Deluxe Reverb Reissue Mods/Upgrades/Experiences

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by thegreatwent, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. thegreatwent

    thegreatwent TDPRI Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    san diego
    Hello everybody.

    I've got a deluxe reverb reissue and was curious to get other DRRI users opinions and experiences on any modifications or upgrades they've done to their amps.

    I'll start off with my own.
    Note: My main guitar with this setup was a '72 Tele Custom Reissue with a Glendale Bridge/Brass Compensated Saddles and a Fralin Blues Special in the Bridge and the stock Fender Special Design humbucker in the neck.

    I purchased my DRRI used on craigslist to use in a project that required really low stage volume as the amp that I had been using, a Jeff Snider modified Sovtek Mig 60 (incredible amp), was just too aggressive for the delicateness of the new project (folky/indy rock). Prior to the Sovtek, my main amp had been a red knob "The Twin" which I thought was great for its powerful clean sound. I didn't use the gain channel in the Twin toward the end of its use, but used various overdrives to get the dirt I was after. I ended up selling it a few years ago. In the DRRI I was looking for a Fender amp with that classic Fender clean sound in a small package as I don't feel like lugging around a Twin sized amp, and all that power is overkill, and I was intrigued about getting an amp that I might be able to turn up a bit and get some nice power tube saturation at a level that wouldn't be too obnoxious.

    I met the seller in a parking garage halfway between my home and his and I didn't audition the amp other than turn it on to make sure it had power.

    I was excited when I got it home and plugged it in but was ultimately disappointed with its sound.
    • it lacked low end
    • its high end hurt the ears. very ice picky
    • when pushed, it's breakup was god awful, no low end, farty, shrill, I could go on
    • it didn't seem to like any overdrive/distortion pedal I put in front of it. I tried a Vintage RAT reissue, RAT II, HBE PowerScreamer, Maxon OD-808 Keeley Modded Blues Driver - all of which sounded shrill and the added upper mid range was awful save for the Blues Driver which manages to work decently in most situations.

    I then proceeded to do a series of mods/upgrades to get it to sound like what I heard in my head.
    • clipped the bright cap on the vibrato channel — an improvement. It reduced some of the ice pickiness and made the treble control a little more usable, but overall I was still unhappy.
    • I purchased some THD Yellow Jackets thinking that maybe EL84's would be more the sound I was going for — again, an improvement. They shifted the frequency range of the amp so that it was much more pleasing. The low end was fuller and the highs much nicer, and it brought about a nice interaction between the tone controls. It also seemed to take overdrive units better, but it's natural distortion was still unfocused, farty, and one dimensional.
    • I noticed an anomaly when switching between the 6V6's and Yellow Jackets and thought that maybe there was something wrong with the Power Tube sockets so I took the amp to my amp tech and it turns out the stock 6V6's were bad. Everything else was checked/biased and new 6V6's put in and the amp started to come alive. Overall it sounded better — more headroom, took pedals a little better, more depth, its overdrive was better, but still sounded a little shrill and lacked the overall definition I was looking for.
    • I replaced the stock Eminence Special Design speaker with a new Eminence Cannabis Rex and another huge improvement. Immediately the amp sounded better across the board, and it sounded better and better as the speaker broke in. The Cannabis has somewhat of a dark sound, but it works with the Deluxe because it's a bright amp by nature. The Cannabis took pedals very well. The pedals that once sounded too upper mid-rangy now sounded all right. They broke up much better too and started have the depth and dimension that I was looking for but I wasn't 100% satisfied.
    • I did some more research and was intrigued by the sound clips posted on by Fendermusical of the DRRI, particularly the more overdriven tones, and by the clips done by ProGuitarShopDemos. They were using the amps with the stock Jensen C12K so I decided to try one. The Jensen C12K is my favorite so far. Right away it had a nice overall roundness and depth to the tone. It's not nearly as dark as the Cannabis Rex and it worked better with the pickup combinations on the '72 Tele which has been a problem. I could get one pickup or the other to sound good, but trying to use both or to switch between them was problematic as it was either too bright or too dark and I'd have to EQ the amp for each, but things evened out with the Jensen. It's overdriven tone is the most satisfying so far. The bass stays tight and consistent at all volume levels and the high end is the least shrill or ice picky so far.

