Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 28


Tonecraft & irony Our interview with the Albert Brothers on recording the Layla sessions Champology Our search for the 59 Champ Reviews Champ Speakers Weber Signature Alnicos, Jensen P8R & C8R 10 The Fender 57 Champ reissue 11 Victoria 518 13 ValveTrain Amps Model 205 with tortured tweed, the Concord & Lexington reverb 13 Bakos 8 Ball 14 Exceptional & Affordable Classics Jerry Jones & our Copperburst 19 3 Monkeys Orangutan 23 Z Vex Mastotron 24 Kal Davids Blues Guitar Master Class

Mountainview Publishing, LLC

The Players Guide to Ultimate Tone
$15.00 US, JAN/FEB 2010/VOL.11 NO.3



The Champ
Eric fell in love with the damn thing, and George did, too. I gave one to Eric, one to George, and one to Jimmy Page, cause they all loved em. Delaney Bramlett on tweed Champs At the first mention of a tweed Champ many players immediately associate Leo Fenders diminutive runt of the litter and its big dog howl with the Layla sessions perhaps the most poignant and instructive study in tonecraft and irony within the entire history of rock music. Think about it Eric Clapton, the recalcitrant guitar god who forever transformed rock and blues first with the Blues Breakers and then Cream wielding 100 watt Marshall stacks and a slew of powerful Gibson guitars, forms a new band comprised of unknown American players and arrives at Criteria studios in Miami under the watchful eye of Tom Dowd with a 56 Strat and a tweed Champ to record one of the greatest albums of all time. As Don Juan suggested in Carlos Castanedas A Separate Reality, The average man is too concerned with liking people or with being liked himself. A warrior likes, thats all. He likes whatever or whomever he wants, for the hell of it. Enter Derek and the Dominos, Brownie, and a tweed Champ. As a point of reference, may we suggest you acquire or re-visit The Layla Sessions. Clapton, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock and Skydog provide a positively rippin dose of spontaneous magic, and every minute of it was fueled by tweed Champs. Bobby Whitlock on the Layla sessions: When you let a horse run a race, it will run its finest race on its own. When you get some musicians and you get some creative people, you give them the opportunity to do what


cover story
theyre supposed to do, and theyll do just that. Given the right circumstances, theyll perform at their peak. Theyll draw from the source. These songs dont come out of your head. Theyre not something you sit down and figure out. Theyre things that flow through you we were just instruments, just like the instruments in our laps. We were provided an opportunity to lock ourselves away and let the creative principle of the universe flow through us. Interviewed about the Layla Sessions in Sound on Sound magazine, brothers Ron and Howard Albert, the Criteria recording engineers who worked the Layla sessions with producer Tom Dowd added, If you looked through the control-room glass, the piano was to the left, and on top of the piano, which had the lid closed, were our [Fender Tweed] Champ amps that Eric and Duane both used. We had to be inventive. The room was not a large space, so what we had to do was figure out a way to get everybody in there. The piano took up most of the space along one wall, and cue systems in those days were pretty basic. We only had one stereo send and it was hard for everybody to hear themselves, so for acoustic purposes we used the little Champ amps because they wouldnt make a lot of sound in the room, enabling us to get isolation between the drums and the piano and the guitarists. Having read this, we were compelled to find the Albert Brothers on your behalf, who remain active in the recording industry having recently completed a new compilation of unreleased Manassas tracks titled Pieces, as well the Subdudes latest release. Ron and Howard also operate Audio Vision Recording Studios in North Miami with their partner Steve Alaimo. We spoke to the Albert brothers via a 3-way conference call in late December, and it was a great hang. Listen TQR: As the engineers responsible for recording Layla, what were your expectations in advance of the sessions? essentially the setup was the same we had the drums in the booth where we would normally place them, and we had this 9-foot Baldwin grand piano which was always in the same place. The one thing that we did do differently, and I think this is where the Champ came in, was that we stuck the Champs on top of the piano, and Eric had one blowing into the back of his head like a set of headphones. TQR: Whose idea was it to use the Champs?

I think it was just circumstance. It certainly wasnt the first record that we ever used a Champ on, and for those sessions I think one was Erics and the other one belonged to the studio, and I believe that one might have been a blackface Champ. In the recording studio, smaller amps were more the norm rather than using bigger amps. We used to record bass through a little Ampex suitcase amp with a ten inch speaker the bass on James Browns I Feel Good was recorded through that little Ampex, and that kind of thing was not uncommon. TQR: What types of mics did you use?

We werent really told anything beforehand. We were doing about one act a month for Atlantic at that time. It was a machine, and Atlantic had set up what was called Atlantic South at Criteria Studios. Tom, Jerry and Arif would be present on a rotating schedule, Ahmet might fly in on any given day, but Howard and I were the staples, and to a certain degree Chuck Kirkpatrick was the third member of that team, although not as heavily involved. For the Layla sessions it was just another group as far as we were concerned business as usual, and

Mostly Shure SM57s on the guitars, and also ElectroVoice 635s. When you Ampex 620 have a lot of musicians in a small space, condenser mics are not your friend. One of the things we had going for us at Criteria was a huge backlog of experience in understanding which mics would do what under specific circumstances, and we had tons and tons of microphones because of Mack Emerman. If it had been made, we had it. I can understand how your readers, being guitar players, might think we pulled out some classic condenser mics, but that wasnt the case. TQR: We have actually interviewed guitarists who have laid out pretty heavy dough to stock their mic closet with various Royer and Neumann microphones to use for recording guitar

And I look at those guys and think, What are you doing? -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

cover story
Weve specifically used dynamic mics like a Shure SM57 on guitar because we know what were going to get, and that mic gives us the sound we want. We usually dont have to EQ the track as much with a 57, and part of the magic of the guitar sounds on Layla is due to the way the guitars were layered. Dynamic mics give us the sonic space to do that. On overdubs, in addition to the Shure SM57, we might also use a condenser mic like a U47 set up ten feet away from the amp and mix that with the direct mic. We also turn the mics off-axis at a thirty degree angle when close micing. But wed be remiss if we didnt mention that part of the secret to that great guitar sound on Layla was the room Studio B at Criteria. It was a rectangular room with polycyndrical diffusers on the walls that were home-made with slats in between them to break up high frequency waves. The ceiling height was something like 22 feet, and the big thing that no one ever talks about was the carpet probably 90% of the sound was that SM57 magic carpet (laughing) TQR: Get out of here But the diffusers were, for those who may not know, designed to knockdown standing waves, correct? record Yeah, it is. TQR: It seems like music went down hill as the number of available tracks increased. You think?! Not only that, it went down hill when people decided they needed twenty four tracks just to get four tracks on a record. TQR: So you would EQ on the fly

Electrovoice 635a mic

Yeah, and then wed do a lot of bouncing and putting different parts together so we would wind up with three or four guitar parts as one track among sixteen. TQR: Whats your take on the evolution of recording from analog 2-inch tape to digital? When we interviewed Tom Dowd, he seemed to think that digital was superior to analog, which was surprising to hear.

Mack designed this room himself, and he just put stuff up that hed read about, made it up and it worked. The thing that was amazing about that room was that the isolation was just incredible, and I have never been in another room like it since ever. Weve been in rooms all over the world and nothing could touch it. TQR: And while a studio remains on the premises today, that particular room at Criteria was turned into an artists lounge Seems like a crime.

It was a crime. You could understand the building being sold and turned into a pizzeria or something, but to have lost that room in a recording facility is a crime. TQR: How much did you adjust EQ on individual tracks when you were recording Layla?

You almost had to EQ things as you were recording, because we only had sixteen tracks total, and eight of them were used for the drums alone, which only leaves about six tracks for vocals and guitars. But we generally EQ when were recording, because if you get it right in the beginning, thats always better. Well fix it in the mix never made sense to us. TQR: Sixteen tracks should be enough for a rock

I dont agree with that. When we switched from analog to digital we chose the Otari Radar system, which hapTom Dowd pened to sound fabulous, with very little difference in the bottom-end or overall quality from analog tape. We A/Bd it all the time and it just sounded fabulous. It was just really, really, really good. Then they came out with Radar 2 which was even better The first digital machine was 3M, and that sounded like dog, and the $260,000 Sony 48-track digital 3348 was very bright and brittle sounding, but unfortunately, most of the masses initially went in that direction. Radar just sounded better, like an analog tape. Then when Pro Tools came out, it became the industry standard very, very quickly, and one of the things that helped Pro Tools was how bad the earlier Alesis ADAT system had sounded. You guys are into guitars and guitar sounds, but hip-hop is the leader in the recording industry (and there are no Champ amps on hip-hop). The other thing is that everybody can have a Pro Tools system without spending $200,000, and the things you can do with editing are invaluable. So, if youre a professional these days -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

cover story
youre using Pro Tools. They may have stopped by now, but as recently as a few years ago I know that U2 was still tracking on Radar. But if youre any good as an engineer and you have a decent console, you can make good sounding music. Back to the circle of guitars and Champs yes, there are some beautiful vintage amps, but lets not forget the guitar that is plugged into the amp It all starts with the guitar. Part of our philosophy in making beautiful sounding rock & roll recordings is layering different types of guitars whatever you got If you have a Strat it doesnt mean you cant use a Telecaster, a Les Paul, an SG or a Gretsch with it. Its cumulative knowing what something should sound like has been a big part of our success. TQR: Sure, although you did manage to pull it off with the Layla sessions, which were limited to the Stratocaster and Duanes Les Paul Brothers stuff. The last time we saw the Baldwin piano was at a Florida memorabilia exhibit, so its still around. TQR: Have you ever had to spend a lot of time trying to get a sound for a particular guitarist in the studio?

Thats correct, but in all fairness to them, you also had two completely unique guitar players with their own very unique and different styles. TQR: What types of effects did you use on Layla?

No. Listen, Duane Allman would come in, and all he wanted to do was play, so hed leave it to us to get the sound. If you took more than two minutes to get a sound up, they would get frustrated. All they wanted to do was play it was our job to get the sound for the record. It has never happened in our sessions, but I have seen people take all day to get guitar or drums sounds, and I dont understand that. When we were doing Zakk Wylde there were no issues with the guitar sound. We set up three Marshall heads in the control room with different cabinets miced up in the studio, and it was never more than a matter of a few seconds to get a great guitar sound. We also have a pretty unorthodox method of recording vocal tracks, and weve learned that it doesnt matter how the vocal sounds alone what matters is how the vocal sounds in the mix how it sits with all the other tracks. Getting that right is not an easy trick. TQR: Weve also had people comment on how they dont like to start a track on guitar and come back to finish it on another day, because it never sounds the same.

We really didnt have very many guitar effects back then, but we used EQ, compression and limiting, we had echo chambers, and we used a little tape delay with a couple of Ampex tape machines. The Fender Leslie cabinet also played a huge role in the sound of that record. It was an actual Fender Leslie cabinet with an on/off footswitch, but Howard and I took it to another level by connecting a variac to it to vary the speed of the Leslie. TQR: And this Leslie cabinet was connected to what?

