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Fender Tube RI Amps

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by jumpnblues, May 8, 2020.

  1. Uncle Daddy

    Uncle Daddy Tele-Afflicted

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    Here in the UK you can't get after market service items for Fender amps. Crack a board or burn some traces, you are on your own. If a new amp goes **** up in the warranty period, it gets replaced and the original goes in the dumper.

    i'm not going to pay that kind of money for something that's built down to the lowest price. I roll my own now, less outlay, repairable, and I get the pleasure of playing through something I made. My PR clone still came.in at under half of what Fender want for the 64 Custom.
     
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  2. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Friend of Leo's

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    IME it’s not risky. You can always get a bad one of course but that applies to anything. I have a German car from a brand with a solid reputation for reliability. Just out of warranty, a very expensive part died on me without warning. Bang, 700€. Would I say “don’t buy cars”?

    In the realm of amps, my experience is actually the reverse of what you’re saying.

    SS amps and hybrid-technology amps seem subject to faster obsolescence. My very recent Mustang still works, but Fender has stopped supporting the software that makes up for 25% of its usability. My old SCX2 had repeated problems with an USB port. I have a nice little Jazzkat around but since the company died, and left behind no schematics, if it ever breaks down it will be for the landfill.

    Tube amps with well-known schematics and available parts (basically all Fender production from the early 50s onward is included) are potentially eternal.

    I have a 64 Fender head, and – granted – I had to factor in servicing when I bought it. It’s never given me a problem and I’m just now wondering when I should start thinking of replacing electrolytic caps as routine maintenance. My handwired 5F1 clone was very badly assembled when I bought it and sounded like sh1t (my fault for taking the risk of buying a kit assembled by an amateur). But I am friendly with a good tech, and for little expense (in the vicinity of 100$) he disassembled it and reassembled it, upgrading some parts, and tweaking the parts layout so as to minimize noise. Now it’s built for the next century… it’ll still be going when I am long gone.

    Heck, I even have a ’46 tube amp with hard-to-find tubes, a field-coil speaker and rudimentary circuits. That’s a more adventurous proposition, and I have admittedly put a bit more money in it than I’d have liked – but that’s because I am a 40s-50s jazz nut. And it works, and it sounds unique!

    PCB tube amps seem to be an in-between. Techs service them all the time, only it’s a bit more difficult so DIY is ruled out except for the pros amongst us. Plus, on less expensive ones, parts and builds are not as solid and reliable. Still, many early 90s RIs out there sound good and are still going strong.

    So, if you feel you’d like a tube amp, don’t be deterred by risks. Weight, volume, etc… are all considerations. A Quilter head goes in the pocket of your gig-bag. But risks, not really. Just my .02 €!
     
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  3. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    I have owed both old BF amps and now own a ‘68 CDR and it sounds great.
     
  4. fasteddie42

    fasteddie42 Tele-Afflicted

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    I've had zero issues with any fender amps.
     
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  5. Alter

    Alter Tele-Meister

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    Reissues and vintage amps sound a lot different. Comes down to what you prefer, how important tone is to you, and what you can afford (or find)..
     
  6. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    If you are employed, do you also tell your employer to value your time at £0?
     
  7. Uncle Daddy

    Uncle Daddy Tele-Afflicted

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    No. I offset the difference in my labour rates against the power of bulk buying. I'm guessing it costs a manufacturer a lot less to procure the parts to build each amp than I paid for a kit.

    Of course, what I'm not paying for is a huge marketing and distribution machine, or shareholder dividends. All that stuff must equal cost cutting in the manufacturing process, hence the landfill products so many companies seem to make nowadays.
     
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  8. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

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    I service guitars and amps.

    The Fender RI's do not suffer from the very high incidence of burnt traces that the Hot Rods do. But:

    1. They do have common failures of cable connectors and the circuit board with "directly soldered" pots.

    2. And are horrendously problematic to maintain & service. One *slightly* scratchy pot, minor mod related to pots and many of the connected components - or problem with any of them - requires removing ALL knobs, ALL pot nuts & washers, and removing ALL of them along with the circuit board...

    ...all the while hoping there are no heat-hardened joints on the board/pot assembly, that you don't bend any of the pot tabs during removal - then dealing with the same junk during reassembly.:mad:

    In my experience they fail more often (and I repair more of them) than any of the hand wired models.

    I also charge more for any common service other than simple tube replacements and biasn (and service on any back-panel items with similar construction.

    Personally, I would avoid them from a service aspect.

    As a player I dislike the "dead" cabinets that have little or no resonance nor the poor quality "Jensen" (in name only) speaker. IMO a SF amp with a mediocre Utah would sound better.

    Hope that helps!
     
  9. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Afflicted

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    The 65 reissues are very fine amps. I do prefer the 68 custom line, though, for what it’s worth.
     
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  10. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I was lucky enough to have 2 BFRi's of the same model to play with one had issues the other not at all. This just tells me that it's a QC issue at the point of manufacture .
    Once I finished the repair the Twin RI sounded brand new, as for the comments about disassembly I just finished a repair to a Mesa express 5:50 and it was a total tear down to flip the board over talk about cold soldered connections burnt wires and sloppy detail so this does happen how ever the sound of the amp was great.
     
