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Thread: Why didn't Ampeg amps become more popular?

  1. #36
    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    And Silvertone? They were cheap to buy, and sold in every Sears store as well as from their catalog nationwide.
    I dunno how it was in Michigan & nearby, but there was a period around here when repair shops didn't take Silvertones seriously. If it wasn't an easy fix, tadadump tadadump tadadump dump dump. Same for Airlines, Dano's & similar. I'm afraid a lot of now prized Jensen speakers went that way too. It took until the early 90's for that to change, meanwhile the landfills loaded up with broken cheap but charming amps. Now it's "fix at any cost" in most cases, and the most humble of amps often trade for $300 - 400 - 500(!).
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  2. #37
    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Lansing, Michigan, USA
    It has always been that way. Junk toys we had in the 1950s are now collectors items. Or unopened vinyl records. Or...or...
    Drewline likes this.
    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

  3. #38
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Chicago, USA
    Leo, I think part of the reason that service people were so eager to scrap Silvertones and similar Dano and Valco amps was because they were inexpensive amps that were built with true PTP construction, and those particular amps used a lot of vertical stacking of parts in a tight space. My Twin Twelve chassis is long and narrow, and it seems rather deep compared to a Fender when I'm working on it. I feel like I'm trying to do knitting while sticking my arms into a hole.

    The labor cost for rewiring a Twin Twelve would be huge. On an amp like that just about any fix becomes expensive in time charges. Compare that to the ease of working on a Fender eyelet board in it's wide open spaces and it's easy to see why things happened the way they did ... those eyelet boards and wide open Fender chassis are a dream to work on. Some of the reasons that Fenders came to rule the market are because they sounded good, they were well built and easy to service. Of course I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

    One of the reasons I'm so fond of old electronic gear is because it can be serviced to last a lifetime, rather than being set out on the curb on garbage day like today's consumer electronics. The problem is that back in the day the cheap amps like the Dano and Valco products weren't intended to last a lifetime. They were just the disposable electronics of their day.

    I ended up doing a dumpster dive of sorts to get my Twin Twelve. I was volunteering at a senior center, helping to clean up after a broken radiator flooded the gym. I found that Silvertone head sitting on a shelf in the boiler room, caked with bits of plaster and plaster dust. As we were mopping up the facility's director decided it was in the way and going into the garbage ... it had been there for years and nobody wanted it. So I took it home that day. It ended up having a loose volume knob on the front panel and a bad 6L6. Other than that it was just fine.

    Back in the day many people would scrap cheap amps when they only needed to be retubed. If that amp had been given the proper TLC it would have been put back into service at a minimal cost.
    pdf64 likes this.
    "Stand back, I'm holding a calculator." - chinrest

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  4. #39
    Supporting Member
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    Feb 2007
    Seattle WA
    I would like to officially semi-retract what I said. I stopped in at my local vintage guitar store and was amazed at how many vintage Ampeg amps they had on the floor. Though it did not measure up to the amazing assortment of vintage Fender amps. There were even a few vintage Gibson amps.
    Justin Thomas likes this.

  5. #40
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Carlsbad, CA and Kona, HI
    I remember putting six 1484 chassis in a dumpster. They didn’t have a 70’s-80s sound, we’re cheap, and weren’t worth putting tubes in... much less fixing. We would use the speakers in home made wedge monitors until they blew. VOXs were the same way... especially the Super Beatles. AC30s always had some value, but anything else was just landfill. I tossed a lot of VOX stuff. Even Magnatones were just Goodwill Store amps.
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  6. #41
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    May 2007
    pacific north west
    Quote Originally Posted by olddawg View Post
    Even Magnatones were just Goodwill Store amps.
    I've actually been impressed with some of the Magnatone designs. Though I've never had the opportunity to play through or work on one. So I can't say if they were cheaply constructed or how they actually sounded, but from a design perspective, looking at schematics, I saw many of their circuits as "ideas" and out of the box as well as being reasonably eloquent. Since they're not coveted like some other brands I can only assume they weren't hitting the mark with the gen pop. But I've always been intrigued.
    "So I acquired it for the purpose of fixing it up - in case I run out of things to do with the rest of my life..." tubeswell

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  7. #42
    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    May 2010
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    I overhauled a Magnatone for a customer a while back. I forget the model, but it was a stereo amp with a true stereo tremolo that was very cool. The thing sounded really wide with the tremolo engaged.

    Edit: Ooh! I found it. It was a 280 like the brown one here.
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  8. #43
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Chicago, USA
    I recently noticed a Magnatone like that one sitting on the bandstand on one of the late night TV talk shows. I don't remember whose talk show it was, I was just channel surfing and noticed that someone had an old Magnatone, which I thought was cool. Their vibratos were good. I think they're being reissued now.
    "Stand back, I'm holding a calculator." - chinrest

    "I happen to have an original 1955 Stratocaster! The neck and body have been replaced with top quality Warmoth parts, I upgraded the hardware and put in custom, hand wound pickups. It's fabulous. There's nothing like that vintage tone or owning an original." - Chuck H

  9. #44
    Old Timer J M Fahey's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    In fact the very successful and respected JC120 stereo chorus thingie series is "a Solid State version of Magnatone".
    Exact same concept: a clean "Jazzy" amp with true stereo vibrato (not tremolo but the true phase shifting type) which was complex to make with tubes and specially with hard to setup varistors used as modulators, but easy peasy with FETs (the original JC were based on them) and Chorus-in-a-box ICs.

    The key component to the Magnatone design was the varistor. At minimum, the design required three triode sections and for the more advanced, six triode sections were required.
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  10. #45
    Old Timer
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    Jun 2006
    Norristown state hospital
    Wasn't it because Ampeg gave the Stones the stuff for free, while Hiwatt wanted them to pay for them?
    You know how cheap Mick was/is.

    Having owned a VT40, they are killer amps. Crank it and it has that wonderful tubes on fire/melting sound like "Can't you hear me knockin"

    Some of the very early Ampegs just seemed cheap in comparison to Fenders of the early 60's.
    Crappy wood cabinets and flimsy chassis. Silvertone would be a good comparison.

    And don't get me started on the oddball tubes.

    I have like one of each of the compactrons, for testing only since they're pretty microphonic.

  11. #46
    Supporting Member Drewline's Avatar
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    Feb 2012
    What a great thread. I remember Ampeg was all the rage for a while growing up in New York City. My Father used to fix them for all the time in the mid 60's. When I was 16 I decided I needed a bigger amp than my Gretsch 6156 Playboy & foolishly bought a Sound X505R instead of a BF Pro Reverb. The Sound amps were local and quite impressive to us dumb high school kids. Anyways all these years later I still have the Gretsch & the Sound as well as the Pro Reverb I should have gotten. The list just goes on from there.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails ampsa.jpg  
    Last edited by Drewline; 11-02-2017 at 10:02 PM.

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