Either a Fender Super Reverb or a tweed Bassman. There were two rental companies in Miami at the time Howard and I had one and Criteria created one later on when they realized you could make money renting equipment. We had everything we still have Howards B3 that was on Layla, all of the Aretha Franklin records and all of the Allman

Thats true, and weve had to deal with that many, many times. Heres a story Jerry Garcia was playing pedal steel on a Stephen Stills session it may have been Manassas, I dont recall, but Jerry shut it down late one night not having finished the track. He said hed come back tomorrow, and were still waiting (laughing). Stephen came in and finished Jerrys pedal steel track playing a Gretsch and doing the volume swells with the volume control on the guitar, so you have this steel track actually comprised of two parts, and yes, we did have to do some work to get Stephens guitar to sound like Jerrys pedal steel. -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

cover story
TQR: You both also recently created and produced an allnew Manassas recording titled Pieces from unreleased tracks from the original sessions, and you mentioned when we first spoke how surprised you were to hear that warm analog sound again. of the cheating process that we were very aware of. If you wanted a loud, fat record, you couldnt have twenty-four minute sides. Look at the Beatles records they were short sides. In those early days you had something called variable pitch What that means is that you could vary how narrow or wide the groove is depending on where you turn the knob in mastering. A good mastering engineer at that time would learn the song and know where the big bass bumps were so they could widen the grooves. There was no automation they would turn the knob, and if they had a twenty minute side and seventeen minutes into it they missed, theyd have to start over and cut a new acetate. TQR: Better. More bottom and more transparent. More depth. Its almost like recording a session with everything close-miced and also with room mics, then you bring the band in to hear the playback with the sound from the room mics off, and the ambience of the sound you are hearing is drastically different. The digital sound is drier, versus this coating over the whole thing that just makes it warm and gushy. TQR: You worked in an era where recordings were made in the studio, and then the mix would be mastered to an acetate, and sometimes a lot could be lost in the process. And you were making judgments in terms of EQ as you were recording that were critical to the mastering process.

The first time we put those tapes up and pushed play We knew the songs, we had worked on them collectively for hundreds of hours when they were recorded, and while we hadnt heard them in 30 years, you think you remember what they sound like specifically the tonal quality of analog recording yet we were just blown away. TQR: Can you describe the difference?

We had our own mastering facility, so we knew what we were going to get. Having all those exotic microphones, we didnt have to send our masters out to be mastered. We had our own mastering guy, Karl Richardson, who gave us an edge over a lot of people. At that time there was a lot of EQing going on in the studio to make it work right on an acetate, because you had physical limitations If you went over twenty-one minutes a side on an LP, you had to lower the volume because the width of the grooves had to be narrower. If you had a lot of bottom end, which we always had on our records, the wider the grooves had to be, and the less volume you had. If you were to look at the elapsed time of the sides on the Manassas records, for example, thats part

Yes. Most recently, the record company decided that they would also like to release a vinyl version of Pieces as well. They sent the recording to Bernie Grundman one of the most accomplished and respected mastering engineers in the world whom weve worked with for many years, and he said the recording didnt need mastering. Its already been done. In regard to mastering and making records sound good making albums was not the norm it was a singles business first, so worrying about the length of a side and all these considerations were talking about no one really cared about the album except for the artwork. When we were doing an album a month for Atlantic, one month it would be Eric Clapton and the next would be Herbie Mann. TQR: Yet you routinely recorded many versions of each song and then assembled the final, finished master using assorted pieces from all the different takes a composite of the best instru mental and vocal takes you had recorded.

We always did that on everything, with everybody. The only -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

cover story
example I can think of contrary to that is Greg Allman, and Ill tell you the story You know, the Allman Brothers literally lived in the parking lot of the studio in this old Winnebago when they were in Miami. It wasnt like Duane was called down from Daytona Beach for a session he was living in the parking lot at Criteria, which just happened to make one of the greatest guitar players in the world available to us, and we very very fortunate to have him around. TQR: So were they were hanging outside the Winnebago with folding patio chairs and cases of Budweiser? That kind of hang? Southern boys would do that turn any damn place into a porch is what they do. Yeah, well do that for a guitar part, but there is not that much live recording going on anymore as a whole band, so its a little different, and I miss that kind of live recording. There are also not a lot of people around anymore that are knowledgeable and capable of working that way the Johns brothers Eddie Kramer us] TQR: So youve done the new Manassas Pieces recording, and you just finished the new Subdudes record how did that come about?

Well, they recorded the initial tracks themselves in Colorado and then they sent us the masters and we did some overdubs, mixing and finished the record with Al Kooper playing some piano. In the process, we all became huge Tommy Malone fans. TQR: And so you should. There is no hip-hop on a Tommy Malone record. Its a deeper groove altogether. The deepest. www.audiovisionstudios.com www.subdudes.com

Yeah, something like that. You see, so much of what we did was done after hours Tom would leave the session in our hands, and we could do the hang, and during that hang time is when we were able to develop our sound and our recording techniques. Some of it worked and some of it didnt, but we were free to experiment. So, Greg came into the studio early one day for some reason and said, What do you want to do? It was just him and I there werent any record company people or producers around, but we had our shit together The studio is set up, the mics are set up and the lights are dimmed We were extremely professional and very much on top of our game. So I said, Lets do this It was a song wed recorded earlier called Midnight Rider that needed a vocal. So I put the tape on the machine, Greg sings the song and at the end he lifts his head, looks at me and says, Hows that? I looked to my left and looked to my right and there is no Tom Dowd, and I pushed the talkback button and said, Yeah, that sounded good. And thats the vocal on the record one take, and its the magical one. Having said that, most of the recordings weve made are composites. TQR: Do you really get to work that way anymore?

The Albert brothers comments suggest that perhaps the decision to use Champ amps can be attributed to the engineers desire to isolate the instruments in the small Studio B space at Criteria. Did Eric Clapton approach these sessions with any particular preference for the tone of a tweed Champ over other amplifiers that would have been available to him? We wonder Nearly four decades hence, we guitarists continue to scour the vast landscape of sounds and guitar tones new and old that might allow, as Bobby Whitlock suggested, the creative principle of the universe to flow through us too. Yet we remain vulnerable to sometimes listening too closely to the persistent buzz that holds the latest white-hot gizmo aloft in our consciousness like a bad case of tinnitisDear God how we hate to be the last to know whats supposed to be cool, -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

cover story
and as amp builder Roy Blankenship wryly observed in our February 2008 interview, There is a lot of dick-measuring in this business. Ya think? In this edition of the Quest we fix your attention on bona fide sure bets instruments that can deliver on the promise of lasting inspiration and rapture at the cusp of the new year. But first, some context is in order mind. We started out on GBase.com, where a dozen or so tweed Champs in various states of pristine originality and musty decay were listed with instructions to bend over and call for a price. We actually placed a couple of calls on specific amps one droll stoner agreed to send additional pictures (and did), and then informed us that they would need an additional 3% for PayPal and the rich asking price was firmer than Tiger Woods putting stroke at the Perkins Pancake Doublewide Invitational. Second dude promised to send pix and never did. Are we having fun yet? Craigs List turned up nothing but a guy named Champ looking for a hookup (we didnt call), so it was on to eBay, where we quickly located a juicy-looking 61, only to find that it had been professionally serviced with all new caps (every last one of em). A few days later a sweet, caramelized 59 appeared with a Buy It Now price of $1299.00 and free shipping. We re-entered eBay through the Bing.com portal, hit BIN and claimed an instant 8% cash back deposit in our PayPal account compliments of Bill Gates to close the deal. About the best you can hope for price-wise on eBay for a straight, relatively unmolested tweed Champ is $900 and change if you want to hang in for the long haul and play the bidding game. As always, we dont want a completely refurbished old amp that sounds new, and its almost unheard of to see Champs with replaced transformers. Just avoid circuit boards that have been completely swept clean of those Astron coupling caps and original resistors

Bobby Whitlock

Well not drag you tied to the rusty back bumper of Fender history through every academic nuance and iteration of the Champ since its creation in 1948, focusing instead on the later 57-64 tweed models originally equipped with an 8 inch Rola, Oxford or Jensen speaker. While the early Champion 800 and 600 amps are definitely collectable pieces of Fender history, its the narrow panel tweed 5F1 circuit that delivers the goods. Counted among these is the transitional 64 version covered in black tolex with silver grill cloth the last 5F1 Champ produced before the blackface model AA764 was introduced in late 1964. Of course, you want to know how the black and silverface Champs (and the Vibro-Champ) compare to the narrow panel tweeds built from 57-64 Well, you guessed right they are usually cheaper today, and their sound is much cleaner in keeping with the evolution of the black and silverface amps overall. They can sound very good in the style of a lower powered, single 6V6 nonreverb Princeton, if you can imagine that, but they dont possess the mystical mojo of the tweed era any more than a silverface Bassman sounds remotely similar to a tweed. We should also mention that in addition to the modern reissue 57 Fender tweed Champ reviewed here, other builders have been inspired to develop their own worthy tributes to the Champ, including Victorias model 518 featuring an optional Jensen P12N speaker. If you are allergic to dealing with 50 year-old relics, one of these modern alternatives may be the amp for you, and were reviewing a ton of em here.

Our 59 arrived from Hendersonville, NC as advertised with the electrolytics already replaced with the proper Spragues, and the original Oxford 8" speaker complete with a well-done toilet paper patch on the bottom of the cone where the AC cord had probably punctured it. The Oxford sounded a little tired but good papery and throaty with lots of transparent harmonic texture, and the Champ itself revealed everything we had hoped for and more the kind of vintage tone that stops conversation, only to resume with heaps of reverent praise and comments about how that sound had been -continued-

The 59
Our initial search for a vintage tweed Champ was revealing in an amusing or irritating fashion depending on your state of

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

cover story
forgotten. And it has. Well, youve been busy The next day we took the Champ to Bakos Ampworks to have the too long, brittle and stiff 2-prong grey power cord replaced. As Jeff worked we discussed his fondness for his own tweed Champ and all the tracks that had been cut with it over the years. With the new cord installed, we fired up the Champ and immediately heard crackling in the volume pot that hadnt been there before Whats this? Jeff shook a tiny piece of old solder out of it with a modified dental tool, but the scratchiness persisted. Not to be deterred, he disassembled the pot casing looking for any additional crap inside and reassembled it with no improvement. Sorry, man, but I think this pot is toast. Sooo, we were off to search for a switched 1 meg audio taper pot, which we ultimately found at Weber VST for a righteous price of under three bucks. While we were arranging that transaction, we also asked the gang at Weber to send down both of their Signature 4-ohm Alnico 8s for review in the Champ, which they did. Things were looking up as we anticipated the article that was rapidly developing on your behalf. When the speakers arrived we eyed the box from Weber with the full relish of a $200 pound of golden Blue Mountain Lambs Bread circa 1972. Irie. Well, not quite irie The Champ chassis wouldnt clear the top edge of the Webers Alnico magnet no way, no how. But they say right on their web description, Fits a tweed Champ. Pondering our failed geometry problem with all the acuity of a chimpanzee, we were, for the moment, stumped and flummoxed. We had acquired a couple of Jensen reissues that wouldnt fit either, and as we further digested this sobering thought in front of the PC monitor while nursing a Sierra Nevada Pale, we pulled up a picture of a mounted speaker in another 59 Champ and stared at its position on the baffleboard for any clues to our dilemma Gizzards and coco puffs! Lookie there! The bottom edge of the speaker frame was no more than half an inch above the bottom edge of the baffleboard on that one, while ours sat two inches higher What the hell? The baffleboard on our 59 was clearly original Have you guessed yet? It had been mistakenly installed upsidedown in Fullerton! Ah, Lup, look at the confusion and worry your innocent distraction has caused us 50 years later! Was Freddie Tavares whispering a naughty joke in your ear when you screwed this one together? Well, bless you, wherever you are We flipped the baffleboard in minutes and the speaker was now positioned properly to allow us to install the Webers and pretty much any other 8 we wished. Viva el Champion! Viva Lup!

