Shielded cable such as RG-174 type
20-gauge wire, solid or stranded core
Heat-shrink tubing
Once the potentiometers have been changed, we
can now move to the tone capacitors. Many silverface
and blackface models have a 0.022-uF capacitor for
the midrange (D, in the photo), the same value as the
Marshall. However, if this capacitor happens to have
a 0.047-uF value, as with the Twin, the Bandmaster,
and a few others, replace it with a 0.022-uF capaci-
tor. Also, replace the 0.1-uF bass capacitor (E on the
photo) with a 0.022-uF. While the treble cap stays
the same, the slope resistor (C in the photo) needs
to be replaced. Vintage Marshall amps use various
values for the slope resistor, sometimes as low as 33
K-ohms. I recommend the commonly used 56-K-ohm
value, the same value, by the way, as the Fender tweed.
Some Marshalls will have a 47-K-ohm slope resistor,
so you can see the ballpark range involved.
As for the coupling capacitor (B in the photo), which
has a value of 0.047 uF or 0.1 in most normal chan-
nels, replace it with a 0.022-uF capacitor. Rather than
functioning at the output of the preamp, as usual, the
coupling capacitor needs to go between the output of
the first preamp triode and the volume potentiometer.
To do this, disconnect the existing wire from the top
of the coupling capacitor and connect it to the middle
lug of the treble pot. If it doesn't reach, replace the wire
with one that will. Consider using a shielded cable,
grounding the shielding to the left lug of the volume
pot. Making this connection both severs the coupling
capacitor from the output of the second triode and
situates the treble pot as the output component of the
167 -
- 168
preamp from where it feeds the phase inverter. Now
to finish repositioning the coupling cap, solder a new
wire, again, preferably a shielded cable, from the cou-
pling cap, where you just removed the wire, to the right
lug of the volume potentiometer. Ground the shielding
to the left lug of the pot.
If you are converting the vibrato channel, the vibra-
to coupling capacitor (J in the photo) will often already
be of 0.022-uF value and thus will not need replacing
(replace it if it isn't 0.022 uF). However, it will need
to be disconnected from the 500-pF reverb coupling
capacitor connected to its upper lead. One technique
is to first remove the jumper wire located at K in the
photo. This jumper connects the vibrato channel's plate
resistors to their voltage source. Unsolder the wire at
the top of the jumper, unsolder and remove the jumper,
and resolder the wire directly to the plate resistors'
mounting eyelet, therefore freeing up the upper eyelet.
Now disconnect the upper lead of the coupling capaci-
tor (J in the photo) and solder it into the open eyelet. If
the lead doesn't reach, either replace the capacitor or
solder a short wire, or the jumper you just removed,
to the lead, extending it to reach the eyelet. Make sure
to cover the extended lead with heat-shrink tubing
before soldering it into the eyelet. Next run a wire,
preferably a shielded cable, from the upper lead of the
coupling capacitor to the right lug of the volume pot.
Connect the shielding to the left lug of the pot. Finally,
solder a wire from the middle lug of the treble potentio-
meter to the bottom lead of the 500-pF reverb
coupling capacitor. This will be to the same eyelet
from which you just unsoldered the upper lead of the
coupling capacitor.
Before we actually install the MOSFET cathode
follower, we need to switch the position of the triodes
in the preamp. The reason for the swap is that in a
Fender the tone stack follows the first triode while in
a Marshall it follows the third preamp. Because the
MOSFET acts as the third triode, we need to mount
it between the tone stack and the second triode. Thus
we will make the first Fender triode into a second
Marshall triode. To do this, simply switch the posi-
tions of the plate resistor wires (F and G in the photo)
at the circuit board. There is a slight twist, though.
Unsolder both wires from their eyelets and connect
wire G to the eyelet of wire F. Leave wire F loose for a
moment. Unsolder the lower lead of the plate resistor
identified as H in the photo and pull it from the mount-
ing eyelet. The only items still connected to that eyelet
should be slope resistor C and the jumper wire for the
treble capacitor. Move the disconnected lead of plate
resistor H to the left of its original eyelet and solder
wire F to it. At the same place, also solder one lead of a
resistor valued anywhere from 100 ohms to 270 ohms;
this resistor acts as a gate-stopper resistor, which, like
a grid-stopper for a tube, prevents parasitic oscillation.
Keep the resistor leads as short as possible.
Now, we are basically going to cram the MOSFET
into a small space; luckily it's compact and lightweight.
Solder lead 1 of the MOSFET to the unattached lead
of the 100- to 270-ohm resistor. When looking at the
front of the MOSFET, the lead on the left is lead 1
(the gate), in the middle is lead 2 (the drain), and
on the right is lead 3 (the source). Solder a short jumper
to lead 2, the drain of the MOSFET. Cover the lead
and jumper with heat-shrink tubing and connect the
jumper to the eyelet where the
upper lead of plate resistor H meets
the lead of the other plate resistor.
Next, solder lead 3, the source of
the MOSFET, to the eyelet where
wire G was originally connected,
the same eyelet where the slope
resistor and treble cap jumper con-
nect. Keep the MOSFET close to
this eyelet. At that same eyelet,
solder one lead of 100 K-ohm, 1/2-
watt resistor, keeping it rather short.
The other lead needs to connect to
ground, the nearest grounding point
being that of the cathode resistor
and capacitor, point L in the photo.
Solder a jumper wire just long
enough to reach point L to the lead.
Cover the lead with heat shrink tub-
ing before soldering it to point L.
