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Award-Session Blues Baby

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Ted Witton, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. JBjr

    JBjr TDPRI Member

    88
    Feb 15, 2008
    Narnia
    unfortunately trying to troubleshoot over email does not really work, and with what seems to be different anonymous people responding (they don't put names to their emails, very odd) continuity is lost. Without going into the gory details, both sides aren't all that happy now.
     
  2. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    I'm just resurrecting this not-quite-zombie thread to draw attention to a new track Stewart's just posted in the Facebook Telecaster group. The guitar is Stewart's all-original 1963 Tele, played by Stuart Dixon through a BluesBaby. I have no further info re cabinet, speaker, etc., but it sounds pretty damn good to me.
     
  3. Ted Witton

    Ted Witton Tele-Meister

    Age:
    73
    148
    Dec 30, 2006
    Norwich, UK
    A good guitarist can make a cheapo guitar and/or amp sound very good and this guy is hot. My Blues Baby continues to please me, but sadly it doesn't make my playing any better!
    On the other hand, it is more versatile than a DLR, probably more reliable, being tubeless, and less than half the price, even with a custom cabinet. To my ears it is better than the Roland Blues Cube Stage although in fairness, I have only tested the latter in a shop's sound proof booth.

    I had the Blues Baby chassis mounted in a BJr cabinet originally and have continued to use the Fender badged Eminence in my new cab. I do not really think the cab makes that much difference (unless you alter the dimensions) and, had they the been available at the time, I would have been happy to buy one of the complete combos from Mr Ward's outfit.

    Given that the Session/Morley JD10 was/is so popular in the States and is essentially the pre amp of the Blues Baby, I hope Stewart is getting bumper sales on the other side of the pond, but comment in TDPRI seems quite scarce,
     
  4. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    In fact the JD10 was effectively the front end of the second iteration of the Sessionette, introduced around 1997 and rather different from the classic 1980s amp, which can reasonably be considered the definitive model. I have no doubt that the technology has been carried over into the BluesBaby too.

    You're quite right in that Stewart's products in general and the BluesBaby in particular seem to come in for far less comment and discussion here than many other brands of amplification. As I see it there are several reasons for this, among which are these:

    First, the membership is predominantly US-based and due to a number of causes Stewart's market penetration there (except for the JD10) has been very limited. Secondly, continued uninformed, blind and deaf prejudice against solid-state technology militates against even well designed and constructed equipment being taken as seriously as it warrants. This situation seems very slowly to be improving thanks to the likes of Quilter et al., but it's still pretty bad. Thirdly, perhaps Award-Session, in the person of Stewart himself and his colleagues, is not geared-up for large-scale production. This may or may not be a good thing, but it does mean that you aren't any longer going to be tripping over Session amps on every street corner as you might with Fender, Peavey, Roland, etc., products. Consequently the fewer there are about, the fewer users are in a position to comment. Rightly or wrongly it might be fair to describe the BluesBaby as a niche product for the open-minded and enlightened connoisseur.

    Now as it happens my experience of the BluesBaby has been extremely limited, since I've only used someone else's a couple of times at a jam and had no opportunity to set the amp to my preferences. It sounded OK, but my doubts regarding its clean headroom capability remain undispelled after that very brief showing. It certainly didn't seem able to match my RetroToned 1985 Sessionette 75 in that regard and very possibly it isn't intended to.

    It's interesting, though, that your impression was that the BluesBaby sounds better than the new Roland Blues Cube Stage model (your proviso noted). Now I own an original Roland BC-60 Blues Cube 1x12 and it is without doubt the best-sounding amp I own (and possibly have ever owned) of any technology - and by gum, I've had more than a few. The RetroToned Sessionette is superb but the BC has the edge and is marginally louder clean too - albeit considerably larger and heavier. What this does is to suggest to me that the original Blues Cube sounds better than the new one. None of which has a great deal to do with the BluesBaby... :oops:
     
  5. Ted Witton

    Ted Witton Tele-Meister

    Age:
    73
    148
    Dec 30, 2006
    Norwich, UK
    Hi Tony, I agree with your comments: newest isn't necessarily best although the marketing men would have us believe in the relentless march of progress. I guess Mr Fender's original solids should have taught us that lesson!

