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Review: Hot Rod With Cannabis Rex (and a re-dress)

Discussion in 'Shock Brother's DIY Amps' started by jakaj, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    So as my trusty USA made Hot Rod Deluxe was getting tatty, and since the Deluxe Reverb is currently too expensive for me (I am not really gigging, and it is just a sin to cage the beautiful Animal that is DRRI) I decided on a speaker swap and to redress the poor fella.

    Now let me stress this: at room volumes the Fender special design, having been properly broken in (for two decades), sounded fine with most of my guitars (tone knob down)- except the bridge tele pickup, which was very shrill! I put in a Cannabis Rex, given that I like the Bass oomph and really just wanted to tame the high mids a bit. The result is very good, though I can't help but wonder what a Celestion GT12-65 would do. Who knows perhaps one comes my way soon via used ebay bargains (perhaps a WGS c12-75)? (Any of you tried either?)

    Many advised me to ditch the HRD - saying it was awful - I must have gotten lucky, though it is far from a PRRI or DRRI - both of which are very nice to my ears - and I am sure Dumbles and Bogner Shivas and Tone Kings are far superior, though I have no experience with them - but for some nice blues and nice clean, my HRD sounds very nice, nothing to smirk at. Perhaps because it is biased right, or perhaps it is the way I play (fingernails and soft touch on clean or slightly driven sound), but I never understood the hatred for this amp that abounds -

    I often wonder if it is taste - to me Gretch and Beatles-like sounds are not desirable, I like some strength in my notes and a more equal division between the pluck and the ringing that ensues. I like jangly stratospheric bell-tones and an oomph bass that is almost sub-bass, and have little love for Iron Maiden guitar-playing - I mean I know they are lovely, it is just not what I want to do! So this is where I am coming from, just to put my other comments into perspective.

    SO yes, the Cannabis Rex - to my ears it is very nice though nothing to write home about yet - I have eliminated the shrill high mids for sure, but am wondering how I will adapt to the slightly more concave tone - I am not even sure that is what happened - it seems more generic now, but honestly, I don't even know how to eq the amp yet - it is a different beast. I am getting a RCA 12ax7 blackplate for v1 - after that change and a bit of playing I may be able to say more - I wonder if the speaker will gain charqcter after it breaks in. I noticed that a Jensen c12q I used with my Laney VC15 mellowed out a bit - but this is where my speaker swapping experience ends (any comments from you esteemed colleagues?)

    On thing is certain - when I raised the clean volume with the stock speaker I got into the habit of closing my guitar tone knob a bit, there is no need for that anymore, in fact, it feels as though the Canabis Rex wants to be driven louder - where before I had a lovely home volume clean tone, I now feel the urge to get louder.

    I will add comments as things develop - what follows is a photo journal of the speaker swap and redress - I opted to go for wine-red tolex and tan-gold grille mesh - I rather love it - this is my firast proper re-dress and though I again could not stop before it was done, unlike some other projects it turned out just fine.


    This is the cab emptied out and the grill removed from the baffle:
    [​IMG]

    This is where it says its from the USA HDR days - I took care to preserve the sticker - who knows, perhaps one day my son will feel it is something to brag about :)
    [​IMG]


    First I fitted thew new grill - at this point I was not sure I would even tackle the tolex at all - thought I may just put the speaker in and see how it goes- for great advise on how to fit a fender plastic grill - see the three parts of rocket cabs tutorial (it is very slow and precise but helpful):
    [​IMG]

    here is the shiny gold mesh - but I had already removed the fender-deluxe plate (the HRD III plate does not say deluxe!, just fender I noticed):
    [​IMG]

    I took great care to preserve my tubes and screws in the proper order - the tubes are just the way I like em and the screws are actually bent a bit and they do not necessarily fit everywhere
    [​IMG]

    - I had a mishap when I was putting the amp in a homemade head cab (used self adhesive vynil there - works, but you got to be precise first time around) - the holes got damaged - I re-threaded all but one - that one gave me issues this time as well -
    This time I was careful to (having removed all the tubes of course) take the mid side screws out first, then while the amp was still upright I took the bottom side two out as well. Then I put the amp on its front and remove the top two screws holding the amp in the cab while holding it firmly in place (you may want to put some books or something under the amp to support it but be mindful of the speaker cone!)

