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

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    Why didn't Ampeg amps become more popular?

    I am currently reading the Ampeg book. It says that Ampeg grew tremendously during the 60's. They go to the point where they were 9 months backlogged and had to move their factory to step up production. I have not finished the book but why did Ampeg drop off in popularity? Other than the SVT, you don't see a lot of vintage Ampeg amps around.

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    Having read that book til it literally fell apart in my hands...

    I think there are a few factors at work. Ampeg was usually seen as the "East Coast Fender." And, later in the paragraph where you see that 9-month backlog, you also see a mention that other companies were happy to fill the order: Fender, Marshall, Standel, Acoustic, or others. Customers who needed an amp weren't willing to wait - they're WORKING musicians - no amp, no income. So a lot of those backlog orders were canceled.

    Ampeg was pretty slow to get on the train for current guitar sounds. Not until the early 70s did they finally make an amp with switchable distortion. The founder Mr. Hull HATED distortion. No problem with that, but he never accepted that rock was there to stay, and it was too late. And even when they did catch up, the sound they offered was unique, but just not "popular." Having cranked a VT-40 to eleven, it's a BEAUTIFUL sound!!!

    I think the guys who like them tend to buy them and keep them. I've personally owned 6 vintage Ampegs, all made from 62-72. A Reverberocket, 2 Reverberocket IIs, a 66 Jet which never was loud enough & is still on my fixit list, a 68 Rocket II (but a Reverberocket II at heart) & a GU-12. My favorite was my GU-12 til my friend blew the OT, and I VERY regrettably gutted it without thinking. I still have the cabinet... My nicer Reverberocket II I sold to a jazzing buddy, who still gigs it with his archtop. It was a great sound, but as I progressed, it wasn't MY sound...

    Another problem with Ampegs is the @#$%ing TUBES. Yes, they tend to last a while and most of my Ampegs did come with original tubes or NOS replacements, but I'd buy busted Ampegs cheap cuz it was less for the busted amp than a pair of 7591As. And where in the hell you gonna get a 6BK11 for my Jet? I managed to score some 6C10s, but that only fixed the tremolo, and even those are $100 each IF you can find them. 7027s, 7199s, 7591As, and even the cheap oddballs (6CG7, etc) nobody offers testing on. It's a bitch. Yeah, you can rewire the sockets, but the sound DOES change.

    I really do love these amps, and they had a real commitment to quality, and didn't just copy Fender or Marshall circuits. They used cathdyje & paraphase inverters LONG after the other Big Names dropped them. They never issued an amp with a less-than-12" speaker until the SVT, and that wasn't exactly a cost-cutting measure, was it?

    Justin
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    Old Timer J M Fahey's Avatar
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    For Bass, they still are very popular.
    SVT is the flagship and tows all others which also sell quite well.
    Now their large guitar amps were very good sounding, heavy, incredibly well built (V4, VT22, VT40, etc.) but I guess very expensive, in any case Fender swept the market by storm.
    And they covered *every* niche hole, from Champ to Dual Showman with JBL and everything in between.
    Juan Manuel Fahey

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    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Ampeg used great tubes. it isn't their fault that 50 years later they are not common types. I have a B18X, and the pair of 7027 in it is a official matched pair from RCA. I walked into my local parts store, and asked for a MP set of 7027. He walked to the shelf, picked a pair up and brought it to the counter. Right on the box: 7027A MP. Triple triodes like the 6K11 were state of the art then.
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    Edit: my apologies to Enzo. Well then. Seems AES & Tube Depot both have 7027s in stock... I guess I gave up looking a while ago & a stash surfaced. At the same time, $250 for power tubes for an amp that cost not much more, possibly, would be a deterrent. Still no luck on 6BK11s.

    I don't mean to say they're not great tubes. But they are hard to come by... and the 6BK11 is particularly elusive. I have a 6K11 & a 6AV11 & a couple 6U10s - not the same. I also have managed to collect 4 pairs of 7591s over the years. Maybe the newest offerings are closer to original spec, but for quite some time new production were just a 6L6GC with a different basing. To this day, in my 15 years of tube shopping, I have yet to see a new old stock 7027 for sale... usually they're sporting the old faithful Sovtek 5881WXT.

