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Who knows about Hiwatt amps?
Old 19th December 2010
  #1
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

Who knows about Hiwatt amps?

Hey guys I recently played a vintage DR 103 and really dug it. I've been reading some about the amps and asked a buddy of mine some questions but I just wanted to get you guy's take on it. I only see them on ebay so I can't go and play them.

1. It seems like they have a 100 watt guitar amp which is the DR 103 and a 50 watter called the DR 504, are they basically the same amp just different power?

2. I don't care how loud it is I want the right one. Some people like the 50's and some like the 100's what's your take on sound differences?

3. Does the 50 break up earlier?

4. What model is THE quintessential sound?

Personally I'm not really looking for the one that breaks up earlier or easily, I want something a little cleaner then some of the amps in my collection.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the subject. Also vintage versus new versus Reeves? Any other model or amp I could be looking at? I really want that spanky sheery slicing tone ala The Who and JET.

Any help would be cool.
Old 19th December 2010
  #2
Gear Head
 

Who knows about Hiwatt amps?

I am by no means a Hiwatt expert but just scored a vintage DR-103 from around 1974 with all original Mullard valves, and by god it is nice! The valve saturation stays clean with all of those lovely harmonics. I think the 100 watter is the quintessential Hiwatt, you can get rich clean sounds at managable levels. Look out for the fane speakers as they mellow the hi's, which is essential to the Hiwatt sound. Good luck!
Old 19th December 2010
  #3
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Reeves are regarded as better built than the current Music Ground UK
Hiwatts or the new American licensed Fernandes Hiwatts.

If you find a vintage Hiwatt in good shape with original circuit integrity
and a full compliment of original or NOS replacement Mullards,
those are going to run top dollar.

"New Tubes" is a red flag to me in any vintage amp because most of the time the original preamp tubes were FINE and in the case of a Hiwatt rather valuable.

You already answered your own question on the DR-103 vs the DR-504
The Custom 100 is going to have that classic clean headroom and hold
that headroom until pushed hard.

The DR-504's are harder to find because of the earlier breakup
and todays live venue volume issues.

Reeves are very well built and can be ordered special with upgrade
NOS tubes if desired and you get the 5 year warranty.
Old 19th December 2010
  #4
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Eganmedia's Avatar
I had recorded 2 103s before buying a 504. To my ears they sounded the same. Even at 50W, the 504 was too loud to use except in isolation. It started to break up around "6.5", but the high end that makes them chime like no other amp will deafen anyone at that volume. I used it only as a studio amp, and eventually sold it because it became so valuable that I couldn't justify having it taking space while only being used a few times a year. I bought it in 1996 for $800 including an original 4X12 Fane-loaded Hiwatt cab. I sold it in 2005 for $2.9K. Funny what a few years can do.

Kickass amps though.
Old 19th December 2010
  #5
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FFTT's Avatar
 

I think you've already got the dream 50 watt voice with your Super 78

The DR-103 or DR-201 would be a better choice for adding a new
voice to your current sonic arsenal and it's all about rich headroom.

The side benefit is the multi-purpose nature of these big blocks.

In the chaos of trying all the amps at the amp fest, you didn't have time
to try tracking bass with that Custom 100 through your signal chain.

You may find that you actually prefer the Hiwatt
or Reeves to your SVT for tracking bass on some of your projects
in addition to the exceptional tones you get for guitars.

You still have not LIVED until you try a DR-201 Circuit.

Old 19th December 2010
  #6
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In terms of quality, the original Hiwatt built amps until around 1980, those are the desirable ones: milspec wiring, clean and robust quality control. After that things went downhill a little, including going to PCB construction. Any pre-1980, non-master Hiwatt is going to be a great investment and a killer amp. Your big problem is that most people know that, so it may not be a question of 50 vs 100w, but of which you can find for a price you're willing to pay! And I wouldn't be scared of finding one with changed tubes, if it's been used they may have worn out, and these amps are rugged enough they could be used hard and still be killer amps. There're lots of good choices for retubing. I would always rather get the original than the reissue, but I've definitely heard that Reeves is the way to go if you want a new one...
Old 19th December 2010
  #7
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
I think you've already got the dream 50 watt voice with your Super 78

The DR-103 or DR-201 would be a better choice for adding a new
voice to your current sonic arsenal and it's all about rich headroom.

The side benefit is the multi-purpose nature of these big blocks.

In the chaos of trying all the amps at the amp fest, you didn't have time
to try tracking bass with that Custom 100 through your signal chain.

