I’ve been buying and selling gear on eBay since the last millennium … otherwise known as 1999, but hey, that’s still a LONG time! Over the last decade eBay has become less and less advantageous for individuals like me as a place to sell gear. The fees keep escalating and the deck is stacked more and more against the seller in as much as we actually CAN’T give a buyer who rips us off bad feedback … that’s plum insane, and a buyer can blackmail us using a threat of “bad feedback”. Furthermore, the ONLY payment method we can accept is PayPal, and PayPal is terribly biased towards the BUYER getting whatever they want, and often the seller gets screwed by a buyer who CLAIMS the item was not as described or some such nonsense. Even in a “for local pickup only” auction, we can’t accept anything but PayPal; if you’re item description even hints to the fact that you will accept greenbacks, the eBay bots will catch it and cancel your item. Why? Because they want the PayPal percentage, of course! (EBay may have “spun off” PayPal into its own company, but they are still corporate siblings.) The end result: unless you are a big company selling gazillions of cheap widgets, you are probably looking for an alternative place to sell your stuff. If your stuff happens to be guitar and music gear, your best option is Reverb(.com).
let’s take a couple of hypothetical sales and compare the cost to sell the items. First how about a sweet yet inexpensive old Sigma/Martin acoustic guitar that sells for $200. EBay would take $26.40 out of that two hundred bucks; Reverb would take $12.65. That cuts the cost of selling more than in half! Put an even better way, the difference in fees would allow you to drop your price to $186, and still wind up with the same profit, and that motivates buyers! But how about on a more top-end item, how about a mid-level vintage instrument worth $9,000? Well, now it gets interesting indeed! EBay would take $1,011.60 of your money, and Reverb would take $593.25. Baby, that’s $418 bucks difference. Now let’s just say over a year or so you sell a dozen or so of those $200-ish items, plus a couple of those 9-grand-ish items, plus a few in-between items and a good solid splattering of pedals and other sub $100 items (that’s fairly typical for a mid-level buyer/seller/collector/player). Man, you’ll save WELL over a grand selling that on Reverb vs eBay.
As I alluded to earlier, both eBay and their sister company PayPal are terribly biased towards the buyer and agents the seller. This simply is not the case with Reverb; the Reverb selling and payment system offers EQUAL protection for both the buyer AND the seller. If you are the seller, that’s important.
Okay, so given all this evidence, why on earth would anyone continue to sell gear on eBay? Simple: they still have a larger user base than Reverb, especially world-wide. And, speaking of world-wide selling, here eBay really shines with their proprietary world-wide shipping service, which actually costs the seller nothing to use, as the buyer pays for all shipping fees. And so, if you have an item that you just KNOW will fetch a premium overseas, then the larger fees eBay leverages just might be worth it. Also, arguably, the eBay selling system may be easier for a newbie to use, but to me that’s not an issue, and it probably isn’t to those of you reading here either.
So there ya have it. Happy gear selling.
We may all be different (some of us more than others :-) ... but every one of us here in the WGS circle of friends has something to be truly thankful for this year: The fact that we have guitars in our lives. No matter the level we play at or the style we play in, this love of guitars and making music reaches across the miles and even the ideologies that might distance us and brings us together as one. I feel truly blessed to be a part of this family!
You’ve just dug an old Tube amp out of Grandpa’s attic; or maybe got a deal on eBay or Craigslist. So, how do you safely turn it on to assess its health? Well, there’s really NO way that’s guaranteed to be safe, but here is the best advice I can give ya.
Believe me, this is a proven recipe for smoking resistors and capacitors. And oh how terrible the smoke smells! It’s the reverse of the old Nike line: JUST DON’T DO IT!
On eBay I’ll often see amps listed as something like “turned on and all the glass bottles lit up”, and the accompanying pic will show the amp with the tubes glowing and NO SPEAKER connected. The output transformer of a tube amp expects to see a certain impedance on the tube side of the tranny, and a reflected impedance on the speaker side. Now, most old amps are forgiving of loads up to +/- 100% of the expected load (in other words an amp expecting an 8-ohm speaker impedance is generally safe at 4-16 ohms. But, no speaker load at all, nope, that ain’t safe for even a few seconds! Figure any tube amp ran without a speaker load has a pretty good chance of having bad output tubes, output transformer, or both. Again, JUST DON’T DO IT!
