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Thread: 5E3 too clean, no distortion

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    5E3 too clean, no distortion

    Hello Everyone!

    This is a new member Paul here. First of all I want to thank everyone posting on this forum. I have learned a lot from you all, while building my first amp, the 5E3 from a kit. Great thanks!

    As in the title, I can't get much distortion from the amp. It is just very clean, unless at almost full power when the distortion is not that pleasant sounding and combined with vibration/speaker farting sort of sound.

    What I have tried so far:

    - Following the advice here I tried to address the high B+ voltage. Originally at 359 VDC, the plate dissipation at JJ 6V6S was around 14W.
    So I used Zener to reduce by 30V. I am at 329 now. Dissipation around 11W, but still no distortion.

    - Used another Zener which dropped my plate voltage to 301VDC. Dissipation at 9.5W but still no distortion. Went back to using only one Zener since that seemed to be the more correct set point.

    - I was very surprised that originally the amp fired up very successfully. Then I had to go through the "de-humming" by isolating grounds etc. Moving cables around and shielding some allowed me to eliminate some parasitic oscillations that appeared. At the end the amp has very little hum and just plays nicely but no distortion or the characteristic "tweed" tone.

    - Tried different speaker, guitar, no difference.

    The amp is very loud when cranked so I think all the stages are working properly.
    Also the inputs as well as Volume/Tone controls work as they should. I have checked voltages in multiple points (following fender 57 reissue diagram) and all seem OK.

    I don't have other tubes to try, my preamp are EH 12AY7 and JJ 12AX7.

    When using a tube screamer type of pedal, I get some overdrive but not as much as I would expect.

    I am suspecting a bias problem but not sure where my distortion should come from.
    Would it be the first or second half of V2 or rather the power tube?

    Can you shed some light on me?

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    Supporting Member loudthud's Avatar
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    Look at this thread and try the resistance checks in post 14. It will verify that the input jacks are wired correctly. http://music-electronics-forum.com/t12667/

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    loudthud,

    It looks like I may have the numbering of channels reversed (ch. 1 switched with ch. 2 compared to the usual naming) but I took the following measurements:
    In addition, I use the Switchcraft jacks.

    Pins 2 and 7 show 32.8k to ground.

    With cable in input 1, I read 66k on pin 2 and 33k on pin7
    With cable in input 2, I read 1048k on pin 2 and 33k on pin7

    With cable plugged in:

    #1 input reads 132k
    #2 input reads 1018k

    Now between the tip of the cable and the grid pin on the tube socket:

    Mic channel:
    Input 1: 66k on pin2 and 33k on pin 7
    Input 2: 33k on pin2 and 1048k on pin 7

    Inst. channel:
    Input 1: 164k pin 2, 66k pin 7
    Input 2: 1048k pin 2, 33k pin 7

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    I posted too soon, let me just clarify (all measurements identical with the previous posting, just explaining what I am doing):

    Pins 2 and 7 show 32.8k to ground. (this is with nothing plugged in)

    (these will be with an open ended cable plugged in):
    With cable in input 1, I read 66k on pin 2 and 33k on pin7
    With cable in input 2, I read 1048k on pin 2 and 33k on pin7

    With cable plugged in (and reading between tip on the guitar end and ground, guitar end unplugged of course):

    #1 input reads 132k
    #2 input reads 1018k


    Now between the tip of the cable (on the guitar end with guitar unplugged) and the grid pin on the tube socket:

    Mic channel:
    Input 1: 66k on pin2 and 33k on pin 7
    Input 2: 33k on pin2 and 1048k on pin 7

    Inst. channel:
    Input 1: 164k pin 2, 66k pin 7
    Input 2: 1048k pin 2, 33k pin 7

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    Supporting Member loudthud's Avatar
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    The input jacks look ok. Are you sure the volume controls are the correct value? Check this thread: http://music-electronics-forum.com/t18458/

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    thanks loudthud,

    From reading that post, my tone/volume acts in a similar way. I get some attenuation and tone change from using the other channel's volume pot. To me it is all normal and matches your description of how they interact.

    My tone pot just changes the tone and is very good at it.

