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Are Fender '68 and '65 Amps really that bad?
Old 11th June 2019
  #1
Are Fender '68 and '65 Amps really that bad?

Hello there,

A few days ago a friend brought his '68 Custom Vibrolux over and we reamped Guitar tracks through his amp and my 1980 Super Champ. The '65 and '68 reissues have a bad reputation here on Gearslutz, but for most of the tracks the Vibrolux worked better. It sounded a bit boxy on some tracks, but it had a much better bass response than the Super Champ. The Super Champ is very bright and does not really sound better, just different.

I want a bigger amp anyway so I can use it with a Rhodes (too much low end for the Super Champ) and I am seriously considering to get one of the '65 or '68 reissues. I know that 70s Fenders are supposed to be better than the new ones, but its very hard to find one in a good and clean shape. My Super Champ is in a very good shape with fresh tubes and everything, but it probably needs new caps within the next 5-10 years and every few months it has little problems that cost time and money to be fixed.

I could sell it for at least the same money I could get a '65 or '68 reissue that probably will not have any issues in the next years. Or is it really worth to get one of the 70s Silverface Amps?
Old 12th June 2019
  #2
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Oldone's Avatar
It depends on the shape of the silverface amp as you point out. I have found some in great shape and some in miserable shape. Generally, the filter caps will need to be replaced on older Fender amps. If you know how to solder, not that big a deal.

That said, I shot out my 71 Vibrolux with a 68 reissue Vibrolux and was very surprised that they sounded so similar. My 71 is in tip top shape with new caps. The break up point was a little different but oh so close in tone.
Old 12th June 2019
  #3
You want an original from the '60s or '70s; the new "teissues" are not very relaible.

Ask Jim Williams about the mods he's had to do to Dwight Yoakam's " '65 Deluxe Reverbs" to make them reliable for shows. For that extra money you could get a vintage amp in great condition.

Actually, if you want to use it with a Rhodes you'll probably need either a Pro Reverb or a Twin Reverb. The problem is that an amp that is adequate for a Rhodes is probably going to be too loud for guitar unless you're after a really clean guitar sound.
Old 13th June 2019
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
... are not very relaible.

... to make them reliable for shows.


Doesn't sound like the OP is gigging...

In which case, a cheap kit from Weber or Mojotone would be fine if it sounds right....


-tINY

Old 15th June 2019
  #5
The new reissues still sound very good, though not as good as the true 60's amps. It's not like they're bad amps.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Here for the gear
Nothing wrong with the reissues, they're great amps. Negative stuff comes from those that haven't broken the speaker in yet or those that sniff the cork rather than drink the wine!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by blade_sg View Post
Nothing wrong with the reissues, they're great amps. Negative stuff comes from those that haven't broken the speaker in yet or those that sniff the cork rather than drink the wine!
Not bad amps by the standards of today's mass produced product, yeah, I guess.

By the standards of original Fender amps - even the vast majority of CBS product - they just don'r compare. Maybe they're close to equivalent when new, but there are real problems with build quality and mechanical design. The transformers are not as well built. The printed circuit boards are extremely difficult to service and costly in labor charges. The new amps are designed for fast, cheap robotic assembly, but that makes them a nightmare to service.

As to the speaker stuff, well, I haven't been a big fan of stock Fender speakers since they stopped using the original Jensens.

Most of the negative stuff you hear comes from grouchy old farts like myself who set our standards by the original product. Today's kids just don't know any better.

As far as cork sniffing goes, I don't even sniff corks when I play winery gigs.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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enorbet2's Avatar
Regarding originals (handwired, point-to-point) vs/ PCB and speaker mods ......

(this is a seriously great, objective video for audio evaluation, no EQ, no compression, decent simple playing, no pedals, sweet mic nicely placed, a real A/B and although it centers on old tweed amps, it has wider application and the reliability comments extend to all P2P vs/ PCB.)



Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Jackson in "Jackie Brown" (paraphrased)
Uh uh uh uh... here we go.. handwired, point-to-point, the very best they is. When you absolutely positively gotta kill every motherf***r in the ROOM!... Accept no substitutes.
Oh yeah to be perfectly On Topic the Reissues aren't "that bad". Most are at least decent values for the bucks, some even sound and feel quite similar but handwired point-to-point is just worth it for many reasons not the least of which is reliability and serviceability.

