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My First Tube Amp

Posted on February 17, 2010 at 5:06 AM

My first trip to the South Pier was disappointing actually. I went there together with my brothers expecting to find a veritable treasure trove of used and second hand guitars and amplifiers. When we arrived one hot sunday morning, all we found were 3 small stores selling beginner amps with 6-inch speakers, and sad-looking electrics in various states of disrepair. All the rest were selling PA speakers and cheap, locally made hi-fis and stereos: standard fare for neighborhood Karaoke bars and Jeepney drivers.


As I waded through the junk, I spotted this thing. Not really expecting anything, I tilted it forward and looked at the back. I saw the tubes through the ports in the rear board, and proceeded to interview the dude minding the store. I was trying to look as disinterested as possible; if these guys as much as smelled a whiff of my excitement, they'd jack the price up 200 percent.


So I plugged a guitar into it, and there was no sound. The dude offered to take an extra 500 bucks off the price. I said no thanks and kept walking.


A few days after, I got to talk to my Father-in-law, who runs a hi-fi audiophile business. Told me to "go get it. We'll fix it up."

So I got it. The very next weekend.


That thing went through a total Cap Job. The 2 EL84's were replaced as well. Loose tube sockets made the amp produce a dry crackling sound, crying out when certain low notes were played.


The first time I brought it out, it was for a recording session at Tracks. This was when the crackling sound manifested for the first time, and I had to use a solid state fender instead.


The second time was a gig. Midway through the set, the Tremolo knob broke and acted up, and took the whole amp with it.


The third time was also a gig. By this time the Jewel light had long been broken, so I had no way of visually telling if it was on or not. I powered it on (there was no standby switch), and waited for the sound. Nothing. After half an hour of fiddling on stage, We finally just set the amp aside and used something else. When I got back from the gig I discovered it was the cable that was broken. The amp was fine.


After this my wife concluded thus: The amp does not like to brought out of the house, and will do everything to sabotage your gig if you try to do so. I think she's right.


The Ace Tone Rockey pushes out 15watts through a single 12AX7 and an 2 x EL84 power section. 2 oddball tubes push the reverb and tremolo circuits, and a 12AU7 is in the Phase Inverter slot. The tonestack offers separate knobs for Treble and Bass. There is only a Gain knob but no Master Volume. Pulling out the chassis reveals a dusty, handwired, point-to-point circuit. The alnico speaker has no markings, and was well broken-in; it adds a smooth breakup at max gain. Adding a large signal boost/slight overdrive into the front end via a goosed Bad Monkey yielded a creamy grit, if that makes any sense. A study of the schematic taped to the inside wall of the cabinet revealed a striking similarity to a Vox AC15 circuit.


The clean sound is crisp and bright. The bass is a bit tight. After acquiring my Peavey Classic 30 a few months ago, I find that my ears can actually tolerate the volume of this thing even when cranked. And it sounds really good when cranked.



Categories: Reviews, Recalling the Past

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Reply Udonitron
11:23 PM on June 18, 2012 
Aw man...Kick***** Ass...the L & K are neighbors.
Kick ass sounds much better haha.
Reply Udonitron
11:21 PM on June 18, 2012 
Lick ass write up man.
I bought one of these a year ago in Japan (along with 4 other Ace Tones over the years lol) and just finished recapping it and added a Jensen C12 to it...the alnico ace tone stickered speaker is still in great shape however.
I have the schematic but is it a 2A fuse?
It is blowing the 1A's and am hoping it is a 2A.