Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Fender Hotrod Deluxe - to mod or not to mod?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by OldPup, Jan 12, 2019 at 1:50 PM.

  1. OldPup

    OldPup TDPRI Member

    May 3, 2018
    Charlotte, NC
    I've had a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe (HRD) for some time, since early 2000s. It's one of the earlier MIMs. Due to a number of reasons I've not played it much, and when I do play it it's at bedroom levels. My kids will keep me from joining a band anytime soon, so I'll be playing it quiet for the foreseeable future. I've never changed a tube and never had it serviced. In the past couple of years I've become aware of potential issues with the amp - namely, the resistors can heat to the point that they melt the circuitboard and cause irreparable damage.

    So I reached out to a local amp tech recommended to me by Paul Gussler of Oldfield. I asked him to go over my amp, look for bad/cracked solder joints, resistors with outward signs of defect or whatever, check out the tubes, and make necessary repairs. He estimates this will take about two hours, so the price is very reasonable, but is subject to change depending on tubes, etc.

    He was very informative, very helpful, and took time to explain everything and answer my questions. One of the things he mentioned was modifying the amp. He mentioned the Fromel mods, to be specific, which includes putting in some better resistors (I'll never understand that stuff), a tone stack, an algorithmic volume pot, and adjustment to the amount of reverb, and maybe some other things. Has anyone done this mod? I've looked and looked for videos online, and they're all very amateur. Most people seem to be really into the piercing, spanky sounds of the amp and the mod, whereas I am far more interested in the creamy, silky sound of the amp. I have a Marshall DLC40 which has a very cleaned up clean sound, so I appreciate the silky resonance of the HRD. Does the mod kill the ability of the HRD to make sound warm and shimmering? Does the tone stack totally kill all mids? Or does it just give you the ability to better control mids?

    I'd like to take the opportunity to make the amp sound better, and now is a good time to do that. What I'm really interested in is making the amp quieter, since I'm a bedroom player. Here is where a lot of people can justifiably tell me I have the wrong amp. But I'm not really interested in selling it. I hope to gig in the future, and I can see myself buying another HRD, or something similar. Getting a smaller amp now, even used, will require additional money even after I've pocketed whatever I get from my sale. Plus, I'd still do the mods so I'm selling someone a quality amp, and not something that will peter out on them when they're not aware of potential issues.

    I rambled a bit, sorry for that. If anyone has any recommendations on mods to achieve better tone options while not totally altering the character of the amp, I'm all ears. Also, if anyone has some good ways to get it quieter, I'm interested. Thanks for reading.
  2. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 16, 2014
    Sacramento, California
    I'm thinking you're gonna spend more on mods or an attenuator than it would cost to just get a second amp.

    My advice would be to leave the amp be and get a used Super Champ XD. Great grab and go amp that you can find used for +/- $200 now. It's quiet enough for the bedroom, but loud enough to jam with a drummer. Quality tones too.
    Just-Jim, thunderbyrd and flyswatter like this.
  3. flyswatter

    flyswatter Friend of Leo's

    Jan 12, 2013
    I run a repair shop where people are forever asking me to mod this or that in a Hot Rod series Fender, or want to spend serious money to have it gutted and handwired, etc etc. My advice is always this: sell the amp in stock condition and buy something you like more. Stock is the only way to retrieve the full value of the amp (because there are so many available and so many hack modders out there that people get suspicious).

    It's not that Hot Rods are bad amps, they're just run of the mill and not worth a lot of investment -- IMHO, of course.
    NashvilleDeluxe and thunderbyrd like this.
  4. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    There's a heap of amps that will achieve what you want ie good tone at low volume that would still be enough for a jam or crank. I am with flyswatter. Modding a HRDx is good money after bad and won't net you a red cent in resale.
    flyswatter likes this.
  5. clintj

    clintj Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2015
    Some techs do a good job modding those amps, and most of the good mods are durability based. Better jacks, replace and move those referenced resistors so they don't roast the circuit board or cause the amp do drop a power tube prematurely, etc. You're likely spending a significant amount of the replacement cost for the amp, though. There's a store near me that has a used one with newer tubes, new Celestion speaker, and looks in excellent condition for about 450.

    The other guys are right, though. You'll never get a cent back from those mods unless the buyer knows the tech and he has a great reputation. Otherwise it's like putting eBay parts on a Civic; there's so many other ones out there stock to pick from so why would I buy a potentially hacked up one for anything close to Blue Book value?

