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
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
    Guys I have a simple question that I have never really thought about until now for some reason and the obvious answer to me is yes (lol). Does playing a new speaker at louder volumes break it in faster?

    Going to see Joe Bonamassa tonight in Charlotte, can't wait guys!

    Ticket - Check
    Hotel Room One Block from Venue - Check
    Assortment of Rouge Beer - Check
    2 Holiday Days Used at Work for Concert and Recovery Day - Check

    Main thing is I don't drink too much and not completely enjoy Bonamassa because I am too wasted, tickets are too much to do that :eek: I can't wait to see his performance of what he did in Vienna along with a full electric set (two separate bands).

    Also you can add one more mod to the list (clean boost module with stereo foot switch, I wanted to find out why it's Bill's favorite mod).
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013

  2. limbe

    limbe Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 4, 2009
    Stockholm,Sweden
    I have always been of the same opinion as you regarding SS or tube reverb in an an amp.Do I want a reverb that doesn´t color the signal? (as in SS) or do I want one with two double-triodes and a transformer that does color it.
    (Not taking the added costs in account.)From me,an electronic engineer,the answer has always been, op-amps or no reverb at all.As you say ,a SS effect in the pedal chain (maybe be a Boss RV-5)makes your amp what?
     

  3. waparker4

    waparker4 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Nov 9, 2011
    Philadelphia, PA
    Why wouldn't you want the reverb to be colored. Some amps have a tone control for the reverb return signal.
     

  4. limbe

    limbe Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 4, 2009
    Stockholm,Sweden
    For me,the best sound is a good guitar with a good amp being played in a room with good acoustics.The bedroom amps usually have a reverb so the amp won´t sound dead.IMHO an amp have a tendency to sound mushy with too much reverb on a stage.I have really not needed reverb except when practicing alone.(And needed isn´t the right word)
    Of course I am aware that there are guitarists whose whole sound is based on a very good reverb.
    I am just not one of them.
     

  5. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    I really don't use much reverb either and that is kind of why I went with the Digitech pedal, so I could add just a hint of reverb instead of the clumsy reverb control on the Blues Jr. I could have done the taper mod on the reverb, but I never cared for it anyway so I just use the pedal to give it a very small amount.

    I just got done installing the BillM Clean Boost board + Stereo Foot Switch mods and I am really impressed by that mod. You can really hit the output tubes hard and this is something no pedal can do going into the front end (no matter how expensive it is). Next to the basic kit, the clean boost is my favorite mod out of all of the BillM mods. The only possible thing left I can do now is change transformer and output tubes, but I like the EL84s. Now if we could put EL34s in it, that would be a different story. I'll show some pics of the mod when I am at home (working right now, I do 3rd Shift IT @ Lowes HQ).
     

  6. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2010
    British Columbia
    I wouldn't go quite that far, but to me using tubes to drive and recover the reverb signal in this century is nothing short of absurd and illogical. Why on earth would anyone use expensive, fragile, hot, bulky, inefficient, precious tubes to perform a function that can be handled better using cheap, robust, efficient, tiny, solid state devices?

    To be clear, I really value the distortion that tubes add to the sound of the guitar itself - I have yet to find a solid-state guitar amp that sounds good with a solid-body electric guitar. A good tube amp sounds much, much better to my ears.

    But the reverb circuitry is something entirely different. There is no logical reason whatsoever for using tubes there. "Tubey" colouration won't even come through those reverb springs.

    That means the only reason for using tubes is to mimic the past blindly - to recreate what famous amp manufacturers did many decades ago, in an era when there was no alternative to tubes available.

    My Princeton Reverb reissue has tube driven and tube-recovered reverb. Silly. A waste of tubes and space. But that's the way FMIC makes them, and certainly the tube driven spring reverb doesn't sound any worse (or any different!) than solid-state driven spring reverb, so I have no problem with using it just because it's illogical and silly.

    Actually I think the guitar amp manufacturers who think tube driven reverb or opamp driven reverb are the two options are missing a simple and obvious choice: simply plop a couple of modern high-voltage MOSFET's down where the tubes go and make minor changes to the circutry to make the best use of them. Voila, solid-state reverb without the need for opamps or low-voltage DC supply rails. Also not needed: tube sockets, several cubic inches of space, many watts of heater power, various awkwardly large holes in the chassis, et cetera.