You may find that you actually prefer the Hiwatt
or Reeves to your SVT for tracking bass on some of your projects
in addition to the exceptional tones you get for guitars.

You still have not LIVED until you try a DR-201 Circuit.

Wow that is a cool vid. Is that a 201? Is the 201 a 200 watt version?
Old 19th December 2010
  #8
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FFTT's Avatar
 

You also want to be sure to try these amps with a jumper
which allows you to blend both channels together and makes all the
controls interactive.
Old 19th December 2010
  #9
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by James 'LA' Lugo View Post
Wow that is a cool vid. Is that a 201? Is the 201 a 200 watt version?
YUP! :-)

I don't have the RMS figures on the vintage DR-201, but
Bass Gear Magazine bench tested the Reeves 225 @ 243 watts RMS into
8 ohms and 256 watts RMS through 4 ohms.

Both the Reeves and the DR- 201 have a very effective and frankly necessary MV.

On my Reeves 225 and on the DR-201 shown, Master at 10:00
is about as far as you might want to go unless you're running 8X12's
with hearing protection.

The difference with the DR-201 circuit is the KT88's

You can DIME both preamp sections for gain while trimming the volume
with the master.
Old 19th December 2010
  #10
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AllBread's Avatar
 

I have a vintage 1977 50 watt combo - although most of the combos I've heard of are lettered as SA112 or SA212, mine is labeled as a DR-504.

To me, the "Hiwatt" sound is the nice clean tones with plenty of chime and just a bit of break up when you hit the strings hard. I've also found the tone best with the master volume pegged, so you're setting your volume from the "normal" or "bright" volume knobs (and, of course, the cool thing to do is to wire it so that you guitar goes into both at once).

So, to get that sound on this amp, it has to be bloody loud (pretty much can't be in the same room as it kind of loud and, of course, you want to be in the same room so you can get that great feed back sustain so I just pop in the 25db ear plugs and let it rip - neighbors be damned!).

Therefore, although I've never played through a 100 watt head, I highly recommend the the 50 watt version. It can get that sound and still have tons of headroom - the most break-up that you'll get out of it (unless you've got the master dialed back) is a very satisfying crunch when you nail the strings that's no where near the high gain sounds of a marshall or Mesa.

You add a couple pedals in front of that and you can almost start to sound like David Gilmour (but only for about 2 seconds a time with each time being a few years apart - awesome when it happens, though). If you find yourself getting that good and start playing stadiums on a regular basis, then I might consider the 100watt.

Fantastic amps and I'd go with the original Hylight stamped point to point ones if you can find one. It will cost you, but it's the type of amp that you get and never part with.

And yes, I am a huge Gilmour fan, last photo shows my MIJ 62 reissue body with custom neck and David Gilmour EMG pickups set, black guitar is a G&L Legacy with custom wound Klein pickups that match the tone of the DG black strat reissue (saved about 2.5k going this way, and I do love the G&Ls!).
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Old 19th December 2010
  #11
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Most of you have heard these clips, but here's my Reeves 225
The guitar used has three vintage mini buckers, so you can only
imagine the cleans with single coils.

Note the position of the controls and the use of a Y jumper cable.
To go more Whoish, I run the mid control off.



Old 19th December 2010
  #12
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Newcleardaze's Avatar
 

If I'm not mistaken, the DR 103 (through WEM cabs) was quentessential to D. Gilmours sound. Don't know that this info has any bearing, but it has made me want one of these for a LONG time -- then all I need is his fingers and brain heh.
Old 19th December 2010
  #13
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Here's one of the better clips of the Reeves Custom 50 running clean
as a pedal platform.

The tones only get richer as you go up the power chain.

Old 19th December 2010
  #14
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AllBread's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newcleardaze View Post
If I'm not mistaken, the DR 103 (through WEM cabs) was quentessential to D. Gilmours sound. Don't know that this info has any bearing, but it has made me want one of these for a LONG time -- then all I need is his fingers and brain heh.
True, although from Momentary Lapse of Reason on he also used a Hiwatt 50 watt combo. Again, and I could be wrong, I don't think that there's a big tone difference between the 103 and the 504 and the 50w has so much head room that it's still too loud! I can't imagine how loud a 103 into a 4x12 cabinet would have to be to get into that sweet chime territory but hey, if noise isn't a concern and you've got some good ear plugs, go for it!
Old 19th December 2010
  #15
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DJamesGoody's Avatar
Being a Hiwatt fan for years, you may want to refer to some of the Red era Crimson stuff for that Fripp/Hiwatt combo. Great stuff.

