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Where does the magic come in the build?

Discussion in 'Shock Brother's DIY Amps' started by theprofessor, Mar 5, 2019.

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  1. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I saw this video from Emerald City Guitars on YouTube, and the fellow's comments between 0:43 and 1:13 about what he typically sees in tweed 5e3 clones got me wondering what exactly he means. He seems to suggest that many simply sound about the same and that most fall short of what he hears with the original 5e3s (he mentions that they typically "cut" more).

    So what do you think he means by the comments that imply that many tweed 5e3 clones are the same ol' same ol'? They use the same kinds of inferior parts? They are often messily done? Because it seems to me that if you use good/accurate parts and if your workmanship is good and if you simply follow the schematic (with adjustment for modern voltages and grounding), you'll likely end up with something quite like the 5e3s when they came off the line in the 50's, and that the primary difference between a contemporary clone and an old 5e3 is the way the parts have aged and the components have drifted over time. It also seems to me that the only way to get a new 5e3 to sound like an old one is not only to use clones of, say, output transformers produced then, but also to change the circuit slightly in some places so that it mimics the behavior of an old amp with old parts (if that's even possible).

    I am not commenting on the particular amp under consideration in the video (though I'm not so sure that it really behaves like a 50's 5e3, since it's loaded with a Celestion Blue alnico); I'm simply posing the question: If you use all the "right" parts and do a neat job and get the voltages, tubes, and speaker right, is there still some magic ingredient that some folks know how to add to their 5e3 clones and others don't?

     
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  2. D'tar

    D'tar Friend of Leo's

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    If I had hair like that.... My tweed deluxe would sound that good!

    Seriously though..

    That room, That mic, that "blue", that player. It's gonna sound good. I'm finding (still) that I don't want the amp cranked to get the best sounds!

    Magic components and techniques elude me!
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
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  3. King Fan

    King Fan Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Really good questions, Prof. Isn't the speaker the simplest and sonically biggest difference between a clone and a genuine intact old amp?

    I'm down with your idea of getting the voltages, current, circuit, and NOS tubes all pretty close. I even try to use CC resistors in a few spots, and high-quality caps of specific types.

    But by that point I feel I may be starting to chase fairy dust -- I do that just for fun and in case it makes a tiny difference.

    Most of what this guy says hits me as pure cork-sniffing. Blind listening tests are so rare and so hard to set up 'evenly' that we are at the mercy of our hopes, wishes, and response to marketing hype. The whole field of behavioral economics has shown the massive effects of things like confirmation bias, snob appeal, price=quality, popular opinion, and the need for experts to pontificate and us to listen to them....

    That's all before the psycho-acoustics of 'loud sounds better' and 'mic-ing is everything.' Or the guy who 'just' adds a $300 reverb pedal and some compression in the I/O and...

    And most of all, as we all know, if you gave Mark Knopfler or Bill Frisell a Squier and beat Frontman 25 from the nearest pawn shop they'd melt your mind with tone and technique.... :D

    Still, as I've said, my recent 5e3 built 99% the same as my former 5e3 'just sounds better.' I wrote a post once about all the small differences. Oh, yeah, that reminds me, the new one is in a much better cab. Circle back to cab and speaker; loop the tape at this point.... :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
  4. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    there are certain frequencies that move forward into the human range of hearing and if you are a singer, or a guitar player and can stay with in that range you will be heard as those frequencies cut through over top of the rest of the sound , I think its about 32K and its harmonic or resonant frequencies ( its been about 40 years since I studied this) , Appearently ( and this is theoretical, that these frequencies are what we hear in uteral , so they cut through naturally in human hearing)

    there was a canadian singer Alannah Myles , who was working and her vocal mike failed mid performance she was able to sing above the band staying in that range with out the PA for that reason,
    Like I said this is theoretical , But we were taught about this this when I took audio engineering courses many years back

     
  5. Snfoilhat

    Snfoilhat Tele-Afflicted

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    How do you distinguish your product in a marketplace where every item is openly described as a "clone" of the same original?

    BS personal testimonies of unquantifiable ephemera said with total unselfconcious conviction. The less the salesperson knows, the less information will interfere with the purity of the narrative :rolleyes:
     
  6. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

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    I've spent a lot of time and money in my life buying and selling different bits of guitar gear. I also enjoy documenting gear and doing comparisons to try and cut through some of the BS.

