My amp is older than me. I’m middle-aged and I’m falling apart. Why should my amp be any different? I’ve done some other work on it before [Part 1], but ye olde Ampeg V-4B was well overdue for a recap job.
“Recap” means replacing capacitors. More specifically, electrolytic capacitors. After decades, they age and will drift from their original rating or even die. In the tone section of an amplifier, this isn’t always a big deal. It might change the tone. In the power supply, though, capacitor drift is a bigger deal: like, expensive-impossible-to-replace-power-transformer-blows-up big deal. The should be replaced before that happens.
My boss Mauz’s Ampeg V-4 had cut out. It was very strange… one day he was at practice, and shit first started cutting in and out. Then it stopped making sound altogether. It still had power, which was the weirdest part. This beauty (one of my favorite amps of all time) had to be resurrected.
As I’d already fixed multiple problems on my own V-4B, which is almost exactly the same amp minus a reverb circuit, I was unafeered of delving into Mauz’s. I think he was more afraid than I was. Despite knowing it was in my successful-yet-amateurish hands, it was his baby. His mojo. His tone. He shouldn’t have been worried.
Wow, that is something I thought I’d never see… a NEW Ampeg V-4B. While I was doing a search for something else related to my OLD V-4B, I came across the press that this month, Ampeg has re-introduced my favorite all time bass amp back into their line-up. Ain’t she a beaut!
It’s funny that they’ve recreated the V-4B, as the original was a guitar amp. They added the B when bass players started using it, changed a few caps, and ditched the reverb. As a guitar amp, it ruled, but as a bass amp, it surprisingly ruled even harder.
I had gotten about half way through a really great post for this week over the last few days, but disaster struck. My Ampeg V-4B went SNAFU. I smelled something smoking at practice. I thought it was my strings from some awesome bass licks. Nope, I had a tube red plating in the back if my amp. It was about to blow. I turned everything off and had to figure this shit out. I had a show in Canada to play and no back up amp!
Over the next couple days, I checked shit out. I tested all the tube socket voltages with the tubes out, in case it was feeding my tubes too much voltage or not draining enough. This is dangerous territory here and not for the inexperienced. We’re talking leads getting 560V. That will kill you. Long story short, everything tested fine. So, WTF?
Somewhere in the ’90s, everything became disposable and cheap. NAFTA made lives disposable and cheap. Reality shows made art disposable and cheap. Music companies made their gear disposable and cheap. I have not the inclination to make the philosophical leap as to why. What I do have is a good example of this. SLM Music, who owned the Ampeg name in the ’90s, put out the worst version of an Ampeg 8×10, the “Classic” 810E cabinet. It has eight 10″ speakers and is based on the original winning design from the ’70s. They are made so poorly with shit wood, however, they are often left to rot rather than fix. Well, I said fuck that. One of these fell into my hands, crumbling and falling apart. I brought it back to life.
When I dragged this out of the apartment from the folks who bestowed it on me, it was missing the bottom entirely. It had the prerequisite tolex rips of every punk rocker’s cab. The baffle board rocked back and forth and could bust your fingers. It was missing a speaker. I rebuilt the bottom, replaced the speaker, and the cab served me well on a few tours. When I sold my Ampeg SVT-2Pro to my bud Brian from Merdoso and formerly of Stormcrow, I offered the cab as part of the deal so long as he covered the expense of a heavy-duty restoration so I could have some fun making the monstrosity punk-proof. And fun I had.
Ampeg rewrote the book on high power amplification in 1969 with the introduction of the SVT. That was the Super Valve Technology amp which pumped out, a then unheard of, massive 300 watts from six huge valves (or “tubes”). Marshall invented THE rock guitar amp and Ampeg followed it with THE rock bass amp. And then… through the ’70s and ’80s, they never topped the SVT. Sure, they had a few other good products, in-between changing ownership as numerously as Michael Jackson was changing his nose. So in the late eighties, they just started throwing the SVT name around like baby batter at a bukkake convention. And hence, the SVT-200T, produced from 1987-1994: featuring no valves at all.
I like to think I’m less dumb than I used to be. When I bought this SVT-200T solid-state amplifier, I thought I had an SVT. It was loud, the right shape, it said SVT… shit, I just played grind core, what did I know? It had that “Ampeg” tone they dial all their amps towards and it sounded awesome. Sounded. One night in 2005 it took a dump. Or maybe I took a dump. Did I have the wrong speaker set up? Was the club’s power screwy? Was it just old? It took me a lot of learning over seven years, but I finally got this tubeless, sad sack out of the closet and farting again.
This last tour we did was killer… I mean it killed a lot of stuff. Not only were the stages littered with the bodies of the slain, but the gear suffered horribly, too. We did six weeks with GWAR just before and had nary a hiccup. The following excursion was three weeks of headlining buffoonery that really did us in. iPods were lost, speakers blown, casters shot, cords frayed, pedals shorted, and antennas snapped. The two most tragic losses were amplifiers. Without an amp, a metal band you are not. Tenacious D be damned (funny, I find them not). Sean’s Peavey XXX took a hit and still remains defunct. My Ampeg V-4B, with a bit of tuning up on my own workbench, will live again!
When I last plugged in this disheveled beast, it was at Philadelphia’s Kung-Fu Necktie. Occultist had just finished a rousing set. I turned on my amp and it winked at me. The power light went on and then off. This was not good. A quick check of the external fuse revealed it had not blown. I couldn’t fathom what was wrong, but when I borrowed an amp, I found that I had a blown speaker in my 2×15. How and when I did not know. My amp, however, was expecting a 4Ω load and instead got 8Ω. Pop.
My Ampeg SVT-2 Pro is a champ. It can roar like the SVT buried inside of it and sing with all the bells and whistles of a graphic EQ, direct out, and even more I haven’t figured out yet. It’s got two major problems, though. One is the weight. It’s a beast, weighing in at 68 pounds unmounted. When Impaled toured the first time with Incantation, Kyle unlovingly dubbed it “the brick.”
The second problem is the look. The SVT-2 and 2 Pro are victims of their time… the nineties. Everyone was looking to put things in rack mounts. Rack mounts look like shit. They belong in the back of a Google server warehouse, not at a rock show. Ampeg partially addressed this situation when they made the Ampeg SVTRC series. These are nice looking rack mount boxes for their stupid looking series of heads. I wanted one. My 2 Pro is a good amp on the inside and I wanted it housed like one.