    My observation is that before Stewart was banned from this Forum (for reasons of which I am unaware) there were various threads going on where he was being pressed by our friends in USA to produce a chassis/kit, to overcome transportation costs. He has done just that, but so far, I am unaware of any comments about the Blues Baby by owners on the other side of the pond. Unfortunately, the early demos on the site failed to do the amp justice - live recordings are never easy.

    Turning to the volume issue, so much depends upon the efficiency of the speakers and the Fender badged Eminence is I believe very efficient. Some years since I heard a Sessionette, although a friend has recently had his Retrotoned and I am looking forward to hearing it shortly. I do seem to recall that users often alleged the Sessionettes generally only 1 x12) would give a Fender Twin a run for its money and that really is saying something!
     
  6. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    It is a great pity that Stewart managed to get himself banned from this forum, since he had and continues to have so much knowledge and information to impart. Since I know Stewart personally I have been privy to his side of the story, but it would probably not be proper to relate it here as it's a matter between him and the TDPRI management.

    As far as I'm aware the BluesBaby always was intended to be a chassis-only deal, designed to drop straight into an existing BJr cabinet. My reaction to this was to wonder how many potential buyers would remove a perfectly good functioning BJr chassis in order to replace it with a BB one and/or how many BJr amps might have failed to the point of necessitating complete replacement of the "works". This in itself seemed to limit the extent of the market irrespective of how excellent the product itself might be.

    Nevertheless the availability of aftermarket repro cabinets and more recently the marketing of fully-built complete amps in cabinets has clearly resulted in a flow of sales, which has to be a good thing. But the question of market penetration, particularly in the USA, still remains. As I indicated before, it may be just as well that demand is such that it doesn't outstrip manufacturing capacity; also the scale of the operation may not be sufficiently great to provide an appropriate advertising budget, so on-line recommendation and links to the Award-Session website remain the best source of new business.

    The foregoing two paragraphs are largely speculation on my part and if they contain any quantity of total bollocks I have no doubt that I will be corrected in one manner or another.

    Regarding volume, it's very true that the original Sessionette was a loud little bugger. Stewart always installed pretty efficient speakers in them; various models from Celestion and others were used but I think most of the Mark 2 amps from 1984 onwards had the G12K-85. However, my own RetroToned example houses a G12H-100 (100dB/W/m sensitivity - and those are Celestion decibels) that I'd kept from a Mark 1 Sessionette I'd owned many years earlier. Long story...anyway, it's loud with a capital "F".

    All the same, even the Sessionette's best friend (e.g. me) couldn't justifiably claim that the unmodified amp was over-endowed with low-end response. This didn't prevent it sounding very good and being able to cut effectively through a mix and maybe it was this very property - I hesitate to call it shrillness - that contributed to its reputation for loudness rivalling such an amp as a Twin. Certainly in full overdrive it was startlingly loud; pretty good in clean mode too, although that's only in sheer audible volume, without the fullness of a Twin. No surprise there, given the speaker count and cabinet size difference.

    Back in the old days I used to overcome the lack of bottom end by sticking a cheap 5-band graphic in the loop, boosting the low frequencies and attenuating the upper mids. It certainly filled the sound out nicely but the extra bass of course limited the available volume without distortion - I was mostly playing clean chordal rhythm stuff back then. The RetroTone mods to my most recently-purchased Mark 2 make a huge difference, with a very full overall tonality and the addition of a Presence control which is very effective. If you have yet to try a RetroToned Sessionette I'm confident you'll be impressed.
     
  7. Ted Witton

    Ted Witton Tele-Meister

    Age:
    73
    148
    Dec 30, 2006
    Norwich, UK
    Sessionette - Surely the first "boutique" SS guitar amplifier! Blues Baby simply another smaller variant!
     