    -Gnobuddy
     

  7. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2010
    British Columbia
    I had a Blues Jr. briefly. I never bonded with it, and eventually sold it on. One of the things I didn't like was the hugely excessive reverb - and that one proved to be a very easy fix.

    If you look at the Blues Jr. schematic, the signal from the reverb recovery triode is mixed with the direct guitar signal using a pair of large value resistors - R18 (430 k) for the main signal and R46 (100 k) for the reverb signal. Increasing the value of R46 reduces the amount of "wet" reverb signal being mixed with the "dry" guitar signal, and tames the twitchy reverb control.

    IIRC I swapped a 220 k resistor in for R46, and that made the reverb knob actually usable - instead of jumping from nothing to too much at "2", the usable range extended up to about 5 on the dial.

    Beyond that point it was still a huge wash of excessive reverb, for my tastes, since I don't play vintage surf music. If I'd kept the amp I might have increased R46 some more, perhaps to 330 k. But I didn't keep it, and the buyer was happy with the mods I'd done (I did a couple others too, including my own scheme for adjustable grid bias to the output tubes and Bill M's bass tone control cap mod).

    -Gnobuddy
     

  8. 73Fender

    73Fender Friend of Leo's

    Feb 28, 2010
    Jersey Shore
    Nice job with the BJr OP. I did most of Bill's mods to mine. I had it apart so many times the ribbon cables started to fail (broken solder joints). I wound up installing straight wire. Have you considered the upgrade output transformer Bill offers (Heyboer)? Seemed to make a difference.

    Where did you buy the vintage glass? I'm just getting into that aspect.

    Mine's a NOS Tweed with the Jensen C12N.

    Thanks Gnobuddy for the tip on the resister swap to make the reverb more usable.

    I like my Blues Jr, I mostly play at home, perfect amp for that. The other day I hooked it up with my Lil Dawg tweed 5E3 using an amp splitter. Cool sounds.
     

  9. cutter2001

    cutter2001 TDPRI Member

    56
    Sep 3, 2012
    Great post and pics.. If you ever want to sell her, let me know.
     

  10. Cheshiergrin

    Cheshiergrin Tele-Meister

    288
    Oct 22, 2013
    Estacada
    Nice, I love my nos bjr with the basic bill mods. But replaced output transformer with a mercury magnetics model. And the amp is amazing. You will not regret doing it. I know there are other ways to go and the mercury is a little spendy but it was worth it to me. Cant make up my mind on a speaker. So many options.
     

  11. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    Nice amp. Lovely pix!

    Your BJr path parallels my own. I bought a new BJr III (cream board), did darn near all the billm mods, leaving out the cathode follower and octal socket stuff. Heyboer tranny sure helped, if I recall. Love the clean boost, too. Didn't bother with the footswitchable, as I just play at home, sitting next to the amp.

    I put a CRex in it, and it made a huge difference. IMO, anything makes a positive difference because the stock speaker is so ice-picky. (anybody wanna buy a 12" Emi Fender "Special Design"? :D) In my case, I was looking for clean, bluesy, jazzy, verge of breakup. I've been happy with the CRex. These days I'm thinking I might be happier with something like your Celestion, or a WGS clone, for more bitingly clear California tone.

    Then I was just checking my tubes' condition one day, dunno why, didn't usually peek back there. One of the power tube retainer springs broke (due to oxidation, I think), and of course it busted a power tube before shooting all around the room. I finally found the spring two months later.

    So, Tube Depot was conveniently having a NOS sale, and I bought some really sweet Mullard power tubes, and a (very pricey) Mullard V1. Tube Depot is great to work with, and they guided me based on my descriptions of tone, etc. Saved me some money, too, pointing out that the other 12ax7s would benefit very little to none from NOS, so we just went with relatively cheap modern JJs (or TungSols?) on those.