    So here is where I stand now:

    I have since switched to using a 90's American Standard Tele which I have upgraded with a Budzguitar Purebred in the bridge which is an amazing pickup (the stock pickup was pretty anemic/awful), and a Fralin Unbucker in the Neck (love that Keef middle position twang/beefiness). The stock bridge and saddles are a piece of **** and doesn't have near the depth and range of the Glendale, but it will suffice until I can put together a Partscaster or possibly pick up a Road Worn Tele and move my pickups and parts onto it.

    I have also picked up a Weber Mini Mass so I can start using more of the amps natural power tube overdrive and rely on the guitar's volume and picking dynamics for breakup/drive. So now I'm down to using an MXR Dynacomp, MXR Micro Amp and the Maxon OD-808. No more volume pedal and other overdrives. The Mini Mass is working out great. At 22 watts, the DRRI is still too loud to let me turn it up to 4 or 5 to let it start to breath for the project I'm in, and the attenuator lets me get that sound at a volume that I can use, and still retain most of that full volume overdrive and dynamics. Granted, there are compromises as I'm not getting the speaker breakup that I would at the unattenuated levels, but it still sounds quite good to my ears. I have also thrown the Yellow Jackets in there recently and they sounded great. Nice and chimey with a nice squishy compression that is really fun to play with.

    Overall things are sounding good. It seems that everything I've done so far has brought me closer and closer to the sound I'm after, but I'm still not quite there.

    I was doing some recording into protools of my set up and experimenting with mics and mic placement and found that the amp is pretty sensitive in the low end. When the bass control is set a bit too high, it has a buzzy quality too it and when backed down to where it doesn't buzz, it doesn't have quite the depth I'd like. This was only made clear when listening back to the recording, and now that I've heard it, I can't not hear it.

    So now I'm thinking that my first move it to get a set of JJ tubes and see how that goes. If that doesn't do the trick or in addition to the tubes I might try a new transformer, as from what I've read, the tranny has been one of the weaknesses of this amps design as it's underpowered. And in upgrading the tranny, I'm thinking of getting one that will allow me to use 6L6's or 6V6's to add variety to what I already have. I'm also considering trying a Weber 12F150 as it seems to be the most well regarded speaker upgrade for the amp and the descriptions of the tones I've read is what I'm going after, which is -
    • tight, deep bass
    • chimey top end
    • smooth, focused overdrive
    • organic, 3 dimensional
    • punchy midrange

    Currently, I've been really getting into the tones of Brent Mason and Brad Paisley and guys like that, though I don't play country music (I am, however, picking up chicken pickin' licks here and there to keep my chops up) or really listen to it much for that matter, I really appreciate those tones and am going for that kind of sound as it will work for what I'm doing.

    So now my questions to you fellow DRRI users is, has anyone done a tranny upgrade and what tranny did you end up with? Are there any other mods that you've done that I might want to consider? If I end up getting a Weber 12F150, should I go light dope? What wattage?

    I realize that with all the time, money and effort I've put into the amp I could have gotten myself a Dr. Z or David Allen amp and gotten what I'm looking for right off the bat. But I'm a believer in experience, and I've learned a lot along the way about how components work and interact, what I like and dislike, and what not to do in the future. I'm committed to this little 22 watt guy and I know he's got what I want somewhere in his little PCB constructed heart.

    Sorry for the long post, but I'm hoping it will help those whom might be on the same path, and I'm hoping those whom have been down it can share their own experiences.