Last edited by enorbet2; 4 weeks ago at 02:43 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Regarding originals (handwired, point-to-point) vs/ PCB and speaker mods ......

(this is a seriously great, objective video for audio evaluation, no EQ, no compression, decent simple playing, no pedals, sweet mic nicely placed, a real A/B and although it centers on old tweed amps, it has wider application and the reliability comments extend to all P2P vs/ PCB.)





Oh yeah to be perfectly On Topic the Reissues aren't "that bad". Most are at least decent values for the bucks, some even sound and feel quite similar but handwired point-to-point is just worth it for many reasons not the least of which is reliability and serviceability.
Many of the new ones do sound more or less like the old ones, except that they're all missing the difficult to define "sweetness" that most of the old ones have, especially the blackfaces and pre-CBS models.

In a way, it's like what's wrong with most amp sims - they're missing something that people with experience with the old amps spot in a New York minute, but younger people who aren't widely experienced with the good stuff usually just don't seem to get.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Many of the new ones do sound more or less like the old ones, except that they're all missing the difficult to define "sweetness" that most of the old ones have, especially the blackfaces and pre-CBS models.

In a way, it's like what's wrong with most amp sims - they're missing something that people with experience with the old amps spot in a New York minute, but younger people who aren't widely experienced with the good stuff usually just don't seem to get.
I don't think "that sweetness" is entirely undefinable. Some of it comes from the reduced crosstalk between components, including wiring ( and especially traces) crammed tightly together as they are on a PCB type construction compared to a Point-to-Point, Handwired which by definition just has more space between components so a human hand can place and solder components..

When an oscillating current passes through even just a wire it produces an equally oscillating magnetic field around it. When an oscillating magnetic field is brought near another wire a similar current is produced in that wire just as it is in a transformer, though obviously of lesser amplitude.

The point is if that second wire already has an oscillating current AND it's own oscillating magnetic field they will interact and any phase differential will cause peaks and dips through that interaction. That results in "smear" and does not sound sweet and pure. It is bad distortion not only because it smears clarity and reduces some harmonic content, but it is also chaotic, invisible and uncontrollable. The best one can do is not create it in the first place.

There are certainly other factors both beneficial and detrimental but proper layout, space and orientation are HUGE factors.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Some of it comes from the reduced crosstalk between components, including wiring ( and especially traces) crammed tightly together as they are on a PCB type construction compared to a Point-to-Point,
Does this come from an engineer standpoint?

I'd say, once you eliminate the shear drop in quality of virtually every component you find in a mass-produced amp compared to an old classic, you will find that P2P vs PCB is not really a thing.
And vice versa, you buy cheap components, you solder them lovingly onto a turret board, and you get scheiße tone.
Trannies and speakers suffer especially from this - because they are expensive parts and so it is really profitable to spare every single expense on those first.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orson Maxwell View Post
Does this come from an engineer standpoint?

I'd say, once you eliminate the shear drop in quality of virtually every component you find in a mass-produced amp compared to an old classic, you will find that P2P vs PCB is not really a thing.
And vice versa, you buy cheap components, you solder them lovingly onto a turret board, and you get scheiße tone.
Trannies and speakers suffer especially from this - because they are expensive parts and so it is really profitable to spare every single expense on those first.
I respectfully suggest you do an experiment at the very least with a Spectrum Analyze (as I have done) or even better with a Fast Fourier Transform (as I have also done) to witness for yourself just how powerful this crosstalk effect can be even in just 2 wires. Once you have done that then just try to imagine the hundreds of points of interactions at various phase and amplitude variations and wrap your head around how important this truly is.

I absolutely agree that transformers are equally as important and speakers even more so (after all they are transducers subject to two levels of translation) but it is absolutely true that crosstalk is huge. Aside from my own experiments and experiences one of my very good friends is a scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center whose job it is to get the absolute best signal-to-noise ratio needed in such low power at long distance communications. It is he that laid out for me how attention to crosstalk and ground loops while seemingly small things, add up to HUGE even given the very best NASA quality components..

Lovingly has nothing to do with it. Knowledge of layout, proximity and orientation as well as proper filtration and isolation is a key issue in signal purity and harmonic richness. PCB is basically 2-Dimensional offering fewer options than P2P which can be 3-Dimensional. Granted there is a "chaos factor" where certain intermodulations can sound pleasing or at least useful in a musical instrument but one cannot plan on chaos nor easily reproduce it. In any mass produced device, for anyone to have any expectations at all, consistency is everything.unless one wishes or accedes to be a slave to trial and error. .