    Yes, they're great tubes. But damn, when they go... to retube my Jet (J12-D) would cost me $350, (2x7591 & 2x6BK11) <IF> I could find NOS 6C10s. I got mine for $20 each about 10 years ago, only hoping to someday come across a Super Champ that needed some... I actually bought them from a store that had sold Super Champs new, but the owner said he hadn't seen one come in for years, so he let me buy the tubes. If there were some 6BK11s floating about, I don't want to imagine the price - probably up there with Mullard EL34s & ECC83s.

    Justin
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    "When receiving a shock I emit a strange loud high pitched girlish squeak." - Alex R -
    "All I ever managed to do with that amp was... kill small rodents within a 50 yard radius of my practice building." - Tone Meister -

  6. #6
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    I like Ampeg amps, being a long time SVT user. In the 70s I was playing bass through the big SS Acoustic folded horn rigs and when the SVT came out Ampeg ate Acoustic's lunch. Ampeg bass amps have been well revered from the outset. Everything they made for bass was highly regarded, from the little fliptops that defined the Motown sound and the 70's "Cop Show" bass tone, all of the way up to the SVT.

    (It's sort of funny that Ampeg became famous for their bass amps, while Fender became famous for their guitar amps and not for bass amps, the "Bassman" moniker notwithstanding.)

    Ampeg's guitar amps never seemed to be as highly regarded by players as their bass amps. Yes, they were well made and yes, they produce some great tone, but they never quite sounded like Fenders or Marshalls, and IMO the Ampeg guitar amp sound was never all that sought after. I say this just having re-watched Woodstock, Gimme Shelter and another Stones on the road in the 70s movie (can't remember the name). I've come to the conclusion that I'm not really a fan of the Stones' live tone during the Ampeg period. Just my opinion, of course. But it seems that guitarists as a group seem to love the Fender Tweed tones, the Fender BF/SF tones, and the Marshall tones. Those 3 tones are iconic. Today people talk about Tweed tone, BF/SF tone and Marshall tone, but for some reason nobody ever talks about "Ampeg tone" in the context of iconic guitar tone.

    Then there's the serviceability problem. Unlike Fender and Marshall, which still have their most of their main tube types in production (6L6 and EL34), I think the popularity of Ampegs suffered from the demise of the 7027. Their use of the triple triodes didn't help. More on that later.

    Back in the day when 7027 were widely available nobody was ever concerned about parts availability, but when 7027 got expensive and hard to find, I think that hurt peoples' perceptions of Ampegs as being amps that used expensive oddball tubes and their desirability as vintage amps went into the toilet. Fenders and Marshalls were easier to re-tube, and they sounded great, so not all that many people sought out the Ampegs. The classic Fenders and Marshalls were easily serviceable and people wanted them. A lot of people didn't want to fuss with Ampegs when their tubes became expensive, or when they had to pay someone to do a tube conversion on them. Being well informed and fearless with soldering irons, we're an atypical group -- most of us here wouldn't hesitate to address that problem, so we tend not to think of it. But the non-techie people and players seemed to avoid Ampegs because of it. I think that hurt Ampegs in the classic gear market.

    I'm not sure that I'd say that the popularity of Ampegs suffered because they didn't create additional distortion circuits in their designs. During the relevant time period Fender never really did that to any degree of success, nor did Marshal. F&M got their iconic tones by designing clean amps, just like Ampeg did, and by enthusiastic musicians who turned the amps up LOUD. When the 70s came along and distortion became popular, and Fender eventually got around to adding distortion circuits to their amps, nobody liked them. If we're going to give credit to anyone for the first truly useful add-on distortion circuits in an amp, I'd have to give credit to Randall Smith, not Fender or Marshall. I don't think the absense of distoriton circuits is what hurt Ampeg.

    What Ampeg book is it that you're reading? IIRC it may have been penned by a forum member.
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  7. #7
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    A little hijack about those mini triple triodes, like the 6k11 and the Compactrons --

    Long Version:

    Yeah, they were "state of the art", but they only became state of the art at the end of the era that made them relevant. They were too little too late.

    By the time that the space-saving triple-triodes had been introduced it was already evident that cramming multiple devices into a single glass envelope wasn't going to provide enough savings in real estate for tubes to remain competitive in the market where they had to compete with SS gear in circuit designs that were becoming ever more complex. IMO the multi-package vacuum tube devices that were introduced in the 60s-70s were the tube designers' dying gasp at trying to put off the inevitable. Everyone knew that the Compactrons, as space saving as they were, were not a viable competitor to SS gear which was so much more compact.

