#1
Hi, folks. Skip to the bits in bold if you want the condensed version.

I'm entertaining the idea of getting a new amp. As stated, I currently use a Fender Blues Junior. It's been my main amp for half a decade. I got it for a few hundred bucks in college. So far, it hasn't given me any problems, but I can't help but think there's something better. GAS?

In August, I had a few fleeting moments to play through some other amps at 2 local shops. In particular, the AC15 was a minor revelation. My Tele sounded great. Given time constraints, I had to be cursory with my testing. Bummer. Surely, I'll be more extensive at the "to buy or not to buy?" stage. Also, is there a noticeable difference between the AC15 and AC30 for a user who doesn't usually crank it?

For my playing style, a high-gain amp isn't necessary. I prefer a decent amount of headroom and rely on pedals for anything over moderate grit (Visual Sound J&H, Devi Ever Shoe Gazer, MXR Blue Box). Barring that, I could push the tubes when recording for natural OD. Honestly, I foresee studio use over stage use as I'm in the twilight of my youth.

I don't feel the need to go boutique. My max budget is $800. My home base is in northeast Pennsylvania. Used is fine unless there are known QC issues. I wouldn't be buying for a while, but I want to foment my thoughts. Again, because I'm forecasting so far in advance, I'd be OK with generalizations instead of "You can get ____ now for ____" specifics. Yes, I know I seem to be asking for a lot considering I won't be doing anything for a while.

Feel free to call me out on anything.

Vitals:
- Wondering if I should get a new amp at all (Vox AC15?)
- Budget max $800; preferably $600
- Wouldn't be trying or buying for half a year (currently overseas), but want a general idea
- Nothing high-gain
- Used OK unless model is problematic
- Band applicability a necessity

Me:
- Intermediate guitarist having played for a little over a decade.
- Main genres: alt/indie, folk, and rock. ex: Jeff Buckley to The Replacements, Elliott Smith to Brand New, and Leonard Cohen to Glassjaw
- Record semi-regularly at home and with a band set-up
- Gig mostly with an acoustic set-up

Gear:
- '69 Tele reissue fitted with Fender Noiseless pickups and a 50's Strat neck
- '01 Epi LP Custom with a Custom 5 in the bridge & a '59 in the neck
- '04 Martin DCXE
- Possible American Tele in the future
- Fender Blues Jr.
- Pedals aplenty
- Chocobo, Mog, and Magus
I am a fake mountain.
#2
Try putting some decent tubes in the BJ before you do anything. You may get a surprise.
Gilchrist custom
Yamaha SBG500
Telecasters
Randall RM100 & RM20
Marshall JTM45 clone
Marshall JCM900 4102 (modded)
Marshall 18W clone
Fender 5F1 Champ clone
Atomic Amplifire
Marshall 1960A
Boss GT-100


Cathbard Amplification
My band
#3
Good point. I put some Groove Tubes in it back in '08. Nothing special, I know, and it's been a while. Then again, I'm usually not one to push the tubes or abuse an amp (no gigs under my ownership, either). I also don't know how much my brother's been using it since I've been gone (1.5 years). He's 40, a lifelong player, and the kind of person who takes too much care of things. I had access to it for about a week in August. Everything sounded the same as always, but I hadn't been around readily-available amps in a while. Perhaps this is what I'm (erroneously?) basing my conjecture off of. Compared to my Fender, that Vox sounded great.

What are your reasonably-priced (no more than $50/tube) suggestions?
I am a fake mountain.
#4
Groove Tubes can be just about anything. You have to read the entire code to know what brand they actually are.
Retubing your BJ wouldn't cost much and you could use them in another amp later, especially if you ended up buying a Vox, they use the same type of tubes.
Get JJ EL84's for the power amp. There's a very good chance that your EL84's are half shot by now.
As for the preamp you have a few options. I like JJ ECC83S and ECC803's but some people say they are a little middy in a Fender. Perhaps get a couple of extras to experiment, say a Tungsol or Mullard reissue or a nice NOS tube for V1.
If you do nothing else, throw in a couple of new EL84's. New tubes are almost like buying a whole new amp.
Gilchrist custom
Yamaha SBG500
Telecasters
Randall RM100 & RM20
Marshall JTM45 clone
Marshall JCM900 4102 (modded)
Marshall 18W clone
Fender 5F1 Champ clone
Atomic Amplifire
Marshall 1960A
Boss GT-100