    But I still don't get any "dirt", no matter which combination of pots.
    My pots are all 1MA from a kit, all identical and they measure the same.

    My feeling it has to have something to do with the tubes' operating opoint as I can't really find any other fault with the amp.
    If I wanted a clean amp, this would be perfect but I am after that blues crunch.
    More ideas?

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    "My feeling it has to have something to do with the tubes' operating opoint "

    I doubt this, even a 5E3 with 400v+ on the 6V6 plates can give a dirty sound. Your amp was at ideal voltages before you added the zener diode, now you shouldn't be able to get virtually ANY clean tone!

    First stop, if you want dirt, get rid of the 12AY7 in V1, use a 12AX7.

    List all dc voltages. Specify which tube you have in V1 as 12AX7 & 12AY7 will return different plate & cathode voltages. It would actually be sensible to remove any zener diodes for this test so that your voltages are "ball park" & can be related to other 5E3s.

    Plug in the Normal/Mic channel, turned up high, with the Bright/Instrument volume set halfway up - still no dirt?

    "It is just very clean, unless at almost full power when the distortion is not that pleasant sounding and combined with vibration/speaker farting sort of sound." This makes no sense. The amp should remain fairly clean up to "full power", that's how power ratings are determined - max clean power. Do you mean that you only get distortion at high settings on the pots ?

    Do you have pictures of the chassis, tube sockets & pot wiring?

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    Last edited by MWJB; 05-18-2012 at 12:39 PM.

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    Paul, are you hoping to get blues crunch / tweed tone at domestic sound pressure levels? If so you may have the wrong amp, or at least will need something additional to achieve overdrive at reasonable domestic friendly sound levels.
    A 5E3 with a single 12" speaker may struggle to keep up with a full band, but overdrive won't happen until it's kicking out >105dB.
    Additionally, 5E3 overdrive can be rather 'farty', and if the cab isn't very solid, rattles will occur.
    Pete.

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulj View Post
    As in the title, I can't get much distortion from the amp. It is just very clean, unless at almost full power when the distortion is not that pleasant sounding and combined with vibration/speaker farting sort of sound.
    That seems like a fair description of what a 5E3 does, if you're used to a modern high-gain amp.

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    It sounds like you need more gain.
    A 12AX7 will help.
    On amps such as this, you need to get past the 'farting' to get good breakup.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MWJB View Post
    "My feeling it has to have something to do with the tubes' operating opoint "

    I doubt this, even a 5E3 with 400v+ on the 6V6 plates can give a dirty sound. Your amp was at ideal voltages before you added the zener diode, now you shouldn't be able to get virtually ANY clean tone!

    First stop, if you want dirt, get rid of the 12AY7 in V1, use a 12AX7.

    List all dc voltages. Specify which tube you have in V1 as 12AX7 & 12AY7 will return different plate & cathode voltages. It would actually be sensible to remove any zener diodes for this test so that your voltages are "ball park" & can be related to other 5E3s.

    Plug in the Normal/Mic channel, turned up high, with the Bright/Instrument volume set halfway up - still no dirt?

    "It is just very clean, unless at almost full power when the distortion is not that pleasant sounding and combined with vibration/speaker farting sort of sound." This makes no sense. The amp should remain fairly clean up to "full power", that's how power ratings are determined - max clean power. Do you mean that you only get distortion at high settings on the pots ?

    Do you have pictures of the chassis, tube sockets & pot wiring?
    Thank you guys,
    All the suggestions are very helpful.

    I will remove Zeners to bring it to the starting point. I also have a higher voltage tap on the transformer available to try but that would give me around 385V on the plates. Since with 359V, power tube idle wattage is already at maximum 14Watt, I am struggling with the thought of even trying that.

    I have EX12AY7 in V1 and JJ12AX7 in V2. I could buy a 12AX7 tube for V1 but I still would like to achieve good crunch and keep the tone of 12AY7.

    I don't get the expected dirt with the amp set as you described.
    If you look at this video, the lowest setting that he is demonstrating, I can not get that crunch even at full power:

    Thom Hoglen Tweed Deluxe 5E3 Jensen P12R - YouTube

    And yes, I only get distortion at full power settings and, my gut feeling is that it is the power tube distortion and I am missing all the distortion from the preamp. Again, just a gut feeling as I have little experience with amps.