    Unfortunately, a lot of those Compactron type tubes just arrived late to the party. As far as guitar amps go, the world according to Fender and Marshall had already standardized on the miniature noval high-mu twin triodes as the ultimate space saver, compared to their larger octal predecessors. The majority of the guitar world was designed around the 12A?7 preamp tubes.

    In the 60s Ampeg was the only major guitar amp company to use the 6BK11, and while that worked for them at the time, that turned out to be something that worked against them years later in terms of vintage amp desirability. The 6BK11 is in very short supply today and it is expensive. It's cost works against the desirability of those Ampeg circuits.

    In the late 70s Fender made the same mistake. To save space they put the Sylvania 6C10 high-mu triple triode into their most complicated, space-constrained amps like the Super Twin Reverb (STR). Just like the 6BK11, the 6C10 is no longer widely available, it's shortness of supply has made it expensive, and it's given users yet another reason to hate an amp that was never all that popular in the first place.

    I can't really fault Ampeg for making the 6BK11 decision in the 1960s, but I can certainly fault Fender for making such a bonehead decision with the 6C10 in the late 70s. By the late 70s the writing was already on the wall -- in the mid-70s TV sets were already hybrid designs, using Compactrons in combination with transistors and early integrated circuits. At that point the Compactrons were already regarded as a legacy kludge solution which became totally obsolete only a few years later. By the mid 80s they were history.

    I'll stick my neck out by saying that the high-mu triple-triodes weren't a bad idea when Ampeg decided to use them in the 60s, but they had to be the absolute worst idea that Fender ever came up with when Fender decided to use them in the late 70s. In the late 70s the 6C10 Compactron was already approaching obsolescence, and Fender did the amps like the Super Twin Reverb a disservice by using an oddball Compactron tube in it. Realistically speaking, the triple-triode doesn't save that much space over a pair of dual-triodes, and at $50-$100 each for a NOS replacement, they ruin the desirability of an otherwise fine amp.

    When my STR finally needs to have it's 6C10 replaced, I've decided that I'm going to just punch a hole in the chassis and modify the amp to use a pair of twin-triodes instead. I don't care that I'll be modding an otherwise original Fender amp from the 70s -- it's not as if the STR is collectible to the point that any reasonable person would grumble about the 6C10 being designed out of the amp. In the context of today's parts availability I think most people would actually prefer two twin triodes.

    Short Version:

    Compactrons suck.
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    Or just ping me...
    If I haven't fixed that Jet by then, I'll let you have the whole amp with 2 (TWO!) 6C10s in it!

    Justin
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    The Rivera-era Super Champ was even later - I think 1982. Fender must have had a good line on 6C10 tubes to still be using them at that time.

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    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    > Or just ping me...

    Deal!
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    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Ampeg's popularity was first a regional thing. Headquartered in New Jersey, they were first popular in the Northeast US. Similar to the way Traynors could easily be found in the Detroit-Albany-Toronto triangle in their early years. Then, going in & out of business for a while, including a brief move to Japan, by early 1990's St Louis Music finally picked up the company, started by making good SVT's, and had national distribution. St Louis persevered by issuing smaller amps that looked like Ampeg's 60's models but were different, and some of them quite good. For instance, their Super Jet was essentially a 1x12 combo with a copy of a Marshall 50 watt amp powering it, a helluva good amp in a cheap(!) and very portable package. Since LOUD took over St Louis @ 2005 they have let both Ampeg & Crate to flounder. I don't see many in stores. How or why this has come to be is beyond my understanding, both brands have proven their quality and popularity in the past (despite sniping by a certain "amp gooroo.")

    Compactrons - my only guess is Ampeg was offered a knock-down deal on a batch of zillions of them once their manufacturers realized they had a white elephant stuck in their warehouses.

    Rolling Stones - the legend has it that the Stones arrived in the US for their 1969 tour, but their gear was being held up by customs for very close inspection. After all those rock bands always stashed dope in their equipment, right? With an appearance at Madison Square Garden imminent, somebody who knew somebody got Ampeg to lend the Stones a stage full of SVT and V-9 amps. V-9 the guitar equivalent of SVT, I've only seen one in my life and Steve Morse was playing it. The Stones appreciated the loan, and the sound of their Ampeg gear, and you can hear it obviously on albums from Exile on Main Street right thru Some Girls. IMHO the V2 and VT40 are the ones to go for if you're trying to get that Stones tone.