Giving Up the Goods

By now perhaps youre thinking that the acquisition of a sweet tweed honey dripper presents challenges better left to others that the unpredictable effects of time, chance and a potential sellers ignorance or obfuscation may leave your wallet depleted and your spirit broken Well, you certainly can skirt the more adventurous path of hunting down an old gem and buy something new and you do have respectable choices but for those of you who relish the visual and sonic patina that only a vintage classic can truly deliver, we urge you to go for it. With a little patience youll likely find an iconic example of this utterly stellar little jewel in the Fender crown for a just a few hundred dollars more than a new version, and if you choose well, your investment will certainly not depreciate in value over time. On the other hand, your appreciation for the Champ and its absolute ability to inspire exceptional music at comforting volume levels is virtually incalculable. Wait Read that last line again. Really? Yes. We must tell you that we were shocked and stunned by just how magical the 59 really sounds and especially after our speaker evaluations began

Weber Signature Alnico 8 and Alnico 8S

Ted Webers untimely passing on August 14, 2008 at age 58 marked the end of a remarkably creative and energetic life devoted to electronics, music and sound. Before creating Weber VST, Ted worked in research and development at the Delco division of General Motors in Kokomo, Indiana, and later became Lab Supervisor of Technicians at Delphi Energenix Laboratory. He retired from Delphi in April 2005 and expanded Weber VST well beyond the existing speaker catalog to include amplifier components and chassis, custom cabinets, attenuators, bias tools, amp kits and more, but it is Teds contribution to guitar speakers that truly energized an industry that had fallen back on its heels a bit in preceding decades. Weber re-set the bar and awakened a new interest in the importance of speakers as the final transducer that shapes -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

cover story
our tone, and through his work and the information shared on his web site, a new and robust era in speaker manufacturing emerged. Teds legacy now lives on under the care of his son T.A., who continues to manage the operation Ted created. Ted was also an early contributor to TQR. Listen TQR: Did you initially want to reproduce the vintage speaker designs of the past? would be watered down for cost effective manufacturing and competitive pricing. Were taking that original speaker that would have been designed and built in the lab and reproducing it every time. Well, now thats comforting words indeed, and we can tell you that given our experience with the Weber Signature 8s, Ted succeeded mightily in his quest, may he rest in peace. Weber builds an Alnico 8 and a brighter 8S model for yer Champ, and we started with the standard 8. The first thing we noticed is that the volume increased over the original Oxford by 20%. So much for originality The Weber also displayed a far richer, bolder sound strong and vocal in the mids with excellent frequency response and, as the online description promised, a smooth response to higher volume levels with a slight attenuation in the higher frequencies and moderate, musical compression. We would choose this Signature 8 speaker for most guitars equipped with brighter single coil pickups, and the improvement over the old Oxford was astounding. Astounding? Really. The Alnico 8S also performs as described, with much more prominent treble presence that colors the overdriven voice of the Champ with a brighter, sharper character overall. If you prefer the sound of a brighter speaker, this ones for you. The contrast between the two Weber speakers is very apparent, and we personally preferred the thicker, richer sound of the standard Weber Signature Alnico 8 over the 8S. Your results may vary, and thats OK. We simply loved the way the smooth cone Signature Alnico 8 transformed the sound of our 59 Champ into a magnificently bold little tweed with excellent clarity (and this is important), exceptionally smooth, musical distortion, vivid second-order harmonics and phenomenal dynamic response to pick attack. In our world, you really couldnt ask for more.TQ www.tedweber.com

Being an engineer, I thought about how often original designs became watered down in the front office or accounting department. The belief I had was that if we remained small, did all of our marketing on the Internet and kept our overhead low, we could actually design and build engineered speakers products with very tight tolerances and a high degree of precision machining that generally isnt possible with mass production. Our gaps would be tighter with better concentricity, better magnets, a higher grade of steel, and our production would be cellular rather then just throwing things together on a high-volume production line. But I also knew that we wouldnt be able to do the typical 6-8 times build-cost-toretail-price ratio. We would have had a $300-$400 speaker that would have become an expensive lawn ornament, because at that time, the question would have been Who the heck is Weber? Why would anyone pay that much for a speaker built by someone they had never heard of? Mass distribution wasnt going to work for us. Anyone can go to Eminence or overseas to have speakers made, but I didnt see the point of that. There was no sense in building speakers using generic parts that wasnt within our vision of producing speakers that the old designers would have created in a perfect creative environment. And if one of those old speaker designers were to come here today, he would find that were basically shipping prototype speakers every single day in terms of the quality of materials and manufacturing tolerances. In the old days, they would have machined all of the parts, prototyped a specific model and performed a cost analysis on it. Thats where the original design

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

Jensen P8R & C8R
We also arranged to receive a ceramic mag Jensen C8R and Alnico P8R from CE Distribution to audition in the 59, and it didnt take long for us to give the nod to the ceramic C8R for the same reasons we preferred the standard Weber Alnico over the brighter S model. In a feisty little amp like the Champ, we dont want to hear a lot of high frequency distortion clashing over single notes and chords. The 59 Champ is by nature a very transparent and revealing amp given its small output transformer and speaker Any dissonance quickly obscures fundamentals, while the right speaker can actually expand them through second order harmonics, creating a polyphonic vocal quality that can be experienced firsthand throughout the brilliantly crafted, ultimate demo CD for the Champ Layla. The trick, it seems, is to strike the right balance of compression, frequency response and clarity, while avoiding shrill, too sharp treble tones, muddy mids and floppy low end. The Jensen C8R sounds strong, full and rich with single coils (P90s are made for a Champ), but depending on the pickups in your humbucking guitars, were not going to eliminate the brighter speakers mentioned here if youll be predominantly using midrange-heavy humbuckers. The good news is that all of these 8 inch speakers are relatively inexpensive, which makes experimentation a lot less costly. Among the Jensen 8s, we prefer the C8R. www.cedist.com, 480-755-4712 (wholesale) www.tubesandmore.com, 480-820-5411 reviewed here. Its also interesting to note that the Rola was stamped with a Philco label.TQ The Speaker Workshop, 260-426-8742 Terry Dobbs, www.valcoamp.com, 812-342-6684

The Fender 57 Champ Reissue ToneQuest

Fender has established a long and varied history of building highly respected modern amps like the Blues Deville, Blues Junior, Vibro King and reissue tweed Bassman, but they have also not ignored the enduring appeal of vintage classics, such as the blackface Vibroverb 1x15 designed in cooperation with Csar Diaz, the 57 tweed Twin, the hand-wired tweed Deluxe, blackface Princeton Reverb, and the 5F1 57 tweed Champ.

Lagniappe Jensen & Rola Recones

Thanks to Mr. Valco, aka Terry Dobbs, we were also able to have Tom Colvin at the Speaker Workshop in Ft. Wayne, Indiana do his reconing magic with a vintage Rola and Jensen 4 ohm eight. Like the original Oxford in the 59 Champ, both of these vintage speakers produce a sound that is more papery and slightly less powerful than the Webers or modern Jensens, but their tone is very true to the period in which the tweed Champs were built. The voice of the Rola was a bit thicker and more middy than the Jensen, which displayed the typical brightness unique to Jensen Alnico speakers, and both added more distortion than any of the modern 8s

Given all of the low-powered amps that are available to guitarists today at virtually any price point, you might wonder why an industry giant like Fender would bother to reissue a 5 watt hand-wired amp that lists for $1299 and sells for a street price of $999 Well, its a Champ, and in case you havent noticed, there seems to be a healthy reverence for Fender history among the current management at Fender that often transcends dispassionate business decisions that might otherwise focus solely on the bottom line. We suspect the overriding motivation for building a labor-intensive, handwired 5F1 Champ was simply that it deserved and needed to be done. And as we have reported in the past in regard to the tweed Deluxe, for example, you can be assured that the development team at Fender assembled a respectable assortment of vintage Champs as they tweaked the prototype that would ultimately provide the final blueprint for production. As a consumer, tonefreak and prospective Champ owner, you of course are single-mindedly interested in one thing, and one thing only How does Fenders modern reissue sound and compare to the real thing? Fair question, and the very same that prompted us to request a Champ for review. As far as technical details go, the Champ is properly housed in a lacquered tweed covered pine box, loaded with a Ruby 5Y3 and GT 6V6 and 12AX7 tubes, and the excellent Weber -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

Signature Alnico 4 ohm speaker (not the brighter S Alnico model). The globally compliant hand-wired chassis is much busier than an original Champ inside, with redundant failsafe fuses on the fiber circuit board, shields over the internal input jacks, and a compliant (and easily removable) cage attached to the back panel that protects the user from those smokin hot tubes! Features (or lack thereof) faithfully follow the original design, with high and low sensitivity inputs and a single volume control. Rather than using a switched volume pot, an on/off toggle switch is employed. The 606 transformer EIA codes indicate Schumacher, and this is good. Give Fender a deserving nod for also including an authentic brown linen vintage-style cover. Alnico selected by Fender is the one you want. Lightly used reissue tweed Champs are selling for around $600 versus $999 new. By all means, Quest forthTQ www.fender.com www.kcanostubes.com

Victoria 518 ToneQuest

Mark Baiers replica of the Champ faithfully honors the original 5F1 circuit in a slightly larger pine box an inch taller and deeper than the original cabinet, and no one does a better job of lacquering tweed with an amber patina than Victoria. If an eight inch driver leaves you feeling slightly under-endowed, you can also order the Big Bamboo model 5112 a tweed Champ in a Deluxe cabinet loaded with an Eminence Legend 12. Our 518 review model included a new old stock GE 5Y3 rectifier, new (and excellent) Tung-Sol 6V6 and an equally good TAD (Tube Amp Doctor) 12AX7. If you ever find yourself wondering which modern tubes offer the best tone and dependability, just look inside amps built by smaller companies that really care about tube tone. We can recall when all Victorias were shipped with NOS tubes, if that tells you anything

Youd think an elegantly austere and simple circuit like the 5F1 Champ would be easy enough to reproduce and dial in tonally, and Fender has succeeded nicely. The voice of the Champ is rich and throaty with surprising volume as it gradually succumbs to increasingly intense distortion and secondorder harmonics. Compared to our vintage 59, the new Champ gets louder a little faster, probably due to a different taper in the volume pots of both amps. Equipped with the stock tubes, the modern Champ lacks a little of the clarity, dimensionality and smooth dynamic response of our 59, but when we swapped the GT 6V6 with an old RCA blackplate and the 12AX7 with a vintage RCA, those qualities emerged as you would expect. There is a difference between both amps the new Champ sounds understandably brighter by a few degrees, and more assertive like a new amp versus one that is 50 years old. But for those of you who prefer the reliability and no-maintenance peace of mind offered by a new amp (with a 5-year warranty), we can recommend the new Fender Champ very highly and especially if you can get your hands on a fine NOS 6V6 and 12AX7. Even at todays prices for vintage tubes, optimizing the Champ is an affordable and worthwhile upgrade. As for the speaker, you neednt worry about that the stock Weber

