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Having my ‘59 Bassman RI hand wired

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by hotrodkid, Oct 25, 2020.

  1. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    Today I dropped off my early 90’s Fender ‘59 Bassman RI to Mike Marsh to have him gut and rewire it up old school. This was something I was going to consider down the road if and when the amp needed major fixing. However I had the extra cash on hand and the urge was too strong to resist so I said what the heck, why not. I already have a Marsh built tweed Bassman clone to compare it to. This Fender in it’s stock form is much louder and doesn’t quite have the old school feel and sound as the Marsh clone. Hopefully this will pull them a little closer together in that respect.

    I decided to go with Heyboer for the iron, OT, PT and choke. I also upgraded ($50) from the stock option of orange drops to Jupiters. I have the OD’s in my other Bassman which sound fine. I just figured this time to go with the old “variety is the spice of life” theme. Also all new pots and switchcraft jacks are on the list and I went with a 5U4G rectifier for some extra sweetness. Stock speakers are staying put which are the Emi blue alnicos.

    I’m waiting for Marsh to send some pics of the progress and I will post them here as they trickle in. Of course I will wrap the thread up with an initial tone report and later another one once the honeymoon period wears off. Estimated completion is 6-8 weeks.
     
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  2. Veitchy

    Veitchy Tele-Afflicted

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    I've wondered about going down this road a few times. Considering that it's a 90s model (and if I may assume you've owned if from new, or close to it) then the initial cost is already well and truly sunk anyway. Makes it a bit more reparable in the future too - especially if you already have an 'amp guy'.

    NGL, for some reason I do have a perverse desire for a full point-to-point Hot Rod Deluxe...
     
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  3. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    Hey thanks. I’ve actually only owned the amp for about a month. I bought it locally from a good friend who bought it online several months ago from a guy up in Georgia. After that it’s history is unknown. But I did get a great deal on it.

    Taking into consideration the amp is twenty seven years old I was at the least going to have it checked out to get a gauge of it’s condition internally. My plan was to also replace the SS rectifier, bias in a tube rectifier and have a bias pot installed because the pre LTD version didn’t come with one. So in any case money was going to spent regardless. That was something I forgot to mention in my OP.

    From the outside the amp is remarkably great condition. The tweed is super clean for it’s age which lends me to believe it was most likely not gigged a whole bunch. Unless of course the prior owner/owners were both insanely careful and incredibly lucky.

    Like I mentioned in my OP, I have a HW clone built by the same guy (Marsh) who’s doing this conversion. And when having both amps side by side the clone straight in just has more harmonic content and sustain to the notes and is just juicier sounding for lack of a better word. I know speakers and cabinet construction (pine cab, loose baffle) play a role in giving the clone more of a vintage feel and tone. However so do circuitry, iron, etc..I’m sure.

    On the other hand the Fender RI is tighter sounding and is harder in it’s feel as well. Plus it is much louder which I’m sure the sold state rectifier and higher voltages are attributing to all of that. It’s also more neutral sounding, the RI that is, in it’s voice and EQ which makes it better (IMO) as a pedal platform. However I’m not a huge pedal guy so part of the reason why I decided to go this route.

    Not to start a debate over hand wired vs pcb, but..if the amp doesn’t sound hugely different after the conversion it will not be a sad, disappointing loss for me. I will end up with an amp that is both easier to repair and something I will better bond with just because I prefer HW when talking a true representation of a vintage amp design. Cork sniffery I know, but I’m not the first and only. Ha! To even the keel a little I also own a pure stock Peavey Classic 30 (owned since new) that I enjoy as a low stress grab n go. Nice to be diversified.

    Yes I’m fortunate to live within a short driving distance of somebody like Mike Marsh. I don’t know if my wife is too keen about too! Ha! He’s also very reasonable, IMHO. Currently as of this post he's charging $350 for the gut and hand wire. My project is almost doubled that because I’m upgrading the iron, caps and a few other small odds and ends. To put that into prospective in the HW amp world it’s not ridiculous at all. Of course if I was like many of the folks on here and was able to perform the work myself it would be much cheaper. But I’m not so..

    Yeah a HW HRD, especially the BD would be cool. Kind of a sleeper concept. As side note, I see those amps on stages all the time down my way. I know they’re judged harshly in the bedroom but they sound great in a live band situation.

    Stay tuned. Hopefully some pics and more details coming soon!
     
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  4. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's

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    I think you should notice enough of a difference to satisfy you. IMO you'll get voltages closer to what they should be, perhaps a bit less PS filtering, and the tube rectifier. That tight, hard thing should be greatly reduced, or eliminated.
     
