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5E3 with 6L6's

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Brick, Jun 19, 2007.

  1. Brick

    Brick Tele-Holic

    Mar 22, 2003
    San Jose
    A friend wants me to build him a 5E3 that can take 6v6s or 6L6s. What changes have to be made to a regular 5E3 circuit? Different tranny?

  2. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    You can stick 6L6s or 5881s in a 5E3 with no changes because of the self-limiting nature of the biasing scheme, but it won't sound as good if my experience is anything to go by. A boomier bottom-mids, but no louder, because you are limited by the voltage@current the power transformer provides, lower-than-ideal impedance/small size of the output tranny and also by the cathode biasing scheme. Not to mention the speaker. The 6L6s will not be taxed in any way by the amp, and although they have a higher heater current draw than 6V6s the stock-spec tranny should cope. When I tired them in mine it was disappointingly flat-sounding - YMMV

    If you significantly change the amp (lower output tranny primary impedance, fixed biasing for increased power) it would be more suitable for 6L6s - but then you are halfway to a 57 Twin and you might as well just build him one of them. That will lose much of the 'Deluxeness' and applicability of the 6V6s to some degree. Part of the joy of this amp is the 6V6s. IMO change much and 'more is less'.

  3. Brick

    Brick Tele-Holic

    Mar 22, 2003
    San Jose

    I was giving him the same line, if you want a 6L6 amp, build one.

  4. petebradt

    petebradt Former Member

    Jun 7, 2004
    Niner Country
    If you want a 6L6 Tweed, you really can't do better than a 5F4 Super. Damn nice amp. Great for bigger clubs and outdoor gigs.

  5. sjhusting

    sjhusting Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 8, 2003
    My 5e3 takes both 6V6 and 6L6. I used the MercMag FDP-20 "fat stack" power and the FTD-59M dual-primary output, with a switch to select the primary. Other than that, a 10-watt cathode resistor will do it.

    I don't notice a huge difference in volume. I do notice a tone difference. I use a bigger rectifier when using 6L6s.

    A 5E5 (_not_ 5e5-a) Pro is essentially a Deluxe with 6L6s, you can orient yourself there. There is a change in one resistor in the filter chain.


  6. JohnnyCrash

    JohnnyCrash Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 12, 2005
    Fullerton, CA
    Dacious is very correct, although I disagree with the '57 Twin comment. You're closer to a '53-'55 5D8 Twin (of which I built a head version). The '57 (5E8-A) has more clean headroom, whereas the earlier Twin has that classic tweed grind typical of the 5E3 Deluxe.

    Regardless, Dacious is dead on in referring to the limitations brought on by current and the OT and PT (even when dropping in a different rectifier). They will sound flat as he described unless you modify to punch that power section in the face (and get the power section its proper food). 6L6's are great for clear, unsmudged bottom end... the Deluxe is decidedly "smudged" :)

    The 5watt could probably hang as well... 10w is more of a "worst case scenario" type thing, tonally they have the same impedance value and will sound the same.

    Just like Dacious mentioned. Like Steven says, you won't get any more volume but you will get a different tone. Some 6V6 amps I actually dig the clear, almost "flat" sound of a big bottomed 6L6, otherwise stick to the circuit and use 6V6's, you'll probably be happier.

    There is also a different preamp section (not just the low inputs and rectifier either). Still, its more similar to the 5E5 than the '57 Twin (5E8-A), so you may want to do what Steven suggested and start with a 5E5 Pro if a Deluxe is barely too little. The 5E5 honestly aint that much "more" kung fu (cathode biased 6L6's with barely more output than a 5E3, similar volume in dB's but about the same tone as using 6L6's in a 5E3) so it might be best just sticking to the Deluxe.

  7. sjhusting

    sjhusting Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 8, 2003
    By the way I stick to 6V6s most of the time. When I'm doing a jazz-like gig I put 6L6s in it with a 5U4.

    The 5e5 was from memory. I recall it has the same tone stack and PI, but the input stage is different, each input going to it's own half of a triode. Still pretty deluxe-like.

    If I had to build it again, I would probably skip the 6L6 stuff, and just build a fixed-bias amp for the 6L6 sound when the time comes. I mostly play it in an 11-piece R&B band (with horns and a crazy alpha guitarrist) and with an efficient speaker (Jensen C12K) it's loud enough. I sense a 5e5a or 5f4 in my future, though. And I love tweed - it's just so responsive, my jaw hangs every time.


  8. stantheman

    stantheman Doctor of Teleocity

    Jun 10, 2003
    White Mountains
    What if/needs to be done?

    If say You have a Re-issue Bassman and want less POWER without going the route of an attenuation device? Do you just swap out the 5881's for 6V6's or is there a little more involved than that?

  9. Larry Rodgers

    Larry Rodgers TDPRI Member

    Jun 20, 2007
    Naples Fla.
    Another approach to getting more from your 5E3 is to use a 5V4 rectifier tube,Blackface Deluxe power tranny,and a Vox silver Bulldog(Celestion blue will do).I have built many of these and played out with them with great results.The tone is totally tweed,with more volume on tap.I used M-150 tone caps in the amp.6L6's dont work well in the Tweed Deluxe.