This Fender Twin clone has had the Marshall channel modification. Note the Your Fender now has a
Marshall-styled preamp. Install
the chassis and tubes, power up the
position ofthe MOSFET. Keep the leads clear from possible shorts, such as has
been done with the left lead and connected gate-stopper resistor.
amp, cautiously throw the standby switch, being ready
to turn it off if, heaven forbid, smoke rises or the amp
shrieks. If you've been careful, which I'm sure you have
been, you'll be playing the amp by now. With the use of
an AlB box, as described in the next chapter, you will
be able to switch between the lush reverb of the vibrato
channel and the thick mids and warm distortion that
will now flow from the normal channel. Keep in mind
that this channel will be louder than before and not as
clean. In short, it has been entirely re-voiced.
Vox Channel Modifi cation
Calling this conversion a Vox-style modification might
be slightly misleading in that later Vox amps use the
standard ECC823112AX7 tube. Specifically, this con-
version entails converting the Fender preamp to that
of an early Vox amp, which uses an EF86 pentode
preamp. While the EF86 has a richly colored tone
with beautiful harmonics, the tube tends to be micro-
phonic and can become noisy due to vibration. This is
largely due to the pentode construction with its high
gain and extra elements. In fact, the unreliability of
the EF86, especially its susceptibility to vibration, led
Vox to replace the short-lived pentode application with
the standard triode configuration. Therefore, keep in
mind that if you go with this option, you might have to
cope with some background noise. Yet, I've used EF86
tubes in heads where I've found them to be much more
stable than their use in combos. For this reason, I orig-
inally intended the modification for silverface heads,
specifically the Showman, Bandmaster, and Bassman
models. The Vox channel preamp modification of a
Fender combo includes the same instructions, but you
might want to consider some type of tube dampening
for the EF86, such as the foam dampers used on Hot
Rod preamp tubes, essentially a rectangle of foam with
holes that fit over the preamp tubes. I advise against
homemade versions of these dampers unless you're
absolutely certain about the material, as tubes get hot
and you sure don't want to melt a bunch of foam rub-
ber to them. I hope I haven't scared you away from this
preamp conversion; please read on.
Because the EF86 has an extremely high-output
impedance, the use of a standard Fender tone stack
proves impractical, in that the signal will be weak on
the backside of the tone stack. A triode can be added
to amplify the signal, or a triode or MOSFET cathode
follower can be placed between the EF86 and the tone
stack, yet both of these remedies will move us away
from the single-tube Vox preamp we're emulating. In
fact, early Vox amps operating with EF86 preamps
don't use tone stacks at all. Instead, a single volume
control follows the preamp tube, while tone is shaped
between the phase inverter and the output tubes by a
treble-cutting potentiometer-capacitor combination.
Since we can't adequately duplicate that with a dual-
channel Fender and still retain one channel as a Fender,
our modification won't install a purely Vox preamp;
rather, we will situate a Fender tweed single tone con-
trol after the EF86. Since the tweed tone also employs
treble cutting, this choice still puts us well into Vox
territory. Furthermore, unlike the usual two- or three-
band Fender tone stack, the tweed tone control will not
drag down the signal from the EF86. Indeed, it func-
tions as if it were made to accompany the EF86.
Since we will be using only one control for tone,
disable the bass potentiometer by removing the wire
that runs between the middle lug of the bass pot and
the left lug of the treble pot. Disable the rest of the
tone stack by removing the slope resistor, identified
as H in the photo on the top of page 172. Leave the
space open. Because the treble pot becomes the single
tone control, the potentiometer needs to be replaced
with one having a 1-M-ohm value with an audio taper.
To replace the pot (and assuming the wire from the
bass pot has been removed), remove the wire that runs
between the right lug of the treble pot and the treble
capacitor (C in the photo on page 172). This wire will
not be used again. Next, disconnect the wire from the
middle lug of the pot. Remove the knob and the mount-
ing nut, pull the pot from the back of the chassis, and
install the new pot, attaching the mounting nut and
knob. Reconnect the wire to the middle lug. Install a
O.0047-uF capacitor between the left lug of the new
treble pot and the left lug (ground) of the volume pot.
Regarding the volume pot, remove the bright switch's
wire and capacitor from the middle and right lugs of
the pot as well as from the bright switch itself. Remove
the cable from the middle lug of the volume pot and
The list of parts needed forthis modification includes
the following:
One l-M-ohm audio taper potentiometer,
3/8-inch bushing, 1/4-inch shaft (such as
Alpha brand)
One each ofthe following values of 1/2-watt
resistor : 2.2 K-ohms, 220 K-ohms, and
1.2 M-ohms
One 500-pF silver mica capacitor, 500-volt rating
One each of the following signal capacitors with
a minimum 400-volt rating: 0.0047 uF, 0.01 uF, and
0.1 uF
One EF86 pentode tube, Electro-Harmonix or SED
Shielded cable such as RG-174type
20-gauge wire, soli d or stranded core
Heat-shrink tubing
169 -
- 170
Standard Silverface Bandmaster, Normal Channel
To Channel
Mixing Resistor
~ 0 4 7
1" ____ _
~ ~ ~
6.8K To V2B
1M-A Bright
o .-
To Phase
To Channel
Silverface Bandmaster, Vox Channel Modification
.1 .01
....L... ....L...
___ . J
To Phase
171 -
- 172
solder it to the right lug. The wire from the treble-
turned-tone pot should remain connected to this lug
as well. Install a 500-pF silver mica capacitor between
the left lug of the trebleltone pot and the middle lug of
the volume pot. Locate and disconnect the wire that
connects to the same mounting eyelet as the upper lead
of the coupling capacitor identified as B in the photo.
Reconnect this wire to the middle lug of the volume pot.
It probably won't reach and, in fact, should be replaced
with a shielded cable, with the shielding of the cable
grounded to the left lug of the volume pot. Note that
this is a long wire that connects to the channel mixing
resistor at the other end of the circuit board. Since this
will be the output wire for the high-gain EF86 tube,
avoid the susceptibility to interference from this long
wire run by replacing it with shielded cable.
