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very particular Fender amp repair / restoration in Los Angeles (Burbank / NoHo)

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  • very particular Fender amp repair / restoration in Los Angeles (Burbank / NoHo)

    Unfortunately, there are plenty of guys in LA who have made their reputations on Fender Deluxe and Princeton Reverb amps but have never once had a Bassman 135 come across their bench. It really is a different kind of beast from the usual Deluxe, Pro Reverb and Bandmasters that come in by the dozen. Also, to complicate matters, I'm going to be using the Bassman for BASS, not guitar - that's why I was so happy to find a Bassman 135, the "ultralinear" model that was Fender's attempt to make a Bassman suitable for bass use.

    With the unusual model, and my needs as a bass player, not guitarist, can anyone suggest a tech in LA who can help me get this amp ready for regular use in bars and clubs as the bass amp in a traditional blues band? (no "blooz rock" I don't have to compete against Marshall stacks and the drummer uses a 3 or 4 piece kit I just need the Bassman 135 to keep up against little guitar amps in the 18 to 30, maybe 40 watt range)

    The current owner is NOT technically focused - the amp is running off 4 wildly different output tubes and one is dead, having turned white last year(!) But the amp is cosmetically clean, which usually means that it wasn't abused too terribly. But I won't even fire it up after taking possession tomorrow. I'll just give it a gentle cleaning, inside and out and spend 1/2 hr photo documenting every inch.

    But then I need a guy who knows the 'ultarlinear" 70 and 135 watt Bassman amps and really understands how to make them work their best. I'm not looking to "blackface" the amp or perform any mods to give me new controls or any added features. I just want the guy who can make that amp sound like the best Bassman 135 that the original designer imagined.

    Suggestions for the right amp tech for this job?

  • #2
    Ok. You were very clear about the intent of your post. Don't be upset though that I have input that doesn't include a direct recommendation of a specific shop or tech. There's more than one way to skin a cat. (Who the "F" ever said that for the first time!?!)

    You mention that there are several shops or techs that handle amps like Deluxe Reverbs and Princeton Reverbs. These shops SHOULD be able to handle a Bassman 135. If they can't handle a Bassman 135 they have no business claiming proficiency with the DR's and PR's. (< that's a period) The Bassman 135 is a bigger and more complicated amp to be sure, but it's still just an amp. The circuits work the same way even though there are more of them. Basically you need someone who is an actual electronics tech that has experience with tubes. That is all. I'm pretty sure L.A. has a few.

    Look for shops or individual techs that do repairs on EVERYTHING amp related! Including PA amps, modern Marshall, Bogner, solid state amps, whatever, etc. As well as vintage amps. These services should have a familiarity with what musicians need on stage and a basic understanding of electronics. Which is all that is necessary to repair/refurb that Bassman 135. The trouble with some places that specialize only in the simplest vintage guitar amps is that they're loud and proud and all hot air. That's why they're the places you've heard of. You need to open a phone book and find a technician. Not an amp guru some "dude" says is awesome.

    If the amp is "working" (albeit limping on three power tubes) then it probably needs:

    Tighten or replace any loose parts
    Clean all contacts
    New electrolytic caps throughout (some may disagree)
    New power tubes (that are all the same )
    Check components for drift
    Bias adjustment

    It won't be cheap, but it shouldn't be too expensive either. If anyone say's anything about special preamp capacitors, NOS tubes, carbon comp resistors or cloth braided lead wire just put the amp in your car and drive away.

    Don't listen to guitar players that "know a guy" or default to the vintage only shops that get buzz and have street cred. Open the yellow pages and look for the criteria I outlined above. It shouldn't be hard to find a place. And...

    If someone here familiar with L.A. does recommend a shop, it should be a good place to check out.
    "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

    "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

    "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

    Comment


    • #3
      I totally agree. AMps are amps, they all work the same way. You don't work on a Twin Reverb any differently from a Deluxe REverb. A competent tech will know what to do. I get scared of a tech who only has expertise in a couple models. That tells me he probably doesn't understand circuitry, but instead has read Gerald Weber books and knows a bunch of specific parts to change for some purpose, but doesn't really know WHY the changes work. Yes, of course that is generalization. I guess in a huge market like LA, a great tech can afford to only work on a particular type amp that he likes. More power to him. But most times, tube circuits are not that mysterious. Compare for example an old Marshall with your basic Bassman schematically, and they are VERY similar.