  10. PhatTele

    PhatTele Tele-Holic

    Jun 3, 2003
    Richmond, VA
    6L6 5E3...I built one of these. It's actually my main small club gig amp now. Here's what it has:

    1) stock 5E3 preamp circuit and power filtering

    2) fixed adjustable bias control (I heard a 5G9 Tremolux and realized that was the way to go)

    3) Allen Amps transformers (the big beefy TP40D and the TO40MT).

    4) 8 ohm Weber 12F150 (50 watt)

    5) JJ 6L6s and preamp tubes

    6) old Sylvania 5V4

    It still has a lot of that 5E3 edge but you can get a lot of tight bottom end out of it (great for tic-tac Luther Perkins runs). The compression starts at about 5 or 6 on the dial instead of like 3 for a stock 5E3. It's plenty loud enough for a small club and cuts just fine. I use a MXR MicroAmp for a clean boost, Carl Martin Trem-o-vibe or Surf Trem for the tremolo, and a Holy Grail reverb. It sounds great with Strats, Teles, and my Gretsch Jet.

  11. Hoodster

    Hoodster Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 3, 2007

  12. JohnnyCrash

    JohnnyCrash Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 12, 2005
    Fullerton, CA
    I love tweeds too! With the right speaker its hard to imagine somebody not having your reaction - jaw dropping.

    This is the route I'd go. The OT and speaker can make a huge difference in volume. I put a 15watt OT in a SS rectified tweed Champ head build and it is so loud I can't use it in a 3 piece without an OD pedal sometimes (depending on the speaker).

    If you put 6L6's and mod for adjustable bias, you lose a lot of the tweed magic. Inneficiency in the power section is the name of the game, therefore cathode biasing is part of the magic to me. The tweed preamp almost takes a backseat to the power section crumbling into overdrive.

    This isn't to say PhatTele's mods don't sound good - if you've ever heard an early Tremolux you'd crap your pants, they're tasty. BUT with the Allen TO40MT, 6L6's, and adjustable fixed bias your now looking at a 40 watt amp.

    Completely different animal - still a great sounding amp though.

    When it comes to the "tweed" sound there are some tweed skinned amps that I don't consider. The famous '59 Bassman and the late tweed Twin (like the 5E8-A circuit the '57 RI is based on) for instance. You're dealing with fixed bias and twice as much output as previous tweeds.

    In cases where you want a middle of the road approach and don't want the 40-50 watts of the later tweed 6L6s and more volume than a 6V6 tweed... I'd suggest exactly what sjhusting recommended (early tweed 6L6's):
    5E5 Pro
    5D8 Twin
    5E7 Bandmaster

    You'll end up with a 25-30 watt amp.

    I favor the early tweed circuits to the latter. Instead of building a 5E8-A ('57 RI) I went with the 5D8.

  13. makepeace

    makepeace TDPRI Member

    May 18, 2011
    Hermanus, ZA
    Sorry to chime in 4 years later.

    So say if you wanted similar output to a stock 5E3 (18-22W), but the option for more clean headroom (put in NFB already), 6L6's with a higher B+ (say between 360V and 430V on the plates), a PT that can handle heater draw, the same cathode resistor, and the same OT is one way to go?

    I know I've got quite a range on the B+, but I've read that for 6L6's in pushpull, 360V gives you about 20W dissipation and 500V gives you 30W. The PT I've got is a 380-0-380 Woden, which in conjunction with a 5Y3 will give about 430V B+. My aim is to have a switched Zener or two from the CT to ground which will give me the option of a few B+ values (one ideal for 6V6's and one ideal for 6L6's).

    Am I on the right track here?

  14. deluxe5D3

    deluxe5D3 Tele-Meister

    Nov 8, 2010
    A Fender Tweed Pro 5E5 circuit is basically a 5E3 circuit with 6L6's... Both cathode biased.

  15. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    Look at the circuit of the Epi BC30. This is a cathode-biased 2x5881 amp - almost any octal bottle can be used. The plate voltage is a bit high for normal 6V6 but the JJ-6V6S will take it with room to spare (imo the 6V6S is a 5881 with a lower heater current).

    Another amp that is designed to take any 1x octal bottle is the single-ended Peavey Windsor Studio, nominal 15-20W depending on bottle from 6L6 through to KT100

  16. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    +1.... None of the amps that were mentioned in this thread 4 years ago hits as close to the 5E3 (going towards 6L6) territory as does the 5E5.

    Makepeace, the OT is going to limit what goes on with headroom no matter what you do with voltages. And...if you go with a larger OT, then you are going to change what went on with the smaller OT.
    IT is the same sort of thing you would have if you really liked a skinny girl's attitude but wanted a woman with a voluptuous bet is to have two women, right? :lol: Otherwise, you are going to have to compromise somewhat. this day and age in America....we don't want to compromise....we want what we want.

    'Baby I need it all...."
    Shel Silverstein

    Sometimes a change of speakers gets the job done, though.....

  17. Inventour

    Inventour Tele-Holic

    Feb 10, 2011

    That was a pretty wild comparison, I need another drink to
    think about that one.

    But agreed, my 5E5 Pro Amp is the best of both Worlds.
    I played it tonight.

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