We need to now make some changes to the normal
channel's tube socket, the first one on the right in the
Key components involved in the Vox preamp channel
conversion include (A) cathode resistor, (8) coupling
capacitor, (C) treble capacitor, (0) and (E) plate resistors,
(F) and (G) plate wires, and (H) slope resistor.
The connections to the converted tone and volume
controls should resemble those in the photo.
chassis. The connection between pins 4 and 5 needs to
be separated. To do this unsolder the wire and pry the
pins apart with a small screwdriver while heating them.
Once the pins are separated, solder the wire back to pin
4. Disconnect the wire from pin 9 and solder it to pin 5.
You've just completed the tube's filament circuit. Next,
remove the wire that runs from pin 8 of the socket to
pin 8 of the tube socket to the left. This is the wire that
connects the cathodes of these two triodes and is no
longer needed. Disconnect the input cable from pin 2
and solder it instead to pin 9, the input for the EF86.
Next, disconnect the cable from pin 7 and reconnect it
to the treble cap identified as C in the photo below. Since
this cable will be quite long in this position, you might
want to replace it with a shorter one. It won't hurt any-
thing to leave it long, though.
Back to the socket, run a jumper wire from pin
3 to pin 8. Rather than run the jumper over the top
of the socket, it's easier to run it around the outside of
the socket, keeping it close to the chassis and not mak-
ing it excessively long. Run a jumper from pin 2 to pin
7, observing the same instructions for the previous
jumper. Run this one around the socket on the opposite
side from where you ran the previous jumper. Finally,
run a wire from either pin 2 or 7, just long enough to
reach a grounding point, such as the upper lead of the
cathode resistor (A in the photo) or the grounding lug of
the reverb output jack, where the black wire attaches.
Our last work area for the preamp conversion is
the circuit board. First remove the cathode resistor,
designated as A in the photo, and replace it with a 2.2-
K-ohm, II2-watt resistor. Also remove the coupling
capacitor, B in the photo, and replace it with a O.l-uF
cap. Run a short jumper wire between its upper lead
and the upper lead of the cathode resistor you just
replaced. Alternatively, you could connect the lead of
the cap directly to the eyelet of the cathode resistor.
The capacitor, by the way, no longer functions as a
coupling capacitor. Instead, you've just converted it
into the screen bypass capacitor for the EF86. For the
new coupling capacitor, remove the treble capacitor, C,
and replace it with a O.Ol-uF cap. This now becomes
the coupling capacitor between the EF86 output
and the volume control. Next, remove plate resistors
D and E and replace D with a 1.2-M-ohm, II2-watt
resistor and E with a 220-K-ohm, II2-watt resistor.
The 1.2-M-ohm resistor will soon be the screen resis-
tor for the EF86. For the final step, before installing the
chassis and the EF86 tube, unsolder plate wires F and
G from the circuit board and swap them; that is, solder
F to G's eyelet and solder G to F's eyelet. This estab-
lishes the proper connections for the screen and plate of
the tube.
Look over your work, making sure that all con-
nections are correct. Double check the filament
connections, which should be on pins 4 and 5. The
wire from 5 should connect to pin 9 of the previous
tube, and pin 4 should connect to pins 4 and 5 of the
previous tube. Once you're sati sfied that all connec-
tions are properly made and all components are of the
proper value, install the chassis into the cabinet , con-
nect ing the reverb tank if so equipped and the speaker
connections. Inst all tubes. Make sure to inst all an
EF86 in the VI position, the first socket on the right.
I know that might be stating the obvious, yet it's these
small, obvious things that are most often overlooked.
Overstatement feels better than the hear t-sinking
agony that might result from powering up an amp with
the wrong tube installed. Power up the amp, keeping
a close eye on the back of the chassis. If all is in order,
throw the standby switch. Again keep your eyes and
ears open for any malfunction. Finally, mar vel over the The tube socket pins are identified by numbers. See the
great sound you've just created. text for connections.
Channel Bridging
In Chapter 7 we discussed using the Bassman channel
bridging technique to mix together the dual channels
of a silverface or blackface once they were placed in
phase using the dual channel reverb mod. Because the
Vox-converted normal channel uses only one tube, the
normal and vibrato channels are in phase with each
other. For channels to be in phase, they must both either
have an odd number or even number of stages, unlike the
original configuration where the normal channel has two
stages and the vibrato has three (discounting the reverb
tubes since they essentially run parallel to the 3.3-M-ohm
mixing resistor between the second and third preamp
stages). In terms ofthe Marshall-converted normal
channel though, channel bridging will not work because
the normal and vibrato channels remain out of phase.
While the addition of the cathode follower to the normal
stage adds an extra stage to the normal channel, giving it
three stages like the vibrato channel, cathode followers,
in fact, do not invertthe signal. To make things clearer,
when the signal is drawn from the plate of a triode, it is
out of phase with the input signal on the grid; however,
when the signal is drawn from the cathode of a triode, it
is in phase with the input signal on the grid.
To putthese channels in phase, use the dual-
channel reverb modification. Of course, this will change
the characteristics of the Marshall preamp. Yet, if it is
more importantforyou to have the channel in place and
you don't mind reverb in your Marshall channel, read on.
