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Author Topic:  Tube Amp???
Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 21 Dec 2017 10:26 am     Reply with quote

Could anyone recommend a tube amp that would be good for pedal steel (not tele!!) for less than $500,,and weighs less than 35 lbs?? I'm not looking for something to handle an outdoor concert,,,or even a regular honky-tonk venue,,,,STRICKLY music room or maybe small jam or get-togethers.
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Barry Coker


From:
Alabama, USA
Post Posted 21 Dec 2017 10:50 am     Tube Amp Reply with quote

I have a Fender Blues Jr. that I use. Picked it up in a Pawn Shop for $275.00. 15 Watts nice Reverb and I think its under 35 lbs. Ive used it as a practice amp and it works fine. If you can find an early one they were US made.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post Posted 21 Dec 2017 10:59 am     Reply with quote

If you already have a decent speaker cab (or a suitable speaker in another amp), it'd be hard to beat this MM-65:

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=325191


Last edited by Jack Hanson on 21 Dec 2017 11:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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Robert Parent


From:
Savage, MN
Post Posted 21 Dec 2017 11:02 am     Reply with quote

I have a Music Man 50 watt with a 12 inch JBL that works well for PSG. A guess is that weight would be in the 30 pound range.

Robert
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post Posted 21 Dec 2017 7:25 pm     Reply with quote

That's a very tough question that really needs a LOT more information to answer well.

"Music room", "small get togethers" and such - at least in my experience playing several different instruments - may require the same output (NOT power, which is one of the least important factors when it comes to volume) as most small clubs would.

(FWIW "volume" is more dependent on the amp's style of construction, speaker efficiency, cabinet type and construction and - in a fixed bias amp - the output tube quality and bias setting.)

"Music room" playing alone or along with...what? How loud - what are you using now by way of comparison? It'd be helpful to have some kind of baseline - otherwise everyone will recommend their favorite small tube amp, which may be completely wrong for what *you* do.

Same with "small get togethers" - with how many players, playing what (even if playing country there are MANY different "styles" - especially nowadays). What type of amp(s) do the other players use? Bass player rigs/levels also make a big difference, as does any gear used by a guitar player

Could there be a drummer? How big a set? playing with sticks? How good are his/her dynamics (drumming can make a HUGE difference)?

A couple of potential problems, and why all this stuff is actually important (especially what you use now and how loud you need to run it):

If the amp ends up not having enough headroom - i.e. if you can't get enough clean volume - you'll end up having to play distorted or just get buried.

OTOH, if the amp has TOO much output you may end up only being able to turn it up a very small amount. Very often this results in a thin, weak sound because you are not able to drive the speaker(s) enough to get the full frequency response (VERY common with Twin Reverbs, especially with "tight" speakers).

Also some comments about setting a budget: tube amps ALL need periodic service. Electrolytic filter capacitors need to be replaced every 15 years on average (that's the usual maximum service life). If you buy a used amp that's over 10 years old it's best to get that work done right away unless you'll remember.

Any "pawn shop amp" is a total crapshoot. no matter how it sounds it's likely it wasn't cared for all that well - it DID end up in a pawnshop - so if it's an older amp an immediate trip to the tech isn't really even a question. Sure, you can get lucky - but if not it can be REAL expensive (Pawn shop, swap meet and garage sale amps are all; VERY common repair items around here, not just by me - tech shops encounter the same thing) .

If it's close to or older than 15 years (no matter what the source) it needs to be checked out by a tech *right away* unless you get full service records and understand what was done recently. If capacitor dates are not obvious they should be replaced - ignoring them leaves you open to having one or more fail (and they do so without warning), possibly burning out an expensive transformer.

And any used "fixed bias" amp (which will be most in that price range that are suitable for pedal steel) needs to have the power tube bias checked (and usually adjusted) - no matter what the age. this also needs to be done any time power tubes are changed.

It's also advisable that any used tube amp get a general checkup, as tubes (especially tubes installed when amps were new up to about 20 years ago) may need to be replaced and other parts drift.