    Talk about creamy overdrive. Wow, big difference from the stock tubes. Would modern JJs, Tungsols, etc have done the same thing, I don't know. It is kinda cool having tubes made so long ago. I don't automatically spring for that on my other amps, was fun to try, and it's certainly better than it was. Wow. Also, since I play at home, the tubes are somewhat wasted on me, because under most conditions I need a pedal for OD at lower volumes. But it still sounds better than it did.

    Next, I took it to my tech, 'cause the verb tank had shorted (yep, you all been there it seems). He replaced it with ... not sure what type, maybe stock, 'cause it sounds the same to me. Which I don't hate, by the way. I have a Princeton RI, and that tube verb is really nice. The Bjr sounds different for sure. More defined, less splashy, though dimed and you're in a surf tunnel or an old Clint western. Much, much better than other SS verbs I've encountered (admittedly not many).

    The tech confirmed my mods looked clean, and re-routed a wire or two, which took the amp from quiet to blackhole silent at idle. Perfect.

    I recently retired the amp, as I have a nice PRRI which I prefer, and a nearly completed Allen Encore, which will hopefully take the #1 spot. I'm not sure how much I have into the Bjr, as this was all done piecemeal over time. I think around a grand (tubes were $400 -- like I said, not every day).

    If I were to do it all at once, I'd use the money for a PRRI, DRRI, etc. Or one of the fine kits out there. But that's now. When I bought this, it was my first decent tube amp, and I struggled to justify the expense to myself. Then, IMO, it *required* mods to make it better (not the NOS tubes, they were frivolous, sorta). So I got sucked in, and now I, too, have "The Ultimate Blues Jr.".

    Thinking of selling it, but I doubt I'd get enough for it to begin to balance what I have in. And there's a certain emotional attachment to that little puppy. I'd rather it stay in the family gathering dust than be dumped for a pittance.
     

  12. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Thanks for the kind word guys.

    What audio impact do you actually hear from upgrading the transformer? I know it's mainly for headroom, but how does that impact you when using the Blues Jr. as a practice amp? By switching to a 12AY7 in V1 I have plenty of clean headroom, much more than when running a 12AX7, but if I need distortion I have it on tap (just takes a higher non-Master Volume setting than normal, 6-7 or higher vs. 3-4)


    Vintage glass was all mainly off one Ebay seller, lots of great glass on there for sale and some for a steal if you are on at the right time (and auction ends at the right time). I work 3rd Shift so I see a lot of auctions ending way below their potential.

    I think $400 for tubes is excessive (Mullards aren't cheap though and that is known, however I am not a big Mullard guy based on what I've heard in person), although I do think NOS tubes do create a tonal difference vs. the stock Groove Tubes. My only issue was I did so many changes so often that it was hard to pin down certain improvements. However I know for sure the NOS EL84s (GE USAs) created a much glassier sound than the Groove Tubes and were also quieter. Like I mentioned previously I went with the 12AY7 to create more clean headroom, although with my BYOC ESV 2 Knob Bender I can enter Jimmy Page land at the click of a switch. I went ahead and changed out V2 and V3 because I figured I might as well go all NOS, however I did not spend near the money on those as I did V1 and the power tubes. Although V2 GE USAF 5751, but I didn't pay very much for it compared to the V1 12AY7. So I'm running all GE US Tubes except for the Sylvania in V1, which from my understanding may have very well been made in the same plant as the GE tubes.

    These are my EL84 GE Power Tubes that tested 7500 and 6800: http://www.ebay.com/itm/40056262305...l?_sacat=0&_from=R40&_nkw=400562623054&_rdc=1

    Then my Sylvania 12AY7 that test perfectly balanced: http://www.ebay.com/itm/19085922727...l?_sacat=0&_from=R40&_nkw=190859227278&_rdc=1

    Then my V2 and V3 12AX7s: (I got that one GE 12AX7 for $9.99 because for some reason there were no other bids, even though it was tested (U GETTER/ GREY PLATES- 52/54))

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/11119069607...l?_sacat=0&_from=R40&_nkw=111190696077&_rdc=1

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/37091724752...l?_sacat=0&_from=R40&_nkw=370917247520&_rdc=1

    Overall from everything I did, my favorite mod is the clean boost + stereo foot switch. Being able to push output tubes harder from a completely transparent boost is something that no pedal is going to achieve, no matter how expensive when running it into the front end of the amp.