The 518 performs just as expected, with a rich, musical voice. The stock Jensen Alnico P8R doesnt sound as overwhelmingly bright in the Victoria as it did in our 59 or Greg Talleys, but we still prefer the heavier sound of the Weber Signature 8. The 518 doesnt spill into intense distortion and higher volume levels quite as fast as our old Champs, but it gets there with authority, and there are plenty of very usable tones present before you reach 8. If you are under the impression that Champs are only truly useful fully gassed on 10, youd be wrong. Their sweet spot is really well before hard clipping, and yes, outboard reverb or tremolo quickly transforms them into something magical that defies easy identification in a blindfold test or a recording. Weaker Stratocaster pickups or a guitar like our Jerry Jones Copperburst really bloom and breathe in this amp especially with the dynamic compression produced by an eight inch speaker, while typical P90s, Telecaster and humbucking pickups produce a more linear intensity. Overall, wed describe the Victoria 518 as sounding slightly more detailed, -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


complex and musical when compared to the modern Fender Champ with its stock tubes. Load both amps with RCAs and you might have a hard time distinguishing one from the other except for the slightly brighter Jensen P8R. The 518 earns additional points on cosmetics with its excellent butterscotch lacquered finish, and we like the traditional single, switched volume control. No, the switched pot doesnt sound better we just like the feel of the click as the jewel light illuminates. By all of the typical criteria one might apply to a booteek amp (tone and build quality), the 518 is outstanding at $1095 new. Our sole suggestion might be to add a line out jack on the bottom of the chassis should you wish to goose a bigger amp.TQ www.victoriaamp.com, 630-820-6400 enjoy the sound of variable degrees of distortion at moderate volume levels. The remarkable growth of the pedal business can be attributed to this same obsession with distortion at a polite volume. Hey we love Super Reverbs as much as anyone, but when your ears are ringing hours after a brief dalliance with those four tens, we understand. And who wants to lift a Super? We received three ValveTrain models for review, all an easy one-hand tote well under 10 watts. Inspired by the cathodebiased 1955 Fender 5F2A Princeton, the 205 model is built with a pine cabinet two inches taller than a vintage Champ, and features nicely aged tortured tweed. Additional features unique to the 205 include both a volume and tone control, and 4 and 8 ohm speaker input jacks on the bottom of the chassis. The presence of an 8 ohm jack might could open up a brave new world of 8" speaker options for anyone bold enough to look beyond the obvious The majority of available used and vintage eight inch speakers are 8 ohm, including some very interesting 8s with Jensen, Magnavox (CTS), Rola, JBL and Telefunken labels. A player with an 8 ohm Champ could have a helluva lot of fun dabbling in some of the more obscure 8" full-range speakers that have been made for various stereo systems just be sure to limit your search to full range speakers not midrange drivers or hi-fi woofers. Every time weve looked, eBay has been full of em. Like the Victoria 518, the volume pot on the ValveTrain 205 exhibits a slower taper, so comparable volume levels on our 59s are quite different. 6 on one of the 59s might be 8 on the modern amps, with a steeper increase in volume and distortion from 8 to 10. This isnt a flaw the taper is just different, as Robben Ford observed in our December 09 interview when we asked him where he set the volume on his Dumbles. The handwired ValveTrain is shipped with a Weber Signature Alnico 8S, along with an Electro-Harmonix 12AX7, 6V6, and a NOS RCA 5Y3 rectifier. The sound of the 205 is squarely in the neighborhood with the contemporary Champs weve reviewed slightly tamer by a hair played wide open, and no, the taller cabinet doesnt seem to affect the tone or fidelity of the amp one way or another. Aside from great tone and crankability, the 205s strongest selling point seems to rest with that extra 8 ohm speaker jack, in our opinion. Street price is $899. -continued-

As explained to us during an introductory phone call, ValveTrain founder Rick Gessners vision for the Revolution Series was to build high-quality, hand-wired guitar amplifiers in the USA utilizing American-made components at a street price under $1,000. As he described his business model over the phone, we couldnt help thinking of the companies that had recently adopted a similar, yet polar opposite approach to build hand-wired affordable amps in China. Well, regardless of where they are built, the market for small, affordable guitar amps has always been much more robust than most of the bigger custom-built, hand-wired models we often review in these pages, and this is nothing new Fender built far more student models like the Champ and guitars like the Duo Sonic and Mustang because thats what sold the most ditto with Gibson and the Skylark and Melody Maker. Small amplifiers offering lower decibel levels remain immensely popular today for home, apartment and studio use not necessarily due to their low cost, but because so many players


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


ValveTrain Concord & Lexington Reverb
At 6 watts, these single input amps fall within the general power and volume range of a Champ, but loaded with ten inch speakers and additional features. Available as a 1x10 combo or compact head, the Class A, cathode-biased, Concord operates on a single 6V6, 12AX7 and solid state rectifier with volume, treble and bass controls, two 4 ohm and one 8 ohm speaker input and a Real Vintage USA-made 10" speaker. Compared to the Lexington, the Concord delivers a thicker, heavier tone with plenty of additional treble available, and moderate distortion levels from 8-10 on the volume control that intensify significantly with stronger humbuckers. Overall volume is comparable to all of the Champs reviewed here, but the Concord displays more clean headroom before breaking up, and maximum distortion is less intense. Think of it as a 6-watt amp with excellent fidelity and a good match with effects pedals. However, the overdriven sound produces a mellower, jangly burn than that of the typical Champ circuit.

reverb pan produces a good spring reverb effect that stops short of full-surf splash, but it adds depth and mystery to single coils like it should. On a related note, you may have heard that Belton recently acquired the Accutronics Company that has been building spring reverb pans in Cary, IL for decades. According to the corporate web site, Accutronics reverb pans were to be manufactured in Cary through November 2009. Log on to the Accutronics web site today, and youll be greeted by the new Belton Accutronics page, with the companys new address proudly displayed as Geumcheon-Gu, Seoul, Korea. Our condolences to the people of Cary, Il who are now unemployed so the new Accutronics company may pursue a more contemporary vision of American manufacturing excellence by fleeing to Korea to pump up the companys bottom line. As for ValveTrain amps, they will not be made in Korea, which was the entire point behind Rick Gessners desire to build point-to-point amplifiers in the USA with parts sourced from America. For low-volume dealing at a reasonable price, he has neatly bridged the world of mass production and boutique amps quite nicely with many more models than we were able to review here, so by all means, check em out. TQ www.valvetrainamps.com

The $700.00 Lexington Reverb 1x10 combo uses the same cabinet as the Concord, loaded with an Eminence Ramrod (one of our favorite 10s), dual EH 12AX7s, a single EH 6V6 and solid state rectifier. Features include volume, tone and reverb intensity controls, a toggled high/low power switch that cuts power from 6 to 1.5 watts, and a RAW switch that increases gain and treble response. A reverb footswitch is also included. We created some very usable and interesting tones combining the trebly RAW setting with the neck pickups in our guitars, but otherwise found it too bright and thin for use with the bridge. We also really never warmed up to the 1.5 watt low power setting, preferring to play the Lexington at a full 6 watts with the volume level on 7- 10. Like the Concord, this amp isnt designed with a hair-trigger tendency to jump into gonzo distortion levels, remaining clean well into the rotation of the volume pot before quickly producing overdriven tones beyond 7. The nine-inch Accutronics

Bakos 8 Ball
Many of you are already familiar with our resident amp tech, studio owner/engineer and advisory board member Jeff Bakos. In his spare time, Jeff occasionally builds amps for clients on request, and lately hes been asked to build you guessed it small little biters. Since his personal GA-5 has been featured so often on various recording projects, Jeff toyed with the idea of

-continuedTONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


recreating the Gibson GA-5 Skylark for a minute, but given the fact that vintage GA-5s remain fairly plentiful, he ultimately decided to design his own simple take on a smallish amp the 8 Ball. Housed in a Mojo Champ cabinet, the 8 Ball is built with one of our favorite tens, the Eminence Legend Alnico 1058 (thats a hint), Mercury Magnetics trannies and choke, and premium components, including Sozo coupling caps. With the bigger Mercury Princeton transformer set, the single 6V6/12AX7/5Y3 design is capable of producing 10 watts of power. Features include dual inputs, volume and tone controls, a front panel line out jack, and a vintage/modern toggle switch also conveniently mounted on the front panel. The vintage setting produces pristine, Fendery clean tones up to 12 oclock on the volume control, gradually followed by a progressively thicker growl with intense distortion and sustain. In this setting, the 8 Ball surpasses all the other small amps weve reviewed in terms of practical versatility with stronger, louder clean tones and a more gradual cascade of second-order harmonics and crunch. Again, very Fender-like. The modern setting is hot from the jump, with a much faster and rabid increase in distortion, sustain and gain. Carlos would dig it, no pedals required. The 8 Ball is available by custom order only at $1150 plus shipping with 90-day delivery and a 50% deposit. TQ Bakos Ampworks, Atlanta, 404-607-8426 sonably affordable. Afterall, what good is a tantalizing review of something you may never hope to own? Perhaps you too have scoured guitar reference books or searched online with the hope that youll be reminded of a forgotten model or find a modern guitar that has escaped you Oh, weve spent hours chasing spontaneous detours into obscurity studying bizarre footnotes in guitar manufacturing like the 1980 Gibson ES335-S Firebrand, the Smith Stratocaster, or the Gretsch Corvette, only to conclude that you deserve better than long diatribes on quirky curiosities that wont get played. During one such recent online excursion, however, we stumbled upon a guitar so lusciously delicious and which we knew to be endowed with reasonably certain prospects of absolutely stellar tone that we could simply not let it escape your attention or our grasp. An exceptional, utterly gorgeous example made by a very thoughtful and meticulous builder who has been quietly working for decades smackdab in the heart of Music City USA. His company and distinctive brand are rarely advertised it seems, yet experienced players who can afford to play virtually anything they wish ardently play this fellows guitars not because they were given away as part of an endorsement deal, but because like us, they find his instruments irresistible. At a time when it has become virtually impossible to comprehend and digest all the nuanced variations being built on even one model like the Stratocaster, many of us still crave honest guitars that play flawlessly and sound unlike all the ubiquitous and familiar archetypes in a good way unique guitars that compel us to pick them up every time we walk in the room and sound unlike any other 6-string you can name Thats what we want, and Jerry Jones builds em. Weve reprised Jerrys essential account of his early days at Nashvilles Old Time Picking Parlor and the genesis of Jerry Jones guitars, followed by a review of our latest 1996 JJ Original copperburst and an overview of Delta Moon guitarist Mark Johnsons 3-pickup models. Enjoy

Jerry Jones

Tumblin Dice
We spend more than a little time researching and considering various new and not-so-new guitar models that may be worthy of your consideration, always looking for instruments that are unique, exceptionally toneful, and almost 1980 ES335-S Firebrand always rea-