The easiest way to incorporate reverb into both channels
after the Marshall preamp mod is to remove the wire that
runs between the middle lug ofthe treble pot and the
channel mixing resistor atthe left side ofthe board. Next
solder one lead of a 220-K-ohm resistor to the middle
lug ofthe treble pot and to the other lead solder a wire
long enough to reach the junction of the reverb coupling
capacitor and the vibrato channel coupling capacitor
(designated as J in the photo on page 166). Don't connect
the wire to the junction; instead, unsolder and lift the
lead of the coupling capacitor from the junction and
then solder one lead of another 220-K-ohm resistor to
the junction. Next, solder the lead of the lifted cap to the
open lead ofthe resistor and the wire from the treble
pot to the eyelet from which the cap lead was lifted and
to which the other lead of the resistor was soldered.
Both resistor leads should be made short. A more
professional way to make this connection at the junction
of these coupling capacitors involves freeing up on of the
mounting eyelets. See Chapter 7 for directions.
Finally, if you wantto also incorporate reverb into
a Vox-converted normal channel, be aware thatthis will
put it out of phase with the vibrato channel , meaning they
cannot be bridged using the Bassman channel bridging
technique. To incorporate reverb into the channel,
the technique is similar to that used with the Marshall -
converted normal channel. Remove the wire or cable
that runs between the middle lug ofthe volume pot and
the channel-mixing resistor at the other (left) end of the
circuit board. Connect one lead of a 220-K-ohm resistor
to the middle lug of the volume pot and the other lead to
a wire long enough, again, to reach the junction of the
reverb and vibrato channel coupling capacitors. As this
pointthe instructions are the same as in the previous
paragraph. As with the Marshall-converted normal
channel with reverb, the Vox-converted normal channel
will have its own sound with reverb. In fact, adding
reverb to a channel with either the Marshall or Vox
preamp will increase the overall gain ofthe channel, so
keep that in mind if considering adding reverb.
173 -
Let's suppose you have a typical dual-channel silver-
face in which you've modified the normal channel
to have a Marshall-style preamp and left the vibrato
channel stock, or you've installed a Baxandall tone
stack in the normal channel and hot-rodded the gain
of the vibrato channel. In both cases you might switch
from one channel to the other by turning down the
volume, pulling the guitar cord from one channel,
plugging into the other channel, and turning up the
volume for channel. While that's fine for many situ-
ations, if you're playing a show or even rehearsing
with other musicians, you might want to have a quick,
efficient way to switch between channels. In that case,
an AlB switch box comes in handy. Basically, an AlB
switch box (or just AlB box) consists of an input jack,
two output jacks (A and B), and a footswitch. You plug
a guitar into the input jack and run a cord from each
output jack to each channel of the amp or even into
two separate amps. Once plugged into the box, the
guitar signal goes to either output A or B; for the sake
of this example, let's say the signal goes out A. When
you press the footswitch, the signal switches from out-
put A to output B, allowing you to go back and forth
between outputs at the press of the switch. Basically,
then, the AlB box is a type of eitherlor circuit, sort of
like a giant version of the OR gate integrated circuit.
Now let's suppose you've completed the dual reverb
modification from Chapter 6 and both of your silver-
face channels are in phase and you want to be able to
not only switch between channels but also play through
both channels at once. Or, again, let's suppose you
have two amps running and you want to play through
both but still have the option of playing through one
or the other. In those situations, an A/B-Y switch box
does the trick. Essentially, the A/B-Y box is an AlB box
with an extra footswitch that switches on both channels
simultaneously. Think of the "Y" in A/B-Y as meaning
"Yes" to both outputs being on. For example, say the
guitar signal is exiting through output A and you press
the second, or Y, footswitch. Now the signal exits both
Buddy Guy's stage rig with his trademark polka-dot Fender
Stratocaster and two different amps. This is the ideal
setup for a switch box. Rick Gould
chapter 11
outputs at once, but if you press the Y footswitch again,
the signal once again reverts to exiting channel A only.
While factory-manufactured A/B-Y boxes sell for
relatively moderate prices (about $75 for an A/B-Y
and $40 for an AlB), constructing one by hand is less
expensive and not difficult. That said, a large difference
exists between a factory-constructed active switch box
(which usually costs more than $100) and the passive
box we'll be constructing in this chapter. Primarily,
the difference lies in the active box's use of isolation
transformers to more effectively eliminate noises that
can be induced mainly by grounding issues. To do that,
active switch boxes need to be run on power, either by
battery or wall-wart. A passive box, on the other hand,
uses no transformers or power (except for optional
LED lighting to indicate A and B channel functions).
Instead, a good-quality passive box combines the sepa-
rate grounds of the amps, guitar, and any effects being
used, via the hookup cords. The most important func-
tion for eliminating noise involves grounding the input
of the amp or amp channel not being used (for instance,
ground the input connected to output A when output B
is activated). For that reason, we need to use a double-
pole, double-throw (DPDT) footswitch so that one
switch pole selects which output the signal exits while
the other switch pole grounds the output jack going
to the input of the unused amp or channel. Basically,
though, a passive box will never be as noise-free as an
active box. Yet, we can make a fairly decent one that
shouldn't add any noise if properly constructed.
Most of the parts for our AlB box, as well as an
A/B-Y box, should you want to go that extra step, are
commonly available. I bought most of the parts for this
A/B-Y box at Radio Shack for less than $20. Because I
want to add the optional LED indicator function, I need
to use a triple-pole, double-throw (TPDT) footswitch.
The third switch pole and contacts send battery power
to the appropriate LED indicator. That footswitch
proved difficult to find locally, so I ordered it along with
a cast-aluminum box online from Antique Electronics.
The box as well as the switches cost roughly $7 each.
At that price I might be able to get a cheap factory-built
box with AlB function only. Yet, I still only spent half
of what I would have paid for a full A/B-Y with LED
indictors. If you don't need the LED indicators, the
175 -
- 176
Here are all the parts you'll need to construct an A/B-Y switch box with LED indicators. Note thatthe box was not pre-drilled.
price drops by about half, two DPDT footswitches cost-
ing about $4 each. A straight AlB box without both the
Y-function and LED indicators will cost less than $20.