So, yes... this IS from an engineering standpoint. Is it possible to get good tone from a PCB-based amp? Of course. Does p2p make any appreciable difference? Not only yes but HELL YES!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
I don't argue that the induced currents can screw things up in upstream stages, but what is the orders of magnitude for this kind of effects? I mean, of course, it can get as bad as autogeneration in really bad cases when the gains are high, but to actually smear anything... It is mostly the higher frequencies that are able to effectively couple into nearby circuits anyway and seeing how the guitar signal is essentially lo-fi in its frequency content, I сcan't help but wonder what would be the extent of such effects? There are basically LPFs between each gain stage. Plus if you carefully control impedances in voltage sensitive nodes, these effects can be attenuated greatly even before it is time to actually assemble the circuit.

Also, I don't think it is correct to compare assembly technologies - both PCBs and P2P circuits can be made dismal or great - P2P is just more forgiving for inexperienced assembly people. Most devices that are *way* more wide-band and sensitive are made using PCBs just because with them, you need to do a very good job of designing it, but you need to do it only once.

I'm not a skeptic by any stretch of the imagination though - I work in satellite comms myself and I regularly deal with all sorts of cool kit, I'm just trying to assess the actual magnitude and importance of the things you're talking about. I have a long list of thing I wanna try out when building amps, so I'm trying to understand the priorities here

Anyway, thanks for a stimulating idea.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
So, yes... this IS from an engineering standpoint. Is it possible to get good tone from a PCB-based amp? Of course. Does p2p make any appreciable difference? Not only yes but HELL YES!

Well, I don't believe you are correct in that respect.

But, the engineering angle from which P2P makes sense is low-volume production. If you use turret boards, the most compelling engineering case is for repairability and easy modification.

Performance wise - even if you do want some cross-talk in controlled amounts - a 4-layer PCB is very hard to beat. With a ground layer under the sensitive traces, you get a lot less pickup of radiated noise. And, if you have a problem with crosstalk, you can move the aggressor trace to the opposite side of the ground plane.....



-tINY

Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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enorbet2's Avatar
Heya tINY, I get what you're driving at and of course it is true that just like the example I gave of NASA electronics far more exacting than a mere audio amplifier that they don't turn to wide spaced, large components on a P2P assembly. They use miniaturized components on PCBs. So of course that technique can be tweaked for excellent performance and as Orson Maxwell wisely pointed out, you only have to do it once. Once you have it, it is trivial to reproduce.

What may be throwing off this discussion is I am trying to be pretty much On Topic and not to be taken too widely to general areas. I'm saying that when a guitar amp manufacturer creates a ReIssue they arern't first of all even considering an EXACT replica with the near exception of Signature amps like Clapton and Bonamassa Tweeds. With commercial, somewhat pedestrian mass market designed ReIssues they are going to use PCBs and they aren't going to spend a fortune to tweak it out. They are going to get close and make it easy to assemble and produce so it can be marketed at a price point that they think will return the greatest profits.

I totally agree with you that with P2P low volume is a given and the major value is in service and modification. Hey,, if human hands placed a component it stands to reason that will be easy for human hands to replace said component. All I'm trying to point out is that for better and for worse, crosstalk is an audible consequence so ReIssues can get quite close but as long as they convert a P2P layout to a PCB layout the odds are it will not sound or behave exactly like the unit it purportedly reveres or aspires to. Layout and orientation matters to more than serviceability, especially when it's "on the cheap".
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orson Maxwell View Post
Anyway, thanks for a stimulating idea.
I'd have quoted your post in it's entirety but I've already brought too sharp a focus on a moderate area. Anyway, thank you, Orson. What more can anyone hope for than to stimulate and be stimulated to think and imagine, eh? I hope I've answered some of your questions in my response to tINY. If not I have been known to rattle on, lol, so fire away. .
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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I bought a Princeton 68 custom reissue that sounds wonderful for recording and takes pedals brilliantly.

Mind you I don't gig with it so I can't comment on it's ruggedness. But as a recording combo with a 57 and ribbon in front of it I must say I've been blown away with the quality of the tone I get out of it. It the most fun little combo I've ever played though actually, it has a lovely touch, very addictive to play.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
Yeah, very sorry to hijack the thread - I was just excited to ask a few questions regarding this.