    I still need to get some more pictures now that I have the Clean Boost installed and I have the line out mod in there now also. I'll see if I can't get them in the next few days, if not today when I get off work.

    If anyone has any questions about anything or wants to tell me I am an idiot for spending so much on a Blues Jr. (again, lol), just leave a reply.

    By far the biggest tonal difference was when I installed the G12H (perfect balance all around and a true vintage sound), that was $200 well spent. I know I will never get rid of that speaker, if I upgrade later down the road that speaker will move also.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014

  13. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    It's been a few years now, and I can't remember even what the old amp sounded like. I do recall doing the transformer separately from the other mods, and immediately going WOAH. Does it make any sense that it would sound more open, articulate?
     

  14. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    I mean yea, those are definitely words that I can understand what you mean. I'm just wondering if doing a transformer swap is going to benefit me that much with how much I have already changed. If I did change it what are a few models outside of what Bill sells that are known to fit? Is there much reason to buy something beyond what Bill offers?

    Oh, btw, I decided to get a TC Hall of Fame Reverb and sell my Digitech Digiverb (it was giving me distortion, but I realized right before I sold it that I may have been using its cab modeling output, lol) and I love the HoF, especially considering you can use the Toneprints and get tremolo type effects and other models created by artists or TC.
     

  15. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    I had already done the other billm mods beforehand, and it was still WOAH. If I recall, billm highly recommended the tranny. I was leaning to not doing it because I already had dumped enough in... worth it, IMO. Sorry I can't be more specific. I do know that I play a Blues Jr in a store, and it sounds like someone farting through aluminum foil compared to my amp :D

    Again, going from memory. I think the other, probably excellent, contender was Mercury Magnetics. I know billm custom designed his Heyboer tranny (with David Allen, IIRC), so it could be large, yet still fit w/o hitting the huge Swamp Thang speaker (bills favorite). Bill's is good. The MM probably fits, but double check first.
     

  16. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Well I have the G12H in mine and BillM offers 5 different transformers (output and power, which were yall discussing changing out?):

    http://billmaudio.com/wp/?page_id=65

    This also raises the question, what do you guys think about doing the 6L6 conversion? I for one like the glassy tone of the EL84 when biased correctly, but I wonder how the 6L6 push/pull does in the Blues Jr. circuit when directly compared with the EL84s.


    The David Allen-designed TO22 Heyboer output transformer


    Low Profile TO20 Output Transformer


    Premium TO20B Output Transformer


    TO26 Output Transformer for 6L6 Conversion


    TP24 Power Transformer



    From all these options I think the Low Profile TO20 Output Transformer is my best option, as I don't intend on running an auxiliary cab often (if ever). However I think based on what I have already done to this amp, this mod is a must to round it out :twisted: Although can someone explain what kind of difference is seen between changing power transformer vs. the output transformer?
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014

  17. Cheshiergrin

    Cheshiergrin Tele-Meister

    288
    Oct 22, 2013
    Estacada
    Output transformer is a must and will turn your amp into a monster, more articulate and phatter at the same time. I personally like my bjr more than a princeton or a drri so it was worth it to me, but its a different beast. If I want clean I play my twin, or I dial back my ac 15. Yes I have a grand into my bjr and it was worth every penny. I did not see more headroom with ot upgrade but even the growly tone is sweet now, cant stop playing it.
     

  18. NCSUZoSo

    NCSUZoSo Tele-Meister

    Age:
    30
    119
    Sep 26, 2013
    North Carolina
    Do yall know of any reason not to go with the Low Profile TO20 Output Transformer vs. the other larger ones?
     

  19. No457 Snowy

    No457 Snowy Tele-Meister

    275
    May 27, 2011
    Australia
    I have the TO20 in mine and it's great, It will happily run a 4 ohm load if you wish to run an extension cab at times. It also will deliver tons of Bass without breaking a sweat, I can't imagine needing more Bass actually. Not really sure if there would be any advantages for you to go with one of the other ones if you don't plan on running an additional cab, other than to have that bit of extra auto switching functionality if you do choose run an extension cab and also ensuring max efficiency if running a 4 Ohm load.

    Snowy
     

IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.