    Some of the tolex was peeling off the tattered old fella, so I decided to just go for it, at least get the tolex off and sand a bit, even if I would glue the new tolex on some other time.
    [​IMG]
    I imagine younger glue would be harder to remove, but then, there are not many who would re-tolex a new cab - from what I read, you would want to use steam, and not chemicals to remove the old tolex if it is too well glued - that an patience.

    I thought I would be using my belt sander, it is new, I never used it before - but then since my workshop is in fact full of stuff left there because downstairs are being renovated, I decided to go the slow route and sand by hand - here is the amp just after I started -
    [​IMG]
    I was too fast to start cleaning it - I used window-cleaner (I thought it a good idea to use something that evaporates quickly - the cab is particle board) - funnily enough the glue just started peeling of after that - so instead of sand-paper I started using window-cleaner and steel wool (for those nasty pots and pans) - I had to go inch by inch, but the results were great.

    After I was finished sanding I decided to see how many seams it would take, and measured my tolex against the amp. I realized I am going to have to be very sparing - in my eagerness to pinch pennies I bought either too little or just barely enough tolex (I bought cutoffs - certain 2m times 40 cm would suffice)- I almost decided to add some leather in green that I had left over from a cab build for the sides, but then this is how I decided to solve my problem:
    [​IMG]

    After I had battled the tolex and glue (was using titebond - and just about used the whole bottle and a nailgun! and some double-sided tape) I realized that though most holes can be marked from inside
    [​IMG]
    (such as the handle and the amp chassis screws) the feet holes were nowhere to be found
    [​IMG]
    - I went online to see where approximately they would be located - and after some feeling around with the tips of my fingers I realized that they were about three cm from the edges:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Now it was time to fit the speaker - thankfully someone has marked one of the connectors red - which I took to be the positive end (if I was wrong - could the phase reversal majorly adversely impact the sound?)
    Here is the baffle and Cannabis Rex:
    [​IMG]
    And here it is fitted and some kitchen alu-foil added to the industrial that tore - for shielding:
    [​IMG]

    Then I fitted the chassis, the reverb tank and closed her up (though the screw thread that was damaged before gave me its share of issues) re-tubed her and voila:
    [​IMG]

    I am only sorry I forgot to record a video or at least audio with the speaker before, makes me wonder if I should bother recording the after at all as there will be little to compare it to. I may just do some recordings of my various gear in the future, as I have modded a lot and some things may be of interest to others.
     
  2. LiverpoolFC

    LiverpoolFC Tele-Meister

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    Well done sir! Looks like my Blues Jr. Humboldt Hot Rod, same color pattern and that delicious Cannabis Rex.
     

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  3. Zillinois

    Zillinois Friend of Leo's

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    Nice work!
     
  4. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    Thx, I am quite happy, considering my low-level skill :)
     
  5. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    What a beaut!

    I wish I could say the colour scheme was my idea - but I had been eyeing these Blues juniors - Humboldt like yours and emerald green which was a cab I had made (rather failed first attempt at using vynil - tolex just works better) - here it is on top of what was the hot rod in its incarnation as a (overly large) head:
    [​IMG]

    I think the two colour schemes actually work really nice together so if I ever need to add a second cab, perhaps for a work-out to and from the gig, my gear will not clash :)
     
  6. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    I noticed that with Cannabis Rex the overdrive channels - especially the "more drive" - saturate better. Before the sound meshed into a thick flow - if it were water it would be coming out of a faucet - now it is more akin to a shower / before it was more like a boss pedal and now it is more like a tube-screamer. It does still remove some bass at low volumes when switching from clean to drive - but I guess that has its perks, especially if you (like me) use a SSH strat or a tele with a humbucker or p90 in the bridge - because the thicker humbucker or p90 then become level with the neck or 4 position from before.
     
