Most guitarists instantly create an image in their minds when they think of ’boutique’ guitar amps. But, what does the term really mean? Perform a Google search on the term “What is a boutique amp” and you will find many threads from many gear related forums where members debate the meaning of the term and the criteria by which a boutique amp is defined. This month we’ll sort through the debate and see if there is an underlying theme that describes what makes an amp worthy of being called ’boutique’.
I don’t go to guitar shows much any more. I should, because I have a lot of friends who ply the floor, but I’ve been on a guitar diet for several years now. And my friends always find something goofy for me to buy. That’s how I ended up with this mysterious and rare Takamine solidbody guitar from 1984. What the heck is this?! I didn’t know and the dealer who knew enough to bring it to me didn’t know either, but he knew I would have to have it!
A few months back I talked about how great the Univox U-45 is. And I figured I’d talk about more vintage Univoxs this month—specifically the 305-B which is a really great amp with 6973 output tubes. And I will (promise) do a column about that model Univox, but I stumbled onto this rare Guyatone this month and wanted to share this rare bird with the My Rare Guitars world. So, while I am stepping away from the Univox models, I’m still stuck in Japan in the 60’s with this Guyatone GA-530A.
Sunday June 6th was a fine day here in Toronto. We had the pleasure of spending some time with the guys from R.E.M. prior to their show at the Molson Amphitheatre. As many of you know, Scott McCaughey has been playing an Eastwood Sidejack Guitar for more than half of the songs on this tour (Scott is the long-time sideman for R.E.M.).
This month is the first part of a two-parter about Vintage Magnatone Amplifiers. This month, I’ll be focusing on one underrated and rare model, while next month I’ll break down the 5 distinct collectable (i.e. tube and mostly vibrato) periods of Magnatone Amps (from the late 40s to the late 60s before they went to Solid State models in the late 60s before going belly up in 1971).
The Hilgen “Victor” Model R2522. For the tube geeks among us, this starts with a 5AR4 rectifier before running into a couple of 12AX7s for preamp and reverb send duties. Then comes the only expensive and hard to find (although not impossible) tube—a 7199 for ‘verb recovery. From the factory, it came with a 12AU7 for phase inverter, which I switched out to a 12AY7 for a little more drive on the output tubes. I tried going up to a 12AX7, but that made for too much gain and resulted in a mushy, compromised output. The 12AY7 gives it more heat than stock, but still retains the crisp, tight, articulate character of the amp, as intended.
This twin twelve Alamo Futura Reverb is a true sleeper of a vintage amp classic. This is one of the greatest amps I’ve ever owned (or heard), and they are out there at still very reasonable prices on the vintage market.
Among the best deals out there are the Japanese-made Univox tube amps of the mid to late 60’s. There are some rare birds out there that are worth keeping an eye open for, but the one you see most often, among the low-priced, great sounding Univox tube amps, is the U-45B Model.
What’s strange is that it’s probably the column I have received the most mail on. People from all over the world wrote me about equipment they’d lost and the interesting ways they lost their stuff. They were all GREAT letters. Sad yet entertaining. We all had a story or two or twenty. It was like a gear geek AA meeting.
What’s an affordable, well made, very cool and not ridiculously expensive amp that’s like the 1624T? I’d say you might want to look at the Univox 202R. The early version of this amp is true point-to-point (before 66 or so, it seems – there’s not a lot of information on Univox amps). Later versions are printed circuit board, like the great little Univox U45 amps (they are mini tone MONSTERS). But the circuit and cap and resistor values stayed pretty much the same. If you can, it’s always better to find the point to point ones, as they’re easier to work on and tougher built – but the PCB ones are good amps, too. Univox amps were made in Japan (all the ones I’ve seen) – most of the ones I’ve been under the hood of were made at the Guyatone factory, and then imported to the United States and branded with various names (see below for some of the other names for this amp).
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