Plus the biggest problem is that a large percentage of tube amp owners simply don't understand normal service intervals. Manufacturers don't mention a thing about it - they figure most owners will sell them in a few years - or they'll be out of warranty by the time they need repairs, so service is irrelevant..

You avoid having a tube amp become a "service nightmare". by getting it checked out right away and any needed work done - then enjoy it without problems. It's a LOT cheaper that way.

Most of the amps I "repair" were purchased used (many less than 15 years old) and played without being checked out. And about 1/3 of the first repairs involve all the normal service that *should* have been done plus anywhere from 50% to 200% more than that in avoidable repair costs.

Unless you can do work yourself (safely - many tube amps store deadly voltage when *unplugged*) I suggest adding $150 to the budget for "normal" service (If you're lucky it'll be less) to $300 if many of the tubes require replacement.

Not at least understanding service (and repair!) costs and having the money available is something I don't advise at all. If the plan is to just ignore it all - don't buy a tube amp.

I'm really not trying to deter you. A properly maintained tube amp in not usually expensive to own. But buying/using a used tube amp is just not a "buy n' play" proposition. At least not if done wisely.

And it's VERY unlikely that you'll find a decent new tube amp for pedal steel for <$500. New amps in that price range suffer from very cheap build quality and have very low quality tubes and speakers installed (the speaker would likely need replacement right away for pedal steel). And a fixed-bias amp in that category - in addition to a better speaker - almost always needs better power tubes, or at least a bias adjustment to improve headroom.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 22 Dec 2017 2:10 am     Reply with quote

what Jim said... Laughing

So many people now equate POWER to volume. It's the new math evidently ! Then we have all these really poor quality Made in China low end amps that are touting 100 watts at $300 new. Uhhh...not hardly

The Bjr is a fine little amp but if you are attempting to push it, even a tad, you will not like the EL84 tone, as it is designed to go into "crunch" mode. Thats what they do, and they do it very well. The Bjr is Fenders "retail market" response to the Vox AC15 and AC30 tones.

Under $500 , new or used ?

Quite frankly , my take would be a used HR Deluxe or Blues Deluxe, ( 2 x 6L6 tube platform) around 40 pounds and right at 40 watts with a single 12. Not only can you use this amp at your jams etc but if you happen to get called for a small to medium gig, you are ready to roll.

Or a Nashville 112, 40 pounds and worth every penny.

Move your scale to under $500 ( used) and 40 pounds, and your market just opened up big time.
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Brad Sarno


From:
St. Louis, MO USA
Post Posted 22 Dec 2017 7:24 am     Reply with quote

This would be killer! Maybe a used one would be under $500.

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/DeltaBlue115II
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Mark Hershey


From:
New York, USA
Post Posted 22 Dec 2017 8:19 am     Reply with quote

Jim Sliff wrote:
That's a very tough question that really needs a LOT more information to answer well.

"Music room", "small get togethers" and such - at least in my experience playing several different instruments - may require the same output (NOT power, which is one of the least important factors when it comes to volume) as most small clubs would.

(FWIW "volume" is more dependent on the amp's style of construction, speaker efficiency, cabinet type and construction and - in a fixed bias amp - the output tube quality and bias setting.)

"Music room" playing alone or along with...what? How loud - what are you using now by way of comparison? It'd be helpful to have some kind of baseline - otherwise everyone will recommend their favorite small tube amp, which may be completely wrong for what *you* do.

Same with "small get togethers" - with how many players, playing what (even if playing country there are MANY different "styles" - especially nowadays). What type of amp(s) do the other players use? Bass player rigs/levels also make a big difference, as does any gear used by a guitar player

Could there be a drummer? How big a set? playing with sticks? How good are his/her dynamics (drumming can make a HUGE difference)?

A couple of potential problems, and why all this stuff is actually important (especially what you use now and how loud you need to run it):

If the amp ends up not having enough headroom - i.e. if you can't get enough clean volume - you'll end up having to play distorted or just get buried.

OTOH, if the amp has TOO much output you may end up only being able to turn it up a very small amount. Very often this results in a thin, weak sound because you are not able to drive the speaker(s) enough to get the full frequency response (VERY common with Twin Reverbs, especially with "tight" speakers).

