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NOAD (New old amp day) - Sessionette 75

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Tony474, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Having owned six of 'em in the past in various configurations, I've just bought my seventh Sessionette 75. Got it for a fairly reasonable price from an eBay seller in Greenwich, south-east London, so was able to collect it in person. It's a black vinyl 1 x 12 Mark II from 1985, in very nice condition. Oddly the original speaker has been replaced by an OEM Eminence "Decimator" that was originally in a Custom Sound amp or cab, but it sounds OK and anyway I still have the Celestion G12H-100 from one of my old Mark I Sessionettes to stick in it if I want to.

    At time of writing Stewart Ward's away on holiday, but when he gets back next week I plan to have him do the "RetroTone" circuit mods that are said to improve an already excellent little amp still further.

    It's nice, so to speak, to be back...
     

  2. Steve G

    Steve G Friend of Leo's

    Nov 3, 2005
    LeeK (England)
    Great! I just got one too. As lovely as it is Im a bit baffled by how to operate it and control the channels etc. I suspect however that it needs some attention as the 'clean' channel will be clean for a few minutes and then suddenly switch to dirty. Gremlins in the switch I think.
     

  3. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Hi, Steve. Yes, that'll probably be it. I suggest working the switch a few times as the contacts can get corroded if it's left in one position all the time - which is more than likely. As an old Sessionette hand I'm familiar with the controls, but if it helps you can get a PDF of the manual from this page of Stewart's website: http://award-session.com/award-session_manuals.html.

    I tried to attach the file here but it's too big for that.
     

  4. Steve G

    Steve G Friend of Leo's

    Nov 3, 2005
    LeeK (England)
    Cheers, downloaded that, Ill have to do my homework now.

    Going to need some knobs too as all the top bits with the indicator of what setting you're using have dropped off mine.

    Great tones though! The clean channel seems quite a lot quieter on mine than the dirty channel, is that to be expected? Are people generally blending a bit of both for noisier stages?
     

  5. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Hmm... The clean channel (B) should generally be pretty loud by the time the volume control is past the halfway point, though the overdriven channel (A) can get incredibly loud for such a physically small amp. On Channel A Gain 1 controls the actual gain and Gain 2 the level. The Filter control is a post-distortion tone pot. If you have the second rocker switch set to "EQ In", the pre-distortion 3-band EQ is operative as well. When the switch is moved to "EQ set", this by-passes the 3-band EQ and provides 3dB (I think) of extra gain, though the Filter control remains in operation. It's a great sound if you like that kind of thing.

    You can have the channel switch set centrally to have both channels at once and this is also the setting for when the footswitch is connected. It's a very simple circuit - the wiring then by-passes the panel switch and the signal itself actually goes through the footswitch.

    As regards the apparent volume drop and your other situation, again I think the panel switch may be the source of the problem. Not only can the contacts get a bit grubby with time but it seems that if there's some physical wear in the pivot spindle the three positions may not be engaging properly. The switch on my example is a bit like this but it can be jiggled around until it does what I want. I've yet to determine whether a new replacement switch is available from RS or Maplin's, or indeed from Stewart himself.

    Missing knob tops seem to be endemic with old Sessionettes. I'm lucky - only the Monitor Level knob on the back panel is topless on my amp. But replacements of varying designs (though not the original one) appear to be easy to find.

    Hope this helps.
     

  6. Steve G

    Steve G Friend of Leo's

    Nov 3, 2005
    LeeK (England)
    Yes it does, thanks. I need to do some experimenting and then have a look at cleaning the switch up.

    Cracking little amp anyway. Bought on a whim but well pleased with it. Had known for a while about their design being based on the cube but turned on its side but it hadn't hit home till now how close they are in dimensions. Also the connectivity on the back is laid out the same and ported back design..

    Quite a different tone to the cubes though IMO.
     

  7. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Steve, another thought has just occurred to me regarding the limited volume you say you're getting on channel B. It's possible that the volume pot itself is involved. This can affect any amp, not just the Sessionette. The pots can get crackly over time if there's a build-up of crud between the wiper and the track. especially if the amp has had long periods of non-use, and in some cases it can interrupt the signal passing through. Normally the effect can be reduced by working the pot a number of times in each direction - you will probably hear the crackle reducing in intensity. A drop of switch cleaner with lubricant may help.

    As it happens I'm experiencing a similar phenomenon with the reverb pot on my example - the reverb drops out occasionally as the pot is turned, while some of the other pots are a bit crackly too. I'm confident that a little TLC will sort things out.
     

  8. ScottJPatrick

    ScottJPatrick Tele-Afflicted

    May 12, 2011
    Stirling, Scotland.
    Picked up one myself a couple of weeks ago in very grubby condition, good clean with servisol and lots of flicking switches and rotating pots has cleaned 99% of it. Volume pot on the clean channel is the only one needing replaced as it's still itermmitent slightly as you turn up the volume, pretty sure that's all that is wrong with yours. Can you tell me any more about the 'retro-tone' wiring that Stewart does?
     

  9. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    All is explained here, but briefly it involves modifications to the negative feedback circuit so that the output stage will interact with the speaker in a similar way to an amp with an output transformer, i.e. almost always a valve amp.
     

  10. Little Jay

    Little Jay Tele-Meister

    339
    Jul 20, 2009
    The Netherlands
    Congratz with the purchase!

    I love those Sessionettes! I love my Rockette even better, since it's less heavy and still copes with most live-situations I encounter! It's really my grab and go amp of which I know it won't dissappoint me. The Sessionette has a bit more 'oomph' to it though.

