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

FRENZEL Retro FM - 5E3 Deluxe Plus Review

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by fauxsuper, Dec 27, 2007.

  1. fauxsuper

    fauxsuper Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Have only played it a short time, as I'm at work (my boss plays bass in the same band, but there are limits.) and can't completely crank it up. It sounds great. I wasn't looking for an exact retro sound, but you can tell the tweed 5E3 was the starting point. Lots of usable tones, (the main thing) so far, I love the way it combines both a Tweed and Marshall vibe. Wonderful, nearly fuzz free sustain at a reasonable volume, and a lot of tone control flexibility. I've enclosed a couple of photos one next to my SX STL Ash. The three cabinets are made by Lopo and the speakers are loaded with Eminence Texas Heats. One cabinet is open back and the other closed.

    I'll post a complete review when I have had it a while and played through it at a band rehearsal. At this point, I'm very excited about it.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 27, 2007
  2. fauxsuper

    fauxsuper Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    I used it yesterday at a full band rehearsal and I'm even more excited by it. It's inspring to play through and I think that's the highest compliment I can pay any peice of gear. I can get the most controllable feeback at such low levels that I have to laugh. I'm still exploring the controls and finding new sounds. You can turn off the negative feedback loop and obtain an amazing "amp on the edge of meltdown" tone. To really exploit the amp's capabilities you need to use an A-B switch. My current favorite use for this is to set the gain on the "Marshall" channel and the master volume setting to the point where I can use the guitar's volume knob to push the amp into output stage overdrive. I then step on the AB pedal (I have a Morely Tripler) and add the "Fender" inputl, set to have a little more gain. This effectively fattens up the sound and adds a little midrange boost on top of sending the amp into a wonderful touch sensitive level of overdrive-sustain that reminds me of a 50 watt Marshall half stack. But, at a volume level that doesn't make everyone else glare at me. Wonderful!
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2008
  3. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2003
    Nottingham, UK
    Cool looking amp...

    ...and I enjoyed your review.

    Have you got a link to their website?

    :) Peter
  4. rhinocaster

    rhinocaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 26, 2006
    Frenzel is one the best kept secrets in hand built amps. I had one of the 5E3s for a few months before selling it to a friend. At the end of the day I'm a grab and go combo guy.

    The Frenzel was one of the best sounding amps I've played at any price. I found more authentic Fender/Marshall tones in that thing than you would have any right to expect with as little as it cost. The workmanship was solid and it appears that the cosmetics have come along since I had my amp.

    If you love classic tones and don't want to spend a fortune, you should do yourself a favor and look at Frenzel. You may be surprised.
  5. XKnight

    XKnight Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 9, 2007
    Republic of Texas
    Jim Frenzel makes awesome amps at a great price. I've had my 5E3 Super Deluxe for over 6 months and it sounds wonderful. I also use an AB/Y box and keep the Fender side for cleans and the Marshall side for dirt.
  6. fauxsuper

    fauxsuper Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2007
    San Diego, CA
  7. fauxsuper

    fauxsuper Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    A-B-Y Box

    I've been fascinated by the ability to tailor my sound with blending the Fender and Marshall Inputs when I'm feeding my signal into both of them. Careful manipulation of the relative gain levels gives access to many different sounds.

    The Super Deluxe is the 40 watt version, right? Have you tried any different output tubes? I've got a set of EL-34's I'm going to try in it this week. I have another small amp that I bought in Phoenix a few yuears ago, and it can also run on about any octal power tube. It sounds best with EL-34's, so I am curious about the Frenzel.

    I've experimented at home with running that amp along with the Frenzel with encouraging results. With the A-B-Y I can add even more footswtichable tonal options, but it will also allow me to add a little more clean headroom, if 25 watts prove insufficient.
  8. JumpMarine

    JumpMarine TDPRI Member

    Jul 20, 2003
    Yakima, WA
    They are really nice amps. My buddy ran his with KT 88's and it sounded huge.
  9. Hoodster

    Hoodster Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 3, 2007
  10. Guitarzan

    Guitarzan Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 28, 2006
    Hotlanta, GA
    I have investigated them and spoken with Jim. They seem pleasant and reasonable to deal with, and if they had something I wanted, I'd do business with them.
  11. TT2346

    TT2346 TDPRI Member

    Jul 23, 2006
    How Bout the Guts?

    I have visited the website also and I was a little sceptical about the amp covering a tweed Fender and a Marshall sound also.

    More importantly, are these amps true PTP or is there a turret board in
    there? Also what are the quality of the caps and resistors? The Hammond
    Hi-Fi transformers struck me as odd...I thought guitar amps did not sound good with these type of trannies.