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  11. Fotheringport

    Fotheringport TDPRI Member

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    https://guitar.com/review/amplifier/review-award-session-5e3-extra-22/
     
  12. Henry Mars

    Henry Mars Tele-Afflicted

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    I didn't read all of the posts but let me say this. I have been around for a long time. Many amps have passed through my hands over the years. IMHO the new reissue amps aren't that bad. I used to own a 1961 Ford Falcon ... that was 55 years ago. I liked the car. Would I buy another one and refurbish it? If I was a hobbyist maybe, You want to go find a 55 yr old Twin Reverb and refurbish it for a hobby have fun and enjoy your hobby. If you want a new amp that is built like a 65 Twin you can get them ... all you need is $$$$ and a lot of it. They call them boutique amps :). I was around playing when these "vintage" amps were new ... just like my '61 Falcon they are antiques. Sooner or later tube amps will be a historical curiosity as are Model T Fords.
    That said there are a lot of options including the Fender RI amps if you want a good sounding. well built, modern tube amp. Trayor, Peavey, Orange, Vox, Fender etc etc.
    The debate over whether a vintage tube amp sounds better or is built better is moot. It is like comparing a Model A with a Ford Focus.
    Walk boldly into the 21st century my friends .... and get over the hype. The only thing about gear and music that is inevitable is change.
    Move on.
     
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  13. Jared Purdy

    Jared Purdy Friend of Leo's

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    I'm a fan. They are very well put together. I think Fender needs to be commended for their efforts. Yesterday, I bought the 57' Custom Deluxe. It's simply an incredible amp. Amazing tone and build quality. And it looks killer. It's the perfect size, and weight.

    Last winter I bought the 64' Custom Hand Wired Princeton Reverb. Having previously owned the 65 PRRI, I'd say that there is no comparison. The tone on the 64 is richer and the bass holds together, unlike the PRRI. The build quality is also excellent. All hand wired to turret board. Solid pine cab, custom made alnico speaker.

    I've also owned Swart amps, and they are also top shelf, with a nod to the 57 Fender amps with some useful and creative mods.

    I've never had the chance to play through an original 57', but when I was doing my research I came across a couple of videos where the stock, original's 57 was A/B'd to the Custom Deluxe. To my ears, I preferred the sound of the Custom Deluxe. It was fuller sounding.

    I have owned a stock 74' PR, and it too suffered from flabby bass at levels where it ought not to have. I had it during the same time I had the 65 PRRI, so A/B'ing them was not an issue. In spite of the age difference, they sounded remarkably similar. I ended up selling both of them.

    People love to bash Fender, particularly the RI series. If for no other reason, the cost. Much the same happens with Gibson and their custom Les Pauls. They are both huge companies, with massive inventory and overhead. They cannot be compared to Swart, or Allen (which I believe has folded), or any of the other boutique amp companies. I think the fact that both of them have been around for so many years is testament to something other than sheep following the herder.
     
  14. powerwagonjohn

    powerwagonjohn Tele-Meister

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    Allen amps has not folded, I was talking with him today. A month ago I took ownership of one of his classic 57 amps. David is a nice guy with great amps.
    Thanks John
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2020
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  15. Jared Purdy

    Jared Purdy Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for the clarification. I must be confusing them with another boutique company that had a similar line. Clarke??
     
  16. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    My only real experience with a RI was a DRRI that I bought used and due to the sellers poor packing job was severely damaged during transit. I ended up getting the amp free of charge so for the heck of it brought it to two different techs to see if it could be fixed. However once put back together the amp demonstrated a crackling, staticky noise intermittently that could never be resolved. The first tech charged for only a few cheap parts and 1 hr bench time. The second tech charged me zero, just curious if he could fix it. I ended up selling the amp as “broken and for parts” in an auction that brought me more than double what I expected. Actually only about $100 less than perfectly working ones were selling for??? Couldn’t figure that out.

    Would I buy a Fender RI? Sure, but only used and at a deal. Just picked up a mint, all original 1993 Fender ‘59 Bassman RI for $500. To be fair it was from a good friend.

    If we’re talking a new vintage style Fender.. I’m getting a hand wired clone with all the parts made in the USA. I have a guy near me that builds them any way you want between $1,100 - $1,500, depending on the model and upgrades such as speakers, iron and caps. He offers some mods too such as Normal channel tweed circuit, half power option and reverb.

    For the people that have to have Fender on the front, he will also gut and hand wire a RI for $350. Add another $225 if you want to upgrade the OT, PT and choke to USA made. Yes, Fender uses Chinese parts.

    It’s a no brainer in my opinion.

    Btw, I’m having that ‘59 Bassman RI gutted and hand wired, all iron replaced as I write this.
     
  17. trancedental

    trancedental Tele-Meister

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    I've not heard the new Fender Tonemasters nor seen the insides of the chassis but I've noticed that they appear to have solid pine cabinets, yet usually Fender reissues & their other tube amps all seem to have cheap MDF type cabs.

    As pine cabinets are lighter in weight & more resonant I wonder if the Tonemasters actually have a real advantage in sound over the reissues? Plus there's also a thriving market in Fender combo cabinet reproductions.

    Maybe the Tone Master amp cabinet / speaker & chassis might also be gutted out when beyond economic repair & rebuilt with new eyelet circuit boards & transformers! :eek:

    TMTR.png
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2020
  18. swany

    swany Tele-Meister

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    The Fender reissues, (deluxe or twin), have never used MDF cabs.
     
  19. trancedental

    trancedental Tele-Meister

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    OK let's call it heavier low quality plywood with particle board (made from sawdust / wood fibres like MDF) baffles, it still weighs too much & doesn't sound as good as a cab made from quality pine / birch plywood baffles.
     
  20. swany

    swany Tele-Meister

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    How about we just call it what it actually is? Birch plywood, or Birch/Pine. Fender has never used particle board or "wood fibres like MDF", in their re-issue's.
     
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