    Too bad the Rockette can't have the RetroTone-modification, but I love it a lot as it is already :)
     

  11. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Quick interim update: I collected the "RetroToned" chassis from Stewart this morning, but owing to circumstances I haven't yet installed either it or my G12H-100 speaker in the cabinet. However, when I got to Stewart's place the chassis was temporarily housed in another Sessionette cabinet with a G12K-85 and it sounded very good indeed.

    More impressions once I've got it all up and running and further comments when I've done a gig or two with it.
     

  12. Steve G

    Steve G Friend of Leo's

    Nov 3, 2005
    LeeK (England)
    Look forward to the updates Tony.

    Mine had an issue with the second channel and has been fixed and is running great now.

    The retrotone thing sounds good but to be honest Im so happy with it now Im reluctant to tinker.
     

  13. GigsbyBoyUK

    GigsbyBoyUK Friend of Leo's

    Apr 30, 2008
    Peterborough, UK
    As a multiple Sessionette owner I'm interested in the Retrotone. However for me the really big issue is the boxy nature of a small cab and a 1X12 speaker. It's not a problem when mic'ing up, but otherwise it doesn't have the warmth or spread I like.

    So I run two 1x12 Sessionettes next to each other (or one either side of the stage) and they sound much fuller and warmer than one alone, as you'd expect. The 2X10 I bought recently also has a much fuller sound. And as for my 4x10...well that's just amazing.
     

  14. MrTwang

    MrTwang Friend of Leo's

    Feb 9, 2009
    London, England
    Just about to ship mine off to Stewart to be "Retrotoned". How long did he take to do yours?
     

  15. A.B.Negative

    A.B.Negative Friend of Leo's

    Aug 26, 2008
    Scotland
    I'm looking forward to seeing what you think. I have a 75 that I'm thinking about having modded.
     

  16. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    About five weeks. Seemingly the RetroTone mods are proving more popular than he anticipated and there's a backlog of orders at present. Right now on his web page Stewart's estimating 6-8 weeks turnaround. BTW, there's a great new video that's been added; right up my street and I love it. Take a look: http://award-session.com/sessionette.html.

    Meanwhile I've now popped the G12H-100 in the cabinet and installed the upgraded chassis. Did a brief run-through this afternoon, side-by-side with my Tech 21 Trademark 60 as a yardstick for comparison. Initial impressions are very favourable; the whole plot sounds more substantial than before and the inherent over-brightness of the pre-upgrade amp seems much alleviated. The new Presence control round the back (where the Monitor Level used to be) is very wide-ranging and effective. Also, I've found some new low-gain cleanish tonalities in Channel A. With the 3-band EQ plus the Filter and the Presence knob there's a great deal of tonal control and variety available on this channel.

    Difficult to assess clean headroom in a home setting, but the clues are there and they're encouraging.

    So far, so good. I'll be using the amp on a couple of familiar gigs this coming weekend and that'll enable me to form a better assessment of how effective the modified amp is in a working environment. Don't miss next week's thrilling episode, folks...
     

  17. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Right then... I've now used the RetroToned Sessionette on two pub gigs of, shall we say, "individual" character and my tmetic assessment is...

    SU-BLOODY-PERB!

    The previous piercing brightness has been transformed into a far less spiky but still biting clarity, while the bottom end is now hugely strong compared with that of the unmodified amp, to the extent that I had to attenuate the bass in order to avoid a boom on certain notes. The amp wasn't on the floor either, but placed on my usual folding stool, with its back a few inches from a wall and tilted back a couple of degrees. The new presence control was very useful in matching the amp's response to the guitar I was using and to the nature of the room. Attainable volume was absolutely no problem whatsoever; even when Dennis the drummer started giving it a bit of shoulder, the Sessionette made itself heard quite clearly and effortlessly with the volume control not yet halfway up on Channel B, the clean channel.

    That was on Saturday in a moderately well-filled pub and on a stage where I could stand some feet in front of the amp. Yesterday (Sunday), the venue was very different - one of those converted-shop-type pubs with a very cramped stage. The place was (to my mind) dangerously overcrowded and ambient noise was immense with the roar of shouted conversation. I was forced to play with the Sessionette only about a foot behind my left hip, yet again it had absolutely no trouble at all getting through with Dennis whackin' them skins for all he was worth. Admittedly towards the latter part of the gig it needed turning up as far as, ooh, "five and a half" or so, but clarity and definition were maintained with no hint of breakup unless I used my Fulldrive 2 to create some.

    So for my money this RetroTone mod is a clear and convincing winner, and I haven't even explored the possibilities on the overdriven Channel A yet, other than at home as described in my previous post.

    The amp still isn't perfect; it has no soft-start circuitry, so there's a "clunk" from the speaker on switch-on, and when you switch off it stays "live" for a few seconds while (presumably) the caps discharge. But they all do that, sir, and I lived with it for enough years with all the others I used to have. Also, the switches themselves still feel to me as though they're going to break, though I know from experience that they very rarely actually do.

    Still, I can't think of any of my gigs that the upgraded Sessionette won't cope with, although I'll still be using my other amps for some, if only for the sake of variety and to justify my possession of them. But if I could only have one amp, I'd be entirely happy for it to be this one. Ten out of ten for the RetroTone.
     

  18. Steve G

    Steve G Friend of Leo's

    Nov 3, 2005
    LeeK (England)
    Great review Tony, and I now know what tmetic means!
     

  19. jhundt

    jhundt Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    63
    Mar 23, 2003
    Netherlands
    got any pictures of that thing Tony?
     

  20. Tony474

    Tony474 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    70
    Apr 16, 2007
    North Bushey, England.
    Hi, Jon. Sure - I've lifted the seller's pics from the eBay listing by screen-grabbing; these are pre-modifications and the amp still had the Eminence speaker in it. But apart from the speaker dust cap and one knob on the back panel it still looks almost exactly the same.
    .
     

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