    I will post some photos soon. The problem is, my board is upside down, you can not see elements but everything else is quite easy to figure out.

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    Last edited by paulj; 05-18-2012 at 07:27 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pdf64 View Post
    Paul, are you hoping to get blues crunch / tweed tone at domestic sound pressure levels? If so you may have the wrong amp, or at least will need something additional to achieve overdrive at reasonable domestic friendly sound levels.
    A 5E3 with a single 12" speaker may struggle to keep up with a full band, but overdrive won't happen until it's kicking out >105dB.
    Additionally, 5E3 overdrive can be rather 'farty', and if the cab isn't very solid, rattles will occur.
    Pete.
    Pete,
    Thanks , I get what you are saying. I am not sure if I should push the power tubes even more or address the problem in the preamp. See my previous response and video link. I would like at least that. I know that I have to crank it to get breakup. I am expecting that but I am testing at full power and still no crunch (preamp crunch I think, because the power section does indeed get crazy at full power that is why I am more suspicious about the preamp section). I just don't get that "creamy" overdrive at any setting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conner View Post
    That seems like a fair description of what a 5E3 does, if you're used to a modern high-gain amp.
    Yes, I am not expecting that at all. I have gone through many videos and sound clips where the 5E3 has this perfect crunch (not screaming, just a little "raspy" at moderate setting). That is all I want.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz P Bass View Post
    It sounds like you need more gain.
    A 12AX7 will help.
    On amps such as this, you need to get past the 'farting' to get good breakup.
    Thanks,
    As I wrote earlier, to even try that, I would need even higher plate voltages and then it would exceed the max 14W power point of the JJ 6V6 tubes.
    As most people agree that my plate voltage seems perfect, I am hesitant to try that.

    But I may if I we run out of ideas. I am lost in the wood right now.

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    Guys,

    I took the voltage measurements. I removed the Zener trick so all is in the original state.
    All voltages DC. Omitted the filament voltages as that is checked OK already. Let me know if something is missing:

    Voltages for both output tubes on pins (both the same or very similar)

    3 _____359
    4 _____325
    5 _____0
    8 _____21

    Voltages for V1 (12AY7) Pins

    1 _____114
    2 _____0
    3 _____1.9
    6 _____115.5
    7 _____0
    8 _____1.9

    List your voltages for V2 (12AX7) Pins

    1 _____146.8
    2 _____0
    3 _____1.2
    6 _____182.7
    7 _____2.9
    8 _____44.2


    Power supply voltages starting at the rectifier tube

    1st node ______366
    2nd Node _____323
    3rd Node _____234

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    That all looks good.
    Well, if you can cope with the volume, then I have to agree, it's time for more gain.
    The amp in the clip was almost certainly using a 12AX7 in V1.
    My experience is that you'll never get a good sustaining type of overdrive from a 5E3 type amp with a 12AY7 in V1.
    I try my 12AY7 out once in a while; it's fine for clean but after 10 minutes a 12AX7 goes back in and the fun starts.
    Even then, an external boost is needed with a strat to get creamy sustain.
    The les paul does it all on its own though.
    Pete.

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    A 5v4 in place of the 5y3 will help tighten up the low end. In addition, smaller coupling/bypass cap values will help remove some of the loose bass.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fdesalvo View Post
    A 5v4 in place of the 5y3 will help tighten up the low end. In addition, smaller coupling/bypass cap values will help remove some of the loose bass.
    Thanks, I may want to try these mods later but that would be after fixing the lack of overdrive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulj View Post
    Thanks, I may want to try these mods later but that would be after fixing the lack of overdrive.
    Not sure what kind of distortion you are expecting. What you should have is a nice grind from the output section. Think low gain, but thick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pdf64 View Post
    That all looks good.
    Well, if you can cope with the volume, then I have to agree, it's time for more gain.
    The amp in the clip was almost certainly using a 12AX7 in V1.
    My experience is that you'll never get a good sustaining type of overdrive from a 5E3 type amp with a 12AY7 in V1.
    I try my 12AY7 out once in a while; it's fine for clean but after 10 minutes a 12AX7 goes back in and the fun starts.
    Even then, an external boost is needed with a strat to get creamy sustain.
    The les paul does it all on its own though.
    Pete.
    Pete,
    Makes a lot of sense...I will probably switch to 12AX7. I would still like to make it crunch a little with the 12AY7. I will try to post a video of a guy trying different tubes and he has no problem getting crunch.
    Funny, I have tested both kinds of guitar and keep testing with high output humbuckers. Still no crunch.

