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

Meet The "Ultimate" Blues Jr. (NOS Tubes, G12H, BillM, etc)

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by NCSUZoSo, Nov 1, 2013.

  1. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    So I purchased the Blues Junior knowing it was pretty much the perfect practice/home amp in the sub $500 range for the classic American tone. After spending some time with it and stumbling through the intraweb onto BillM's website (http://billmaudio.com/wp/) I decided to start modding the amp. I have a long history of modding PC's (even directly soldering on motherboards and video cards :twisted:) so I knew this would be a piece of cake with how simple the Blues Jr. is. I started with some basic BillM mods, in the end this was the list of mods I had purchased/installed from BillM: Basic Cream Kit, Sparkle and Presence Mods, Switchcraft Input Jack, Switchcraft Line Out Jack and Standby Switch). After installing all of those mods I was very satisfied with what I had in terms of overall tone and the amount of tonal possibilities with all the mods. The only thing still lacking was the bass response from the stock speaker.

    [​IMG]

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    However my addiction to great sound and soldering/tweaking kept the modding alive in the form of purchasing a BYOC E.S.V. 2-Knob Bender for those classic Zeppelin like distortion tones:

    [​IMG]

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    After a few weeks went by I decided that I wanted to make the "ultimate" Blues Junior and I had already laid the ground work with the BillM mods listed above so I started researching NOS tubes. Many NOS articles later I decided to jump on two matched NOS GE EL84's (these were both tested on a calibrated Hickok 6000A and the results were 7500 and 6800 microOhms). After installing these I was blown away by the difference in the overall tone, finally I had that glassy EL84 tone that I had been missing (this may have also had to do with where I ended up biasing the amp at) and even the bass thanked me.

    Then I wanted more clean headroom so I started reading about the affects of placing a 12AY7 in the V1 slot. So I started reading about the top NOS 12AY7's and I decided on a Sylvania 12AY7 w/ round "getter gray plates" (tested on a Hickock 752A, results being Triode 1 = 2000 microOhms / Triode 2 = 2000 microOhms (perfectly balanced)).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The 12AY7 made me almost as happy as the EL84s did, I had so much more headroom before break up. However if I wanted breakup it was all there (I just had to raise the volume more), especially if I turned on my E.S.V. 2 Knob Bender. Well I felt I might as well fill out the rest of the amp with NOS USA tubes as well so I installed a very nice GE USAF 5751 (12AX7) into the V2 slot and put another NOS GE 12AX7 w/ "U Getter Grey Plates" (tested 52/54 on Hickock TV-7D/U) into V3.

    Obviously I was still missing one thing, the speaker upgrade that I had saved for last until I had everything else how I wanted it. I read through many guides and decided to splurge on the Celestion G12H for it's notorious classic American tone (I'm sure I don't need to go into details on why I chose this speaker :D).

    Well enough talking here are the rest of the pictures:

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    And the part I haven't mentioned yet is my Schecter Tempest Custom and my pedals:

    [​IMG]

    (yes I used to own a Super-Champ X2 :eek:)

    Here are my pedals before I got the E.S.V. 2 Knob Bender and replaced the Digitech CM-2 (anyone want to buy? ;)) and I am also running a Visual Sound Custom Shop Pure Tone Buffer in the chain right after the Bender (which is first in the chain). That is a Dunlop Crybaby Classic (w/ the Fasel Inductor and "true bypass") and I am running Planet Waves American Stage cables.

    [​IMG]


    In the end this Blues Jr. blows my mind every time I plug into it and I have heard a lot of amps (worked on stage crew multiple times for festivals in NC). For a home practice amp or even a mid volume level gig amp, this thing sings and you would have to pry it from my dead fingers now. I can't believe the transformation this thing has gone through from bone stock to now (I voided the warranty after owning it for less than 2 weeks :D)

    Opinions on any of my upgrades or overall? :lol:
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013

  2. gtrguru

    gtrguru Friend of Leo's

    Apr 29, 2011
    Detroit Metro
    Excellent! I changed to a MOD reverb tank and it made a world of difference for under $20.
     

  3. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Thanks man and yea the reverb tank is the one thing I left alone, but I am pretty happy with the reverb. I'm not huge on reverb though, so other people may not be satisfied with the stock unit.