  7. LiverpoolFC

    LiverpoolFC Tele-Meister

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    Billm posted pics of an extension cab he made for his Blues Jr. a while back. I saved it for inspiration. One day I plan to build one just like it for mine but using the Humboldt color scheme like you did. Maybe with your new cabinet building skillz as inspiration I can give it a go! But since I'm a newb and scared, I probably won't lol. But it sure would be awesome to have one.

    Check this linkage: http://home.comcast.net/~machrone/bjr/bjrextspeaker.htm
     
  8. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    Well, honestly, if I can do it... Through the first cab and then head, and then two more cabs (this is all my experience) I built I learned a few things, specifically valuable to a newbie, and since more experienced builders often neglect these very simple lessons I will impart these for you (by all means go and make a cab!):

    1) Do not use other/cheaper vynil - tolex is nicer to work with, it is thinner and it bends and stretches better - it is also tougher.

    1, b) If you use thicker vynil or leatherette, use foam padding, thin but some - that way all the imprecision that results from using inferior materials is concealed.

    2) Order new wood / plywood - I used old remnants from my basement - though eco-friendly it is a nightmare to get straight.

    3) Screws - have enough of them in proper sizes - also glue - I ran out today - mere luck had it that I was mostly done at the time.

    3) Use proper tools - even though our forefathers did everything with simpler tools it is just so much easier to use a table circular saw for straight cuts and proper measurements (mind those fingers! guitarist we all are).

    4) Baffle - grille mesh is harder than it looks, take time and precision and examine the net for as much trickery as possible)

    All the rest you know - like use templates from existing cabs, open closed back, speaker wire - it is very important not to mismatch polarity with an extension cab - if mismatched you will get counter-phase (is that a term?) anyway the sound from one speaker will negate the sound from the other...

    I know you did not ask for my advice - but these things are usually neglected in tutorials - I guess they are second nature to pros.
     
  9. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    Love Bilms work, but that is a whole -nother level of expertise :)
     
  10. LiverpoolFC

    LiverpoolFC Tele-Meister

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    I'm thinking about hiring you to make one for me, since you got it on lock now :)
     
  11. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    I would (though I would worry myself silly), though I suspect the postage would be an issue :)
     
  12. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    Not sure if anyone is interested, but after a few weeks with the amp I was sure this speaker is an upgrade, though it did not rip my jeans zipper when playing, until today!

    I removed what was sold to me as a RCA blackplate 12ax7 - and put in a simple Tung Sol, I also removed the 12at7w from the phase inverter - instead I had to make do with Fender's own 12ax7 - bottom line with all three positions now 12ax7 - two of which are tung sols I report that it was very hard to stop playin today - I am waiting for two red and one gold JJ 12ax7 tubes, not sure if they will be better, because the sound is now very nearly perfect - I mean with treble opened up and mid around 5 and bass around 3-4 (and presence open to just over half) the amp is just well strong but tender...

    Before, the lower mids were slightly over-bearing. The overdrive 1 and 2 are more than useable and much louder than before - to this end I use a volume pedal between power-amp in and preamp out...

    The reason I continue my reports is - that though you can hear about Blues Juniors with cannabis rex the HRDlx is rarely described. I just may put a youtube video on...
     
  13. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity

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    How much time at gig volume to you have on the CR ? Mine took about 20 to 30 hours to break in.
     
  14. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    I don't think its broken in yet - ... Not really been at gig volume much (I opened it past three on clean, perhaps two or three times...) - still sounds very sweet, though I have been told it sonds very good even when stiff and only gets better. Though I have been wondering what to expect when it breaks in, what happens to the sweet jangle above the treble - and what happens to the low mids? I have noticed that the ultra-bass thumpiness (I know, describing sound...) is not as exagerrated as one would expect judging by other comments... Will that change? - I am infact a fan of that deep thump, which is why I like sticking with the hRD.
     
  15. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    Tried a retube with all JJ-s today - made it very soft - kind of dark - especially with humbuckers - the strat and tele were ok though sparkless - the LP was just plain thick - if you like that this is fine - I like to use the tone pot so I need some sparkle to start with and dial it out where desired.

    I had a JJ gold label in V3 - made the amp break up very early (I have it biased a bit hot to begin with) - I need cleans so that did not work for me.