    I am now focusing on the preamp voltages which seem a little low to me. I get 234V after the third cap. The V1 plates are around 160V. Isn't it too low?

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    High preamp voltages translate to a cleaner sound, seems to be the opposite of what you want? 160v on the plates of a 12AX7in V1 seems perfect. A 12AX7 in a Fender preamp stage (100K plate R, 1.5K per triode cathode R) should return around 2/3 of the voltage at the B+ rail. So 2/3 of 234v is ~155v...spot on.

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    It's pretty pointless to keep comparing to a Youtube clip of a different player through a different amp. Note that in the clip the amp is very close mic'd...what does your amp sound like with your ear 1/2" from the speaker? (No, don't do it - I'm just pointing out that things sound different depending on where you are in relation to the sound source).

    The 12AY7 sections sound fairly clean.

    The rectifier in the amp in the clip looks to be longer than the 6V6 tubes, looks like a Sovtek, these run much higher voltge than a NOS 5Y3 or a copper cap WY3. What are you using for a rectifier?

    Your amp can just about take 385vdc at the 6V6 plates without rebiasing (late tweed Deluxes could run well in excess of this), I would aim to keep plate current ~40mA per tube max.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fdesalvo View Post
    Not sure what kind of distortion you are expecting. What you should have is a nice grind from the output section. Think low gain, but thick.
    Yes, that is exactly what I am expecting. Slight grind is my preference. Unfortunately, all I get is clean. Think almost acoustic guitar clean.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MWJB View Post
    High preamp voltages translate to a cleaner sound, seems to be the opposite of what you want? 160v on the plates of a 12AX7in V1 seems perfect. A 12AX7 in a Fender preamp stage (100K plate R, 1.5K per triode cathode R) should return around 2/3 of the voltage at the B+ rail. So 2/3 of 234v is ~155v...spot on.
    My other concern about this is that the the 160V that I quoted is an average.
    In fact, there is 146.8 an 182.7 on pins 1 and 6 of V2. Do you think I should be concerned about this disparity?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MWJB View Post
    It's pretty pointless to keep comparing to a Youtube clip of a different player through a different amp. Note that in the clip the amp is very close mic'd...what does your amp sound like with your ear 1/2" from the speaker? (No, don't do it - I'm just pointing out that things sound different depending on where you are in relation to the sound source).

    The 12AY7 sections sound fairly clean.

    The rectifier in the amp in the clip looks to be longer than the 6V6 tubes, looks like a Sovtek, these run much higher voltge than a NOS 5Y3 or a copper cap WY3. What are you using for a rectifier?

    Your amp can just about take 385vdc at the 6V6 plates without rebiasing (late tweed Deluxes could run well in excess of this), I would aim to keep plate current ~40mA per tube max.
    I am at 41.2mA per tube right now. I can go lower with a Zener but that didn't solve my problem. My attempt to try the higher voltage will be to verify that the preamp is maybe running too cool to overdrive the second stage. I agree that this will likely not work but I am running out of ideas. I will raise the volts for just a few minutes. It shouldn't melt the tubes right away.


    I am indeed using the famous Sovtek 5Y3 rectifier.

    Well, thanks to the low voltage tap on the transformer which has been in use all this time, my B+ is actually not that bad.
    That is why I am surprised about the lack of crunch, even if I lower the voltage with Zeners.

    Besides that test, I really don't know what to look for.

    Bad cathode bypas cap? How would I test it?

    Other caps seem OK, since everything is working.