Also some comments about setting a budget: tube amps ALL need periodic service. Electrolytic filter capacitors need to be replaced every 15 years on average (that's the usual maximum service life). If you buy a used amp that's over 10 years old it's best to get that work done right away unless you'll remember.

Any "pawn shop amp" is a total crapshoot. no matter how it sounds it's likely it wasn't cared for all that well - it DID end up in a pawnshop - so if it's an older amp an immediate trip to the tech isn't really even a question. Sure, you can get lucky - but if not it can be REAL expensive (Pawn shop, swap meet and garage sale amps are all; VERY common repair items around here, not just by me - tech shops encounter the same thing) .

If it's close to or older than 15 years (no matter what the source) it needs to be checked out by a tech *right away* unless you get full service records and understand what was done recently. If capacitor dates are not obvious they should be replaced - ignoring them leaves you open to having one or more fail (and they do so without warning), possibly burning out an expensive transformer.

And any used "fixed bias" amp (which will be most in that price range that are suitable for pedal steel) needs to have the power tube bias checked (and usually adjusted) - no matter what the age. this also needs to be done any time power tubes are changed.

It's also advisable that any used tube amp get a general checkup, as tubes (especially tubes installed when amps were new up to about 20 years ago) may need to be replaced and other parts drift.

Plus the biggest problem is that a large percentage of tube amp owners simply don't understand normal service intervals. Manufacturers don't mention a thing about it - they figure most owners will sell them in a few years - or they'll be out of warranty by the time they need repairs, so service is irrelevant..

You avoid having a tube amp become a "service nightmare". by getting it checked out right away and any needed work done - then enjoy it without problems. It's a LOT cheaper that way.

Most of the amps I "repair" were purchased used (many less than 15 years old) and played without being checked out. And about 1/3 of the first repairs involve all the normal service that *should* have been done plus anywhere from 50% to 200% more than that in avoidable repair costs.

Unless you can do work yourself (safely - many tube amps store deadly voltage when *unplugged*) I suggest adding $150 to the budget for "normal" service (If you're lucky it'll be less) to $300 if many of the tubes require replacement.

Not at least understanding service (and repair!) costs and having the money available is something I don't advise at all. If the plan is to just ignore it all - don't buy a tube amp.

I'm really not trying to deter you. A properly maintained tube amp in not usually expensive to own. But buying/using a used tube amp is just not a "buy n' play" proposition. At least not if done wisely.

And it's VERY unlikely that you'll find a decent new tube amp for pedal steel for <$500. New amps in that price range suffer from very cheap build quality and have very low quality tubes and speakers installed (the speaker would likely need replacement right away for pedal steel). And a fixed-bias amp in that category - in addition to a better speaker - almost always needs better power tubes, or at least a bias adjustment to improve headroom.


Jim knows his stuff.
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 22 Dec 2017 8:36 am     Reply with quote

Brad,,,,at 50lbs that amp really would be a killer,,,on this old mans back,,,,LOL.

Jim,,,much obliged for that extensive piece of info,,,,sounds like I may need a different amp for each different venue I would play.
Music room = bedroom with backing tracks or BIAB
Jams/Get togethers = 2-3 guys in the garage or living room.

I'm thinking about the blues jr. I think there are some mods I've seen on the web that help eliminate or reduce the "crunch" at higher levels. Also considering the MM.
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ajm


From:
Los Angeles
Post Posted 22 Dec 2017 8:55 am     Reply with quote

FWIW, not all Music Mans are the same.

Some of the are "hybrid" design, with a solid state preamp and a tube power stage, or vise versa, or both or whatever depending upon the amp.

Not that they may not sound good, but if you think that you are getting a totally tube signal path, you may be surprised.
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post Posted 24 Dec 2017 8:01 pm     Reply with quote

The Peavey Delta Blues is a 4- EL84 amp designed for early breakup. A Fender Blues Jr is an even lower-output 2xEL84 amp with several different types of 12" speakers. Some aren't really the best speaker for pedal steel. No amount of mods are going to overcome the absolute headroom limit of 2 EL84's.