Cathbard Amplification
My band
#5
Not trying to thread steal...Its relevent to the poster aswell
Which makes more of a difference to the overalll "sound quality" of the amp pre or power tubes?
07 Gibson Les Paul LE
06 Fender Mex Strat - SDJb Jr, duckbucker, lil 59
Floor
Cry Baby 95Q-> Digitech Whammy -> DD3 -> MXR Micro Amp-> TU 2
Loop
Holy Grail ->Boss Rc20 Loop Station
Amp
Laney GH50 with Zilla Fatboy 2x12 (celestion g12-65)
#7
jj power tubes, assorted nos preamps and a ragin cajun speaker.

and it is a whole new amp.
I wondered why the frisbee was getting bigger, then it hit me.
#8
any speaker called a ragin cajun must be good
07 Gibson Les Paul LE
06 Fender Mex Strat - SDJb Jr, duckbucker, lil 59
Floor
Cry Baby 95Q-> Digitech Whammy -> DD3 -> MXR Micro Amp-> TU 2
Loop
Holy Grail ->Boss Rc20 Loop Station
Amp
Laney GH50 with Zilla Fatboy 2x12 (celestion g12-65)
#9
I tried posting this before work, but the forum went bonkers... Anyway.

Much obliged for preventing needless expenditure on my part. I didn't pay much mind when I last re-tubed it, let alone look up any info whatsoever concerning the GTs.

I had thought about getting a new speaker, but for some reason the idea completely slipped my mind. A Ragin' Cajun, eh? Good for my style, or good all-around? EDIT: Also, isn't it 2" too small?

The whole thing doesn't look to be much more than a $100 or so. Thanks again. I'll see how it all works out in the spring.
I am a fake mountain.
Last edited by DanTheHobbit at Nov 23, 2011,
#10
The Blues Jr is really a sweet amp and a speaker + tube changes will bring out a tone monster. A V30 speaker would be one.

As for tubes, NOS tubes will give you tone as you'd never heard before and while they can be costly they last practically forever so they're really cheap in the long run. For the EL84s get the organ stock as a matched set. For preamp there's several that'll work well, it's a matter of taste.

For my Handsome Devil head I bought ANOS tubes. I got Westinghouse branded at $19 apiece (tested as good). One was Raytheon black plate I put in V1 and RCA black plate in V2. The RCA in V1 gave me a gritty tone which wasn't bad but the Raytheon was really smooth so that went in V1.

For the EL84s I got Sylvania (Baldwin Organ label) 6BQ5s as a matched set for $69 (tested as new). I bought them at TC Tubes.

I got such sweet tone from my amp that I'll never look back and I had 'em for quite a while that they're still solid. They made me realize what I've been missing because I've played back in the 60s where those tubes were plenty.

What nostalgia.
Parker PDF30
Vox VT40+
#11
A Celestion V30? Better than a Greenback? And is it of a quality befitting it being twice the price tag of an Eminence Texas Heat (the Ragin' Cajun would be too small). Also, would it suit my style? Since this is the first time I'd be replacing the speaker, I'm admittedly lost.

Regarding the tubes, how long have you used the aforementioned ones? How long is "practically forever?" I'd assume that's at least a year or a few, especially since I rarely have the need/opportunity to push them. I could stretch my budget to accommodate multiple sets, but only just. I still need to budget for my potential purchase of an American Tele. Mental note on TC Tubes.