To the OP: I too don't really trust reissues. If you're after the tone, I'd consider these routes (in order of diminishing preference):
1. Get a boutique copy;
2. Find an old-ish amp in good condition;
3. Find an old amp and get it to a technician for refurbishing;
4. Get a reissue.

Choose according to budget.

If you're not a tone geek, a reissue might be just the thing you want. I'd check the Internet for owners' opinions though - sometimes they screw some things up when preparing a reissue, which will become obvious over time (things like overheating, bad pots etc).
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
...so ReIssues can get quite close but as long as they convert a P2P layout to a PCB layout the odds are it will not sound or behave exactly like the unit it purportedly reveres or aspires to. Layout and orientation matters to more than serviceability, especially when it's "on the cheap".


I think you have a fundamental issue: No two instances of a classic tube amp will sound the same 40-50 years later... so which one do you emulate? Especially with specimens that have had caps replaced.

Then, consider the tubes. How many new production tubes perform like tubes from the 50's? Even in the 50's, the uniformity of tube parameters wasn't great.

Also, consider the aging transformers and how that shapes the sound of these desirable amps. If it's a combo, the speaker is an even bigger factor....

P2P, turret, eyelet, PCB.... When it comes to sound, there's no way the difference is worth considering (outside of poor layouts - in any style).

But, for physical authenticity, the marshals should have turret boards, the Fenders should have eyelet boards, the Voxs should have terminal boards... Maybe if you reissue a Masco or Silvertone you should use PTP.

There is something to authentic physical form, but I'm not buying the tonal differences.


-tINY

Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
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Well tINY nobody is arguing for exact consistency when the schematics themselves noted that except in specific few cases values could vary plus or minus 20%. That IMHO is variation within a theme and somewhat different from not only cheap, cost agenda driven PCB design but the miniauturization of components. or do you imagine these have zero tone difference?



versus



This is an old argument based on the engineering concept that "if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist" which is a valid pragmatic approach but it assumes you already acknowledge a thing exists and know how to measure it. When ICs and CD players first hit the market and for quite a few years after, many techs claimed they were better than other formats and displayed cleaner reproduction, despite that audiophiles heard harshness.

David Hafler came up with a rather brilliant interferometer approach between Inputs and Outputs pointing out that anything, regardless of what it might be, that remains after cancellation is some sort of distortion artifact. His method wasn't perfect but before long once meters with shorter timescales became available lo and behold Transient Harmonic Distortion (NOT THD where "T" is Total") was discovered measured, and slew rate was addressed and fixed so that modern CDs and audio ICs no longer exhibit that particular nastiness.

If you don't buy that well OK the world won't end, but I contend it does exist and do subscribe to the concept that just because two capacitors made from different materials having the same rating should sound the same, they very often do not. Put that together with 100 others and alter orientation and wiring and it matters and accumulates.

I have heard what changing locations, orientations and materials can do and I also recognize that some Reissues are damned close, each is somewhat unique, but that doesn't imply it doesn't exist just because it may or may not show up on an OScope. Human ears coupled with human brains can certainly be fooled or merely be in error but that doesn't mean they (we) are blunt instruments.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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The new amps that make me think of my vintage Fender amps the most when I plugin are made by Allen Amplifiers. They have the thing.

Dr Z has some very legit stuff in that vein too, like the Z Lux.

It is always a bit jarring to me to plug into one of the “reissues”.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
With all due respect, guys, as a schematic designer I find it a bit offending to think that the tone is in the caps. The one is in the design - that's what reissues ought to copy. Of course then you can go on to crap all over a nice design with terrible execution, but the core character will still be somewhere under layers of artifacts of poor filtering, inadequate transformer ratings etc. I think that is why reissues are actually popular - they kinda still sound like originals.

P.S. That auricap looks like a filthy audiophool scam.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orson Maxwell View Post
P.S. That auricap looks like a filthy audiophool scam.

I don't know about that particular brand (claims, pricing, etc). But, that looks like a fairly standard large-value film (PP/foil) cap you'd use in a good passive cross-over... I suppose you could use it as an AC bypass cap on a cathode resistor - though it's not likely to make much difference there. If you needed such a large value for a coupling cap (where capacitor distortion is an issue), then you probably have poor design choices.