  8. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    I suppose you could look at it like that, although the original Sessionette deservedly sold in very un-boutique-like quantities back in the '80s. Actually I believe there are some significant differences in the design approach of the two amps, such as where the EQ is in the signal path. So I wouldn't say the BluesBaby is a kind of Sessionette Junior - maybe the Rockette could have been considered as such back in the day. The BluesBaby is very much its own thing, about which I know a bit of the technical stuff...but you have the advantage of actually owning one!

    On further thought, I'd definitely agree that Stewart's assiduous quest for achieving tonal excellence from solid state circuitry is uncompromising; I'm more than confident that he would not sacrifice tonal or component quality on the altar of mere cost. Certainly he uses where appropriate readily available components that will do the required job reliably, but he would not under-specify just for the sake of saving a penny or two here or there. His is thus indeed a boutique-like approach.
     
  9. Steve G

    Steve G Friend of Leo's

    Nov 3, 2005
    LeeK (England)
    Hey guys. A rarity I post here these days but thought id chime in after reading this post.

    Ive had a blues baby for a year or so and been really impressed with it.

    Its flexible, great sounding, has nice proper reverb and is light in the right cab.

    Would I put it up against my tweed deluxe or princeton clone tonally? No, its nowhere near their league.

    Overall though its a great solid state amp. I know thats like damning with feint praise but thats how i feel about it.... for SS its fab.

    Im not trying to ruffle feathers just offer my verdict on it.

    FWIW I preferred it to the new blues cube which i sold after a month. Too much to dial in for me to get a sound.

    But thats probably just me!

    :)
     
  10. MilwMark

    MilwMark Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    It's not just you. I had one briefly. It was pretty comparable to a Blues Junior. Sound was amazingly similar. Maybe a bit harsher when pushed. This was with a very warm speaker (Cannabis Rex). I'm not a big fan of the BJR sound so I moved on. But I preferred it to the BJR because EL84 tubes are so finicky iME. If the BJR suited me I would have kept the Blues Baby for sure - it was lighter and didn't have those noisy, finicky, delicate EL84s!
     
  11. Steve G

    Steve G Friend of Leo's

    Nov 3, 2005
    LeeK (England)
    Glad Im not alone! I had a sessionette a while ago that sounded nicer than the bluesbaby to me.
     
  12. stax

    stax Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 5, 2006
    Brentwood U.K.
    A new 45 Watt version could be on the way apparently, I didn't go for the BluesBaby because I need loud and clean and the 22 watts put me off so this could be just the ticket.
     
  13. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    That's most interesting - I haven't yet managed to find any further information on the Award-Session website or from any other likely source. Where did you hear that?

    All else fails, I could always ask Stewart myself, but as I see it that's sort of cheating...:lol:
     
  14. stax

    stax Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 5, 2006
    Brentwood U.K.
    Hi Tony, it popped upon my Facebook page yesterday from the Session Amps & Cleartone Custom Cables page.

    "Just as a teaser and something positive... we will probably have a NEW 45 Watt version of BluesBaby available soon. Watch our website for news soon!"
     
  15. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Ah yes, failed to spot that one. While I'm at it, time to replenish my supply of leads too, methinks... Can never have too many unused spares, innit? ;) :D
     
  16. Miff

    Miff Tele-Meister

    193
    Sep 30, 2009
    London
    The 45 watt version is now available to order, according to the website.
     
  17. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Damn - that's all I'm short of... I can resist almost anything but temptation! Now (as if I didn't know it well) what's the quickest route from here to Basingstoke? ;)
     
  18. Miff

    Miff Tele-Meister

    193
    Sep 30, 2009
    London
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
  19. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    71
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Yes, read it as soon as I received my subscription copy. A good review, clearly put to bed before the 45-watt version was fully released. Be interesting to hear how much extra headroom the more powerful version possesses.
     
  20. perttime

    perttime Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 13, 2014
    Finland
    Now there's a High Headroom version of the 45, same price as regular...
     
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