The 200W Bass head was amazing. The Reeves remakes are indeed virtually identical, and sound incredible. I personally prefer the 504, only because it's a slightly more tame amp.

The combos are great too, so long as they're before the Audio Brothers versions, which were odd. The Fernandes amps aren't terrible, but not a "real" Hiwatt, thus they sound different.
Old 19th December 2010
  #16
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Mr. Light's Avatar
James, have you ever played through a Sound City 50 plus? Could be considered a poor man's Hiwatt or Reeves, though I prefer them to the latter. We've done 3 records with these amps in heavy rotation (Bay 7 has 3 of them, I have two).

There's no gain, just one volume knob per channel and it takes cranking the thing pretty much all the way up to get the desireable distortion (shouldn't bother anyone with proper sound proofing).

I love it for a very in-your-face mid happy modern rock sound, very easy to find it's place in the mix.

I know you were asking about Hiwatts but to me these are one of the best kept secrets out there. You can find 'em on eBay for $500-600. I'd be happy to bring by my favorite one if you want to take it for a test drive
Old 19th December 2010
  #17
Back in the day I owned a 50 and a Dr103. The DR103 is the one with the Mojo,
no question, finding a cab with Fanes is also a big part of the sound, it's a way different cab than a Marshall with Celestions. FFFT your Reeves sounds nice but old HiWatts wouldn't get that nasty until they were dimed. The old 4 jack DR103's you'd plug into the bottom normal run a short jack into the bottom brilliant, and dime all of the volumes.
Old 19th December 2010
  #18
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
Back in the day I owned a 50 and a Dr103. The DR103 is the one with the Mojo,
no question, finding a cab with Fanes is also a big part of the sound, it's a way different cab than a Marshall with Celestions. FFFT your Reeves sounds nice but old HiWatts wouldn't get that nasty until they were dimed. The old 4 jack DR103's you'd plug into the bottom normal run a short jack into the bottom brilliant, and dime all of the volumes.
Both pre-amp volumes ARE DIMED in my clips.

We had to keep the master at 10:00 to prevent blowing my vintage CTS AlNiCos in the 8X10 cab. The true safe rating with these original 32 Ohm
CTS AlNiCo drivers was closer to 150 watts.
This is why the early SVT literature recommended running TWO 8X10
cabs with the SVT head.

This cab does compress and compared to todays high efficiency cabs
it delivers the tones with about a 30% volume reduction compared
to your typical 100 dB SPL drivers.

Here I'm just running into the bright channel , no jumper pre volume
at about 1:00
Note Mid control is OFF Master at 10:00

I was blown away by the depth, warmth and detail of these cleans
with humbuckers and using a full hollow body.

Old 19th December 2010
  #19
Lives for gear
The Fanes do sound great with a couple of caveats. I've played an original Hiwatt 412 with original Celestions (I think it was a 200w cab IIRC) and it sounded absolutely great, so the cab construction may make a difference. Also, Fanes are REALLY efficient, so they're going to make a very loud amp even louder.

The Sound City amps are pretty cool, but don't have either the level of power supply robustness or the meticulous construction of the Hiwatt, so generally they're going to sound "European" without being identical to Marshall or Hiwatt.
Old 19th December 2010
  #20
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Here's probably the most definitive Hiwatt information source.
http://www.vintagehiwattconvention.com/forum/


The only U.S. distributor for new Fane Speakers in the U.S. is Tonic Amps.

Tonic Amps

As soon as budget permits, I'm definitely going to try a Fane Medusa Cast Frame 150C.

I can't deny wanting to try a Studio 12L either as the British version
of an EVM12L reference driver

A while back I was thinking how cool it would be to have a WEM cab.

The WEM Super & Starfire Speaker Cabinet

http://www.vintagehofner.co.uk/brita.../starfire.html

Old 19th December 2010
  #21
Gear Addict
 

Everyone here has a wealth of info on the old Hiwatts! It's amazing, I love reading this stuff

James, I will keep my comments short. I only want to add that if you don't get the 100w head you will always wonder if it would've made that tiny but critical difference. To me the answer has always been "Yes." That heftier power section sounds DIFFERENT. It's not just a matter of headroom. There is an extra dimension to the sound of the 100w marshalls, hiwatts and old oranges and the like, which lends the impression that they are anchored to the roots of the earth. Play a 50 and a 100 side by side through the same cab. I may not have described it well, but you'll hear it. You probably know it already, you've heard plenty of these amps in action. You're a serious guy doing serious stuff. You deserve the reminder...