To accommodate anyone who would rather
construct the basic AlB model, I will provide the
instructions in two stages. Stage 1 will be a standard
AlB box with LED indicators; however, you can easily
The parts list includes the following:
Project Box, no smaller than 4x3xl1/8 inches
Two footswitches, one for AlB function and one
for Y function, both OPOT or, for LED indicator
option, both TPOT
Two output jacks, 1/4-inch standard mono type
One input jack, same as above unless using LED
option, in which case use 1/4-inch stereo type
Three LEOs (optional), two for AlB funct ion and
one for Y function; I used different colors: green
and yellow for A and B and red forY.
Three LED holders (optional), unless you're using
AlB function only; in that case, two holders
Three 470-ohm to 2.2-K-ohm, 1/4- or 1/2-watt
resistors (optional), one for each LED
One 9-volt battery (optional) for LED power
One 9-volt battery snap connector (optional)
One 9-volt battery holder (optional) with small
mounting bolt and nut
skip the LED function so I will indicate those parts
as optional. Stage 2 builds on Stage 1 by adding the
Y-function, here again, with optional LED indicator.
Regarding the use of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes,
the ones I bought have voltage ratings of 2.1 to 2.6 volts
and current ratings of 25 to 36 milliamps. The resis-
tors do two things: Each one drops the battery voltage
to just below 2 volts at each LED, and they determine
the brightness of the LEDs. I've used up to 2.2 K-ohms
without much of a noticeable difference from 1 K-ohm.
Going lower than 330 ohms will send too much voltage
to the LED and burn it out. Another point, an LED,
being a diode, has a cathode and an anode and there-
fore is polarized. The cathode needs to be more negative
than the anode, meaning that one lead of the LED will
be designated for negative hookup. The ones used here
have one lead shorter than the other, the short lead
being designated as negative. Some LEDs, by contrast,
have a flat edge to their otherwise round base; the flat
edge indicates, again, the negative lead.
To properly wire the LEDs to the battery, we will
connect the wire from the negative battery post to the
short contact blade of a standard 114-inch stereo jack.
When inserting the plug of a guitar cable into the ste-
reo jack, the short contact blade will contact the sleeve
of the plug, which also contacts the ground ring of
the jack (the usual grounding placement of a standard
mono-plug into a standard mono-jack). In this way, the
plug sleeve connects the wire from the negative battery
post to ground. The long contact blade of the stereo
jack, by the way, has the same function with the plug
as would a mono 1/4-inch jack; it connects the tip of
AlB Switch Box
- -
I Mono
~ ~ G N O
- - - ~ a l
Mono I
Jack I
9-Volt Battery
Battery Negative
____ -I
- -- - - - --
Wiring diagram and layout for an AlB switch box with LED indicators.
the plug to the signal wires going from the long contact
blade to the contact blades of the output jacks, which
are mono 1I4-inch jacks, rather than stereo jacks.
Now the wire from the positive post of the battery
connects to one of the switch poles in the TPDT foot-
switch, which switches between the contacts on either
side of it. A resistor connects from each of those foot-
switch contacts to the positive lead of each of the two
AlB LED indicators, while the negative LED leads are
wired together and connected to the grounding ring
of the stereo input jack. In this way, when the plug
connects the negative battery lead to ground, one of
the LEDs will light up, indicating the switch position.
Because each LED mounts below its associated output
jack, we know which jack has the signal since the jacks
are wired to the same footswitch. The diagram above
should make all the connections clear.
To assemble the AlB box, first layout the com-
ponents in relation to the empty box. The diagram
above shows the typical layout. The point of laying out
the parts first is to make sure everything will fit in the
box and that nothing interferes with the switch and
jacks. After determining that the components will all
fit, mark the mounting hole locations for the switch,
jacks, LEDs, and battery-mounting clip. The jacks
require 3/8-inch diameter holes, the switch a II2-inch
hole, the LEDs' I14-inch holes, and the battery mount-
ing clip about a 1I8-inch hole (or whatever fits the
177 -
- 178
small mounting bolt). The output jack mounting holes
should each be about 1 inch from the outer edge of the
box and centered between the height of the box. The
input jack can go on either the right or left side of the
box toward the bottom end (opposite end of the output
jacks) but need to clear the battery's position. About 1
3/4 inches from the bottom end and centered between
the height of the box should do it. The footswitch hole
should be centered between the width of the box and
about 2 3/8 inches from the top end (where the output
The photo shows the suggested locations ofthe
mounting holes. Note thatthis box has been drilled
for an A/B-Y application.
Inside the complete A/B box. The extra hole to the right of
the switch is for the Y switch to be added. If constructing
a box with only the A/B function, drill only one switch hole,
centering it within the width of the box.
jacks mount). If you are making an A/B-Y box, you'll
need to make two footswitch holes. They should still
be about 2 3/8 inches from the end and each about 3/4
to 1 inch from its respective edge.
The LEDs fit into LED holders, which are essen-
tially sleeves that line the mounting holes. Each should
be in line with the output jack it indicates and about
1 3/8 inches from the top end of the box so that the
LED is between the end of the box and the footswitch.
If you are making an A/B-Y box, the third LED, the
Y indicator, could be mounted between the other two
LEDs but about 3/8 inch lower. The hole for the bat-
tery mounting clip should be drilled at the opposite
end of the box from where the output jacks mount.
To mount the clip, make sure to run the bolt from the
inside of the clip, through the box, and out the back.
