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Thread: George Benson Fender Amps

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    Supporting Member TomCarlos's Avatar
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    George Benson Fender Amps

    Friends:

    Some time ago, I opened a post titled Favorite Jazz Amp. Recently, I sent a link of that discussion to a friend. He followed up by asking me to look at the "George Benson" line of amps from Fender. One is the GB Hot Rod Deluxe and more recently, the GB Fender Twin Reverb.

    In his promo videos for the amp, Benson discusses the additional headroom that these amps provide. After some digging around, I believe the only (electrical) difference between a regular Twin and the Benson models is V1. The Benson model uses a 12AY7 in place of the standard 12AX7. If I am not mistaken, the 12AY7 has half the gain of a 12AX7. So of course, you have a lower level signal going to the remainder of the amp - and perhaps this adds to a cleaner sound? The Benson TR also uses Jensen Tornado Neodymium speakers and is build using a Pine cabinet. Otherwise, I would assume everything else is the same (compared to a regular Twin).

    Here is the kicker - Benson talks about using a very small level of Vibrato. So he is in the Vibrato channel - which has a 12AX7 at the front end!!! So if he was looking for headroom, why not put the 12AY7 on that channel as well?

    I was looking at the '64 Vibroverb and the more recent Fender Twin Custom 15 - both using a 15" speaker which might be more to the liking of Jazz players. Perhaps either of those amps with a tube swap might give you a similar overall sound?

    Any ideas or comments on this?

    Thanks in advance!

    Tom

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    Member uneumann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomCarlos View Post
    ... The Benson TR also uses Jensen Tornado Neodymium speakers and is build using a Pine cabinet.
    Just a comment on the neo Jensen. I have one and I find it super clean - almost hifi clean.
    I'd vote for that alone making a big difference in tone and perceived headroom.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    On the matter of what George thinks of the amp... There's a good chance that any changes to the normal channel were done by techs listening to George and what he was asking for. How George ended up using the amp could definitely be a different matter. Georges comments on the amp are what he could summon that was a positive thing to say in order to maintain his endorsement and/or fulfill his obligation. I'm pretty sure you could plug George into ANY amp that was even vaguely suitable for jazz and he'd futz for couple minutes, find a tone and just kill it playing his ass off. Just sayin'.

    In that light the GB Twin Reverb is just another offering, for better or worse. If anyone is seeking "George Benson tone" I don't even know that I would recommend a specific amp or suggest that an endorsement deal on his part is even indicative of what he plays through on a regular basis or in a recording studio.

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    Since when has clean headroom been an issue with even the regular Fender Twin?

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    Since when has clean headroom been an issue with even the regular Fender Twin?
    +1!!!

    Artists, big and small. are notorious for "thinking" they understand the building blocks of tone. In fact they only stumble upon what works for themselves by trial and error. But ego's speak a different language

    EDIT: That isn't to say that these pro's don't manage to find good tone. They certainly do. I'm just saying that their interpretation of how they got there can't really be used literally much of the time and certainly can't be taken seriously by tone seekers pro or amateur.

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    "Never bet your life on somebody else doing their job." SoulFetish's good friend

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

    "Back to the amp. It makes horrible sounds when I play my guitar thru it... because I suck at playing guitar." Mike6158

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    The "Working Man" tone is in there somewhere... I mean, assuming my Bassman 100 through a 2x12" counts as the same as a TR Normal channel on 10... It wasn't that loud. I mean, the guys downstairs quit partying until 3 every night after a few rounds of Rush tributes, but they never called the cops.

    Justin

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Thomas View Post
    The "Working Man" tone is in there somewhere... I mean, assuming my Bassman 100 through a 2x12" counts as the same as a TR Normal channel on 10... It wasn't that loud. I mean, the guys downstairs quit partying until 3 every night after a few rounds of Rush tributes, but they never called the cops.

    Justin
    You're so convinced that you have "that" tone that you've mentioned it twice (just to my reckoning ). So I'm convinced that you have it. But I'm curious... Would that be the rhythm tone, the lead tone, or both? Further, live or studio? I'm a big Alex fan and I'm interested.

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

    "Back to the amp. It makes horrible sounds when I play my guitar thru it... because I suck at playing guitar." Mike6158

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    Supporting Member loudthud's Avatar
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    There was a place in east Portland that sold some amp parts on the internet. They were a little hard to get in touch with for a while, then it was said the guy went on tour as George's amp tech. Anyone remember this?

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    I won't say I have "it," but my main point is that the "headroom" of Twin Reverbs is greatly exaggerated. "My Twin is clean to 10!" "Then you have your tone controls on 1 or the damn thing's broken!" I think if I played an LP instead of a Tele, I could get a lot closer. I don't have his fingers either.

    I'm thinking the original studio here. First, rumor has it he used a dimed TR on that album. Second, you can definitely hear a difference on all of the later live recordings. You know - Master Volume Buzz. Definitely a harsher, rawer sound. Nothing wrong with that, just not the same. And of course, none of that "try to keep it to 90dB, guys" crapola.