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  5. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    Thanks. Marsh spoke about those voltages being out of spec on the RI (higher) and the effects from it. If I only get rid of that tight feel I’ll be happy. I noticed I was having trouble turning the midrange up as that made the amp even tighter and stiffer. Something his clone doesn’t suffer from. Not totally knocking the RI. They really shine with pedals and I can see many preferring that. All good.
     
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  6. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I re-wired mine a few years ago. It was necessary because I was lazy and didn't pull the PCB all the way out when I went to replace the filter caps...

    I used the existing iron, jacks, sockets, etc. I replaced pots when the values didn't match the 5f6-a documentation. I added a bias pot. I ended up using a Weber Copper Cap so I could lower voltages within the amp.

    Night and day difference? No, but it was an improvement. I think the rectifier change was one of the biggest contributors. If I get around to it, some day I'll swap out the iron for better stuff. I think that is where you will see some advantage over my conversion.



    I know I'll be looking forward to your tone report!
     
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  7. Minivan Megafun

    Minivan Megafun Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

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    Mine was an LTD. So it had the tube rectifier. Stock I'd say it sounded pretty good as a clean platform - very neutral and "Marshall-like". Loud and present. Mine came stock with the Jensen reissue speakers and I tossed those and had it loaded with a pair of Weber 10A125's and a pair of 10F150's. It was the amp I called "heavy artillery" for when I wanted to be heard at a gig.

    My rebuild was MM vintage spec transformers, new board and components, and all new pots and jacks. We kept the tube sockets and switches because they're pretty much fine. Only circuit mod was the addition of an adjustable bias trim pot. After the rebuild to an actual 5F6-A, the tone became more delicate. I actually changed out the pair of 10F150 speakers for another set of 10A125's to make it a full quad of those. The 10F150's no longer suited the amp (too big and bold). Now, it's a chime machine! Very articulate with a sweet uppper mid range. Overall it's just got more depth - it sounds very "3D". It's hard to describe but it's different.

    I don't think the conversion is something everyone should run out and do. In retrospect the best idea would have been just to sell the reissue and buy a hand built one from a reputable builder.
     
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  8. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    Hey I was waiting for you to chime in! Yes, I’m very familiar with your HW Bassman RI project. Fair to say reading your OP and subsequent post regarding your journey played a role in my decision. So yeah thanks!

    As far as an improvement..I guess we go into these amp mods and projects with high expectations but come out on the other side with minimal results considering the time and money spent. But honestly for me it’s mostly about quenching the thirst of curiosity and at the end of the day being happy and content with my gear. With the current state of selling, overly picky buyers and outright scammers (I had a guy try to return a guitar after 3 mos after buying it! Opened a case against me and all, but I won. This was after I even accepted a lower offer from him. Geez.), plus the high cost of shipping heavy tubes amps, I made a decision to keep what I have and tinker with it if I feel the need or desire.

    My first pre-LTD reissue Bassman (wished I kept!) had a Weber copper can installed by the previous owner and I liked what I was hearing and the fact it was one and done. I just went with a 5U4G in my clone. But I think I’m gonna move back to the GZ34. I was hoping to cut some volume with the softer value rectifier but honestly only really notice less punch, not less volume. But it's fun to experiment and now I know.
     
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  9. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    I think the LTD’s sound good too. I like the Emi blue alnicos in the early 90’s reissues, but I much prefer the pine cab of the LTD.

    I know I’m in the minority here.. I actually like the Jensen reissue P10R’s, but only if they’re broken in. Matter of fact I just replaced the stock Weber alnico Sigs in my Bassman clone with a quad of reissue P10R’s I grabbed from a friend. He pummeled then at gigs for several months so they sound good. To my ears the Webers were too “thuddy” on the highs (I play a Strat) The Jensens can get bright, but they don’t thud out for me. Plus I had a Victoria tweed Super years ago (man I wish I could have that one back!) that came stock with the Jensen P10R reissues and I took a liking to them. They were my first dance with an alnico speaker. Actually that was my first tweed. I’ve notice those Jensens don’t like to see too much gain from pedals, however that’s not an issue for me.

    I agree that the Fender reissue tweed Bassman sounds more than good enough in it’s stock form. And like I mentioned earlier it’s a true pedal platform which with today’s volume restraints - that’s always a good thing. However in my case I already have a hand built clone. When I bought this reissue from my friend I promised myself all the way home on the 3 hour drive back that I would just leave it alone and enjoy it for what it is. But a few days in the bug bit and that’s all she wrote!
     