Fasten a nut to the bolt now protruding from the bot-
tom end of the box, and cut the end of the bolt beyond
the nut if it is excessively long. Before mounting the
battery clip, mount the switches and jacks, then slide
the LED holders into their holes and place the LEDS
into them. The order of installation isn't too impor-
tant, but I find it somewhat easier to mount the jacks
before the switches and the LED last.
Once the parts have been mounted to the box,
everything needs to be wired. Referring to the previous
diagram, first wire the switch to the lugs for the con-
tact blades of the jacks. Again, the order of connection
isn't important. Next wire the lugs for the grounding
rings of the jacks together and to the proper switch
contacts. When soldering the resistors to the LEDs, it
might be easier to remove the LEDs from their hold-
ers and replace them once the resistors are connected.
Regarding the resistors, keep the leads long so that the
resistors can be connected between the LED leads and
the switch contacts without using added wires (though
adding wire is fine if that becomes necessary). Finally,
solder the negative wire of the battery clip to the ground
lug of the input jack and the positive wire to the switch.
Install the battery. Before securing the cover, make
sure the box operates and the LEDs indicate the proper
output. If not, switch either the jack wires or the LED
resistor around, whichever you find easier to do.
When constructing an A/B-Y switch box, the most
important addition to the previous instructions for the
straight AlB box involves drilling the additional holes
for the extra footswitch and LED. While the previous
instructions place the switches side-by-side and the
Y LED between and slightly lower than the A and B
LEDs, the deciding factor for these positions should
be first, the space available in the box and second, per-
sonal choice. Obviously, the second is predicated on the
first. If the box is too small, the parts will be crammed
together and the footswitches might be too close for
adequate operation. To maintain adequate distance
between the footswitches might require placing them
quite close to the edges. This shouldn't pose much of
a problem as long as the input jack has enough clear-
ance, especially when a plug is inserted into it. When
laying out the parts prior to drilling, it might be a good
idea to insert plugs into the jacks to ensure adequate
clearance with the switches and LED indicators with
their resistors. As for the Y LED, it too can be placed
according to personal preference; however, keep in
mind the connection it needs to make to the Y switch.
Use the diagram below for properly wiring the
AB-Y box, paying special attention to the switch
wiring. Soldering will be trickier due to the extra com-
ponents and wiring in the box. It might prove easier to
wire the resistors to the LEDs before they are installed,
as previously mentioned. Also note that secure mount-
ing of the LEDs in their holders relies in part on the
lead connections. When wiring the LED ground leads
together, try to connect the leads to each other instead
of using wire. Yet, if you end up having to use a short
piece of wire, that will fine too.
While the AlB box we just constructed work well
at the front of the amp, allowing one guitar to switch
between amps or amp channels, it also has another but
somewhat limited use at the back ofthe amp. Specifically,
it's possible to use the AlB box to switch between two
separate speaker cabinets from one amp. Switching
A/B-Y Switch Box
- -
Mono Jack
9-Volt Battery
Battery Negative
~ :
Wiring diagram and layout for an A/B-Y switch box with LED indicators.
179 -
- 180
Inside and outside ofthe completed A/B-Y switch box.
speakers on a running amp can be a noisy affair
that doesn't treat either ears or speakers well
in the process, and therein lies the limitation.
This does not mean that an AlB box cannot be
used to switch between speakers; it just means
you shouldn't do it while the amp is running at
a moderate to high volume level. When switch-
ing between speakers, either turn the volume
all the way down or, preferably, place the amp
in standby. Obviously this precludes speaker
switching during a song but still provides a fair
amount of flexibility. Another important point
to raise involves using the Y function to run two
speaker cabinets at once. I would advise against
this move since there will be a change in imped-
ance that won't bode well for healthy output tube
and transformer performance. For instance, sup-
pose the speaker output for the amp is set for
8 ohms and it is connected to the input of the
AlB box. Further, one 8-ohm speaker cabinet is
connected to A and one to B. There will be no
problem with the either/or operation. But if both
speakers are switched on with a Y switch, the
combined impedance of the speakers will be 4
ohms; an amp output of 8 ohms does not like to
feed a 4-ohm speaker combination.
Building a Remote Off-and-On Switch
Another useful and easily built
footswitch is a remote off-and-
on switch. In Chapter 9, when
discussing the use of a relay-
activated switch to engage an
added gain stage to an amp's
preamp, we mentioned the use of
a remote switch to activate the
relay. In short, the relay receives
continuous voltage from a power
supply and while that voltage runs
through the relay winding, the
relay can't activate until the other
end of the winding is grounded.
This can be done with a switch
on the amp and also by a remote
footswitch, which contains a
single-pole, single-throw (SPST)
pushbutton switch. A DPDT switch
can also be used, but only one
pole is needed. Each of the two
switch contacts connects to a
jack, with one contact going to the
jack's blade, the otherto the jack's
grounding ring. When engaging the
switch, the blade and grounding
ring simply short together. In this
way, the center wire of a cord
attached between the switch box
and the relay's output jack, located
on the amp chassis, becomes
connected to the cord's shielding,
which, through the relay's output
jack, becomes, in turn, grounded
The workings of a remote footswitch are basic. The switch grounds the
center conductor of the cable through the cable's shielding. The box shown
to the chassis. Note that a simple
two-wire cable, rather than a
shielded cable, can also be used
here is rather small by most standards, but it demonstrates how compact
of a box can be made.
for this purpose, as long as one
wire connects to the grounding lugs ofthe plugs and the
other wire to the tip contacts ofthe plugs.
A variation of the remote footswitch omits the box
jack, making only one component. the SPST footswitch.
Omitting the jack means that the box will be hard-wired,
with the cable soldered directly to the switch. Some
type of cable strain relief will be needed to preventthe
cable from being ripped from the switch and pulled from
the box if, for instance, the guitar player trips over it.