    I spent some time with a 70's silverface Bandmaster Reverb, but other than that have never played a highly valued vintage amp or guitar. I have owned some pretty nice Dr. Z and Fuchs amps in the past. My current stable are all amps that I've built myself.

    My initial baseline response would be that to a point nearly everything makes some difference, but it is often very small. You have big changes like swapping out pickups or speakers. Medium changes in tube rolling or transformers. Smaller changes like capacitors or cables. Snake oil certainly exists. Overlooked variables that have a huge impact are things like the room you're in or the recording setup capturing the sound. Obviously the player is a massive variable.

    You can get 95% of the way there with big changes. 5E3 or 5F6A? P12R or Greenback? Lip stick single coil vs P90? Then you definitely have diminishing returns.

    I think some people get really fired up about that last 5%. In that last 5% it gets very easy to begin to bleed beyond objective differences and start to factor subjective factors. The fact is that we all listen to guitar tones with a brain connected to those ears. Our brains have a tremendous effect on what we hear. For example, consider the guy in the video. Consider the context his brain is in while making that video. I'm making a lot of assumptions and intend no ill will.

    - He probably loves vintage and high end gear.
    - He probably sells vintage and high end gear.
    - I'd guess he probably doesn't build amps.
    - He probably had a conversation with the builder that inspired him.
    - The aesthetic of the amp inspires him (hand built, made in the USA, accurate to the original)
    - His store bought some or made some kind of deal to sell them for the builder (confirmation bias, doesn't want to be foolish for spending $)
    - He probably hasn't done a double blind audio test comparing all the amps he mentions he is drawing from in making this comparison.

    This is a lot of pretty complex stuff going on in his head that affects his perception of how the amp 'sounds' that really has nothing to do with the objective reality of how the amp sounds.

    ```

    So applying this to his exact statements, I think it kind of falls apart.

    "These amps cut through" - Meaning what? They have a certain EQ? Manipulating EQ isn't really that hard or unique. Maybe does it have something to do with how the compression and distortion works? The way the harmonics are generated (even order vs odd order)?

    "Level of compression they hit, it just softens it" - Again, pretty vague. What does this mean? An old speaker may certainly have a softness as it ages.

    "The 'real' Tweed stuff" - Referring to what? Vintage amps often vary quite a bit from model to model. Component tolerances were probably worse back in the 1950's than they are today. If you were to line up 100 real 1959 Bassmans I'd bet money that some would be great while others would be crap while a select few would be 'magic'. I'd also bet that with unlimited time, money, and effort we could study these amps and figure out what makes them tick.

    ```

    Lastly I want to be clear, I'm not putting this guy on blast for selling snake oil. I actually think the subjective stuff is really important. If that's what inspires you and pushes you to play guitar or write music or whatever - great. Knock your socks off. How an amp makes you feel is really important.

    That's why if you're building amps to sell, you need to do more than just build a great amp. You need to build a brand. A dream. A story. Sell that feeling. Connect people with nostalgia or hope or happiness.

    Just don't be confused that there is some magic happening in the circuit under the hood.
     
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  7. FenderLover

    FenderLover Poster Extraordinaire

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    In an nutshell, no, there is no magic. It's easy to screw something up, but nothing will put a build over the top unless certain bias is introduced (so-and-so said this...that was used by a Celebrity X...this has new snake oil caps...etc.)

    I believe that most of it is just conjecture. Every little thing does make a difference, but not necessarily a difference that matters. After all, no one can possible know what a brand new 60 year old amp sounds like, and even then there were differences in minor respects. Sometimes the benchmark is virtual, but it mostly doesn't matter. One should only want to play an amp that sounds good to them.

    Reminds me of listening to people describe how their Martin sounds compared to Brand X. One chap sounded particularly awful because he was pick just in front of the bridge (which I hate) while his buddy picked over the sound hole (which I prefer). How can they decide what sounds 'best' when the same guitar is played so differently?
     
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  8. FenderLover

    FenderLover Poster Extraordinaire

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    Lemme try again...
    Do you think the housewives of southern California knew of a secret sauce when they assembled these things 60 years ago? They weren't trained in electronics, just assembly. They only knew these three wire went here, those go there...