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    Hey Leo,

    I think the only one that existed at the time of that Stones tour was the SVT. Th ere ere only a few heads in development, and they sent the Ampeg tech out on the road with the amps. This was also while they were till using 6146s, and that Stones tour is what helped convince them to use 6550s... They used them for everything, just plugged into a variety of cabinets. The V-9 was a mid-70s thing, and I'd love to get my hands on one. Also, the "official" story is that their amps were damaged when they were plugged into the wrong voltage. The whole fiasco was chronicled in the book mentioned in the first post...

    That said, I find your explanation for the missing gear a LOT more plausible!

    For those with more sensitive ears, the little GU-12 was a mighty fine contender for Stones sound IMHO. Granted, I've cranked a VT-40 to 11, too... But the GU-12 had trem!

    Another thought: in the mid-70s, maybe it was insightful for Ampeg to stick with their regular output sections instead of the wild (and wonderful) ones like the Fender 400PS had... granted, you still risk blowing an SVT cab if you only plug in one cabinet. But at least you weren't stuck with only 1/3 or 1/2 power.

    Justin
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    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    The V-9 is an SVT power amp chassis with a guitar preamp up top. I used to have one, but sold it to a friend here in town.
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    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Didn't know about the V-9. I want one.

    Truth be told, I've used my SVT-II Pros in the rolling rack for guitar on many multiple occasions. My 4-string rig drives a stack of from 1 to 4 EVM-15L/TL606, depending on the gig. Those speakers kick ass for guitar, and when driven by SVT they absolutely tame the animal in even the most hard hitting drummer.
    Last edited by bob p; 10-29-2017 at 02:17 AM.
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    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

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    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    The V-9 is an SVT power amp chassis with a guitar preamp up top. I used to have one, but sold it to a friend here in town.
    That sounds like an idea who's time has come for the metal guys. Put a modern, uber gain preamp behind an SVT power amp and low B away Of course you could do that with any number of SS power amps to similar affect, but that's not the point
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    My first REAL experience with a bass amp was with an SVT. I'd heard Peaveys, Hartkes, GKs, Acoustic, Fender - all those super-power SS combos & stacks... But when my friend called me asking if he should get this 300W 1972 Ampeg with an 8x10" I told him to go check it out and bring me.

    We show up at a warehouse with my buddy's Beatle Bass copy with a big fat humbucker, turn that amp to 6 or so, end of story. There has been no turning back for me. Look, I play Rock & Punk. There is NO substitute for that amp, and no matter how much power, no matter how "nice" the speakers (cuz I'm with Juan - more efficient & lighter is the way to go), no matter anything else: fat tube amp growl, playable at many levels, anything else is just a cheap imitation of that first SVT Experience.

    For me, there is no return to a SS bass amp. My Bassmans with my 2x15" is just dandy, though I'd feel safer with some more power handling...

    Justin

    Edit: my 2nd experience with a "real" bass amp was a 62 B-15N. I'm spoiled.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Our bassist had an Acoustic 360, which was the happening amp for a time. Then the SVT and a pair of 8x10 cabs showed up, and took over the world. The 8x10 is right there right now, instant response.

    I did like the MOSFET amps like the Trace Elliot. The sound was so smooth and effortless.
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  19. #19
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    Our bassist had an Acoustic 360, which was the happening amp for a time. Then the SVT and a pair of 8x10 cabs showed up, and took over the world. The 8x10 is right there right now, instant response.
    Yeah that's what I meant previously when I said that Acoustic ruled until Ampeg came along and ate their lunch. I had that 360 (head) and 361 (cab) rig (below). It was the shit... and so were the 370 and the 371 that followed...
    045_bas0513_cs_acoustic-1.jpg

    ... until Ampeg came out with their Superior Valve Technology that required two refrigerator sized 8x10 cabinets because the head could easily blow up the single 8x10 fridge. Suddenly the SVT was *K*I*N*G* and the Acoustics had been blown off of the stage.

    What's funny is that the Acoustic guys have reissued the 360/361 amps at high prices to collectors who want to relive that period when Acoustic was on top. Real men don't buy into that. They've already got their SVTs and they don't want to go back, lol.