The strain relief can be as basic as two plastic zip-ties
fitted snuggly around the cable, one on each side of the
hole drilled in the box for the cable. That hole, by the
way, should closely match the diameter of the cable.
Besides engaging and disengaging a channel- or gain-
switching relay, a remote footswitch box with on-off
function can also be used to engage and disengage
the reverb or vibrato effects in a typical blackface or
silverface Fender. Often the original footswitch that
came with these amps from the factory has long been
missing, and while original Fender footswitches are
available, guitarists should know that they can easily
construct a homemade unit if they so desire.
181 -
- 182
For Dating Fender amplifiers by serial number:
For Fender schematics and circuit layouts:
For vacuum tube data sheets:
Frank's Electron Tube Data Pages at www.tubedata.info
The Fender Amp Field Guide at www.ampwares.com
Schematic Heaven at www.schematicheaven.com
Information regarding Hoffman Boards:
For parts:
Antique Electronics at www.tubesandmore.com
Tube Depot at www.tubedepot.com
Hoffman Amplifiers at www.hoffmanamps.com
Triode Electronics at www.triodestore.com
Airtight Garage, 119
Ampeg amplifiers, 121, 141
Antique Electronics, 175
Baxandall, Peter, 141
bias, 13-15,20,21,35,36,38,44,47,51,53-75,80,
82-86,88-90,93-95,90 98,102,105,113,115,149
checking, 64-65
circuit layouts for 1968 and 1971 silverfaces,
circuit vs. control, 67
how to set, 60-61
test poi nt, 65
value of proper, 74
capacitors, 26-29
bass, 13, 99, 100, 102, 109, 117, 136, 137,
140, 166, 167
bypass, 29,31,44,99,100,105,121-124,
130, 160-161, 172
ceramic, 29
coupling, 26, 27, 47,95,98,100,110,
112-114, 116, 121, 123, 127, 130,
133-135,142, 143, 149, 166-168, 172,
electrolytic, 19,26,31-34,37,44,46,70-71,
74, 100-102, 124, 125, 158, 160, 161
film, 29-31, 160
midrange, 13, 99, 136, 137, 140, 144, 166,
paper, 29-30
silver mica, 29-30, 124, 136, 138, 144, 169,
suppressor, 93-94, 124
treble, 29, 99, 100, 102, 110, 117, 127, 130,
135, 136, 138, 142, 144, 168, 169, 172
CBS, Inc., 8,29
Celestion speakers, 41
CTS speakers, 41
Diaz, Cesar, 12-13
Circuit board material and complete boards:
digital multimeter (DMM), 17-18, 73, 87, 129
diodes, 31, 34, 36-38, 41, 46, 50, 51, 90, 91,
silicone diode vs. tube rectifier, 38
dual channel modifications, 163-173
channel bridging, 173
Marshall channel mod, 163-169
Vox channel mod, 169-173
Dumble, Howard, 143
electrical currents and voltage, 17-19,53,60,
64-60 72-73, 89-91, 166, 176
Electro-Harmonix tubes, 78, 79, 83, 84, 88, 91,
105, 113, 169
Eminence speakers, 41, 43, 104
Fender amplifiers
choosing a, 7-15
clone kit, 11
history of, 7
Bandmaster, 8,41,60,67,88,137,134,
167, 169
Bassman, 7-8,41,54,61,67,74,79,
Combo, 60
Head, 60
LTD Reissue, 133
Reissue, 7, 61, 74, 84, 86, 88,
90, 91, 113, 116-117, 151,
Champ, 17,38,41,47,54,60,84,86,
Reissue, 17
Concert, 60
Deluxe, 7, 14, 24, 38, 41, 53, 54, 60, 73,
79, 84,91
Deluxe Reverb, 8, 66, 73, 84, 91, 109,
137, 144, 149, 150
Reissue, 113, 117, 128
Hot Rod series, 26, 54, 67, 81, 85-87,
89-90, 104-113, 116, 121, 135,
151, 169
Deluxe, 9-10, 61, 65, 77, 85,
Deville, 9-10, 61, 65, 88
reissues, 151
removing the printed circuit
Princeton, 38, 41, 43, 47, 54, 60, 73-74,
Princeton Reverb, 35, 38, 60, 73-74, 84,
114, 115, 137
Reissue, 113, 117
Pro, 60, 134
Pro Reverb, 8, 60, 67, 83, 137
Showman, 8, 67, 169
Combo, 60
Super, 134
Super Reverb, 8-9, 11, 12-13, 41,42,
Reissue, 113, 115
Twin, 7-8,41,42,47,57,60,67,124,
163, 167, 168
Reissue, 53, 115
Twin Reverb
Reissue, 147
Virbolux Reverb, 67, 113-114
Reissue, 113, 115
Vibroverb, 12, 113
one speaker, 60
Reissue, 113, 115
two speaker, 60
overhauling the silverface, 93-119
reissues, 9, 11, 15, 34, 36, 54, 56, 61, 86-87,
91,113-119, 123-128,130,
140, 148, 153-156, 158, 163
rebuilding, 113-119
schematics and layouts, 44
Deluxe amp AB 763, 45
Deluxe output stage, 50
Deluxe phase inverter, 49
Deluxe preamp, 48
silverface vs. blackface, 8, 93-119
tweed-era, 7-8
typical power supply circuits, 37
Fender, Leo, 7-8, 29
Fender Stratocaster, 12
adding, 147-161
background noise, 147, 154
preamp, 147-148, 153-157, 160
variable modification, 160
Gibson, 121, 130