This pic was taken directly from an eBay auction. What's wrong? Yep, the tubes are all aglow ... with no speaker load! Don't do that!!!
So … what SHOULD you do?
Carefully look for fried resistors or blown out electrolytic capacitors. Then, check all the filter caps and other big-value caps with an ESR meter and replace any bad ones prior to powering up. Also check the important grid and coupling caps and resistors and replace ones that are way out of spec before powering up.
They don’t have to test “as new” … but if they are just flat shorted, gassing, or WAY below minimum spec, replace them before powering up. In a push-pull amp with 2 or 4 power tubes (or more) you will also want to make sure the output tube pairs are at least FAIRLY closely balanced.
And fire the old girl up on a variac starting at about 25 volts AC. Note that you do NOT need to have her hooked up to a speaker load at this point because you have REMOVED the output tubes! Increase the voltage about 20 volts every 20 minutes until you have reached full voltage. If nothing is smoking and you haven’t blown a fuse, you are ready to continue.
At this point, make sure she’s hooked up to an appropriate speaker load, and you might want to run her through a visual over-current protection device (light bulb); the bulb should be an old fashioned incandescent of about 150-300 watts (or multiples that add up to this). For info on the “light bulb” current limiting device, click HERE.
With amps that have been dormant for a long time, I like to start with it on the variac at about 90 volts for a few minutes before slowly bringing the power up to full line voltage (provided nothing snaps, crackles, pops, or smokes). Now listen for unusual noise as you turn the controls through their ranges. A little “warm heater” smell is normal at this point, but keep your nose and eyes open, and if you smell ugly burning smells or see smoke, cut the power!
I like to start with music from my mp3 player, etc. Just turn her up and see what she sounds like. If she sounds entirely happy, then it’s time to plug in a guitar and see how she sounds. I won’t get into any mods you might want to make to an old amp as that is out of the scope of this blog. I’ll say this: if the amps happy, and you are happy, then you’re done!
You may have noticed that over the last decade or so Fender has released some cool little tube amp designs, like the ever popular straight-up tube amps the Blues Junior and the Pro Junior as well as the tube hybrid Super Champ XD and X2. All of these amps have a club friendly 15-20 watts through either a pair of EL84’s (The Blues and Pro Jr.) or 6V6’s (the Super Champs). This is the exquisite power section of the famous AC-15 or Deluxe Reverb … a VERY good platform on which to build a club-sized tube amp, and on their own these little amps sound quite good, but to heck with good … we want GREAT, right?
Is it their PC board construction, pre-amp stage, or poor component selection? No; it’s the cabinets and speakers. All of these otherwise excellent combos suffer from the same malady: they have cheap speakers crammed into cheap, too-small cabinets. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a recipe for mediocracy at best. The good news is that there IS a fix! Let’s talk about that.
Every one of these is a GREAT sounding design, but it’s like having a great engine in a Yugo (click on the word if you don’t know what a Yugo is). The tiny cabinets Fender crams these things into are made of particle board so heavy that you would swear it’s part lead; there is absolutely no room for the speaker to breathe, and no cabinet resonance at all. The end result: a box that sounds … well … boxy! And so, I will present you with two great alternatives that I personally am intimately familiar with; both of these options will take your little amp from “meh” to “YEA”!
I owned a Pro Junior for a little while … and “meh” was a perfect way to describe it, I loved that cute LITTLE cabinet, and even made a 3/8” lightweight baffle and put a 12” speaker in it … but the fact is, that dense little cabinet just physically can’t sound great. But wait! Enter the 2x10” “Pro Senior”; this amp is owned by my buddy and HEAVY gigging player Brad Sample, and it’s been on hundreds of stages of all sizes all over the country. The chassis is a plain old un-modified Pro Junior, but the cabinet is a healthy sized 2x10 made by JD Newell from Grade A knot-Free pine and has a lightweight floating baffle for 2 10” speakers. Brad used the stock very bright Fender speaker and added the VERY bottom-heavy hemp-cone Eminence Lil Buddy, and the result is a GREAT sounding simple volume & Tone tube amp that can easily keep up with a heavy hitting drummer! Awesome, right? (BTW: a WGS G10C and an ET10 would be the ULTIMATE speaker combo in this cabinet).