    I have to admit, hauling my SVT around can be a bit of a PITA. My heads weigh in at about 100 lb. Now that I'm getting to be an old fart it's getting to be a bitch to do that military press with a head that's heavier than a Twin Reverb loaded with JBLs and set it down on top of an 8x10. Every time I had to do that it made me think that the guys who'd whine about how much a Twin Reverb weights needed to eat more Wheaties. Now that I'm graying out I'm finding that one man lifts of the SVT head onto the cab are just getting too dangerous (don't want to drop it!) so I've resigned to putting the rackheads into a wheeled rack system.

    For a long time I have been thinking about building a smaller "SVT-lite" with 2x6550 for a 100W practice amp. It'd basically be 1/3 of an SVT at the same voltages, and it'd still be mean, instead of that stupid V4-B reissue that doesn't have adequate voltage rip your face off like a real V4-B used to do. Those old Ampegs sure were some killers. The new reissues? Not so much. They're just your generic low-voltage 4x6L6 amp which isn't very exciting compared to the old stuff.
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    In the late 1970's and early 1980's their bass amps started to have pretty heavy competitors by the likes of A.M.P., Gallien&Krueger, SWR, Eden, Hartke, Trace Elliot, etc. Many of these companies showed real innovation (e.g. new speaker technologies, bi-amping setups, etc.) while Ampeg was merely riding with its "we make SVT" bandwagon. It kept them floating, though.

    They didn't concentrate much on guitar amps either. True, Ampeg made a few GREAT guitar amps - but they were pulled quickly from markets and practically identical designs were then marketed under their "Crate" brand, which unfortunately didn't have the "prestige" of Ampeg brand. They didn't sell all that well, and there was competition from likes of Mesa-Boogie and Marshall, and then came the the tube-revival and boutique periods, to which Ampeg tried to cater with mild success by introducing reissues of their older amps.

  21. #21
    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Thomas View Post
    you still risk blowing an SVT cab if you only plug in one cabinet. But at least you weren't stuck with only 1/3 or 1/2 power. Justin
    There's something to be aware of here. Our flakey friend Gerald Weber published an article he wrote "The SVT Blooze" around 25 years ago, and some of my crustomers brought me copies. Darling Gerald claimed all SVT's swapped their 2 and 4 ohm output windings, in an effort to NOT blow speakers. I've worked on scores of SVT's and seen this happen exactly once. So it's something to look out for, but don't follow Gerald's dodgy advice and swap taps on every one you encounter, rather check and see whether that's the case on the one you're working on. An inability to drive 200W into a 4 ohm load with fresh output tubes would be a good clue...

    bob p, Dixie Dregs will be touring again starting early 2018. You could tackle Mr Morse & ask him if he wants to part with his V-9. They're rare as rocking horse turds. If he's still using it on stage I'm guessing the answer will be no.
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    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Steve Morse? I'm surprised that he's still kicking.

    I've thought about just dumping a guitar preamp feed into the effects return line, but that would be cheating, right?
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    Wouldn't switching impedance taps to mismatch 2 and 4 ohms be harder on the tubes since more screen current flows at impedance mismatches. as an aside?

  24. #24
    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    Steve Morse? I'm surprised that he's still kicking.

    I've thought about just dumping a guitar preamp feed into the effects return line, but that would be cheating, right?
    Steve is probably one of those "rock stars" that doesn't fit the party-yourself-to-death pattern. During lean years, 1980's, in his career he took on a job of piloting puddle-jumper airlines, practicing his guitar in off hours. If there was any time he was in danger, it's when he took off in a new small plane he just bought, and its engine failed just after takeoff due to oil system failure. He managed to turn it around & make a safe landing, only just barely.

    No problem cheating by plugging your choice of guitar pre & fx into an SVT power amp. Sure why not? You'll undoubtedly find your clean sounds have practically no limit in volume. Remember that Grateful Dead wall of sound? Like 'em or not, that was the principle: don't run out of power. If anything have more than you could possibly need. Clean tones require power, loud & clean, LOTS of power. There's no way around it.

    nsubulysses, true swapped output taps would stress tubes more. According to Gerald the world's foremost expert, the idea was to spare the speakers, so what about the tubes. I have a hard time believing Ampeg would actually do this on purpose. What I more suspect is this was a nugget of blarney fed to Gerald by Ken Fisher, to see whether he would believe it and pass it along. Apparently it worked.