Les Paul, 14
Guy, Buddy, 175
harmonics, 47
Hoffman Amplifiers, 96,118-119,136,137
Hoffman, Doug, 118, 160
humbucker, 78
Illinois capacitors, 29-30, 32, 102, 138, 140,
JBL speakers, 41
JJ tubes, 77, 78, 83, 84, 88, 91,105,113
Jensen speakers, 41, 43, 103-104
Mallory capacitors, 29-30, 32,110,116,117,
150M,29-31,95, 100, 102, 110, 113,
137, 138, 142
Marshall amplifiers, 39, 88, 117, 135, 160,
Marshall, Jim, 88
Mercury Magnetics, 35
New Sensor tubes, 77
Orange amplifiers, 141
Orange Drop capacitors, 13,29-30,95, 100,
110,112,113, 116, 119, 136-138, 140,
Oxford speakers, 41, 103
Ph i leo tubes, 78
Philips tubes, 13, 39
power output, 83
Radio Shack, 17, 144, 151, 175
Richards, Keith, 12
removing the amp's chassis, 54-59, 127
resistors, 21
carbon composition, 23-24, 96-97, 101, 117
carbon film, 23, 96
149,157,161, 172
metal film, 23-24, 96,101,102, 117
metal oxide, 23-24, 96, 101
potentiometers, 9, 11,24-26,44,46,50, 54,
137-145, 149-150, 153, 155-158,
166, 167, 169
screen, 51
audio, 24, 26,138,142,167,169
bass, 74,117,138-145,150,152,
155, 169
intensity, 13, 149, 150, 151
linear, 24, 26, 142, 144, 167
midrange, 74, 135, 140, 143, 144,
treble, 134, 135, 138, 139, 141-143,
trimmer, 124
volume, 25,138,140,143-145, 150,
151, 157, 161, 167, 168
wire-wound, 23-24
retensioning the spring clamps, 56
reverb,7, 11,24,26,29, 36, 54, 56, 57, 62,
80,81, 83, 94, 96, 97, 98, 100, 109, 117, 118,
121-131,137,147-148,150,153, 157, 163,
blackface and early silverface circuit
schematic, 122
bypass resistor, 109
circuit, 44,109,121,122,124,128,147,
148, 163
driver, 36, 37, 77, 79, 81, 91, 95, 96, 99,
dual channel mod, 126-131, 173, 175
Gibson variation mod, 130
operation and basic mods, 121-126
recovery tube, 77, 125
tank, 36, 56, 79, 81, 129, 147, 148, 153,
troubleshooting, 129
183 -
- 184
Schematic Heaven, 118
Sino tubes, 86, 91
soldering and desoldering, 19-21, 108-109,
112, 126-128, 143-144, 148-149, 152-154,
desoldering tool, 20, 21, 107
soldering iron, 19, 109, 137, 158
Sovtek tubes, 73, 78, 83, 87, 91, 105, 113
Sozo capacitors, 29, 30,110,113,116,117,
alnico, 41
breaking in, 43
ceramic, 41
effect on an amp's sound, 41
hookups, 42
impedance,41-42,60, 166, 181
what to use in blackface vs. silverface amps,
Sprague Atom capacitors, 11, 101-102
Sprague-Barre (SB) capacitors, 30, 95,112
Svetlana tubes, 89
Switchcraft jacks, 119
switch boxes, 175-181
A/B, 175-178, 180
A/B-Y, 175-176, 178-180
LED indicators, 175-179
deep, 143-145
double-pole, double-throw (DPDT) , 43, 150,
double-pole, single-throw (DPST), 43, 150,
installing a mid-boost, 140
remote off-and-on, 181
single-pole, single-throw (SPST), 43, 152,
161, 181
triple-pole, double-throw (TPDT), 175
TAD tubes, 13, 113
tone stacks, 24,110,113,117,154-155
controls, 109-110, 133-135, 141
modifications, 133-145
Bassman/Marshall mod for blackface, silverface,
reissue, 140-141, 163
Baxandall-styled, 141-143, 175
brown face mod for blackface or
silverface, 138-139
Dumble-inspired mod, 143-145
installing a mid-boost switch, 140
revoicing the two-band tone stack, 137
tweed tone control mod, 137-138
transformers and inducers, 33-36
tremolo effect, 73, 83
Triode Electronics, 33
Trucks, Derek, 163
Tung-Sol tubes, 13, 84-87, 113
Utah speakers, 41
vacuum tubes
7027,61, 85
7025, 78
5AR4, 91, 95
5U4, 91, 95
5Y3, 91
6L6, 14-15,38, 61, 67, 73-74, 80, 83-89,
6V6, 14,38,61,65, 73-74,84,91, 105, 113
12AT7, 81, 95,121,147
12AX7, 78-81, 83, 104-105, 113, 122, 147,
12AY7, 79-80,105,113
care and handling of, 39
EF86,80,81, 169, 172-173
KT77, 61, 88
KT88, 61, 88
noise and microphonics, 39
NOS, 77-79, 84,91,105,113, 122
phase inverters, 47,81-83,94-95,97, 100,
104, 112, 153
output, 47, 51, 53, 56, 66, 74-75, 77, 78, 90, 96
pentode, 8
preamp, 13,47,56,78-80,104, 113, 127,
distortion, 79
value of good, 78
rectifier, 90-91
replacing, 8
Vaughan, Stevie Ray, 12-13
channel,7, 13,44,47-49,77,80,96,99,
117,126-128, 130, 140, 141,
143,144,148-149, 150, 152-157, 159,
circuit, 44, 73, 97, 149
effect, 7, 13,29,45,73-74,129,149,150,
153, 163, 164, 166, 181
tubes, 81, 83, 86
Vox amplifiers, 80-81, 163, 169-173
Weber speakers, 43, 104, 115
Winged C, 113
Xicon capacitors, 30, 138, 142
Young, Neil, 14-15
"Old Black" 14-15 ,