Neither are amps I would select for most pedal steel players to use - and personally I prefer a bit of breakup. But it depends on how loud you need to run (and often how much you play full chords, which will overdrive many small amps even at low volume)

A fixed-bias amp loaded with 2x6L6's would be the best choice *if* a decently built AND properly maintained one can be found for less than $500

That's going to be difficult IMO. A Music Man 50 watt found for under $500 will need at least a once-over by a tech, and most need the filter capacitors and power tubes replaced. They ALL run their power tubes/output stages at blisteringly high voltages and are known as tube and cap-eaters. As noted most are "hybrids" with SS preamps - not really a big deal for pedal steel, except most sound VERY cold at low volume. There's simply no way to "warm up" the sound of a SS preamp/tube power amp combo when EL34 power tubes are running at close to 600VDC (or 6L6's over 500VDC).


Sonny, your comment about different amps for different venues is actually quite normal for 6-string players; a bit less for pedal steel, although it's tough to find "catch all" amps (especially tube) that work well in all situations. For pedal steel a '66 Deluxe Reverb was the highest-output amp I used for small club and related gigs - and has little clean headroom. And a VIbroverb with a 15" speaker and/or a 4x10" speaker Fender Concert was my "big rig" (outdoor gigs usually required both).

But those bigger amps sounded plain bad in small clubs or for "garage jam" use.
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Len Amaral


From:
Rehoboth,MA 02769
Post Posted 24 Dec 2017 9:02 pm     Reply with quote

Mesa F-50 is a nice amp with two 6L6 power tubes. Very Fendery and clean.
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Marty Broussard


From:
Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 25 Dec 2017 6:05 pm     Reply with quote

Subject to Jim’s opinion, how about a Fender Bassman Head with a Speaker enclosure of your choice —-12” or 15”, OR if you take a chance with a combo cabinet from several sources and a Neo speaker of your choice you could get close to the weight target. You may need to add a small graphic equalizer pedal to fine tune your tone while using the standard Fender Tone Stack.

I have a customized build that started as a Bassman Head and then evolved to a combo built into a Fender Princeton Reverb Cabinet with a Blue Marvel Speaker. The Customized part involves a sweepable Frequency knob and Mid Knob that acts similar to a Nashville series Peavey amp. You can’t buy it in your price range but it meets the weight criteria. I purposely excluded Reverb to save space and because I use pedals.

I’m working with the builder to secure a firm market price and any applicable patents that might be available for the circuitry—to protect HIM. Here’s a some photos on stage below.

The band and I compared it next to my NV112 and it really sounded better plus there’s plenty of headroom AND the 6L6’s and PreAmp tubes aren’t as prone to going microphonic as some tubes.




_________________
Marty Broussard-Steel-Guitarist for Tracy Byrd
www.martybroussard.net

"Technique is really the elimination of the unnecessary..it is a constant effort to avoid any personal impediment or obstacle to achieve the smooth flow of energy and intent" Yehudi Menuhin

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,and good men die like dogs-there's also a negative side."
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Marty Broussard


From:
Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 25 Dec 2017 6:14 pm     Reply with quote

Subject to Jim’s opinion, how about a Fender Bassman Head with a Speaker enclosure of your choice —-12” or 15”, OR if you take a chance with a combo cabinet from several sources and a Neo speaker of your choice you could get close to the weight target. You may need to add a small graphic equalizer pedal to fine tune your tone.

I have a customized build that started as a Bassman Head and then evolved to a combo built into a Fender Princeton Reverb Cabinet with a Blue Marvel Speaker. The Customized part involves a sweepable Frequency knob and Mid Knob that acts similar to a Nashville series Peavey amp. You can’t buy it in your price range but it meets the weight criteria. I purposely excluded Reverb to save space and because I use pedals.

I’m working with the builder to secure a firm market price and any applicable patents that might be available for the circuitry—to protect HIM. Here’s a some photos on stage below.

