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  • Hammond vs Mercury

    I'm planning a Marshall 2204 build and I'd like to "splurge" a little on some items. This thing will be used hard live and in the studio and could hopefully be my go-to amp for most things. I'm a dumb loud punk rock guitar player and the 2203/2204 sound is my sound. I already have a JMP-era 2204, and a JCM-era 2203. I'm kind of gassing for a JCM-style 2204.

    Anyway, I'm looking at transformers, and I'm wondering...are Mercurys really worth the cost? A 50w PT, OT, and choke from Mercury will be north of 500 US dollars. I'm fine with that if they're truly amazing, but are they? I'm also looking at the much more affordable Hammonds. I can get a set of Hammonds for roughly half the cost of the Mercury offerings.

    I guess my question is, what is it about Mercury that makes them so much more expensive? I don't know anything about transformer design so I'm genuinely curious.

  • #2
    You already have a couple Marshalls. Do you like their sound? Have the transformers in them been reliable? I am guessing "yes". In which case, what do you expect to gain by spending a couple hundred extra dollars?
    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Enzo View Post
      You already have a couple Marshalls. Do you like their sound? Have the transformers in them been reliable? I am guessing "yes". In which case, what do you expect to gain by spending a couple hundred extra dollars?
      Yes and yes. I actually have eight Marshalls lol. I truly like all of them, and none of them have any "fancy" transformers in them.

      I don't really expect to gain anything. I'm not convinced that a Mercury is better than anything else. But I really do not know. I'm just curious as to why they are indeed so relatively expensive. Are they more reliable? Are they built with better specs and/or materials? I had one amp years ago with Mercurys in it and it was great. But it also had a bunch of other stuff done to it too. I bought it that way so I can't say with any certainty that the transformers played a significant role in how good that amp was.

      I'm perfectly happy to use the Hammonds. But if there is a truly valid reason that a Mercury should cost three times as much, I'd consider them too.

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      • #4
        I'm with Enzo. I really don't think a "boutique" power transformer makes any difference at all, and the difference the output transformer makes is subjective.
        Last edited by mhuss; 03-29-2022, 07:04 PM.

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        • #5
          If I was in North America and was thinking of splurging on Marshall iron, I’d be looking at Merren etc. Transformer builders may be backed up currently though.
          Unless you need very high power output (and are happy to sacrifice EL34 operational life), consider a 640 rather than 700VAC HT winding.
          My band:- http://www.youtube.com/user/RedwingBand

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          • #6
            ...are Mercurys really worth the cost?
            NO!

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            • #7
              The reason they are so incredibly expensive is the markup. Anyone who is a dealer and will give you the honest truth would admit that it's big. Ever notice that no seller is allowed to publish a price that is not the list price? That's part of the game.
              I'll second what pdf64 said, look at other 'upscale' manufacturers, you can get way more bang for your buck.
              "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

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              • #8
                Originally posted by pdf64 View Post
                If I was in North America and was thinking of splurging on Marshall iron, I’d be looking at Merren etc. Transformer builders may be backed up currently though.
                Unless you need very high power output (and are happy to sacrifice EL34 operational life), consider a 640 rather than 700VAC HT winding.
                My JMP-era 2204 is like that - lower B+. The plate voltage is about 395-400 vdc on the output tubes. Original transformers. It's just one of those from that era with the lower voltage. I like it, it's got a "warmer" softer classic rock kind of feel and attack. But I also like the tight aggression and headroom of the higher voltage models. I of course want them all.

                Thanks for the replies everyone.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Greg_L View Post

                  My JMP-era 2204 is like that - lower B+. The plate voltage is about 395-400 vdc on the output tubes. Original transformers. It's just one of those from that era with the lower voltage. I like it, it's got a "warmer" softer classic rock kind of feel and attack. But I also like the tight aggression and headroom of the higher voltage models. I of course want them all.

                  Thanks for the replies everyone.
                  My understanding is that PT is pretty saggy though, ie the HT drops quite a bit at full and cranked power outs?
                  A stiff 640V PT can result in a different beast, a solid 50W clean, 70W overdriven.
                  Whereas the stiff 700V PT results in 60W clean, 90W overdriven, and rather stressed EL34 when cranked.