I think my interest in anything other than just playing guitars started in the early 70s. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and like many kids at that time, I received a modest starter guitar for Christmas an early 60s Epiphone Coronet, as I recall. I played at home and with my pals now and then and the guitar would go back under -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

the bed for a while. My interest was rekindled when artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page emerged in the late 60s. I was a Led Zeppelin fan and in addition to having seen them in concert, I particularly remember seeing an album cover photo of Jimmy Page with his sunburst Les Paul. That guitar definitely struck me. Les Pauls had been reintroduced a year or so before, but not as a sunburst. As I learned more about the history of these guitars I became even more intrigued. Old sun burst Les Pauls from the 50s were impossible to come by at that time and they would have been expensive as much as a new guitar. I did find a 52 goldtop in Memphis though, and in short order I set about converting it to a faded sunburst. I must have refinished that guitar four or five times over the few years that I owned it. With each refinish, I would learn something new. The only book available at that time was the Irving Sloane book on classic guitar construction, which I studied. I continued to play over the next few years and became more interested in pedal steel guitar than six string. Also, I would purchase vintage guitars when I came across them. That was a time when you could buy vintage Strats or Teles listed in the local want-ads. I would just call the ads offering Fender guitars and ask if the guitar had a big F on the neck plate, if not, I was off to buy my next guitar. Some of them were basket cases, and I would restore them and sell them to my friends. I did enough of this kind of work that I decided to set up an extra room in my house as a shop nothing too serious, though. I never entertained any thoughts of a career. I was always the guy who took the clock apart and got it back together most of the time. My father was a tinkerer and could intuitively fix most anything, so I just thought thats what guys did fix things. So, in addition to my musical interest, I cultivated an interest in how things are made and how they work. I think most great instrument builders develop a keen sense of how things should look, sound, and feel from a players perspective. Over time, I have seen instruments that were made by very capable wood craftsmen that really would not appeal to musicians. Some of those fine details that make a great guitar can escape even the best woodworkers. You have to see your work through a musicians eyes, so thats what I have always done. Im not a frustrated musician or a frustrated woodworker Im a guitar builder. In 1978, through a chance meeting, I ended up with a job offer with The Old Time Picking Parlor in Nashville. The OTPP was a well-known guitar shop and had a great reputation for acoustic construction and repair. Most of my experience was with electric instruments, so it was a good fit for me. I could take all the electric business that walked in the door and at the same time learn a lot about acoustic instruments. I think I actually started building my first guitar a few months after arriving in Nashville. I slept on the floor in a hallway of a friends apartment for the first few months, and I was so excited about my new job that it didnt even bother me at all. I can still remember the smell of lacquer and rosewood when I first walked in the front door of the OTPP. The OTPP experience was really an eye opener. Most of the big questions I had about building guitars were answered almost immediately. I had experience repairing and finishing instruments, but that only went so far. How to carve necks, cut fret slots, and imbed truss rods were questions that were best answered with my experience at the OTPP. The great thing about repairing guitars professionally is that you have an opportunity to check out many different kinds of guitars and understand how they are built. Most of my training has been on the job, but I have hired a few guys along the way that were graduates of various luthier schools, and that can be helpful. I dont think any universities offer advanced degrees for guitar builders and I would expect that most other builders out there have arrived the same way I didjust diving in. You never can learn it all and just as you have a handle on one aspect of guitar building, something else pops up. My job today is more about being a problem solver and wearing many hats. In about 1982, I decided to start my own shop. I had a two-car garage at my house that was unused, so I loaded it up with the tools of the trade and I was off. That was a great time. I remember being totally unaware of time. Every day it was a short trip to the shop and many nights I would not leave until I noticed that the TV had gone off the air. By 1985, I had outgrown my home shop and was able to rent an 800 square foot space in the downtown Nashville area. Most of my efforts to this point were about repairing and custom building, but with the new shop, I was looking for a way to develop a product line and a manufacturing business. Shortly after moving to the new shop, a customer brought in an old Silvertone single-cut guitar with a single pickup. Although I had worked on vintage Danelectros for years, for some reason I was intrigued with this guitar. While the Silvertone was in the shop, I -continuedTONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


blueprinted it and took all the necessary measurements to reproduce it. Over the few years that I had built instruments, I never had any desire to build one for myself. This Silvertone guitar was differentvery simple, with only the essentials just the kind of guitar I would want for myself. I set about building my copy of this guitar and became stumped when I came to the bridge and the pickups. I could fabricate a simple bridge, but for the pickups, I could only try to locate some originals. When I did find an old set, they were expensive $100.00 each as I recall. I could have purchased them, but why not just make them? I knew how the pickups were constructed and could wind my own, but the lipstick tubes would be the problem. I looked everywhere for some kind of casing for the coils and the closest thing I could find were cigar humidors, and they were much too big. So my guitar project sat. Fast forward to the fall of 1986. The same customer who brought in the Silvertone now brought in an original Danelectro Longhorn Bass 6. I had worked on a few of these in the past, but given my recent fascination with the Silvertone, I decided to also blueprint the Longhorn. At about that time, the country group Highway 101 had just released their new hit record with 6-string bass all over it. The guitar player, Jack Daniels, had borrowed an original Bass 6 for the recording session, but now needed one for the road. I had built a few guitars for record producer Paul Worley over the years, and he recommended that Jack talk to me about building a Bass 6 for him. Thats when the lights went on for me. Taking the experience I had gained with the previous small production runs and the resurgence of the retro country sound, the Bass 6 could be just the instrument to get the wheels rolling for a new product line, but I still had to solve the pickup problems. With at least one order in hand, I set out once again looking for some type of pickup casing. As luck would have it, while shopping at a local Walgreen drug store I noticed a cosmetic product that appeared to have a cap that was exactly the shape and size as the original Danelectro pickup covers. I purchased a few of these and they turned out to be an exact match. I thought I was in business now, but the pickup proved to be more perplexing than I thought. I had most of the material components for the pickups, but as I started to dissect them, it Jerry Jones pickups became increasingly difficult to find a standard. I found two magnet sizes, two wire types, and no two pickups that exhibited DC measurements that you could call average. They were all over the map. I had always heard that the original factory used a photo timer to turn the coil winders offI think it was 2 12 minutes. Based on known motor speeds, that would give me at least a ballpark figure for turns of wire. I did count the turns of several original coils and it seemed to be 5K, plus a small overrun. That was helpful, but there are other factorswire type, tension, layering, etc. The bottom line here is that the original pickups exhibit a narrow and lofty resonance peak that is lowered in frequency and output when the metal tubes are installed. In effect, the metal tubes used for the covers help attenuate the tone and output of the raw coil. Another factor is the use of Alnico 6 magnets rather than the standard Alnico 5. This is a difference that I discovered a few years into production. One of the major magnet mills tested one of the original magnets and it turned out to be Alnico 6. I think the Alnico 6 is a big part of the sound, though Im not sure they would work for other types of guitars pickups. They seem to be warmer, with plenty of strength. They require less wire for good output, which can improve the signal-to-noise levels. Im not sure why original Danelectros use Alnico 6 magnets maybe they were cheaper or maybe they were government surplus, but they sure sound great. TQR: How are your guitars built in comparison to the old Danelectro models, and what improvements have you made?

As I said before, the old single-cutaway Silvertone in my shop just captivated me and was the kind of guitar I would build for myself. The original bodies are built with a pine or poplar wood frame and a top and back of Masonite. The necks were poplar wood with two fixed steel reinforcement rods. These materials seemed inexpensive at first, but I would later learn that they cost more than the materials for a Strat. I believe the original Danelectro Company found most of their -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

potential in low priced instruments that they sold to Sears, and I have a theory about the evolution of these materials for guitars. The original Danelectro was in the amp business when approached by Sears to develop a guitar line. It doesnt take much of a stretch to see that an amp company would have these common amp materials in great abundance. Masonite for tube covers, vinyl for cabinet covering and pine or poplar for amp cabinets. With the initial order for a Longhorn Bass 6, things just seemed to take off. I made six instruments in the first run and they sold immediately. Some original Danelectro instruments were in demand, rare and pricey. The opportunity for me seemed to be in providing reproductions of desirable vintage instruments that felt and played like a pro-level instrument. As thinks heated up, I realized that I had both a challenge and an opportunity to pick up the ball from the original David Grissom Danelectro Company and run with it. That would mean an expanded product line as well as improved quality and the initial success gave me the freedom to pursue these goals. The big surprise for most players is that a great instrument can be produced with unconventional materials if the attention to detail and the build is high quality. It might be a bit like the silk purse from a sows ear adage, but in this case, it works. I guess there will always be a few who dont get it and dont understand whats involved. Even with cutting edge manufacturing, its still more difficult to reproduce a vintage instrument than to just start out to make a modern guitar. I guess if it were easy to reproduce the classics, we would all be driving brand new 55 Chevys. To that end, our first instruments were as faithful as possible. Even though we met some small resistance, we continued to improve and change the instruments over time.The most obvious improvements were the intonatable Neptune bridge and the addition of an adjustable truss rod. That would have been around 1992. The next leap came in 1994 when we jumped from traditional manufacturing to the future with the purchase of a CNC manufacturing machine. I cant say enough about these machines and how much they have upped the quality for all guitar makers. Tom Anderson was very instrumental in bringing small instrument makers into the computer age. Not only is our CNC super precision, it also frees our employees to concentrate their skilled handwork in the right areas let the CNC do the grunt work. In 2001, we decided to change our instruments again with the introduction of the Neptune line. This allowed us to make some needed improvements and make our instruments distinctive. Leaving the strict vintage look to others, we made the body shapes a bit more angularjust slightly. Same for the headstock. The necks would now be clear coated with a satin finish. The pickups are now more calibrated with a hotter bridge pickup. All switches are 4-pole slider type with better pickup selections. After having made our own bridges for years, we switched to Fender-type bridges. To duplicate the tonal characteristics of our original bridges, a nest is routed below each bridge and the bridge is mounted suspended over the body with spacers. The strings are now through the body and I think the tone is actually a bit better now a little tighter. TQR: Can you describe some of the more interesting features among the baritone, bass and sitar models?

The Bass 6 was the first instrument we offered. These had been used traditionally in country music as a TicTac bass. The name TicTac refers to the sound of the bass when played with a pick. A Bass 6 was used to overdub upright bass lines and give the bass line a bit more presence and attack. The Bass 6 is a 30" scale instrument that is tuned like a four string bass with an added high B and Ejust like a guitar but one octave down. A 30" scale is just about the limit on the short side of what can still be tuned as low as a long scale bass (34"). The harmonic structure of the low E string on the Bass 6 can get a bit weird at this short scale. The idea -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


for the baritone (28" scale tuned A~A or B~B) was to overcome some of these problems. I had the idea for the baritone some time in the 80s when I first heard Andreas Vollenweider play harp. I thought it would be great to emulate the harp by putting a string bender on a tuned down guitar. I never did make a baritone with a B-Bender, but I did have a chance to at least make the tuned down guitar. By shortening the 30" scale of the Bass 6 to 28", the instrument became easier to chord down by the nut. Got rid of that problem low E, moved all the strings up a notch and added two unwound strings on the treble side. This made the instrument much more playable as a guitarmuch easier to chord and to bend strings. I think we have offered the sitar model since the early 90 s and it has proven to be our best selling model over time. The sitar is loaded up with plenty of parts, and since we were already making all our own hardware, it seemed like an obvious addition to the line. The familiar sitar sound is achieved with a slightly rounded bridge saddle that sends the string into oscillation when struck. The 13 sympathetic strings can mostly effectively be used to play accompaniment. We tune them to a Dm7Sus scale, but any scale can be used. Most people believe that the sympathetic strings provide the droning sound on an Indian sitar. If you look at how a real sitar is tuned (C or C#) you will notice that it is tuned with 1s and 5s with a 4th as the main play string. If you drop the low E on our sitar to D, you effectively have a sitar tuning on the lower 4 strings. Think of the lower D, A, and D as the drone strings and the G string as the main play string and the high B and E as additional play strings. been poking around on eBay and Gbase for awhile, with a few of the later Neptune models appearing, along with a JJ Sitar or two, a doubleneck 6-string/baritone, and a late 90s JJ Original in Turquoiseburst, but the brilliant white and aqua-green vibe of that guitar tilted just a little too far into a booth in a Juarez taco stand for our taste, not that we have anything against turquoise, Juarez, or taco stands Hell, we still own some turquoise jewelry from the 70s, acquired during a brief Fogelberg infatuation, and we love the fish tacos in Huntington Beach, and right here in Decatur at Taqueria del Sol or El Tesoro. Just so you know The Copperburst appeared soon enough on an eBay auction from a seller in Austin, Texas who was apparently unloading quite a few instruments on eBay from the collection of Kiefer Sutherland. We didnt care one wit about such celebrity provenance, but we did wonder why a collector flush with that kind of cheese would bother selling off any guitars at all? Well, you can only play em one at a time. Regardless of who owned it, the Copperburst was clearly a magnificent work of art unlike any other guitar we had ever seen, and we knew first-hand that it would sound, play and feel infinitely superior to any of the original Danelectros that inspired it. Of course, this fact had not escaped the seller either, and he had tagged it with a Buy It Now price of $1100 $300-$400 over what you would normally expect to pay for a used Neptune, and about $200 under what this guitar would have cost new. Still, the copperburst was in dead mint condition from a very significant era in the JJ lineage, even more rare and stunning in the copperburst finish, and we knew we could knock off another $88 cash back refund through bing.com, and shipping was free. Done, and when it arrived, we were not disappointed. The Copperburst features two of Jerry Jones incomparable lipstick single coils, medium jumbo frets on a rich, toffeecolored (Madagascar?) rosewood fretboard, a chunky yet comfy C shaped 25" scale, 21 fret bolt-on neck with truss rod adjustment at the heel, and flawlessly functional, Waverly-style open back nickel tuners. The chambered masonite and wood body produces an exceptionally lively and resonant instrument weighing just 6.75 pounds. You also need to know that these guitars leave Nashville with superior fret work comparable to the finest custom-made guitars, nuts that dont bind the strings when tuning, and fully intonatable 6-saddle steel bridges. Bridge height is also fully adjustable -continued-