The band and I compared it next to my NV112 and it really sounded better plus the there’s plenty of headroom AND the 6L6’s and PreAmp tunes aren’t as prone to going microphonic as some tubes.




_________________
Marty Broussard-Steel-Guitarist for Tracy Byrd
www.martybroussard.net

"Technique is really the elimination of the unnecessary..it is a constant effort to avoid any personal impediment or obstacle to achieve the smooth flow of energy and intent" Yehudi Menuhin

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,and good men die like dogs-there's also a negative side."
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post Posted 25 Dec 2017 6:55 pm     Reply with quote

A Bassman head is a good idea -

Except a decent used one will cost at least $500 if it's been properly serviced - and that's *before* you buy a cabinet and speaker.

Marty, did you miss his $500 budget figure?
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Marty Broussard


From:
Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 25 Dec 2017 11:11 pm     Reply with quote

You’re correct Jim. I paid $500 for my Bassman Head in Excellent condition so I already exceeded his budget....my error.
_________________
Marty Broussard-Steel-Guitarist for Tracy Byrd
www.martybroussard.net

"Technique is really the elimination of the unnecessary..it is a constant effort to avoid any personal impediment or obstacle to achieve the smooth flow of energy and intent" Yehudi Menuhin

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,and good men die like dogs-there's also a negative side."
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Jerry Dragon


From:
New York, USA
Post Posted 26 Dec 2017 5:37 am     Reply with quote

I can't say for PSG but for guitars, for about 250.00 up you can pick up either a Peavy Classic 30 or a Delta Blues. I have played out of them on stage for years and have no complaints. I see they were mentioned in a previous post.
Sometimes you can find a classic fifty for that price. IMO they beat the Fender competition.
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post Posted 26 Dec 2017 6:08 am     Reply with quote

Just a question out of my naivete (neither a pedal steeler nor an amp guru), but given the budget and the need for lots of clean headroom and light weight, would this be a good candidate for a solid state amp? As a fretted guitarist that early breakup and warm tone is what I'd be after from some of those smaller EL84 type amps, but if you want wide range and headroom, would a solid state be a better fit for under $500?

As a former tube snob I feel like I should go do penance now. But I play bass a lot too and it seems like (again from my position of ignorance) pedal steel players value a lot of the same things (clear full sound, no mud, top end brightness and low end clarity, etc).
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 28 Dec 2017 9:31 am     Reply with quote

Well, while I appreciate all the very detailed and realistic information from those in the know,,,I have finally started to get a very warm, and (to me) tube like sound out of my little Boss Katana amp. I had bought this little amp a month ago from GC to try out, knowing that I had 45 days to return it,,,,well the time has been extended by GC til end of January,,,but I must say, I'm liking it more and more. My friend who is a vintage tube amp collector has listened and we switched between various amps,,,he agrees that the most I could gain from tube amps is weight and "potential" trouble,,,LOL. We both agree that if there was possibly a wee bit of "filter" or ???,,,but really this amp is looking better all the time.
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Jack Stanton


From:
Somewhere in the swamps of Jersey
Post Posted 28 Dec 2017 6:40 pm     Reply with quote

Marty,
Would love to hear some clips.
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Marty Broussard


From:
Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA
Post Posted 29 Dec 2017 5:13 am     Reply with quote

Jack, hoping to put some together...
_________________
Marty Broussard-Steel-Guitarist for Tracy Byrd
www.martybroussard.net

"Technique is really the elimination of the unnecessary..it is a constant effort to avoid any personal impediment or obstacle to achieve the smooth flow of energy and intent" Yehudi Menuhin

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,and good men die like dogs-there's also a negative side."
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Jim Peter


From:
Mendon,Mich USA
Post Posted 3 Jan 2018 10:04 am     Reply with quote

I had this amp in the for sale section and nobody seemed interested so I decided to keep it and I am glad I did. It is 50W of tube power (2) 6L6 & (3) 12ax7, and I have played it in living rooms as well as on a band stand with a drummer. I changed out the cheap reverb tank and put in a different speaker and I now have a light weight amp that will handle a lot of conditions.

Jim

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=282817&highlight=
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