    I put the Tung Sols back - apart from V3 - left a JJ (red label) in there - back to sparkle :) I gues JJs with eminence are just dark enough - with a C Rex they were less then perfect - but they work nicely with my modded VC15*

    *(Laney VC15 with a Jensen c12q in a homemade pine box) it was a tad bright with single coils before - to the point of lacking low mid thickness - a JJ 12ax7 in V1 fixed that - I usually prefer a TAD 7025 in here - great bottom - but alas the old one humms and I have blown my tube budget for a while. - I still prefer my modded VC15 to the HRD, for now anyway - the HRD is still a bit stiff - great for roughing not as great for soft tunes - hoping the C - Rex will break in some more)
     
  16. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    Update - the C-rex is now broken in, and I aint never taking her out of my HRD! Beautiful! I recently changed the 6l6 with JJ 6v6s (rebiased, but it turned out I rebiased right back to where the trimmer was set with the 6l6s - instead of 74 it is now 42).

    I prefer 6v6s because the amp seems clearer, there is not a huge difference, if I didn't compare immediately I wouldn't be sure. But there was mud there in the low mids that I never knew was there, and now it's not. Could just be that the 6v6S are better matched. Who knows - bottom line I prefer the 6v6 - until they blow or something - then I still have an additional pair of 6l6 on hand. There is no perceptible change in volume - which is interesting... Though perhaps if I dimed the amp I would see a lower headroom (as it is it seems even higher at first glance which is counter intuitive - I wonder what I did wrong - I didn't touch the knobs...)

    OH BTW - though I am sure you all know this already, just in case someone comes accross this post, that doesen't - you are not supposed to freely change 6l6 with 6v6 - it is specifically 6v6S by JJ that can handle the plate voltage and heat for a direct repelacement - to my knowledge these are the only valves that do this... So be careful not to fry your amps!

    Bottom line -

    Hot rod deluxe (USA made model, not sure it makes a difference) with jj 6v6s and sovtek 12ax7 in v1 jj 12ax7 in v2 and tad premium 12ax7 in v3 + cannabis rex pretty much keeps me content enough not to have bought a super-sonic 60 recently, fought off the GAS (kinda sorry I did, but I think I'll live)
     
  17. redstringuitar

    redstringuitar Poster Extraordinaire

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    Wow, nice job!

    I did wonder if you had JJ preamp tubes in on reading the "meh" in your OP and almost shouted "TUNG SOLS!!" at the screen. They just seem to get along with the smooth edges of the Rex.
     
  18. SamClemons

    SamClemons Poster Extraordinaire

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    I just picked up a month old Hot Rod Deluxe III in new condition (traded a vintage Fender amp, owner was not happy with HRD). Case rattles/buzzes something awful with no apparent problem other that that is just the way it is. Anyone else experience this? I am going to try tightening up, but the main problem is obviously the back panel vibrating.
     
  19. jakaj

    jakaj Tele-Meister

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    Thank you, I am enjoying the visual appeal of it as well - yes the jj pream valvs were not cutting it. I had tung sols in, and you're right, they are an improvemetn to be sure. But there was a swelling in the lower mids - mad the a and e strings more muffled in comparison to the clear upper strings (really clear!) - the sovteks where somewhat a surprise in that respect (for some reason I just assumed they are bad)- I would have had all three sovteks, but for a nasty hum they produced, I liked the tone so much I had them in in spite of the hum for a paractice, but it was too much to bare, not when playing, when trying to discuss the practice... So the combo I described just works - I am a big fan of TADs especially the upper price range, but, can't afford them in all my amps. I have to correct one thing, the JJ in v2 is in fact a tung sol (another amp - namely laney VC30 has a jj inthere, just to thicken up the drive channel) - it was a mis-type...
    So yes I aggreee with your assesment :)
     
  20. soulman969

    soulman969 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    From the looks of it you did a superb job with the refit and restoration. I'm another of those guys who was having exactly the same issues as you were with the stock speaker in my Roland BC 60 but once I replaced it with the CRex and got it broken in it's been incredible. Emi real rang the bell with this speaker.
     
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