The Copperburst
Contrary to all those casual visits to Midtown Music (RIP) when we walked in the door not really looking for a new guitar and left with one anyway, we really were trolling for a Jerry Jones on eBay when we found the Copperburst. Wed


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

via two adjustment screws at each end of the bridge plate. The two-pickup models are wired with single volume and tone controls and a stout 3-way toggle switch that yields the neck or bridge pickup alone, or both pickups in series, for a very bold sound that trumps the volume obtained from either pickup alone. Even with the JJs zero headstock pitch and comparatively low angle at which the strings break over the saddles, the big frets make string bending a breeze with no slop or slippage at the notched saddles. As you might guess, all the JJ guitars also excel when tuned to open tunings like G, D, A, E or C, and they are phenomenal sliders But please dont assume that like many original, cheap-o Silvertone or Harmony guitars, the JJs cant cut it played as a standard 6string for anything but droning Delta blues. They rule played in standard tuning, and while the pickups are a little weaker then typical Strats and Teles, their weakness is a major strength in this guitar, rendering crystalline clarity, punch and a unique vocal character that is indeed unlike any other guitar you will ever play. Want more power and volume? Just turn up your amp. The clarity of the lipsticks simply enhances the overdriven tones available from your amp or effects. With the right amp, deftly controlling the intensity of the cascading, shimmering harmonic overtones with your fingertips introduces a mesmerizing effect created solely by pick attack. Case in point the Copperburst played through the 59 Champ with additional goose bumps provided by Lee Jacksons Mr Springgy reverb pedal is nothing less than absolute magic. Mark Johnsons 3-pickup Neptunes offer an entirely different tonal palette with a 5-way Strat-style switch that does not deliver the same volume and vibe as the series setting on the Copperburst, but you do get three additional tones Which setup is better? We like the two pickup sounds and Mark seems to prefer the five tones you get with three pickups, and the rest is up to you. One thing is certain Jerry Jones guitars remain among the most satisfying, well-made and toneful bargains on the planet. Get yours now. TQ www.jerryjonesguitars.com, 615-255-0088

Three Monkeys Orangutan
The amplifiers built by 3 Monkeys seem to have attracted a lot of enthusiastic attention, fueled in part by the background of the three monkeys behind the name Brad Whitford, the guitar player who has been responsible for holding down the groove in Aerosmith for decades, his longtime tech, Greg Howard, who has also worked with Green Day, Cry of Love (and the mighty Audley Freed), Jimmy Page, and the Black Crowes among others, and Ossie Ahsen, former founder and designer of Blockhead amps. This power trio created 3 Monkeys in 2007 with the launch of the Orangutan, which by now seems to have been reviewed in print and web videos by just about everyone who does such things. Well, except us So as we admittedly embark on the ass-end of the bleeding edge in the boutique amp world relative to the Orangutan, we pause to reflect on just how sophisticated marketing for high-end guitar amplifiers has become. Or not. But first, lets learn a little more about the genesis of the Orangutan from one of the three monkeys, Ossie Ahsen: Speaking from the perspective of a designer first with perhaps the experience of a players ear, what inspired the design of the Orangutan? What did you want to accomplish specifically that would distinguish this amp from others new and old in this power and price range? Was the sound of the Orangutan inspired in part by any other (vintage?) amps we may know?


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


The origins of the Orangutan go back to when we (Greg, Brad, and myself) first sat down to talk about what an amp should be. From the start it was a different process from what I was used to more about passion, and we did not get technical at all. We just waded through our thoughts, talking about anything from Humble Pie to Porsches. Out of this came a sense of what we wanted to accomplish, what the amp should be, and more importantly, how it should feel. We talked about the tones we loved and the experiences we had playing all kinds of gear. Greg was coming from what one might call the school of vintage Americana, both sonically and from an aesthetic standpoint, while I was coming from a purely British perspective. On our own we could have butted heads all day on the merits of 6V6s versus El34s, but we didnt. The reason why was Brad, who formed the bridge between the two of us. Brad has his roots in both of these places he can play a blonde Twin or a Marshall Super Lead and make both of us smile. This bridge allowed us to form the amp with its roots in both of these places as well. When it came time to actually design the circuit, we had this synthesis between America and the UK set. We started the design process by assembling a mass of vintage amplifiers blackfaces, tweed and blonde Fenders, Marshalls, Gibsons, Hiwatts, Vox, and Magnatones. The purpose of this collection was not for duplication or dissection, but rather to keep ourselves immersed in the flavors we appreciated, to give ourselves a baseline, and keep our ears tuned to that sound. We would work on our amp and then go off and play the old stuff to gain perspective on what we were doing. I think this was the key process that influenced the sound of the amp. What we were hearing in the vintage area was bleeding over into what we were working on. Repeating this process over and over led us to produce the amplifier we envisioned. I think you could say that we were designing by inspiration and not any fixed criteria that the final product had to meet. We didnt say it had to have this feature or that feature there was no specific amplifier we were trying to copy We just wanted the amp to have a vibe that all of our favorites shared. When someone plugged into the amp, we wanted them to hear little bits and pieces of all these great amplifiers. They may not be able to put their finger on it, but they will say that it sounds pleasingly familiar. TQR: Most custom builders reference the overall design and types of components used in the construction of their amps Class A, Class A/B push/pull, etc., and transformers, coupling caps, and resistors, specifically. Can you summarize the unique circuit design features of the Orangutan and notable component choices?

It seems that most companies these days use exotic parts as a rule, but component choices for the Orangutan were made in

a more thoughtful way. We tried not to get caught up in the parts hype, prejudging components, choosing the latest fads in the world of resistors, capacitors, and pots. Its a good sales tool to use this part or that part, but I feel that how a part is used is more important than who made it or when. You can take a box of premium NOS parts and make a mess of it just as easily as you can with the new production stuff. Now this is not to say that the choices we made were not important to the sound I know for a fact that if you built our design and used random parts, the amplifiers sound will change. There is a recipe, just not the expected one. We chose the parts for durability, availability and sound. The fact that we we not trying to copy a known circuit that required specific components gave us the freedom to use whatever we knew was best suited to the application without fear of reprisal. When you create a new design, as opposed to a clone of a known quantity, you have that advantage. TQR: Rotary tone switches seem to have become increas ingly popular Can you describe how each position was voiced and what you had in mind with each setting in the Orangutan?

The rotary switch came into the design as we found a need to match different guitars to the amp, as well as Boost & Voice controls give the user different EQ points for fitting into the mix. The switch sets the gain level and has a network of high and low pass filters -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

that produce 6 homogenous sounds that range from clean to distorted; from neutral to thick to thin, while retaining the inherent feel of the amp. For instance: Position 1 (furthest counter clockwise) is the least distorted neutral signal. Position 2 offers a small bump in gain and low end from position 1. Position 3 adds further gain and a low mid bump over position 2. Position 4 reduces low mid and increases midrange over position 3. Position 5 increases high mids over position 4 Position 6 increases high treble over position 5 TQR: How does the pull/boost feature work, specifically? Is it routing the signal out of the tone stack?

Orangutan Review
We did our homework before actually getting our hands on the Orangutan, and we found most of the various Internet video demos on the web to be characteristically uncompelling in helping anyone make a truly informed buying decision. Too many tired licks (can anyone play a song?), poor sound further compressed for web streaming, and blindfolded youd be challenged to distinguish the Orangutan from a dozen other amps. Really. In all fairness, the Youtube clips were referring to were largely produced by members of the guitar media and not the three monkeys themselves So while we realize that sound and video clips have become a requisite part of the online browsing jacky-jack, well tell you what we tell people who write asking why we dont post video or MP3 clips of the gear we review Because the tiny little sound youre hearing online being made by someone other than you cannot remotely approximate the actual experience of you yourself playing your guitar through an amp in a room or, god forbid with a band. It just and simply cant, nor can any subtle tone-enhancing features fully emerge in a compressed sound file played through your desktop speakers. The truth is, sound and video clips can just as easily steer you away from an amp that might otherwise fill an essential niche in your stash for reasons as simple as you not liking what was played in the demo, the sound of the guitar used, the way the controls on the amp were set, the sound of the room, recording quality, or the style in which the amp was humped in the reviewers narrative. No, sound and video clips have largely become the cyber- sucker that satisfies our craving for immediate gratification, but we happily suck on such pacifiers in a vacuum.

The pull boost feature is quite simple it changes out one value in the tonestack that lessens the insertion loss of the circuit. It has the effect of increasing the apparent gain, as well as midrange. The treble control continues to function fully and the bass control to a lesser extent. TQR: Were guessing that the cabinet is made by Mojo Is it pine or birch ply, and what type of material is used for the baffle board?

The cabinets are currently made here at our shop, although we recently outsourced a run of head shells. The head boxes are made of Baltic birch, the 2x12s and combos are made from a maple-poplar shell with a baltic birch baffle. TQR: Our review amp is equipped with a Warehouse Veteran 30 is this the stock speaker for this model or do you offer a range of optional speakers?

We have our own 3 Monkeys branded speakers now based on the WGS Veteran 30, and this is currently the stock speaker for the combo. We do offer a range of other speakers as well, mostly from Celestion, including the Heritage V-30 and G-12H 70th Anniversary. We found the Veteran 30 to be a good match with the amp. We also offer custom covering in tolex and ultra suede as well as a complement of grille cloths to match.

Of course, sound isnt the only thing that sells amps, and the three monkeys get this. No one wants to play through a fuggedly-looking amp (unless it cost $75,000), and cool rules when it comes to the stuff guitar players play The Orangutan 1x12 combo is a visual work of artsy post-war Americana with its 50s-era angles, turquoise tolex, whipped cream grill and crushed sparkle panels. Yum! Ill have a cheeseburger and that cheerleader over there smothered in Stilton crumbles with -continued-

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


cream gravy on the side. Wouldnt the Orangutan look luscious with a White Falcon, a sparkling burgundy Jizzmaster, Farfisa organ, or a bronzed stripper from Pensacola? Eye candy, yes The 3 Monkeys head and cabinet rigs are equally posh with no squared angles, somewhat reminiscent of the original Rickenbacker stacks. You wont mistake a 3 Monkeys rig for anything else, and thats the name of the game in amp design. Give them an A+. But what about the intention of the Orangutan? What does it want you to be? knob) was very chimey with big jangly harmonics, but super bright, with very little if any mids or bass. Kinda like John Lennons vocal track on Strawberry Fields. Position #2 was similar to #1 with a tad more volume and presence. For us, #3 was the honey hole the mids and volume jumped into a fuller, richer, thicker tone with plenty of jangle remaining on the top (a direct quote from our notes), #4 was very good slightly scooped in the mids with no decrease in volume, and #5 and #6 dumped mids with more prominent treble presence. Beatles again Paperback Writer. Play that at your next guitar show instead of Coldshot and you might get some respect.