    Thanks a bunch! - Andrew
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2009
  2. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2008

    I've been running into a lot of DRRIs in the past few years, not so much out on the road, as at jam sessions and weekend gigs on my off times. Every so often, I'll get invited to sit in on one, and I'm not hearing what you're hearing. Usually as guy will hand me a Strat or a Tele, or I'll have my old Strat with me, and on the neck pickup, or the middle p.u., I'll crank one of those Reissues up to gig volume, maybe "7" or "8" on the volume ... in a dozen times at different places with different stock DRs, I haven't run into "farty" or "ice-picky".
    Now, DRRI isn't a loud amp, so it won't compare to high gain amps in overdriven mids, and I think the SF Deluxes are a little ballsier with a good speaker, but I have yet to hear one of the new Reissues not sounding perfectly predictable. If I bought one, I'd change out the speaker and re-bias, but the stock versions I've tried were very adequate for live work at a small venue.
    Maybe your pickups or the way you use your tone knobs on your guitar or even on the amp keeps you from finding the sweet spot. Fenders, especially Blackfaces or blackface copies, as in the DRRI, use settings that take some getting used to. Most people don't turn the tone knobs up high enough, and lots of players haven't got the hang of keeping the guitar volume at about "6", and then turning it up a little for more thickness, or digging in at the edge of distortion, then backing off to clean things up.
    Learning to use compressors in recording studios made me think a lot about subtle volume and tone variations in tube amps ... that, and growing up with a blackface Bassman. It takes some practice to get comfortable with feeling the nuances of a blackface circuit, not really like any other amp.
  3. Bryan'sFSRTele

    Bryan'sFSRTele TDPRI Member

    Mar 10, 2009
    tulsa OK
    damn man you must have even more free time than ME greatwent!!!(laidoff)
    Doug 54 likes this.
  4. thegreatwent

    thegreatwent TDPRI Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    san diego
    strat a various,

    Thanks for your post!

    I think you're right about having to find the sweet spot via the tone knobs on my guitar and amp.

    Aside from the fact that the original power tubes were bad, and that the stock Eminence speaker wasn't that great compared to the Cannabis Rex or the Jensen C12K, a lot of this process has been learning how all these components work together and how to use them together.

    As I stated in my original post, the Fender amp that I have experience with and used extensively is a red knob Twin. I had that amp so long that I knew it inside and out and was comfortable with it. Also, the music that I had been making on the Twin was, for the most part, incredibly loud and didn't have anywhere near the subtlety of what is required of my latest endeavor. Part of the process has been getting over the awkwardness of having to learn to play quiet and not beat the crap out of my guitar (which was a strat, by the way, and not a tele). I also took a good bit of time off between projects and it's taken some time to not feel rusty and awkward in my playing ability, and that has exacerbated things as well.

    I was kind of naive in thinking that the DRRI would be kind of like a mini version of a Twin. That's basically what I was looking for. An easier to carry amp that can deliver a Twin style clean tone, but something that can be turned up for some grit at a volume that won't kill anyone. The DRRI does have or can do a characteristic Fender clean, but it does it in a way that's completely different in how it feels than from what I was used to. So right off the bat, I had expectations about what the amp was going to be and what it was going to do for me. The fault is mine for not having researched it more or spent more time with one to begin with. I just found what I thought was a good deal, and an ideal amp for a project, on craigslist and went with it.

    I have since learned to play using the volume and tone controls on my guitar more than I ever have. I've come to rely less and less on pedals, and more on the amps natural breakup and using picking dynamics and the volume and tone and my fingers to get different sounds out of the amp and it's been very rewarding. 7 or 8 on the DRRI sounds pretty great, but even at 22 watts it's still way too loud for what I'm doing. That's where the attenuator comes in. I dial in the dirt, and then I adjust the volume (and tone controls) to suit the environment I'm playing in. I have yet to play in a venue with my current project where the amp wasn't loud enough, or where it wasn't mic'd.

    Though things are sounding much, much better than they were in the beginning, I can't help but feel like I can get more out of the DRRI. More of what, I'm not exactly sure. My curiosity won't be satisfied until I keep trying things that I think/hope might get me there. Part of it is my typical musician's obsession, as I know the search for the ultimate tone is endless, and part of it is curiosity and the fact that I enjoy tinkering. I've learned so much in the process like how to wire pickups, bias an amp, repair guitars, get certain tones etc., etc.