    I have checked the resistors on the board and all the connections measured with ohm-meter look good.
    Resistor values are all pretty close within tolerances.

    I guess the key question for you people who know much more than I would be:

    What would possibly make the V1 have the insufficient gain to overdrive V2? Or what could be happening with V2 that it can't be overdriven by V1?

    And finally, the amp is pretty loud so I believe the signal gets amplified rather well. So my previous questions make no sense....ouch!

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    Supporting Member deci belle's Avatar
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    Maybe you could show a picture, Paul!

    Even with NOS tubes across the board or using using a 5ar4 rectifier with 410v on the plates of those jj tubes which are not 6v6s, I still get easy breakup on my scratch-built 5y3.

    V2 pins 1 and 6 are 184v and 228v on my 5e3 with the 5ar4 rectifier. With an NOS 5y3 V2's pins 1 and 6 are 159v and 200v.

    I think this problem is something other than a high voltage issue.

    I though Loudthud might be on the right track with the input load resistances.

    So let's see a gut-shot of your build!

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    Quote Originally Posted by deci belle View Post
    Maybe you could show a picture, Paul!

    Even with NOS tubes across the board or using using a 5ar4 rectifier with 410v on the plates of those jj tubes which are not 6v6s, I still get easy breakup on my scratch-built 5y3.

    V2 pins 1 and 6 are 184v and 228v on my 5e3 with the 5ar4 rectifier. With an NOS 5y3 V2's pins 1 and 6 are 159v and 200v.

    I think this problem is something other than a high voltage issue.

    I though Loudthud might be on the right track with the input load resistances.

    So let's see a gut-shot of your build!

    My bad,
    Those pin 1 and 6 are supplied with different voltages. So the disparity must be there. My head was spinning when I wrote that!

    Will post photos soon!

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    Gutshots!
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  30. #30
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    Guys,
    As you can see this is a rather unusual layout. My first, so please don't bash me. I know about long leads, upside down board, not very thought out layout. This amp will be standing upside down compared to the photos, with tubes and transformers standing up. Anyway, With the shielding and lead dress, the hum has been mostly eliminated. I am just saying this because I know that this is not what you are used to

    One important thing is, the pots are upside down so all the connections will seem reversed to you. Sorry, this is how it had to turn out with this chassis.

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    Oh, before you start beating me up...some wires don't follow the color code. I ran out of the proper colors.

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    It would be helpful if you could upload the exact schematic you are using. Although it is a standard circuit, perhaps there is some subtle difference or even a typo that may be more obvious from the actual schematic you used.

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    Just because they don't have tubes doesn't mean they don't have feelings! - glebert

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    Quote Originally Posted by g-one View Post
    It would be helpful if you could upload the exact schematic you are using. Although it is a standard circuit, perhaps there is some subtle difference or even a typo that may be more obvious from the actual schematic you used.
    Tis is the layout that I have used:

    http://site.triodestore.com/5E3Delux...-18017120V.pdf

    The transformer is slightly different. No artificial CT for heaters. I used the real CT and it has international voltage taps so you will see more wires. I also rearranged grounds but other than that, I followed this layout.

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    Push the plate wires to the 12A#7 tubes so that they lie on the chassis floor, away from grid wires & heater wires.

    Your upside down board has given you the perfect opportunity to shorten your grid wires. Disconnect the grid wires from pins 2 & 7 of the 12A#7 tubes & from pin 6 of the 6V6s. Now run them directly over the back of the board, straight from the turret to the tube pin, elevate a little off the board...you should be able to halve the wire length.

    Remove the 1500ohm grid stoppers from the 6V6 sockets, remount them with no lead length from the resistor body to pin 5, stand them up from the socket & connect the grid wire to the free end (you won't be able to use pin 6 as a mounting point, because your 470ohm 1W screen grid resistors will be living there).

    Looks like your OT lives behind the input jacks, bad move, can you move it down the chassis towards the PT any?

    It's a difficult thing to convey, but beyond the value of components and where they terminate, the actual positioning of wires & routing affects the sound your amp makes.

    Where are your 470ohm 1W screen grid resistors, fit them.

    Maybe you can salvage this...?

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