      This especially so since you just want the amp properly restored, not tweaked up and customized.

      To me I think a parallel might be in your blues group. Learning to play a Little Walter 12 bar in A tune won't require different skills from learning a Willie Dixon 12 bar in A tune.
      Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by lexington125 View Post
        Suggestions for the right amp tech for this job?
        MEF correspondent nevetslab is right in your neighborhood. He must be busy/sleeping or he would have responded by now. Stay tuned or send him a PM. I'm sure he can help you, and won't try to steer you wrong.

        I have a 135 and it is a magnificent amp, very respectable in its original form. Can certainly see why you don't want to mod. "Don't mess with success."

        OTOH for those who do want to mod, there's tons of space inside.
        Enjoy. Every. Sandwich.

        Comment


        • #5
          Once I knew what I was doing, I restored my buddy's 135 I had abused as a teen in the garage, tin foil fuses, etc.

          There is nothing odd or different in that amp and it should be quite easy to put it in correct working order, as it left the factory.
          Just tell the shop what you want, and take it to someone qualified as mentioned.

          Comment


          • #6
            Ah.....just woke up, after spending the past weekend moving more assets to storage and out to my shop at CenterStaging in Burbank.

            By all means, I work on everything, and rarely get outfoxed by something....though the JCM 800 of AuntieM's and their Mesa Dual Rectifier Solo with the LF & HF oscillation not withstanding.

            I also happen to be a bass player, and amps don't leave the shop until they're rock solid and sound right. Mod'ing an amp isn't what I normally do, apart from correcting factory problems whenever possible.

            I just checked my service database, and don't see that a Bassman 135 has come thru the shop. Super Bassman's, Bassman 300's, Ampeg SVT's by the dozens and loads of others all the time. My rates are very reasonable, have an excellent reputation, and have a passion for this crazy technical stuff. By all means, check me out....shop is in the back of the main building of CenterStaging 3407 Winona Ave Burbank, across from the runway at Burbank Airport.

            Steven
            Logic is an organized way of going wrong with confidence

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by nevetslab View Post
              check me out....shop is in the back of the main building of CenterStaging 3407 Winona Ave Burbank, across from the runway at Burbank Airport.

              Steven

              That's great news - I saw the "Gardena" note in your profile and that wouldn't work for me - but Burbank airport is much better, not walking distance, but close by.

              I just picked up the amp 1/2 hr ago. It definitely needs work and I will NOT be using it or even turning it on again as it has 4 mis-matched 6L6 tubes including one dead (white out) tube. But the current owner / seller had it plugged into an Alamo 2-12 guitar cab and I played a bunch of open 'E' notes and bass runs on the reissue Jazzmaster that was handy. Other than some moderately scratchy pots, the amp sounded fine; the low E sounded tight and strong even at volumes that I thought would rip the Alamo cab to pieces. (I'm hoping that this indicates that the output transformer survived his use with three tubes and the time he used it to record via Pro Tools without a cab! If there was serious damage, those low E notes shouldn't have thumped my chest as hard as they did. But the amp is now OFF until service.

              I'll contact nevetslab tomorrow during business hours.

              ??? just curious - would most techs prefer you do nothing in this situation and just hand over the amp as is? Or would a thorough cleaning (removal of spider webs, dust bunnies, bottle caps, etc.) be helpful?

              lexington125 (another steve)

              Comment


              • #8
                Personally, I always prefer if the owner takes care of the janitorial duties. Would you ask (or want to pay shop wage) for your mechanic to wash your car?
                "Everything is better with a tube. I have a customer with an all-tube pacemaker. His heartbeat is steady, reassuring and dependable, not like a modern heartbeat. And if it goes wrong he can fix it himself. You can't do that with SMD." - Mick Bailey

                Comment


                • #9
                  I wish that were the case!
                  Most amps I get are pretty funky inside with everything from dead bugs to mouse food/droppings or poison inside.