  10. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I like Mike!
    Not sure I would replace trannies but sure... why not.
     
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  11. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Meister

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    Consider the earlier tone stack values as well---.02 mF/.02 mF/250 pF/56K slope resistor. The later 5F6A (which is the template for the RI) came with tone stack values very similar to later BF amps. I had a '57 with those values and, to me, it sounded better than a '58 I also had at one time.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
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  12. Minivan Megafun

    Minivan Megafun Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

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    I don't want to hijack this thread into a speaker debate, but I have never met a Jensen P10R reissue that I liked. I've had them in my Bassman, Vibro King, SRRI, and CVR. I pulled them from every amp except the SRRI (which was what I traded for the Bassman in the first place). They sound fine at anywhere up to medium volume. Turn them up and it's brittle and harsh. I've tried to get along with them, but they're just not worth the effort.

    The Weber 10A125 is my absolute favourite 10" speaker. They sound glorious in everything they've been put into. Replaced a set of Emi Blue Frames in a 1960 Super with them and suddenly the amp came alive. The Bassman as well, just warm and chimey all the way up the volume range. Smooth breakup. And really tight bass. I can't speak to the Sig Series because I've never tried them, but the 10A125 is where it's at.
     
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  13. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah Mike is cool to work with. He spent over an hour of his Sunday (normally his chill out day) with me to talk amps, the good ole days and answer all my questions and concerns regarding my project. I learned a bunch of new things. His wife is also very nice. She gave me a free Marsh T-shirt. Said she’s in charge of the swag dept.

    As far as the stock iron.. other than the fact they’re Chinese, the other issue is the voltages are too high. But I see your “why not” and that’s kind of it in a nutshell too. Going down this road and at that crossroad, now is the time to make those changes.
     
  14. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Yeah, I buy small stuff occasionally from them. No order to small and no big freight charges for small items. Mike has the best push back vintage style wire out there. I expect you are gonna get a great amp conversion.
     
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  15. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    B561D394-24B5-42C2-AFB5-3BF2F0B4F0DD.jpeg 47AB6AE2-AAEE-49B8-BD04-28FE3ABFFD93.jpeg 387F1286-0CB7-4CA0-8167-B524138F390B.jpeg 89A1ECB5-9398-4331-8072-92CA6992442D.jpeg The day has arrived and progress on my amp has arrived. It seems things are ahead of schedule too.

    I had asked Mike for some before photos and initial gut of the chassis so that’s what he sent. So anyone who hasn’t seen the inside of a stock Fender Bassman RI here you go.

    I’m assuming Mike is wiring up the turret board and I should be receiving pictures of that hopefully soon which I’ll post.

    I haven’t confirmed from Mike, but I’m assuming those Illinois filter caps are stock? I don’t hear great things about them and I’m surprised they are still functional and not leaking after twenty seven years. The amp was dead quiet the week or so before I brought it to Mike.
     
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  16. Minivan Megafun

    Minivan Megafun Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

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    Depends how much use they got. My tech showed me the data sheet for IC caps. I did the math and basically if you play your amp for about an hour a day for 5 years they're at the end of their rated lifespan. So what that means is Fender builds their amps to last until the warranty period is up and after that it's anyone's guess. IC caps have one of the lowest life ratings out there so yeah they're cheap. That's why I'm surprised whenever I see Uncle Doug putting them into vintage amps on his Youtube channel.
     
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  17. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Congrats on the progress!

    Illinois caps seem to get a bad wrap, but I think it was because a lot of big companies buy underpowered caps, or bought budget versions. That is just a guess, no real evidence to back it up...

    But, all the Fenders I've worked on had Illinois caps that lasted a good long time. Admittedly, though, I have never installed them when I had other options... mainly because I read the hype online.
     
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  18. hotrodkid

    hotrodkid Tele-Afflicted

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    19EE7ED1-757F-47FC-8B18-77B9048AB466.jpeg 185A3A8D-14AD-4230-B140-3A400A742269.jpeg 795DC40B-A864-4499-9E79-1B3F5F18E23F.jpeg Just received these pics from Mike. I’m glad I upgraded to the Jupiters, if not anything else they make for some nice eye candy. I’ve read all sorts of different opinions on them, from they don’t sound any different than the sprague orange drops, to they sound dark. I have the OD’s in my Marsh Bassman clone and I think they sound good there. I just had a chance to switch it up on this build and try something different. On looks alone, so far no regrets. If they turn out to be warmer sounding then that would not necessarily be a bad thing. Tweed Bassmans are pretty bright with plenty of room to add more highs. I still can’t believe how fast Mike is moving on this project.
     
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