  25. #25
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    Steve Morse? I'm surprised that he's still kicking.

    I've thought about just dumping a guitar preamp feed into the effects return line, but that would be cheating, right?
    No
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  26. #26
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsubulysses View Post
    Wouldn't switching impedance taps to mismatch 2 and 4 ohms be harder on the tubes since more screen current flows at impedance mismatches. as an aside?
    It's a little vague the way it's stated. I'd say, in one direction yes, in the other no. Just some silliness on GW's part that probably amounts to rare a wire color mistake from the iron manufacturer that got translated to assembly.
    "The man is an incompetent waste of human flesh. He should donate his organs now to someone who might actually make good use of them." The Dude re: maybe I shouldn't say, but his name rhymes with Trump

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  27. #27
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    Back to my original question....

    It seems like everybody and their grandmother play Fender amps. (Which reminds me that I need to get my Twin Reverb back from granny!) You can't swing a dead power transformer without hitting some guy playing a vintage Fender amp. All the guitar stores have a few vintage Fenders. Yet when it comes to Ampeg amps, I rarely see them. (Maybe it is an East Coast / West Coast thing?) Up until I read the Ampeg book, I though Ampeg only made a few models for a limited time. I had no idea they had been in business for so long making so many amplifiers! Heck, I see more Silvertone amps than I do vintage Ampeg amps!

    Why are Ampeg amps not that popular and where did all the vintage ones go?

  28. #28
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Axtman View Post
    Back to my original question....

    It seems like everybody and their grandmother play Fender amps. (Which reminds me that I need to get my Twin Reverb back from granny!) You can't swing a dead power transformer without hitting some guy playing a vintage Fender amp. All the guitar stores have a few vintage Fenders. Yet when it comes to Ampeg amps, I rarely see them. (Maybe it is an East Coast / West Coast thing?) Up until I read the Ampeg book, I though Ampeg only made a few models for a limited time. I had no idea they had been in business for so long making so many amplifiers! Heck, I see more Silvertone amps than I do vintage Ampeg amps!

    Why are Ampeg amps not that popular and where did all the vintage ones go?
    That's funny (in bold above).

    As many amps as Ampeg made, it's a pittance compared to Fender I'm sure. So where did they all go? They're around. You'll see them about as often as vintage Traynors, Magnatones, Gibsons, Sunns, Acoustics and Oranges. Sort of the same thing as not seeing as many vintage International pickups as you do Fords. Not that International pickups aren't good or even very good. Or even BETTER than the Ford products in some regards. Just that Ford made a lot more by virtue of marketing and popularity.

    Fender was earlier in the game and already respected as a brand. They continued to make products consistent with their customers expectations. Those two things alone were powerful in the market at that time. Ampeg was trying to break into a market that Fender partially, if not essentially created.

    Ampeg is a name derived from amp-peg. A device made for orchestral stringed instruments that was a pickup installed in the bottom peg assembly to allow them to be amplified. That is to say, amplifiers had already been around a while before Ampeg tried to take a share of the market. Whereas Fenders success is at least partly relative to the fact that THEY made the guitars AND amplifiers that tuned our ears. These two items were made in situ, together, contemporaneous to each other. You knew if you bought Fender products that it would be "correct". For anyone who didn't know exactly what they wanted, didn't have a voice of their own or wasn't into experimenting Fender was the easy choice. And, of course, they were excellent amps that many players chose on their own merit. I don't know the actual numbers regarding what Fender sold compared to Ampeg by the time the original Ampeg company became defunct, but I'll bet it's so disproportionate that you'd just shake your head at your last post.
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  29. #29
    g1
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    I think you could ask the same question about Vox or pretty much any other brand that is not Fender or Marshall.
    A big part of it may be that I don't think they ever targeted the rock 'n roll crowd. Like Justin touched on, the founder was kind of anti-distortion.
    There was a time when Ampeg was big with the accordian set. Aside from the local auction barn, where are you going to see an accordian guy playing?
    They were much more into bass amps than guitar amps. You may not see a lot of them on stage, but porta-flexes are in a lot of studios.
    And any larger show I see usually has an SVT in the backline.
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  30. #30
    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
    I think you could ask the same question about Vox or pretty much any other brand that is not Fender or Marshall.
    A big part of it may be that I don't think they ever targeted the rock 'n roll crowd. Like Justin touched on, the founder was kind of anti-distortion.
    There was a time when Ampeg was big with the accordian set. Aside from the local auction barn, where are you going to see an accordian guy playing?
    They were much more into bass amps than guitar amps. You may not see a lot of them on stage, but porta-flexes are in a lot of studios.
    And any larger show I see usually has an SVT in the backline.
    I don't have up-to-date stats, but in the 90's the popular brands were Crate, Peavey and Fender in the USA. Marshall for all its recognition held a minor corner of the market, about 4%. Even less for Vox.