    Can anybody educate me, since I am truly a noob. Johnny Crash, Mark Norwine???
  12. emu!

    emu! Poster Extraordinaire

    I am not an expert, but it looks like it is a 5E3 with an additional preamp tube. Maybe the additional preamp tube is responsible for the "M" channel being more like a Marshall sounding amp??? The master volume also makes it more plexi-like. Good price!
  13. GVDub

    GVDub TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    Jan 1, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    There are photos of his builds on Jim's website. Looks like terminal strips to me. I've got one of his Sweet Little 15's on order and am anxiously awaiting it. I'll post a review and clips after I've got it.
  14. old_picker

    old_picker Tele-Afflicted

    umm what is a turret board?
    what is true point to point?
    why would a turret board make a build less good than PTP??
  15. fauxsuper

    fauxsuper Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Here's a link to an explanation of what a turret board is:

    There are wiring photos of Jim's amps on the Frenzel website. I don't see any boards in there. They are neatly done and everything looks quite well fastened down. The amp is a simple enough design so that not using a terminal board doesn't result in an amp that's a rats nest to service. It looks like you can get to every thing pretty easily. I don't think use of terminal strips makes the amp something other than point to point. At any rate, the components are solidly mounted. My own amp is a model of efficient layout inside. The soldering is first rate and all the pots and jacks are very high quality. The fact that the amp is very quiet and has a very rich harmonic pallette speaks well for the internal design and layout of of the amp. I think this type of construction is appropriate for an amp of this type and complexity.

    I'm discovering the amp provides a rich overdrive voice for every guitar I've run through it at this point. I love to do pinch harmonics and find that this amp seems to make them jump out of the guitar, I love to roll my pinky down and roll the volume control up as the note fades taking it to the edge of feedback. I think the Hammond output tranny was used for the bottom end it gives. I've ran my amp into a Legend 15" speaker in an open back cabinet and was astonished at how extended the bottom end is. An open G chord on the bridge pickup on a Tele sounds so rich and fat (BRAAAAANG!!) you find yourself doing it just to hear how it sounds. I find myself playing more chord voicings that use open strings just to hear them ring.

    I've run 6V6's in it now and running it into a 12" Alnico Mojotone, it does a nice tweed deluxe impression. You get output distortion at a lower volume than with the bigger bottles, which could be useful in some situations. The 6V6's do have a distictive voice, but I still like the amp better with 6L6's. A little more dynamics and headroom is the main difference I notice. I'm going to try EL-34's at next rehearsal.

    The two inputs do have different voices that reflect the character of both Fender and Marshall amps. But, I really don't care how close it is to a Marshall or a Fender: it provides several distinct, rich, useful tones that rival some classic amplifier designs. There is a huge "window" between clean and distortion.

    I'll give another update after I try the EL-34's.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2008
  16. fauxsuper

    fauxsuper Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Update on Freznel Review and EL 34 Questions

    Tried a set of (Electro Harmonix) EL-34's in the amp today at band rehearsal.. They don't get quite as clean as the 6L6's,but they do have a more gradual curve when they start to distrort. I also think they play a little louder.

    I don't notice quite as big a difference between the "Fender" and "Marshall" voiced inputs with these tubes, they seem to put more of their sonic signature in the mix. The change between the two voices is not as distinct. Still, the two tones are usefully voiced with the M channel having a little more bite and sparkle. Oddly, I never got around to turning off the feeback loop with these tubes in place as I was still twiddling with knobs.

    I have another 25 watt amp (loosly based in a tweed Deluxe) which can also use several different output tubes and I put the 6L6's (that were in the Freznel) in that amp. Through my Morley (Geroge Lynch model) "tripler" AB-Y box I run inputs to both F and M inputs on the Freznel and one into the other amp and use a ElectroHarmonix Holy Grail to add reverb in a wet/dry combination. So, now I can have three very different sounds that are also available in six different combinations. Today I ran through various 12" cab combinations with Alnico and Ceramic speakers in closed and open cabs.

    The El-34's seem to have a more articulate distortion voice, and are seemingly more touch sensitive along with being a little brighter and complex. And the midrange is more full than with the 6L6 tubes, so you get a little more early overdrive, and as I stated early on, they never quite seem as completely clean as the 6L6's. At any rate, the ability to use different tubes has proven to be more than just a novelty. It really sounds like a different amp, not just a frequency response change you can dial in or out, but a fundamental change in the amp's voice. The way it feels and responds, more than anything.

    But, the cool thing is I now have another color to my arsenal, and by using the other amp I've got an amazing level of versatilitly as well as the ability to have a nice clean rhythm tone at a fairly high volume by using both amps. The two of them have a very complex signature when both are turned on and I'm sure I'll dial this in more as time goes on. I'm still very excited by the Freznel and needless to say amazed by the amp's versatility. The master volume is one of the most natural sounding and useful ones I hyave used, With the two gain controls and the master volume you have a whole world of organic, non buzzy tones that can be easily dialed in. If anything, the EL-34's are more responsive than the 6l6's that I thought were already quite "vocal" in sound. Moreover, every guitar I feed into it sounds good, from my Ibanez AS-100, (The Ibanez gets amazing, nearly clean sounding feedback at humane levels.) to my Les Paul, and my whole assortment of Fender and Fendri-ish solid bodies.

    I like the sound of the EH EL-34's well enough that I think it will be worthwhile to buy a new set of tubes as the EH's are a few years old, and I've heard some of the new EL-34's have more NOS-like character. Any advice on current EL-34's????
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2008
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