    You're probably a better guitar player than me, too. Neil Young is my um... Guitar Technique Advisor. But I don't know where you'll find an assortment of TRs to max out til you get one that "works." But I do have a spare tranny aet someone gave me.

    Justin

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    "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. -
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  10. #10
    Supporting Member TomCarlos's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies.

    We all know that celebrity endorsements (paid) can be skewed. For those who have technical expertise (or even limited expertise), we have our own take on this. There are numerous combinations of guitars, tubes, speakers, settings, etc that contribute to a "sound." Going back to my original question, the intent was to ask "if you swap out the 12AX7 tube, can you get an overall output that is less distorted (thus clean). The implication of the 12AX7 was that higher gain leads to a potentially distorted signal before going to the output stage.

    The Benson model adds another $250 on top of the '65 Twin Reissue. So you would need to account for speakers, the cabinet wood, and cooler looking tolex. Otherwise, it appears to be a very similar Twin.

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    Don't forget the joker g1's Avatar
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    I don't think the ad copy necessarily lines up with what George had to say.
    It mentions the speakers and headroom (backing up what uneumann said above) and then says something about the 12AY giving more 'clarity' and 'complex midrange' for the normal channel.
    They may have asked him to mention both and he just got it jumbled around.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomCarlos View Post
    Going back to my original question, the intent was to ask "if you swap out the 12AX7 tube, can you get an overall output that is less distorted (thus clean). The implication of the 12AX7 was that higher gain leads to a potentially distorted signal before going to the output stage.
    I never met a BF topography amp that would distort the preamp before the power amp starts to clip unless it had a master volume. And...

    All things being equal I like the tonal difference a 12ay7 tube makes plugged into a typical guitar amp 12ax7 first position. That is, the circuit values aren't adjusted for the different tube. My perception would be similar to the print regarding clarity and midrange. Maybe a nicer top end with more punch in the good frequencies and less in the harsher sounding ones? I've described it before as "more tubey sounding"

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    "Back to the amp. It makes horrible sounds when I play my guitar thru it... because I suck at playing guitar." Mike6158

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    I'll stand by my statement that a regular twin has plenty of clean headroom. That said, it might be helpful to see and actual schematic of the GB Twin for comparison. Otherwise, we are just guessing. Small changes can make a big difference.

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    All things being equal I like the tonal difference a 12ay7 tube makes plugged into a typical guitar amp 12ax7 first position. That is, the circuit values aren't adjusted for the different tube.
    The 12AY7 is one of the few subs that works really well in an AX7 circuit without changes, unlike the AT & AU, which are not really at their best when plugged in an AX7 socket.

    Justin

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    Hooray Justin,
    About time someone made this point specifically.

    The AT needs to run at x2 the current of a AX and has significantly more grid current

    The AU has a bad rep with the hifi guys because they run it a 2 or 3 mA when it needs 8 to 10mA to shine.

    As for those "experts" who say (in print even) you can just drop a AX into the 12DW7 socket in an old Ampeg - what rot.

    One of those thumbs up is mine - the others must be from guys who understand their tubes a bit.

    Cheers,
    Ian

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    I read that many years ago on the old Ampage site. Don't remember who from, originally. It's then when I learned the difference between "works" an thd "works well."

    I've also heard the theory that part of the reason AU & AT7s sound "bad" in AX7 circuits is vuz they're not optimized for the same circuits. Then there's all the data sheets, where the AT &AU are mentioned as "function" tubes, specifically phase inverters or drivers, & AX & AY are listed as voltage amplifiers in audio amps. But I'm sure that someone could build a good-sounding amp out of nothing but AU7s they ganked from an old Hammond...

    Justin

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    "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 -

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Thomas View Post
    But I'm sure that someone could build a good-sounding amp out of nothing but AU7s they ganked from an old Hammond...
    I had a small tub of au7's pulled from an old Conn organ. I had planned to build a 3W self split amp just for them. I even had it all drawn up. As time passed and I found occasion to use a couple of them I found that many were aged enough that I had to really pick through them to find a good one. So I never got around to building the little amp.

    I had another idea to run a bunch of them in a power amp (miller capacitance be damned) just as a lark to see how much power I could get from, say, four in parallel (eight triodes) per side in a push pull circuit (total eight tubes). At three watts per triode (subtract for the real world) I thought maybe fifteen watts. Again, since most of them weren't that good I scrapped that notion too.

    As it is I'm using them for reverb drivers with good success. I just pick through them when I need one and cull the ones that don't make the cut. I have maybe twenty left. Of which maybe five are actually ok.

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    "Never bet your life on somebody else doing their job." SoulFetish's good friend

    "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

    "Back to the amp. It makes horrible sounds when I play my guitar thru it... because I suck at playing guitar." Mike6158

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