    True that Ampeg was late to the guitar market, and its founders were bass playing hi fi nuts. The owners manual in the 60's consisted of a single sheet of paper, in which they recommended "if you hear distortion turn the amp down!" Nonetheless some guitarists found the charm of Ampeg's amps. There's a photo of Bob Dylan at the piano, around the Nashville Skyline / Blonde on Blonde era, with a couple of Ampeg combos silhouetted in the foreground, so one can reasonably conclude they were in use for these recordings plus any number of other Nashville-recorded hits of the time.

    SVT's and B15's made it everywhere, the small guitar/accordion Ampegs not so much. Working in LA late 80's early 90's I found lots of local guitarists that weren't familiar with the 60's & 70's classics, and they were going for peanuts secondhand in music stores. Jets, Geminis & Reverberockets could be had for a buck and a quarter, then the new lookalike Ampegs were being issued by St. Louis Music by 94-95.

  31. #31
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    First "Ampeg" amp: 1946. First Ampeg-branded amp: 1948. First "Fender" amp: 1946. First Fender-branded amp: 1948.

    Last year an Ampeg featured an Input labeled "ACCORDION": 1973 or 74, on the mighty GU-12. Which was the EXACT same amp as Ampeg's last Accordion amp, the AC-12. They just took out the negative feedback loop.

    I don't think it had as much to do with chronology of the companies (they were basically contemporaries) as the willingness (or lack thereof) of the owners to work with the musicians of the day. Leo brought in POPULAR musicians for consultation, of many styles - he didn't care WHAT you played, as long as you did it on a Fender. He also understood aiming at EVERY level of musician - Champ to Twin. Everett Hull brought in JAZZ musicians. We can probably tell which there are more of, and when you are trying to run a growing company to reach a broad customer base, there has to be SOME provision for pleasing as many people as possible.

    There's an anecdote about a harmless pop-rock group visiting Ampeg sometime in the mid-60s, and Mr. Hull told the associate with them, "get them out of here by lunch."

    I think it's THAT attitude that killed Ampeg, or at least put them at a severe disadvantage. By the time the opposition to Loud Crunchy Guitar got out of the way, Fender and Marshall were already ruling the world... Ampeg was set free to embrace R&R way too late. They also suffered the ravages of the mid-60s buyouts and mergers, but where Fender was bought by a legitimate firm with money to put behind the company, Ampeg was bought by an investment firm who didn't know what the hell they were doing...

    Justin
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  32. #32
    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Thomas View Post
    There's an anecdote about a harmless pop-rock group visiting Ampeg sometime in the mid-60s, and Mr. Hull told the associate with them, "get them out of here by lunch."
    If I'm not mistook, that was The 1910 Fruit Gum Company. No matter, their arc of popularity was over by lunch time anyway. Probably replaced by The Strawberry Alarm Clock... Thank goodness "Bubblegum Music" had a very short lifespan.
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    Correct on the band! But even though their popularity may have been over by lunchtime, maybe they'd have put some cash in Ampeg's coffers had they stayed for dinner... When a business starts dictating who can and cannot purchase their goods, they're in a bad spot. Not saying they won't make it, but you might want step back and ask if your prejudices and principles are really worth hanging onto!

    Justin
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    "When receiving a shock I emit a strange loud high pitched girlish squeak." - Alex R -
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  34. #34
    rjb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Axtman View Post
    Why are Ampeg amps not that popular and where did all the vintage ones go?
    Most of them are still in New Jersey, used by accordion and Cordovox players who play in Italian wedding party and/or Polish polka bands. And everyone who still owns one of these has a fliptop to go with it.
    cwrrb2lvfrfshjvetnue.jpg
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    And Silvertone? They were cheap to buy, and sold in every Sears store as well as from their catalog nationwide.
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