But, hey, it's a guitar zone here - distortion is not the enemy. An artistic combination of distortions is called "good tone".



-tINY

Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
Its just its name implies gold (or plated) conductors, whereas all the distortion that caps introduce comes from the insulating material properties
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orson Maxwell View Post
Yeah, very sorry to hijack the thread - I was just excited to ask a few questions regarding this.

To the OP: I too don't really trust reissues. If you're after the tone, I'd consider these routes (in order of diminishing preference):
1. Get a boutique copy;
2. Find an old-ish amp in good condition;
3. Find an old amp and get it to a technician for refurbishing;
4. Get a reissue.

Choose according to budget.

If you're not a tone geek, a reissue might be just the thing you want. I'd check the Internet for owners' opinions though - sometimes they screw some things up when preparing a reissue, which will become obvious over time (things like overheating, bad pots etc).
The one thing I wished to inject here is that you're talking about replicating a tone signature. You can be a tone geek wishing to create your OWN tone, and not copy the past. In this case, noise and distortion specs are important, but matching a 1950's <whatever> is NOT. So what we're discussing here affects only one segment of the playing population. Just because you don't care if something exactly duplicates an old Bassman, that doesn't mean you're not serious about tone.

Sorry, just addressing that one statement. Otherwise, the discussion has been fascinating for me. I'm wondering if multiple PCBs with multiple levels (PCB with planes and such, mounted on others using standoffs to create distance) can alleviate a lot of the crosstalk issues, and still be economically viable to manufacture. And of course, if tubes are used, don't mount them on the PCBs...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
Let's be honest, the absolute majority of guitar amp buyers want "that sound" and not "my sound", and that's what's driving the reissue marketing. Besides that, the OP said he is "seriously considering to get one of the '65 or '68 reissues", so yeah - I felt quite safe making those assumptions.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
The ceramic caps in the 15 Dwight Yoakum Deluxe Reverb re-issues were swapped with silver-mica. That was to simulate the original modified Deluxe Reverb amp Pete Anderson used on the original recordings. The other mod done was replacing the 6.8k "middle" resistor with 10 k ohms to simulate a Twin with the mids cranked.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #28
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orson Maxwell View Post
Its just its name implies gold (or plated) conductors, whereas all the distortion that caps introduce comes from the insulating material properties
Ah! So finally we are back to my desired point of comparing ANY large scale component common to P2P to miniaturized Surface-Mount components common to PCB construction? The dielectric propertise are distinctly different when we have differing materials as well as surface area, no?

FWIW I didn't choose the so-called "audiophile scam" unit photo because it is an example of my favorite brand or any specific preference. I know nothing about that company, it's hype or it's pricing. All I knew for certain when I picked the photo out from hundreds in a web search for "metal film axial capacitors", was exactly that, it does not appear conducive to cost-cutting PCB usage... no more. I am betting it does sound different from surface mount construction, though.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Ah! So finally we are back to my desired point of comparing ANY large scale component common to P2P to miniaturized Surface-Mount components common to PCB construction? The dielectric propertise are distinctly different when we have differing materials as well as surface area, no?
<...>
I am betting it does sound different from surface mount construction, though.
Of course, but who is talking about SMD components? You can mount proper axial caps in a PCB too. Maybe I've missed it, but I personally didn't have surface mounted components in mind - just the printed circuit boards to form connections and structural support for the components.

Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
FWIW I didn't choose the so-called "audiophile scam" unit photo because it is an example of my favorite brand or any specific preference. I know nothing about that company, it's hype or it's pricing. All I knew for certain when I picked the photo out from hundreds in a web search for "metal film axial capacitors", was exactly that, it does not appear conducive to cost-cutting PCB usage... no more.
I'm not implying anything, just thought it looked ridiculous, that's why I put that statement in a P.S. and followed with a laughing smiley face.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orson Maxwell View Post
Also, I don't think it is correct to compare assembly technologies - both PCBs and P2P circuits can be made dismal or great - P2P is just more forgiving for inexperienced assembly people.
No, not really. It's easier to make a bad connection without a PCB because if everything kind of looks the same, a noob can get confused. It's also easy to make a "rat's nest" and basically a mess if you're a noob.

On the other hand, it's easier to fix mistakes on a turret board, if you repeatedly remove components off a PC board you can break the traces.

And real point to point (not turret board) is virtually impossible for a noob, dangerous too.
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