As you all might remember, I LOVE my little Vibro-Champ XD for after-the-family-goes-to-bed living room playing. So, I started looking into its big brother, the Super Champ XD as a club-gig amp. Problem was, they just didn’t sound that great … too boxy … plus, not nearly enough clean volume to keep up with a live drummer. So, when I spotted this ultra-cool Super Champ XD in a high-quality tweed covered 1x12 made by The Musician’s Hardware Store … I just HAD to own it! As you might expect, I did an exhaustive bunch of speaker tests, and Ultimately chose a Reaper HP as the flat-out winner for this amp, it retains all the Fender sparkle and chime, plus adds a bunch of tight, solid bottom (I like my bottom tight and solid) … and it’s efficiency coupled with the quality lightweight and resonant cabinet means that this lil gal can EASILY keep up with a slammin’ live drummer. Oh, and best of all for those of us who care about our backs, because the new cabinet is so much lighter than the original particle board cab, the final amp is only 2-pounds heavier than a stock Super Champ XD … even with the heavy-magnet Reaper. Yea BABY!
Now, if ya wanta go whole-hog, contact my buddy Jimi Lundin and have him whip you up a one-of-a-kind cab for your lil gal. Jim is quite an artist and makes my cabs.
So, maybe you have some OTHER tiny tube amp that suffers from the same combo of a cheap speaker inside a too-small box. Fear not! Folks like Jimi, JD Newell and The Musician’s Hardware Store can make a superior quality cabinet for most any amp out there … oh, and of course WGS will always provide the best speaker at an unbelievable price. Feel better? Yep, I thought so :-)
someone said their drip-edge Bassman was a 1968 because “that’s the only year they made drip-edge amps”. [Buzzer sound] Wrong! And by the way, just in case you don’t know, the term “drip-edge” refers to the aluminum trim surrounding the grill cloth on the earliest silver-face Fender amps (see highlighted drip-edge in the photo above). So, let’s talk drip-edge years of production. Are y’all ready to settle this question once and forever? Good, then let’s go!
Okay, to be fair, dude WAS partially correct, in as much as that 1968 was the only FULL year of production for the drip-edge models. However, the first drip-edge models appeared in late August of 1967 as the black-face cosmetics were being replaced by silver-faced amps. The most popular amps, like the Deluxe Reverb, were the first to receive the new look, which included not only the silver face-plate and aluminum drip-edge, but also a slightly different grill cloth with added subtle vertical blue stripes. A few models during this early silverface period actually have the new silver face-plate and the old blackface style back-plate, and the earliest silver faceplates have the mysterious slim black vertical lines (more on this later). It makes sense that the amps that were not selling as well were the last to receive the new look, as they were the models for which the old black-face parts lasted the longest, and inversely the most popular models were the first to get the update, as their black-face parts ran out the earliest. What does this mean? It means that you may see a drip-edge Deluxe Reverb with a build date as early as mid-1967, and a black-face non-reverb bandmaster or Vibrolux as late as February of 1968. Now, as for when the drip-edge was eliminated. Once again, the most popular models were the first to lose the aluminum trim in mid 1969 and the least popular were the last to lose it in late 1969, with the Bandmaster Reverb (TFL5005D) as the very last. By January of 1970 all fender amps being produced were the more common non-drip edge silverface models, those cosmetics continued on unchanged through the entire decade.
Got it? Good, now let’s talk specifically about the earliest of the drip edge amps, the “black line” models. These amps can really be “sleepers” as most are in every way a blackface amp with silverface cosmetics.
There is no clear consensus as to why these lines exist; they appear just before the Volume controls and on either side of the amps name. In contrast to every other aspect of the silkscreen printing, they just don’t seem “right”. They are non-symmetrical both vertically as well as horizontally and are extremely thin compared to all other lines. Many believe they were lay-out reference lines that were never intended to make it into production; that makes sense since they only appeared for about the first 4-6 months. At any rate, these lines are a great clue that your amp is one of the earliest with the silverface cosmetics, many of which were otherwise UNCHANGED from the blackface design. Cool, a blackface amp at a silverface price!
This Deluxe Reverb was listed on Craigslist as a “70’s Silverface”. From the one picture with the ad, I could see the drip edge and black lines, and new she was probably a 1967. When I saw the amp in person, I confirmed that it was indeed a ’67 from the serial number, AB763 tube chart, and blackface footswitch. Yep, I gladly handed over the $725 asking price :-)
Now, when you hear someone state that all drip edge Fender amps are 1968s, please set them straight!