Cath, any corroborations or rebuttals? Anyone else? Anyone? Bueller? Thanks again for the replies so far.
I am a fake mountain.
#12
NOS are always better if you can afford them. The JJ EL84's are pretty good and pretty cheap. I run NOS power tubes in my Abbey (Brimar 6L6) and Champ (Brimar 6V6) mainly because I scored them really cheap off ebay. I put JJ EL84's into the 18W Marshalls I build and they sound fantastic.
I use a lot of NOS preamp tubes, I have a bit of a collection. Most have come from Ebay. It's a bit of a turkey shoot though, I've had a few microphonic tubes from Ebay.
You can often pick up Phillips and RCA 12AX7's quite cheap and they suit a Fender nicely. The best are old Telefunkens but you can spend anything up to $1000 a piece for the good ones of those. JAN Phillips (JAN = joint army navy) tubes are still plentiful and can often be picked up for a song. There are a lot of 5751's around. They work great in a Fender. Slightly less gain than a 12AX7. If you want a cleaner tone grab a few and try them in different spots. They are particularly good in the phase inverter.
Anything made in Germany, Holland, Britain, USA, Hungary or Australia are pretty safe bets.
If you want to add some midrange grit to your amp get yourself some JJ ECC83S valves. That's what I use in my Marshalls and they scream. Cheap too.
If you really want to clean up the amp grab one of these for V1:
http://www.mojotone.com/NOS-JAN-Phillips-12AT7-Vacuum-Tube
Crazy cheap, huh? 12AT7's have a lot less gain than a 12AX7. Would be worth having one around for the time when you want perfect cleans for recording.
Gilchrist custom
Yamaha SBG500
Telecasters
Randall RM100 & RM20
Marshall JTM45 clone
Marshall JCM900 4102 (modded)
Marshall 18W clone
Fender 5F1 Champ clone
Atomic Amplifire
Marshall 1960A
Boss GT-100


Cathbard Amplification
My band
#13
a NOS 12AY7 (which comes cheap @ $10> do well in V3; phase inverter position. try looking for NOS 12AX7A, 7025, and 5751's for V1 and V2, look for $15>.

for power tubes, i believe JJ/Tesla EL84s are one of the best. certainly best of the modern manufactured tubes. not that pricey either.
Call me "Shot".

ShotRod Guitar Works

Custom Hand-wired Amplifiers and Effect Pedals.

Est. 2007


Source to everything I say about Guitars, Pedals, and Amplifiers: I make them.


UG's Best DIY PedalBoard
#14
NOS tubes can last 10+ years so that's why they are a bargain. New production tubes does well but last a few years if lucky.

A V30 has loads of good reviews but you don't have to get it. The Warehouse Speaker has a good copy of it for better price.
Parker PDF30
Vox VT40+
#15
my bad, thought the ragin cajun came in a 12.

bottom line, get the crap **** speaker out of it and put in some decent tubes.
I wondered why the frisbee was getting bigger, then it hit me.
#16
$8 a tube for pristine cleans? Sold. Sold on JJ for everyday use. I'll think about and try to spot a deal on all the NOS info you guys have given me. I just bookmarked this thread.

To make sure things are straight, JJ or Tesla are fine for the power amp. Splurge for matched NOS pairs if needed, but they're not a huge deal. For the preamp, pick up a set of JJ EC883S's for everyday use. Also experiment with NOS. Look for 5751's, 12AT7's, 12AY7's, and RCA/Phillips 12AX7's. Eye eBay, TC Tubes, and Mojo Tubes. Correct?

Any definitive word on a good replacement speaker? Texas Heat? Greenback? V30? Warehouse? The resale on a Warehouse isn't a huge deal for me. In a pinch, I can give it to my friend for his beater amp. All I want is more.

Thanks a ton for the help. Happy Thanksgiving for those stateside. Have some egg nog and pumpkin pie.
I am a fake mountain.
#17
yes JJ EL84 power tubes are great for the price.

yes you can find some great deals on NOS 5751s as well as th others. the RCA/Phillips 12ax7s will probably be the most expensive, but the damn best imo. you can try a AT7 or AU7 but when i did, i settled on a 5751 and a couple good AX7s. ymmv

no you probably don't want a v30 or clone in a bjr. (opinion alert, that's mine!)
i'd go with the texas heat.

good luck.
I wondered why the frisbee was getting bigger, then it hit me.
#18
I had a Blues Jr and I retubed it with a set of Mullard RIs. They were pretty sweet sounding, bright and crispy. I liked 'em.
Parker PDF30
Vox VT40+