    Out of curiosity which MOD tank did you go with?? There are like 8 pages of them :D Also BillM says the "issue" is fixable: http://billmaudio.com/wp/?page_id=46&cpage=1
     

  4. sparkletele123

    sparkletele123 Tele-Meister

    326
    Jun 13, 2012
    London, UK
    My Tank came with a spring that came loose from the Solder Connection so I just soldered it back. Is it necessary to change it? I never was under the impression the stock was inferior.
     

  5. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    I think it is an isolated problem where some reverbs are completely fine and others have issues. For the small price of getting a replacement though, it's really not a big deal.

    However after this being brought up this has made me want to buy one so that it is completely upgraded lol, but like you, I have no quarrel with the stock unit.
     

  6. Mike Eskimo

    Mike Eskimo Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 9, 2008
    Detroit
    There are cheap reverb pedals that are miles beyond the SS one that comes in the Blues Jr.

    So - I'm always on the look out for a cheap Pro Jr and don't care that it doesn't come w/ the bad reverb that the Blues Jr has.:lol:

    BTW - love that Schecter Tempest !
     

  7. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Thanks man, yea I love my Tempest Custom (I got very lucky on the quality/match of the two piece flame maple top, look at the picture of the one on MF vs. mine)! I was looking for something close to a Les Paul and the Tempest Custom was basically the sweet spot between a Les Paul and something like a Strat. The features offered on it are amazing for the cost, you get Duncan pickups ('59 SH-1 and the Custom Custom SH-5 (although I am looking to possibly replace the SH-5). On top of that you get an Ebony Fretboard with Schecter Locking Tuners, plus TonePros Tune-o-matic with Stopbar Tailpiece (locking) and obviously everything is Mahogany. The crazy part is the price I got the guitar for from Musician's Friend. If you include the price match $50 on top of the price match overall, I only paid $430 for that guitar :eek:

    My buddies (all in bands) told me I could play this baby for years and still sell it for what I paid or possibly even profit (depending on if Schecter eventually discontinues it after so many years) haha. I felt very blessed to end up with that guitar new in the box for the price I paid.
     

  8. JayFreddy

    JayFreddy Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 6, 2006
    Dallas TX USA
    Sounds like you put in a lot of effort to turn a good amp into a great one. Why did you get rid of the X2? I own both a stock BJr3 and a stock SCx2. Love 'em both. The SCx2 is the living room amp. The BJr3 is the garage amp.

    My Peavey Bandit is still my Blues Jam amp! :p
     

  9. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    There was nothing wrong with the Super-Champ X2 (it's a great value priced hybrid tube amp with modeling and USB features), but I got Guitar Center to refund me the purchase cost and let me trade up to the Blues Junior. I even got a Ragin Cajun for the X2 right near this time and have it sitting in a box.. (less than 5 hours on the speaker) I really need to find someone who needs a 10" Ragin Cajun, in a Super-Champ X2 it turns it into a beast of an amp for the size.
     

  10. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    66
    Oct 22, 2006
    Garner, North Carolina
    Nice to see you ended up with an amp you really like after all that work.

    Guessing you have about $900 - $1000 invested in it. I probably would have gone a different way. That budget would get you any of the Weber kits, pretty much covering the full range of Marshall, Fender Tweed, and Fender Black Face. Blues, Junior has features those amps don't, but...
     

  11. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Well that is one thing I didn't really talk about since the "budget" wasn't the main concern here and you are talking about a $200 speaker (that could be moved or sold at very little loss). You guess a little high however, this is the breakdown:

    Blues Jr. - $429
    NOS Tubes - $105
    BillM Mods - $91
    Speaker - $199
    -----------------
    Total - $824


    Consider this however, people are "buying" the BillM mods that I listed above however they are too scared or inexperienced to install them for themselves. So as a result they are paying for shipping a Blues Jr both ways and paying BillM for his time/effort (even working fast you are talking at least 6 hours for all the mods above and I'm sure he is charging at least $20/hr if not $30 (I would for that kind of work)). So by the time they are done they probably have near $250 or more just to get the BillM mods done by BillM and they probably didn't find the Blues Jr. as cheap as I did new.

    Money was never the question here though, I wanted to create the ultimate all tube (minus rectifier of course) home practice amp and wanted to start with something highly modifiable. Yes I could have got a BYOC tweed amp kit that will allow you to achieve various combinations with the output stage (http://buildyourownclone.com/amps-cabs/amplifiers/tweedroyalcombo.html) for right around $940ish (w/ Jensen P12N Speaker and JJ Tubes), but my income changed dramatically between buying the Blues Jr. and finishing modding it (not really a detail I thought needed to be told, but it explains why I started with the Blues Jr. platform) and this is kind of obvious when you consider the speaker alone is 50% the value of the stock amp.
     