    The other side of that is the folks who like the amp, intend to keep it for a while, and need a good stage amp that's cheap and easily replaced if stolen, aka the Working Musician. The modded HRD is perfect for them.

    Hope this helps you see both sides when making your decision.

    BTW, want to tame the volume control for cheap? Buy a basic volume pedal and a pair of patch cables and add it to the effects loop. If you turn down the pedal, you can turn the volume control up past the "all or nothing" zone.

    Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk
    Andy B and flyswatter like this.
  6. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Having said all that - if you swap the first preamp tube for a 12AT7 or AY7 it will make the amp less 'bright and tight' - my bandmates we rebiased to a decent 68ma current draw and it's got a 12AT7 in the first slot. Or 12AY7, 5751, even 12AU7. And - trying different tubes, the amp is not fussy - 60s, NOS, brand new production works.

    Normally a AT7 is a driver tube for reverb or phase splitter, but it seems to work well in the HRDx first position. It makes the volume knob slope work better so you use 4-6 instead of 1.8 too soft, 2.1 too loud, reduces the OTT reverb to much nicer and more Fender-y and more classic/usable and allows greater adjustability of the gain and eq controls.

    It makes the Drive and More Drive at least usable and less nasally. We did this to my bandmate's and it's gone from teeth-grating harsh with unusable overdrive at times to not at all bad. The amp is more versatile by far and more able to dial in. $10 and non-invasive, 5 min reversible. It plays better at all volumes and is more musical and the drive channels much improved

    When you consider the HRDx is basically the preamp of a 50s 5F4 which used 12AY7s in the first preamp slot it makes sense.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019 at 6:27 PM
    OldPup likes this.
  7. corliss1

    corliss1 Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

    Sep 13, 2008
    Lansing, MI
    I've done the Fromel kits for a couple clients. They were super impressed with the results. I clearly haven't spent enough time playing through a HRD to tell a difference.
  8. Brokenpick

    Brokenpick Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 29, 2008
    ...not always terminology you see in HRDx discussions...
    aerhed likes this.
  9. Rick330man

    Rick330man Tele-Holic

    Jan 9, 2011
    Florida Keys
    I owned two of the last American made ones. Flyswatter's comment is right on the mark. That said, I left the electronics stock but really had a blast experimenting with different tubes and speakers.

    The best tones I ever got out of these amps came using JAN Philips 6L6WGB power tubes.

    The best sounding pre-amps all centered around using 1980's era GE JAN 5751 tube in V3. That tube does a wonderful job of bringing out the cleanest, fullest and most detailed notes that can come out of that amp.

    In V1, the best sounding tube I ever heard in these amps was a 1970s Sylvania 5751.

    The combination of JAN Philips 6L6WGB and GE 5751 in V3 is - to my ears - unbeatable. Throw in the Sylvania 5751 in V1 for best results.

    Speaker changes can help, but I actually think very beautiful tones came out of these amps using the old stock Fender Gold Label commonly sold as the Eminence Legend 125. Its weakness was the amp's overpowering bass. The tube combinations suggested above helped with that.

    If you insist on changing the speaker the G12M-25 Greenback, the Eminence Private Jack, the Eminence Red Fang alnico and other big bell alnicos all sound great in there.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019 at 6:38 PM
    flyswatter likes this.
  10. Recce

    Recce Tele-Afflicted

    May 3, 2016
    Northern Alabama
    It sounds like you want to keep the amp and make those mods. If so do what you want. But, if in the back of your mind you are going to sell it then listen to those above and don’t mod it and let it go. Those seem to be your two best choices and the decision to make.
    flyswatter and OldPup like this.
  11. OldPup

    OldPup TDPRI Member

    May 3, 2018
    Charlotte, NC
    Awesome. Thank you all for the feedback. I'll start with tubes and maybe a speaker, and see what happens from there.
  12. Captain Bb

    Captain Bb Tele-Holic

    Mar 12, 2008
    With the Hot Rod amps, I will always replace the switching power resistors to prevent motherboard damage, fit linear volume pots for better bedroom control and (if leaking) replace the filter caps.

    Other than that, I'd sell the amp and get something more befitting your requirements.

    ..or just get a Yamaha THR for bedroom use.
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