The Cynic's Guide To Vintage Amplifiers

Stage kit from the early days of the pop explosion is now old enough to do just that (explode) and much of it has been scrapped or stashed in sheds to rot away. If anybody’s thinking this stuff could be a bargain entry point to the vintage market, think again. Repairing / restoring a mould covered heap of woodworm isn’t going to be quick or cheap. (It’s interesting though and gets you out of the house).

Start by assuming that the “unable to test”, “untested” and “I can’t test it because I haven’t got a mains lead” tube amp from eBay has already been checked over and needs serious money to put it right. A “project” chassis with big shiny places where the transformers used to be is also a great way to empty your bank account. “Just needs valves” sounds good until you work out that to re-valve a six channel 100watt PA amp would cost close to £200 before you can even start working out why it was stripped in the first place. If you’re very lucky it’s because all the vintage Mullard and Brimar tubes the seller has taken out were worth more than the amp.

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Early solid state amps aren’t much better. “Protection” meant something different in the Sixties so “turns on but hums” or “output very quiet” usually follows a night out with a shorted speaker lead. First problem these days: Replacement transistors are often counterfeit and quite often not what it says on the lid. Second problem: You need to know how to set up the operating conditions to avoid thermal runaway and DC offset. It can all be done quite happily if the pcb isn’t a heap of ashes. Speaking of printed circuit boards, expect problems with the famous “military grade” kit touted by most manufacturers in the Seventies. The only military use for most of them would be for target practise.

All that apart, if you’ve got the time and patience, getting a vintage amplifier back into circulation can be very rewarding. Don’t expect to get your investment back though.

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