                  It's always the old Ampegs.
                  Most of those that come in look like they sat in some barn for the past forty years.
                  Then there's the amps that look like several beverages have been spilled inside.
                  So anyway, yeah, try and clean what you can inside without breaking anything or make the repair more time consuming.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lexington125 View Post
                    Or would a thorough cleaning (removal of spider webs, dust bunnies, bottle caps, etc.) be helpful?
                    Without a doubt, clean it up. And, should have told ya, and you got away with it, but for the future: "White" tubes, gone that way due to air leaking in, should be carefully removed before any power-up. Carefully, because the glass may be cracked or broken. Removed, because you don't know what's shorted out inside. Plus, there's absolutely zero chance a tube gone white due to an air leak will work for anything, except maybe a few sparks.
                    Enjoy. Every. Sandwich.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Leo_Gnardo View Post
                      Without a doubt, clean it up. And, should have told ya, and you got away with it, but for the future: "White" tubes, gone that way due to air leaking in, should be carefully removed before any power-up. Carefully, because the glass may be cracked or broken. Removed, because you don't know what's shorted out inside. Plus, there's absolutely zero chance a tube gone white due to an air leak will work for anything, except maybe a few sparks.

                      I'm more impressed that he used it in a recording session (via the line out into Pro tools) with no cab connected and, as far as I could tell, it apparently did no damage. He and I are both very lucky. (am I correct that if I could shake the house with the low E on his Jazzmaster, the output transformer was likely not damaged?)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Your assumption is probably correct. Firstly, transformers (especially old ones) are quite robust by themselves, and are near the very bottom of the list in "order of suspicion of parts that fail in amplifiers." Secondly, Fenders used shorting jacks for the main speaker jack, which is not perfect, but far better than an open circuit non-shorting jack. Count yourself lucky that shorting jack worked with all the dirt! Heck, maybe some of the crust & dirt added JUST the right 4ohm load the amp needed. That said, the jack only works if there is no speaker CABLE plugged into the back of the amp. If there's a cable in the amp but no cab at the other end, potentially dead OT. The Bassman 100 (& I would assume the 135) had HUGE output transformers. The OT in my 100 is about twice the size of a stock Twin Reverb OT of the same output power, and that considerable bulk and weight might have helped a little to prevent your amp's fiery demise.

                        There are other ways to help prevent transformer deaths in case of open or broken speaker cables, too, which a shorting jack would not help. And I'm probabbly not very smart for leaving my speaker cables plugged in the amp and therefore defeating the built-in protection...

                        Justin
                        "Wow it's red! That doesn't look like the standard Marshall red. It's more like hooker lipstick/clown nose/poodle pecker red." - Chuck H. -
                        "Of course that means playing **LOUD** , best but useless solution to modern sissy snowflake players." - J.M. Fahey -
                        "All I ever managed to do with that amp was... kill small rodents within a 50 yard radius of my practice building." - Tone Meister -

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          To add...

                          It's worth noting that although it's been reported on more than one occasion here that these robust Bassmans have been used with no load by someone on a regular basis THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT'S SAFE. IT'S VERY LIKELY TO CAUSE DAMAGE.
                          "Take two placebos, works twice as well." Enzo

                          "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

                          "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Chuck H View Post
                            To add...

                            It's worth noting that although it's been reported on more than one occasion here that these robust Bassmans have been used with no load by someone on a regular basis THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT'S SAFE. IT'S VERY LIKELY TO CAUSE DAMAGE.
                            agreed - as I stated earlier, it was my dumb luck that the prior owner did not fry anything by playing without a speaker cab. The worst mistake I was guilty of was playing with the one dead power tube still in the amp prior to making the deal this afternoon.

                            But if you play this game, it is just a matter of time until you lose, and it will cost you, particularly as the transformers for the 135 are not stock parts at most companies; Mercury does not even offer a 135 transformer!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Justin Thomas View Post
                              Heck, maybe some of the crust & dirt added JUST the right 4ohm load the amp needed.
                              If that was the case, I'd expect smoke & sparks to be coming out of this unplanned made-of-crud "resistor."

                              I hope the OT survived the experience.
                              Enjoy. Every. Sandwich.

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