                  My band:- http://www.youtube.com/user/RedwingBand

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                  • #10
                    First of all, I don't have own experience with the 2 manufacturers, but I don't think any of them could afford to sell unreliable products.
                    Also I have no idea regarding a typical contemporary (?) punk sound.
                    To me the real/original punk was the early stuff from The Who, The Pretty Things, The Kinks, The Small Faces and a few other bands from the 60s.

                    There's hardly any special sound in a PT or a choke.There's only technical data and I like that Hammond publishes essential specs while Mercury does not.
                    The OT can have some influence on sound and no manufacturer publishes all possibly relevant data.
                    But according to Zollner the most important (regarding sound) parameter of an OT is the primary impedance.

                    My own measurements/experiments show that more obscure OT parameters like leakage inductance and primary self-capacitance can have a significant influence on amp stability, though.
                    Last edited by Helmholtz; 03-29-2022, 09:07 PM.
                    - Own Opinions Only -

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pdf64 View Post
                      My understanding is that PT is pretty saggy though, ie the HT drops quite a bit at full and cranked power outs?
                      A stiff 640V PT can result in a different beast, a solid 50W clean, 70W overdriven.
                      Whereas the stiff 700V PT results in 60W clean, 90W overdriven, and rather stressed EL34 when cranked.
                      It does have a bit of a sag. Honestly, I don't literally "crank" it much. That's way too loud for gigs or band practices. And when I record it I get it up to just where you feel the output section come alive. That's around 5-6 on the master vol. Really loud but not "cranked". It sounds great. I've had the same output tubes in it for about 6 years now and they still seem pretty healthy and are matched well.

                      In related news...I just pulled the trigger on a Mojotone OT for a 50w EL34 Marshall-style amp. $90. So that's one of them sorted.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Gregg View Post

                        NO!
                        I agree. Simple and to the point answer. Mercury is synonymous with hype. I'm not saying they don't make a quality product, but their iron is vastly overpriced and unjustifiably so, IMO.
                        "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

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                        • #13
                          A couple of years ago, some guys did a demo at the Dallas International Guitar Show of several vintage Marshalls trying to demonstrate subtle differences between transformers. I think they were trying to sell clones of several of those amps, I'm a little foggy on the details at this point. There wasn't really much difference between them, they didn't use the same speaker cabinet for all the demos so that alone could account for the differences.

                          I've worked on a couple of Rocaforte amps which are basically 2203/2204 clones with only slight mods. They use Mercury transformers and there are no complaints in that department.
                          WARNING! Musical Instrument amplifiers contain lethal voltages and can retain them even when unplugged. Refer service to qualified personnel.
                          REMEMBER: Everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school !

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                          • #14
                            If change the sound in circuit meant we're talking by different product, equal the brand differences there are different electrical characteristics. I bet you may found something similar in Hammond range, not necessary Marshall replacement, for a half of price but you have to know what you looking for if interested about sound impact in swapping electrical components. Unfortunately Mercury didn't provide enough technical data about their products.- generic Marshall replacements, or generic voltages meant nothing from an electric point of view.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by loudthud View Post
                              A couple of years ago, some guys did a demo at the Dallas International Guitar Show of several vintage Marshalls trying to demonstrate subtle differences between transformers. I think they were trying to sell clones of several of those amps, I'm a little foggy on the details at this point. There wasn't really much difference between them, they didn't use the same speaker cabinet for all the demos so that alone could account for the differences.
                              So that experiment was about as flawed as it can be. I'm no electrical engineer or pro amp designer, but I am a musician and I know with certainty that different speakers and cabs will have a massive effect on what an amp sounds like. Never mind that they were also using different amps entirely.

                              I've worked on a couple of Rocaforte amps which are basically 2203/2204 clones with only slight mods. They use Mercury transformers and there are no complaints in that department.
                              My only personal experience with Mercury transformers was with a heavily modded JCM 900 I had years ago. That amp was awesome - I'd even argue it might be the best JCM 900 on earth - but it was so non-stock that I couldn't possibly assign credit to any one thing like it's transformers. That amp was loud and clear and punchy as hell. Maybe the Mercurys had some say in that, but I don't know because it also had a million other things done to it.

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