    Bryan'sFSRTele, this process has taken place over the course of about a year or so.. I don't have THAT much free time.. :)
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2009
  5. mad dog

    mad dog Friend of Leo's

    Jun 27, 2005
    Montclair, NJ
    I had both a DRRI and a mint BFDR for years. You've already found out the importance of power tube and speaker swap in this amp. The JJ 6v6 is a logical next step ... should bump up volume, headroom and bass. I've not found 6v6s to be the best tubes for solid bass, so some of this just comes with the design. The Weber 12F50 (50 watt) would be another worthy choice, more to my taste in that amp than the CRex, which I also like alot.

    The other thing I would try (but didn't back then) is swapping pre-amp tubes. The stock stuff is basically crap. Anything NOS or better is worth trying. That said, I found only a speaker swap and rebias of the power tubes was enough to make the DRRI a worthy stage amp. Never felt the need to clip the bright cap, as the ice pick was due almost entirely to way cold bias from the factory and a lifeless speaker.
  6. OaklandA

    OaklandA Friend of Leo's Double Platinum Supporter

    Jun 18, 2004
    Queen Creek, AZ

    I had a DRRI for a bit and did basically everything you described:

    Set of JJ's from Eurotubes
    Weber 12F150 (50 watt)

    The amp sounded good stock, but after the I also had tried a Weber NeoMag in that amp which also sounded very good.

    Someday I'll get another.

    There's a guy on eBay selling a 2X10 baffle with grill for DRRI' that might be a very interesting mod.
  7. toadman

    toadman Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 5, 2007
    all i did with mine was new JJ tubes and bias. i love the sound of it but i never play it because it's just too dadgum LOUD for most of my gigs!! in fact i'm thinking about cashing it in for a princeton! anyone wanna trade?
  8. xjazzy

    xjazzy Friend of Leo's

    Feb 17, 2007
    That Proguitarshop video amazes me.
    One for the tone, and two because the guy can stand almost in the front of the amp and crack it!
    I was playing with mine all afternoon and couldn't get it past 2 without hurting my ears!
  9. thegreatwent

    thegreatwent TDPRI Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    san diego

    Have you tried an attenuator? I know not everybody likes them and there is no getting around the fact that it's going to be a little different than having the amp cranked as the speaker isn't playing into it the way it would at full volume, but I think the tone is still very usable. The mini mass is working out well for me. I can still get it to the point where the speaker is pushing a bit and the power tubes are cooking and it's a level that's still not unbearable...

    So, from what I've gathered here and from other posts, it seems JJ's are popular in the DRRI. I've gotten a hold of Bob at Eurotubes in the past in regards to my Sovtek and he was very helpful, though, I didn't ever end up getting any tubes.

    The full Deluxe Reverb tube package looks pretty reasonable and I think that's my next step.

    I'll keep you all posted!
  10. OaklandA

    OaklandA Friend of Leo's Double Platinum Supporter

    Jun 18, 2004
    Queen Creek, AZ

    I love my PRRI, but....
  11. tomfarnan

    tomfarnan Tele-Meister

    Check some of the vibrolux reverb clips on youtube for tone. Maybe they're closer to the twin sound you're used to. A local amp and tele guru won't go near DRs for a tele but loves both Vibrolux and Princeton amps.
  12. JDRNoPro

    JDRNoPro Friend of Leo's

    Aug 13, 2007
    Check the bias on that DRRI if you haven't already - can make a significant difference in sound. I've got a DRRI and a mint 74 SFDR. The SFDR has a weber 12F150 and rhe DRRI is an 01 with the Eminence speaker. For a long time the SF sounded significantly better, but after fully breaking in the DRRI speaker, NOS tubes and proper bias it's much closer. I've also set up the DRRI with a compliment of Tung Sol reissue tubes and it sounds really good with those too and much cheaper than NOS. Lots of folks like JJ's but to me the ir 6V6 sounds more like 6L6 and overall lack some of the the traditional DR tone YMMV.