If hungry for steak, is a pork chop gonna satisfy?hehheh

`
Old 19th December 2010
  #22
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Ragan's Avatar
 

I love my Hiwatts (obviously). I use the 100 mostly. It has a bit more body than the 50, and obviously more headroom. The 50 is so sweet though. It's more controllable. The 200 is an absolute monster. It sounds amazing on bass. Its a bit unwieldy for guitars. Cranked up with plugs in though, the 200 does sound great its just so f%*#n loud. It'll take your head off. I played the 200 at a show once. Not a huge room but prob 1100 capacity. I could barely have it on. Thing's a beast.
To the OP, make sure its a Hylight era Hiwatt. Also, the last few years of the Hylight Hiwatts have 2 inputs instead of 4 and the bright channel is bridged internally. The bright channel on these bridged ones is higher gain. A little Plexi-ish.
Good luck!
Old 19th December 2010
  #23
Lives for gear
I have 3 dr103s still, and use them all the time.
They're killer..
What a Marshall secretly WANTS to be when it grows up is a Hiwatt


The 50s only breakup SLIGHTLY sooner, they are still essentially clean amps at their heart, which is why they sound so great.
But for whatever reasons, the 100 is THE quintessential Hiwatt sound at only marginally higher volume; not a meaningful level difference.

The Hiwatt has a 12at7 (or au) in the preamp section and so is fairly clean on purpose. Some people replace it with 12ax7 for more grunge.
Not that I would!

Most of them had original fixed bias, so a good tech and careful matched quads of el34s are important.
I've had the best luck with the SED winged C.

They are also, for what it's worth, incredible bass amps.

And they are built like mil spec tanks, so the original ones hold up really well.

Hope this helps. They're brilliant.
Old 19th December 2010
  #24
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FireMoon's Avatar
If you are going to buy an old one make sure it has its' original transformer. HiFI freaks had a habit of buying them and stripping them out and replacing them with something less august.

Not a lot more i can add that others haven;t already said save for. They take pedals really well, effectively, whatever you pump through a Hiwatt, comes out louder or stupidly loud...
Old 19th December 2010
  #25
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Ragan's Avatar
 

Also, on the transformers: I'm not a tech but I've been told its the output transformer that matters. That's the one that needs to be the original Partridge. The power transformer can be anything quality with the right specs.
Old 19th December 2010
  #26
I just wanted to quickly chime in that the Reeves amps are definitely worth looking at; a friend of mine turned me on to the Custom 100 and it was a BEAST of an amp. Huge tone, and very dynamic - you can go from clean to dirty just using your picking technique.
Old 19th December 2010
  #27
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

On the broader subject of buying ANY vintage amp today,
you must be aware of the pitfalls as well.

Amp techs and collectors and enthusiast not only have to worry
about original circuit integrity and some rather sloppy repairs, but
you have to consider where the amp came from and how it was stored.

Any slut should be aware that these amps may have slept around in some rather seedy places.

Mold, mildew, cat spray, mouse droppings, fleas, spider eggs, rust, corrosion, all kinds of fun stuff,
but now BED BUGS tops them all in hassle factor.

The bed bug larva are extremely tough and travel well.

Your shop or studio gets infested, then your home, then your client's homes
and you can be in for some serious bad PR and expense.
Old 19th December 2010
  #28
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audiogeek's Avatar
 

I played a 50watt Hiwatt for awhile, and it had all the stage volume I could ever need, and character for miles. Broke up pretty easy, around 5-ish on the dial, although I didn't need to bring it up much past 3 or 4 on most occasions.

I loved that amp.
Old 19th December 2010
  #29
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FFTT's Avatar
 

20 20 24 hours to go
we're gonna to be evicted
with amps like these there's
no place go
We're gonna be evicted

We can't turn down
and get our tones
Hurry hurry hurry b'fore
the little woman gets home

She better not find out
how much money I've blown
Oh no no no no no!

Ba ba bap ba, ba ba bap ba
We're gonna be evicted. :-)
Old 19th December 2010
  #30
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FireMoon's Avatar
Might not be to everyone's taste..but hey... Hiwatt on Bass... no other amp can do this sound so good..

YouTube - The Stranglers "Nice N' Sleazy"
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