Pull On It Here
The pull-boost (curiously on the bass EQ pot) gasses gain and distortion throughout all six settings on the rotary switch, and surprise we liked the sound best in the #3 position. We also often found it necessary to roll off some treble on our single coil guitars when using the boost circuit. As on-board boost circuits go, this one is pretty good, but not exactly plug & play. You need to shape your tone for the best results.

Now theres a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. We didnt invent the word tone, but we know it when we hear it (and it aint contingent upon you greasing the reviewer). To be honest, we werent immediately sure what to think about the intention of the Orangutan, which pretty much lines up with the designers comment that they werent chasing a particularly familiar or vintage sound, nor were they conjuring a clone of anything. So, we struggled with the Orangutan at first. This happens sometimes when you are hell-bent on writing a revealing and informative review rather than just squeezing off another formulaic soy ink turd on deadline accompanied by a stupid rating, and besides how are we supposed to tell you what an amp sounds like without referencing something you may have actually heard? The Orangutans layout is simple enough four 6V6 power, a single input, Volume, Treble, Bass (with pull boost), six position rotary Voice control, and Room (reverb). Of the six

The reverb on the Orangutan seemed almost like an apologetic afterthought. The short-pan Accutronics was screwed down to the floor of the cabinet without a vinyl bag (OK, what do we know, maybe they were never necessary), and one deft video reviewer (Lance Keltner) described the reverb sound as very unique sounding in that it really doesnt have a lot of a spring or boingy sound almost like a really good studio reverb that kind of ducks back behind what youre playing in the background and is only apparent between phrases. Translation: You might could hear it for a second, but only when you stop playing. All we can say is, if you cant really hear it, why not just leave it off and give us a midrange control instead, maybe. We didnt dig the no-verb reverb, but we did end up digging the amp.

Good Intentions
Once we began to grasp the true intention of the Orangutan, we started to get it. We had decided pretty quick that it was-

voices available from the rotary switch, we only really liked a couple for steady and constant use those with some junk in the trunk. The #1 position (far right facing the front of the

nt no blues amp, and as soon as we got our mind right on the fact that the Orangutan wasnt gonna spew huge steaming -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

gobs of low end and low mids, we backed off, cast aside our initial impressions and began to simultaneously experiment with those six rotary positions and the bass and treble EQ, often dropping the treble well below where we are accustomed to set most amps and/or goosing the bass backfilling the fuller midrange frequencies where the guitar truly lives, while knocking down some of that toppy top-end. Weve got nothing against trebly 6V6 compression or the classic rhythmic tones lurking within sides from Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, but we dont want to live there exclusively This is the challenge in really getting your mind around an amp. In one cats hands, a vintage AC30 sounds strangled and one-dimensional, then you hear what Kid Ramos or Daniel Lanois does with one of them and you view the potential of that amp very differently. So as we explored a broader range of EQ settings on the Orangutan, we discovered what we considered to be more useful tones that, if we must resort to comparisons, hover somewhere between an AC30 and a 20 watt Marshall without the sonic patina of an original. Definitely more British than American. The Orangutan was intended, in our opinion, to be played with the jangly, chimey edginess that oozes from its very core. From there, its up to you to dial in a subtle balance that emphasizes the specific tone notches lurking within the tone controls and the combo impressed us as a very stylish race car of an amp a little temperamental under practical conditions, requiring a bit of tweaking for maximum versatility, but uniquely capable nonetheless.TQ www.3monkeysamps.com , 219-696-6755

Z. Vex Mastotron Fuzz
Imagine, if you will, sitting down on a bright and cold winters day with your guitar and amp du jour, comfy-cozy in worn denim and flannel, a steaming cup of dark San Francisco roast Sumatran within easy reach, and outside your window the world is dusted in powdered-sugar snow as you wistfully think of hot Krispy Kreme donuts coming down the line just minutes away on Ponce de Leon Avenue. While snow days in the deep South mean snogging with a rented DVD for many Atlantans, today is a work day deadlines loom, which is why your foot is poised above a Z.Vex Mastotron silicon fuzz. The red jewel light on the brown Vibrolux cheerily glows in anticipation, the goldtop in your lap has been prepared with exquisite care for its intended purpose, and with a quick sip of the Sumatran you step on the Z.Vex, strike an A minor-ish chord with open A left free to drone, push the guitar into a steady, pulsing, quaking, rhythmic throb, and as you close your eyes and move through the spontaneous melodic combustion firing in your brain, the 10x20 room in the snow-covered bungalow is transformed into the hall of the mountain king, reeking of gooseberry, cloves and akevitt. Suddenly, soft denim turns to an adder skin codpiece as knee-high jack boots swallow your woolen socks your thick mane of chestnut hair spills over a wolf pelt vest and a silver amulet hangs from your neck in the image of mighty Odin the coffee you were drinking is now a pewter goblet of Julel, and a red-headed Russian Roky Erickson drummer named Yegor is pound-

pre-set Voice control to taste, tailored to the specific guitar, pickups and the vibe youre seeking. Of course, there is plenty of gain and sustain available from the boost circuit, but you dont want to go there in some of the brighter Voice settings weve described without knocking down treble or filling in the mids. We also found the Orangutan to be slightly more single-coil friendly as long as you manage treble from the guitar or the amp. Humbuckers seemed a little flat, as they often do played through a Vox. Come to think of it, how often have you ever seen a humbucking guitar played through a Vox? A little more transparent reverb would have helped add some air and lift to the narrower sound of our Les Paul played through the Orangutan. In terms of power and volume, this 1x12 rig is rated at 30W36W, and we would compare it to a strong blackface Deluxe or brown Vibrolux in terms of perceived power and volume. With its single speaker, the Orangutan doesnt develop the full impact of an AC30, for example, and the threshold for clean headroom is moderate. You could certainly use this amp in small to medium-sized club settings, but consider the head & cab version for larger venues. The Orangutan 1x12

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


ing the living shit out of an old Slingerland double kick set with a putrid Belomorkanal dangling from his purple lips, smoke curling to the soaring ceiling of a stone banquet hall where it coalesces to form the living image of Roky Erickson singing Cold Night for Alligators with Billy Gibbons playing a Vox tear drop 6-string bass through double SVTs, nodding to the beat with a two peso smile cloaked beneath a grey KGB Fedora and not-so-cheap sunglasses. When you finally manage to shake off the Mastotron, safe again in the cozy warmth of the bungalow, you stare deeply into the fire for answers, and the voice of an angel whispers from the hearth, Its alright, baby. Let me fix you some chicken and waffles. Z. Vex Mastotron Legal trippin with none of the aftereffects. $149.00. We dare you. TQ www.zvex.com keyboardist Marty Grebb. The band recorded three critically acclaimed albums before Kal found himself back in L.A. where he became the musical director for the weekly ProJam at Hollywoods China Club, which frequently attracted a whos who of exceptional artists, including Stevie Wonder, Larry Carlton, Brian Wilson, Stephen Stills and Joe Walsh. Kal and his partner, singer Lauri Bono, moved to Palm Springs in the early 90s, forming a new band, Kal David and the Real Deal, and in 1998 they opened the Blue Guitar blues club in downtown Palm Springs. We first met Kal and Lauri in Palm Springs at the Blue Guitar. Playing his vintage 63 Firebird V and accompanied by an extraordinarily talented band, Kal and Lauri put on a show we would never forget, and as we drove back to L.A. that night, we were energized by having met and discovered a new guitarist with such incredible phrasing, taste and truly signature tone. If you play the blues, you deserve to discover Kal, and now you can, like never before. The Blues Guitar Master Class Series is unlike most instructional programs in that Kal has carefully developed scalebased exercises that will not only help you become a better and more nimble guitar player, but also dramatically improving your grasp of the instrument on every level. Were oversimplifying things a bit, because the complete video and printable lesson plan spans ten different sections covering a vast array of scales and exercises, chord forms and chord exercises, reading Nashville charts, Vibrato techniques, picking techniques (very underrated), tone, attack, dynamics, and assignments involving complete songs that enable you to fully appreciate and measure your progress. There is work involved, and some of the exercises may force you to break some long-standing bad habits, but in the end, youll be a better player, and happier for it. We asked Kal to explain why he decided to develop his course and what he wished to accomplish: TQR: Had you ever given lessons in the past and were you self-taught, Kal?

Workin Out with Kal David the Blues Guitar Master Class Series
Among all the different musical styles played on the guitar, the blues may be the most challenging when you really want to standout from the crowd. What hasnt been played? Sure, we can think of a few living players whose tone, technique and phrasing are unmistakably theirs alone Clapton, Buddy Guy, Ronnie Earl, Jeff Beck (when he chooses to go that way), Junior Watson, Kid (David) Ramos, and undoubtedly Kal David. Kals musical career began in Chicago, where he was signed at a young age to Vee-Jay Records and formed a duet, The Rovin Kind, with guitarist Paul Cotton. Kal and Cotton soon created a new band in Los Angeles, Illinois Speed Press, recording two albums for Columbia Records. When Cotton joined Poco, Kal moved to Woodstock, New York where he formed the Fabulous Rhinestones with former Electric Flag bassist Harvey Brooks and Buckinghams

I have been approached by a lot of up and coming guys about giving them instruction, but I was just never interested. I would do it now for people that had taken my course who are dedicated and sincere. Im pretty much self taught, and whenever I heard something I wanted to play Id find someone that could show me how to play it and imitate them. Early on, Id just get the record and learn from that it, so Im basically self-taught, like a lot of people. I can read the heck out of a chord chart and I can read music, and I get called for recording sessions both as a guitarist and a singer. I dont read as fast as most of the guys that do it all the time, but Im fortunate to be associated with a couple of jingle houses as the blues guy, so thats what Im usually called to do. -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

TQR: When and how did the idea for the course emerge? down there is a scale you can go to and you really cant play a wrong note. When Im playing solos now, I dont even think about where Im playing Im just thinking about what kind of phrase I want to play. I like to think of an expression Ive heard repetition is the mother of skill. What that means to me is that when you do something over and over enough times, it becomes automatic. When I dont play for a few weeks I may get a little rusty, because there is no amount of practice that can take the place of playing gigs, but once I start playing those pentatonic exercises, I know I can right get back to where I left off. TQR: We were having a conversation with a friend who was quite thrilled with the idea that he was being taught the entire fingerboard and that his ability to see every note on the fingerboard would enable him to dramatically expand his grasp of the music.