    And.....I initially felt it was harsh/icepicky until I set it up properly - no need to clip bright cap for me - plenty smooth and warm now for me.
  13. Reverbious

    Reverbious TDPRI Member

    Feb 27, 2016
    Northern California
    I know this is an old post but it comes up high in google searches on Deluxe Reverb improvements so I'm going to add my 2 cents here.

    For the specific "shrillness" I'd suggest these upgrades can help you:
    - Put a creamback 65 in that beast. It will lower the volume vs. the stock Jensen P12Q, take a bit of the treble off the top, break up earlier and do better with distortion.
    - You used a weber attenuator, that can help you to get into the tube drive at lower volume. Another very nice option is to install a BrakeLite attenuator - it mounts right inside the back of your amp so you don't have to carry another item around. I have one in my DRRI and use at practice all the time. At gigs I usually don't use it because we are louder.
    - EQ pedals can be very very helpful. The search for the ultimate overdrive is fine and well but an EQ pedal can do a lot to make one OD sound like another OD.
    -Try different inputs on the amp. Each of the 4 inputs is different. For drive sounds you'll do better on the non reverb channel. If the amp is too loud, try plugging into the #2 input on either channel if you were using #1. It will be 6 db lower.

    General upgrades I made that are more "function" than sound related.
    1) For gigging, if you want to keep your amp nice a D2F Cover is good. If you get one order it with a bottom strap. The amps tend to slide out of the cover otherwise if you lay it on it's back for transport. If you prefer a full "bag" around your amp, another awesome cover maker is Studio Slips. D2F is a foam filled cover, Studio slips is a fiber filled cover or clamshell bag.

    2) On all the '65 X-reverbs, I always replace the crappy metal feet that scratch the hell out of any wood surface they sit on. A set of Rubber feet is $5...and well worth it. It also slightly cushions the amp when you sit it down.

    3) Tilt-back legs -- you can put 14" tiilt back's on the Deluxe reverb and it's VERY handy for jams, small clubs etc. It's not hard or all that expensive. I wrote a review on Amazon that includes the instructions for how to install them. "Search on Fender Accessories 14" legs" and see the review by JohnnyGuitar.

    4) Store the footswitch - If you tend to make one setting for Reverb and Tremolo, and leave them on - you might want to make or buy a shunt plug that can turn them both on. Then you can leave your footswitch in a drawer. You can buy these on or e-bay if you search on "Always On plug for Deluxe Reverb". Or make your own with a stereo (TRS) 1/4 plug.

    5) Want to use both channels of the amp? A Twin City Bones ABY switch is perfect for it. You need an AB that can swap the polarity on one channel because the two channels on the DRRI are out of phase. If you use this switch, you can plug into the switch, put an overdrive after the switch and into the non reverb channel, run clean into the reverb channel, and have clean(A), Dirt (B) and Solo ( A+B). And can independently set tone and volume for clean vs. dirt.

    Happy jamming!
    Frankie likes this.
  14. flyingnorth

    flyingnorth Tele-Meister

    Aug 16, 2013
    NE WA
    I have a reissue. It takes quite a while to break in, and I gig and play every day. Keep the treble 5 or below. I run through a tone hammer. Woks great.
  15. sonicsmitty

    sonicsmitty Tele-Holic

    Jan 2, 2012
    Clarksville, TN
    I thought the Jensen in mine was a bit too shrill. A friend of mine was using a DRRI but wanted to try a G12H30 in his, so I gave him one. He told me I should try it too, so I did, and I liked it better.

    I also changed all my transformers to Mercury Magnetics. Why? Just trying something new. I don't really know how much difference in the sound it made since it is really difficult to A/B check it, but it sounds fine, and I am comfortable knowing that they are heavy duty and that my arms are getting bigger from the extra weight.
  16. blackguts

    blackguts Tele-Meister

    Mar 26, 2013
    Mine got traded in for a Vibrolux. Problem solved
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