  12. gtrguru

    gtrguru Friend of Leo's

    Apr 29, 2011
    Detroit Metro
    MOD 8EB2C1B Reverb Tank
     

  13. Justjammin

    Justjammin Tele-Meister

    213
    Feb 2, 2008
    Central Calif Coast
    I went close to the same route as you did, mainly with the intention of fiddling with the amp.
    $200 amp
    $150 Billm mods (+ Ruby reverb tank)
    $90 Torrres engineering JJ tube set
    $125 Weber California

    Absolutely no regrets, for what it is, this little amp does a really fine job.
     

  14. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    I bet that sound sweet and yea this little amp really turns some heads. Did you go with the Weber California for any specific type of sound/reason or was it just what you thought sounded the best from your experience? I went with the G12H because I have heard them (lol ever listened to Hendrix? :lol:) versus some other 12" speakers and nothing came close to it in my mind (from what I've heard in person). Looking back now I wish I had gotten a used Blues Jr. (since I was going to void the warranty anyway), but you live and learn. At least I know exactly what has been done to it over it's life instead of the mystery of a used piece of equipment and I know everything works 100% since I tested it heavily before purchasing.
     

  15. steveneddy

    steveneddy Tele-Meister

    235
    Jan 16, 2012
    Texas
    I want to build a Blues Jr with a handwired Bassman circuit - running 6V6's for power tubes - so it's still a quiet amp - relatively - no reverb - in a little larger custom pine cabinet - with a Celestian Greenback.

    I also want to do a Princeton cabinet - front facing knobs - with a full on JTM45/Bassman circuit running 40 watts - no reverb - and make it a cascading gain stage so the little amp COOKS!
     

  16. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Well if you do all that there won't be much of a Blues Jr. left there :)
     

  17. mrboson

    mrboson Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 9, 2011
    Brookings, OR
    Yeah, I agree it is not fair to factor in the expense speaker. Lot's of people swap out speakers in all kinds of amp brands in order to get what they want. You could say the same about the tube set, actually.

    So really, you are in for the cost of the amp and the cost of the mod parts to have an awesome amp that you like a lot. That is a win.

    IMO, what you like about the BJr (which is the same thing I like about it) starts with the amp itself... it's circuit. The mods just open up its potential, and your other upgrades tap into that new potential better than if it was stock.

    BTW, if you do this again, definitely start with a used one ;) I got mine for $250. I suppose in that case it is best to buy an unmodded one... so you are not inheriting someone else's hack job.

    Another btw... even setting aside the rectifier, the BJr won't ever be quite "ultimate all tube"... It does after all have an op-amp driving the reverb. Small, practically insignificant, minor detail.
     

  18. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Yea I'm aware it's not truly "all tube", however very few amps in this price range are (almost nobody I asked said using a tube rectifier vs. SS is even noticeable in the sound quality). Having an Op-Amp on the reverb only really matters if you really use the reverb, like you said, practically insignificant. The reverb deal is like saying you don't have a true tube amp if you use a certain type of effect pedal in your chain :D.
     

  19. Badger52

    Badger52 TDPRI Member

    13
    Oct 16, 2013
    Wisconsin
    Thanks; assume you like it. I'm also getting one of those in the next day or so. I don't use reverb very much but mine has a bit of peakiness during those times when I'm playing slowly, want more of it, and it rears its head. I'll be getting the MOD as well, apparently just because it says Accutronics on it now & comes in a Fender amp doesn't mean it's like it used to be.

    I actually like everything else about the amp & can dial anything up/down easily otherwise. (Might put a CR speaker in it at some point, so not having that much into the 2nd hand amp is a good thing sometimes.) No sour grapes on the amp, I'll just put a different tank in it & they're certainly cheap enough.
    :)

    Edit: NCSU, thanks for sharing the pics. Dark ones with glowing glass done well always contain coolness.
     

  20. steveneddy

    steveneddy Tele-Meister

    235
    Jan 16, 2012
    Texas
    Yeah - that's the point - show up to a gig with that amp and see how many people ask what it is - lol.

    Besides - I think it's be fun.
     

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