A friend of mine suggested that I teach some classes and maybe make a video. I thought about it and my wife and partner, Lauri Bono encouraged me to do it, so I put together this course based on exercises I had created out of necessity. I was living in Woodstock, New York and there was a guy there named David Sanborn who used to hang out and jam with us a lot, and I consider David to be one of the greatest improvisational blues players in the world. Even though hes known as a jazzer, everything he plays is really rooted in the blues. So one day I asked him what I should practice, and he said it was very simple that he practiced pentatonic scales. So I sat down and practiced pentatonic scales like a madman for about a year, and my solos really didnt improve not one bit. My dexterity improved a little because I was practicing a lot, but that was it. I realized that I needed more than just scales, and I devised this system of exercises based on the scale using four notes at a time, where I would play the first four notes, and then starting with the second note I just played, play the next four notes, and so on. I worked on that for awhile and I noticed that it was impacting my playing tremendously, and I really got into it. Once I started doing this, muscle memory quickly took over You play the exercise enough and your fingers start to remember where they are falling on the fret board. Anywhere I would put my hand on the guitar there was something there to play. There are five positions on the neck for every pentatonic scale and every major scale, so you cant fail anywhere you put your hand up one fret or

I think the problem with having to think about something youre playing is that you have to think about it. I would rather not think about how something is being played Im at the point where Im just trying to create beautiful solos. Im not really thinking about which finger Im using its a matter of trying to not think about it. Trying to clear my mind completely Im not thinking about anything. Lauri says, Hes gone. Hes in that place. Hes playing a solo now and hes completely gone. Im not thinking its pure playing, and these exercises I believe lead to that. Your hands remember what you have to do, and thats the point we want to get to. TQR: So youre removing any physical barriers to will your fingers to do what youre hearing in your mind Youve been playing guitar in this way most of your life because you have that gift. You have the gift of being able to hear music that you can play, and that people enjoy hearing over and over again. Thats where we arent all on the same page, perhaps.

-continuedTONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010


Thats a good way to put it. Everybody hears something filtered through their own musical taste. I listen to some things that resonate with millions of people and I think, What are they hearing in this? Theres no explaining it. People ask me how I get my tone. Well, my tone is in my heart and in my brain before I ever pick up an instrument. I know what tone Im going for, and whatever guitar Im playing, Im trying to make that guitar sound like the tone Im hearing in my head. I have come up with what I think is the tone that I like, and it is filtered through my personal taste, influenced by every guitarist I have ever really listened to. For example, some players have a fast vibrato, like Michael Bloomfield, who had a hyper personality. Clapton has a slower vibrato I have a slower vibrato. But its a matter of personal taste how you wiggle it (laughing. It depends on what you like to hear which pickup do you like to play on? I like to play on the neck pickup a lot. All of this defines your tone. TQR: You also talk about picking or right hand technique in the course. It seems that picking technique can hang someone up as much as the fingerboard some bad habits. Thats true. I had a student in a class who had never used his pinkie and I told him that I would be watching him to see if he tried to cheat. I busted his chops a bunch of times He would try to play what we were playing without using his fourth finger and I told him he was limiting himself so much. By the time we finished he was using all four fingers and his playing improved dramatically. When I first heard Clapton play at the Bottom Line in New York in the 60s, he wasnt really using his pinkie. He was using a wah-wah pedal which I went out and bought at Mannys the very next day, but he wasnt using his fourth finger. He is now, and hes come a long way as a player over the years, strange as that may sound. TQR: Your warm up exercise starts off going up the fingerboard. It seems to me personally to be much more difficult going down the fingerboard on solos. In fact, its infinitely harder

When Im teaching a class I always insist that people pick properly. In other words, when its an up beat you pick up, and when its a down beat you pick down. Now, thats not always the rule when youre actually playing, but its a really good rule to practice with. Using all four of your fingers, including the pinkie, (and I know a lot of players dont use it at all, but youve got to), the right hand picking has got to be done the right way, otherwise youll screw up in one measure playing these exercises. The one thing that addresses these techniques is the warm-up exercise in the video. It stymies people because you cant play it with just three fingers, and you have to play it correctly with up and down strokes. That is the basis of the entire course four notes played with all four fingers using up and down strokes. TQR: Which, even for experienced players, can address

Well, probably the first time you play the warm up exercise, you arent going to be able to play the whole thing. Its simple, but the hard thing is to pick properly with down beats and down strokes and upbeats and upstrokes. TQR: So the first class is typically a train wreck, then everyone goes home, practices for a week and

They do much better in a week or two. Results happen pretty quickly depending on the time spent practicing. You can make great strides practicing thirty minutes to an hour a day, and its a very fulfilling thing. When you begin seeing an improvement, you actually want to practice, and the feedback from people who have been practicing with the DVD has been very positive. TQR: And do you also make an honest attempt to reveal any subtle tricks?

Yes, although I really dont like to teach licks. How do you teach licks? By knowing the scales they are derived from. I also discuss dynamics. The three major elements of music are, of course, melody, harmony and dynamics. Changing dynamics is very expressive and really brings the listener in, and I really stress thinking dynamically You cue the band to drop it down, and that gives the audience a chance to go, Wooo (laughing). And then when the band comes back in strong again after playing at a whisper, its almost like a trick Youll always get applause. TQR: Tension and release.

Yeah, you just cant play all the notes at the same volume. -continued-


TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010

Thats my bitch with drum machines. You cant get nuance out of a mechanical device. I over-emphasize dynamics, and you really cant over do it. TQR: You also talk about your favorite chords

Its back! We are now resuming limited production of our meticulous recreation of the original 1959 DeArmond R15 1x12 amp. You may recall that we initially produced a limited number of TQ Clarksdale amps in 2006, before our supplier for the original chassis informed us that small runs would no longer be possible. Weve found a new supplier, and the TQ Clarksdale DeArmonds will be built again by Jeff Bakos with our original specs pine cabinet construction and design identical to the original, original Mercury Magnetics Tone Clone transformer set cloned from our original 59 DeArmond, hand-wired chassis, premium components including Sozo caps, Celestion G12H 70th Anniversary speaker, premium JJ and Tung-Sol tubes, Evidence Audio speaker cable, custom gold grill cloth and blonde tolex covering. This 22 watt design represents one of the rarest and most toneful combos ever built. The original 1959 DeArmond 1x12s were built for just one year in Toledo, OH, and a clean example recently sold on eBay for $7,000. In 2006 Jeff Bakos meticulously blueprinted our original DeArmond, Mojo created CAD drawings for the original cabinet design, and we sent the transformers to Mercury Magnetics to be cloned. The result is a phenomenal 1x12 that will generally kick any tweed Deluxe straight to the curb with a bigger, bolder voice and lush, musical distortion cranked. The 4-input, cathode-biased Clarksdale can be operated with dual 6V6s and 5Y3 rectifier for optimum burn, or a pair of 6L6s and a 5AR4 for slightly more power and clean headroom. Blonde tolex only, simply because its the coolest... To order, please call 1-877-MAX-TONE or place your order and deposit at www.tonequest.com Price: $2300 with 50% deposit, FedEx Ground shipping not included. Because each amp is custom-built for each owner, please allow 120 days for delivery.

Yes, fournote chords that I use all the time, and it sounds as if four note chords wont be full, but they are. I often stick chords into the middle of a solo because it needs it. There are things in the course that reveal that, and I do talk about how I play with the pick and the third, fourth and pinkie finger of my right hand. Its something thats been called the claw style that was first done by Jerry Reed, and you can actually make it sound as if there are two guitars playing. So I demo that, as well as different things I do with my guitar and amp to get my tone. TQR: And the best way to get the DVD is to order it from your web site, as well as your excellent CDs and digital downloads, which we recommend

Yes, and it includes a downloadable 32-page workbook in a PDF, and we update it on an ongoing basis based on feedback we get from our students. Its only 33 pages, but its all the stuff you need to become more fluid, fast and confident on stage. I dont really feel that speed is so important, but its the one thing around the world that I am always asked about. How can I get faster? Theres nothing wrong with playing fast, but I really feel that the space between the notes is as important as the notes themselves. I like to play like a sax player. I play something and then I take a breath. I think the listener needs to take that breath with you, and explaining how I feel about these things playing a little softer sometimes, louder at others, and taking a breath is really the most effective way to make an impression on your audience.TQ www.kaldavid.com

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010



oneQu est T Report

PO Box 717 Decatur, GA. 30031-0717



oneQuest T

oneQu est T Report


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

Analogman Tom Anderson
Tom Anderson GuitarWorks

Greg Germino
Germino Amplification

Jimbo Mathus Shane Nicholas

Sr. Mktg Mgr, Fender Guitar Amplifers

Billy F. Gibbons
ZZ Top

Mark Baier
Victoria Amplifiers

Joe Glaser
Glaser Instruments

Ren Martinez
The Guitar Whiz

Jeff Bakos
Bakos AmpWorks

Tom Guerra
Mambo Sons

Greg Martin
The Kentucky Headhunters

Dick Boak
CF Martin & Co.

John Harrison
A Brown Soun

Richard McDonald
VP Mktg, Fender Musical Instruments

Joe Bonamassa
Phil Brown

Johnny Hiland Gregg Hopkins

Vintage Amp Restoration

Justin Norvell
Sr. Mktg Mgr, Fender Guitars

Dave Noss
Avatar Speakers

Dan Butler
Butler Custom Sound

Mark Johnson
Delta Moon

James Pennebaker Riverhorse Tommy Shannon

Double Trouble

Don Butler
The Toneman

Phil Jones
Gruhn Guitars

Steve Carr
Carr Amplifiers

Now in Stock

Pyramid Strings

K&M Analog Designs

Mark Karan
Bob Weir & Ratdog

Mitch Colby

Todd Sharp
Nashville Amp Service

Ben Cole
GHS Strings

We've just received a new shipment of Pyramid .010-.046, .010-.048 and .010.052 roundwound nickel classics! Stock up now. The .010-.052 set is one of our favorites, and includes a plain .017 G string, so skinny top same as the regular set of .010-.048s, but with a bigger bottom. Addictive. To order, CALL 1-877MAX-TONE or visit www.tonequest.com

Robert Keeley
Robert Keeley Electronics

Tim Shaw
Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

Larry Cragg
Neil Young

John Sprung
American Guitar Center

Gordon Kennedy Ernest King

Gibson Custom Shop

Jol Dantzig
Hamer Guitars

Peter Stroud
The Sheryl Crow Band

Ronnie Earl Dan Erlewine


Chris Kinman
Kinman AVn Pickups

Laurence Wexer
Laurence Wexer Limited Fine Fretted Instruments

Mike Kropotkin

Buddy Whittington
John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers

Larry Fishman
Fishman Transducers

Sonny Landreth Albert Lee Adrian Legg Dave Malone

The Radiators

Greg V

Bill Finnegan
Klon Centaur

Lou Vito
Artist Relations, PRS Guitars

Lindy Fralin Peter Frampton

The ToneQuest Report TM (ISSN 1525-3392) is published monthly by Mountainview Publishing LLC, 235 Mountainview Street, Suite 23, Decatur, GA. 300302027, 1-877-MAX-TONE, email: tonequest1@aol.com. Periodicals Postage Paid at Decatur, GA and At Additional Mailing Offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to:The ToneQuest Report, PO Box 717, Decatur, GA. 30031-0717.The annual subscription fee for The ToneQuest Report TM is $89 per year for 12 monthly issues. International subscribers please add US $40. Please remit payment in U.S. funds only. VISA, MasterCard and American Express accepted. The ToneQuest Report TM is published solely for the benefit of its subscribers. Copyright 2010 by Mountainview Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any form or incorporated into any information retrieval system without the written permission of the copyright holder. Please forward all subscription requests, comments, questions and other inquiries to the above address or contact the publisher at tonequest1@aol.com. Opinions expressed in The ToneQuest Report are not necessarily those of this publication.Mention of specific products, services or technical advice does not constitute an endorsement. Readers are advised to exercise extreme caution in handling electronic devices and musical instruments.

TONEQUEST REPORT V11. N3. Jan/Feb 2010