See y’all next week, it’s gonna be one you won’t want to miss.
So … After my initial blog about the 1957 Strat at Goodwill, I’ve had numerous inquiries as to if that was real or just a hoax; I assure you it was real. Man, the truth is, Up until that time the Goodwill auction site was totally off my radar as good hunting ground for vintage instruments. But ever since, I’ve been keeping my eyes on that site. Here is a super clean 1959 Gibson Melody maker that just sold for a very reasonable price, check it out!
It was listed as “Gibson Burnt Coffee Electric Guitar-Powers On”. What the heck??? Burnt coffee? And how exactly does a guitar “power on”? Because of the hilarious description, I thought maybe I could sneek in and get her for a steel, but it ended up selling for about $1,500; a great deal for someone, but still too rich for my blood.
Next, I’ve just gotta mention this guitar I found on Goodwill; the title was “Gibson Mahogany Bass Electric Guitar”. Now, this one is REALLY hilarious because 1) it’s not a Gibson, 2) it’s not Mahogany, and 3) it's not a bass! They got EVERYTHING wrong! So the lesson is “buyer beware”, Goodwill doesn’t know a thing about guitars, so you the buyer had better! Oh, and it only sold for about fifty bucks, so I guess nobody was suckered into believing it was a “Gibson Mahogany Bass Electric Guitar”. Have fun y’all, keep pickin’ … and keep grinnin’.
I’m reading an advertisement from a fret protectant product by Zymol called “Bridge”; the advert says EXACTLY what I want to say, and so I’ll repeat it here word for word:
Boy … sounds like something to avoid, doesn’t it? Let’s talk about that.
First, I’ll mention that this blog is NOT about re-fretting a guitar, or about polishing frets; that might be a good topic for another day, but today we are talking specifically about cleaning and protecting the wood of your fretboard.
If your fretboard is sporting only the usual player’s grime, then I recommend cleaning it with nothing more than a good bit of old fashioned elbow grease, a cloth with water and a mild soap, like dish detergent. Personally, I like old socks as the cloth. If you are cleaning a board with decades of ground-in grime, then I use a product like LA’s Totally Awesome Cleaner and/or naphtha. Be aware that the stronger the cleaner, the more likely you are to wind up with a dry oil-depleted fretboard. Which brings us to…
Here is where my opening quote comes in, and here is where I like coconut oil (which just happens to be a main ingredient in Zymol’s Bridge product). Some folks prefer lemon or some other oil on fretboards while others shout “use nothing at all”. Personally, I am among the use nothing crowd when we’re talking about say, a maple board finished in a bunch of polyurethane. I mean, really … nothing’s going to penetrate that PLASTIC anyway; any oil you try to apply will just rub/drip off! However, if we are talking about an unfinished board, especially rosewood or ebony, or an old board with little to no nitro left on it … then I oil the board, especially if it’s noticeably dry.
Why coconut oil instead of lemon, orange, or one of the other oils? Because it kills fungus, bacteria, and viruses. Yep, it kills all that crap that would like to eat your fretboard. A couple of nice side benefits are that it’s super easy to work with since it is a paste at room temp, and that it just might keep you from catching a virus! When working coconut oil into the board, remember to use it sparingly. Just a couple little dabs on a cloth will get you through the average fretboard. If it’s a super dry board, you might repeat the process. And, you will always want to thoroughly rub the board down with a dry cloth afterwards … unless maybe you want a little to rub off on overly dry finger tips!
Oh, and if you like the idea of using a product specifically for guitars, by all means ... I sugest using the Zymol product ... with all it's coco-nutty goodness :-)
I’ve been “retired” from the road for over 20 years now. When our first daughter was born I decided that being home to be a husband and father was more important than being a road warrior. That daughter is now out of college and more-or-less on her own, but my wife and I have a new little girl who just started kindergarten, so again, I have a pretty good reason for still keeping my little lily white hiney home. But yesterday I was listening to Paul McCartney on Pandora while driving and it hit me; if Paul were to call me out of retirement, I’d say yes without hesitation.