    The monkey-see-monkey-do part of building these things has been done to death, and with what we know now the benchmark for good design/construction is very well a little higher than it was then.
     
  9. Sean Mac

    Sean Mac Tele-Meister

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    I like Magic Pixie Flux mixed with Unicorn Tears for my amp building.

    As long as you're careful about the Moon Phase Factor this works well.

    YMMV (your magic may vary)

    :rolleyes:
     
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  10. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like every single one of the responses I've read so far. Thank you all for pitching in. FenderLover's last response is in part why I posed the question, and I share the assumption that there is no magic (excepting possibly that guy's hair, as D'tar said). Kley's in-depth analysis and especially the seven or so bullet points seem to me spot-on as to a good description of the situation in this case. It's not in any way to belittle the salesperson or the store. But some people state things like this with apparently strong conviction that are thin on detail, and when they do, I often think to myself, "Is there something I'm missing here? Does s/he know something I don't know?" Thus the thread. I assume the answer is mostly (but not entirely) "no," but heck, maybe there is a secret sauce! I am no Colonel Sanders!
     
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  11. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like the way you say stuff.
     
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  12. muscmp

    muscmp Tele-Afflicted

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    yea, a lot of marketing hype but that is probably his job.

    humbuckers won't sound good with it??!! lumping all tweeds into one category?! it sounds like a great amp but i'm not too fond of making any decisions based upon a video. needs to get my hands on it!(stolen from a smokin joe kubek song)

    i'm sure that you prof, as well as king fan, sac dave and others have built just as good sounding, looking and cleanly built amps as this one. leo would use whatever parts supplier could give him a good deal whereas we most likely use higher quality components including speakers that have changed considerably from the ones leo used.

    we can't but it would be interesting to play a tweed deluxe in 1958 right off the assembly line and a modern one made by one of us or another contemporary version. sherman, set the wayback machine!

    play music!
     
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  13. Snfoilhat

    Snfoilhat Tele-Afflicted

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    :lol:
    I'm just coming down from writing an essay pitching a new graduate research project and am feeling excessive.

    I want to build a tweed amp to take the edge off
     
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  14. mpassell

    mpassell TDPRI Member

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    I have a 5E3 clone from Michael Clark --his Beaufort special, made with new parts (at the time 2006) instead of NOS tubes etc. I also have a 1957 5E3. I put them side by side at a gig with my Radial Switchbone switcher, and asked my bandmates to tell me the difference. I couldn't tell, and they couldn't either. Once the speaker is broken in I suspect an accurate reproduction of the circuit in the same style cabinet will sound the same for all practical purposes.
     
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  15. Phrygian77

    Phrygian77 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    "Whenever I check out tweed clones, I'm prepared to be underwhelmed."

    _68182345_corkscrew-sniffer.jpg
     
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  16. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    So far, I think there are several potential answers for where the magic happens:
    • In the circuit itself. We should credit a lot of the special sounds of Fender circuits to AT&T and Western Electric designs that he borrowed from liberally.
    • The fingers of the player. As @King Fan mentioned above, that's not really a matter of debate.
    • In the belief that your amp sounds great. In your ears, in your eyes, and in your mind.
    • In the hair (Thanks, @D'tar , and here's to wishing you had hair like that!).
    • And to be somewhat sappy: on TDPRI, because that's where we learn to build them!
    As @Sean Mac said, "Your magic may vary."

    What I think is truly amazing is that someone who has basically just learned to solder can, with the help of some expert Internet oversight, make a magnificent-sounding amp that is built to last. How great must these circuits be to serve us all so well and so differently!
     
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  17. robrob

    robrob Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Marketing.
     
  18. mjcyates

    mjcyates Tele-Meister

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    If we all build 5e3's using Rob's layout, using commonly used quality components and we take care to make sure everything is done right, chances are they are all going to sound about the same (assuming same speakers, tubes, transformers etc.). The amp in the video sounds great. But so did the one that I built. Don't think there is any real magic to be found here. Good circuit +quality components + good construction technique = rocking amp.
     
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  19. King Fan

    King Fan Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Heh, knowing you I can be pretty sure it won't just be the same ol', same ol'.... :D
     
  20. max_twang

    max_twang Tele-Afflicted

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    He's a salesman. He's selling. :rolleyes:
     
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