Why? Well, it’s certainly not just because of the opportunity to play with a “living legend” before it’s too late. I assure you the majority of music icons don’t interest me a bit. But McCartney … well … wow. Yes, as regular readers of this blog know, I’m a McCartney fan for sure (read the blog). But from a GUITAR PLAYER standpoint, here are the bullet points:
Varity: Holy crap, McCartney’s catalog of hits, both in and out of the Beatles is more varied in styles and textures than ANY other artist! That’s what hit me as I listened to a smattering of his stuff from many decades. I mean, there isn’t a single guitar tone that he hasn’t used on record. As a certified TONE guy, I can TOTALLY appreciate that. I mean, I might actually be able to come up with a totally genuine answer to my wife’s question of “why on earth do you have so many guitars, amps, and guitar gizmos?” … “Because, sweetie, I need each and every single one of them to cop the tones on Paul’s songs”. How cool is that fellow gear addicts???
The man himself: I learned many years ago that if you are going to squeeze into an aluminum tube with a dozen or so other musicians and call it home for weeks or months at a time, all it takes is one JERK and the experience becomes miserable. I just cannot imagine a jerk ever gaining entrance to McCartney’s band. He’s just too darn nice a guy (he IS a Knight after all).
So there! Sorry to my lovely wife Kim, but if Sir Paul calls me up, I’ll be on the road again. Of course there are better odds that I’ll win the state lottery while being hit by a bus on an ocean cruise …
How about y’all? What artist would be YOUR ultimate gig and why? I’m curious!
Howdy friendly guitar friends! So, any of you who know me know that I’ve always got my guitar “deal radar” up; man, I LOVE finding gems at pawn shops and yard sales. But, Goodwill? I mean, sure, we’ve all picked up some cool stage clothes at Goodwill … maybe even a pseudo-vintage microphone. So, how about a near mint 1957 Fender Strat? Impossible you say? Well right now, as I pen this blog, one is up for sale on Goodwill’s auction site, I kid you NOT!
With four days to go in the auction, it’s already over 13-grand, so it’s not like you’re gonna totally STEEL it … but when you consider that this is a guitar with a full retail value of close to six-figures, there is certainly an opportunity here for a deal.
And, if you think this is a once-in-a-lifetime fluke, here is a nice clean 1967 Gibson SG Melody Maker that sold for about $1,200 last week. Sweeeet!
So, there ya go bargain hunters, if Goodwill is not on your gear radar, it should be! Oh, and can you imagine who donated that Strat to Goodwill? I can hear it now “Let’s donate grandpa’s old guitar to Goodwill, I’m sure it’s not worth much”…
Okay gang, as you all know, I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for guitars and amps that I consider “sleepers” … you know, they are awesome, but somehow the awesomeness has been undetected and so they can be bought “for a song”. Today’s entry is the Yamaha G50 and G100 amps of the late 1970’s - 1980’s. I had one come through my shop, and it turned out the only problem it had was a tired speaker. With a new WGS ET65 in her, she was a superb clean amp. I’m going to keep this short (I promise), but let’s talk just a little bit about why these are cool and VERY under-rated amps.
Okay, first, let’s start with this: these amps are often able to be bought for under a hundred bucks. Got your attention? Good, let’s dive in.
These solid-state amps were Yamaha’s take on Fender’s Twin Reverb, the reigning heavy-weight combo king of the late 1970’s. Their 50 and 100 wat versions are as loud as comparable 50 and 100 watt tube amps; this was far before the days of inflated solid-state output ratings. Yamaha was, and is, a great Japanese company that takes quality seriously. Designed with help from Paul Rivera, they are built well and can fill a big stage.
They were made in the original series as well as the II and III versions. With all three variants, the clean tone is big, fat and juicy with acutronics long-spring verb; in other words, a GREAT clean amp for Jazz, etc. … but also a great pedal platform! With all three variants, the “distortion” is downright awful; unless cheesy buzzy 80’s solid-state distortion is your thing (hey maybe you’re in a Devo tribute band), you will NOT like the amps distortion. Put a pedal in front of her!
A final note: As is soooo often the case with mass-produced amps, the one place where Yamaha cheesed out was on the speaker(s). Just like with Gibson’s excellent Lab Series amps of the same period (see my blog), they stuck speakers in that didn’t really sound great and couldn’t really handle the power of the amps. So, be prepared to drop a WGS ET65 (or two if you get the 100-watt 2x12 version) in to unleash these amps true potential!