The services I offer

Servicing …and why you probably don’t need it

Repairs When it all goes horribly wrong

Customising Better, faster, louder

Harp players’ section No feeedback! Tone controls that work! Louder than the guitarist!

Ami valve jukebox amps Yes, even the Continental stereo. I specialise in these jukebox amps only

 

Servicing

OK I had a bit of a think about this, partly because one or two other sites have sprung up offering repairs and using wording a bit like that which used to appear here*. But mainly because of the experience I’ve had over the years, and the way I now answer phone calls about ‘servicing’ amps.

My conclusions are simple: if your amp works ok, it doesn’t need servicing. How’s that? I can have a look at it for you, but really if you’re not getting any symptoms from it and it sounds ok, then my view is that it is ok.

Things that might suggest it’s time for me to look at it include microphonics (tapping the amp makes noise through the speaker), crackles and irregular or increased hiss, hum, noisy pots/knobs, dodgy jacks – you know the sort of thing.

You ought to have a PAT test once a year. You don’t necessarily need me to do this – anyone with a PAT tester with in-date calibration can do it, it’s pretty easy. All electricians can do it. PAT testing runs a heavy whack of current right through the earth system of your amp, from the earth pin to the chassis (I tend to use the earth on the input jack as that’s the one that counts) – if there’s anything in there that’s hanging by a thread it will frazzle it and fail the amp. The insulation in the lead is also tested. Then you get the little sticker on the back that venues sometimes like to see.

If you want new valves fitted and biased I can do that – £30 flat fee for installing and biasing. It’s fine for you bring your own valves for me to fit. Otherwise I will fit good ones for £15 a power valve, £10 a preamp valve – prices which have remained the same despite huge increases in valve prices since the pound went awol.

Repairs

I repair musical instrument amplifiers and other musical electronics. I will take in valve hifi if there is an available circuit diagram and some manufacturer support – not a lot of point without that. So if you could check with the hifi manufacturer first on those points I’d appreciate it. Guitar and bass amps, that’s basically what I do so no problem with them unless they are too ‘digital’ or computer-like to be repairable. Feel free to ask advice on this.

If your amp goes down, give me a call. If you bring it round we can have a listen and as far as possible I’ll tell you what might be involved in putting it right.

Please note: I do not do estimates or ‘pre-repair inspections’. Please don’t ask. It would be nice to say, I’ll have a look and give you an estimate, but in truth with most jobs by the time I truly know what’s wrong with it, I’ve fixed it. You can trust me to be economical and sensible in sorting it out. If when you drop the amp off it seems possible to give a ball park indication of price I will happily do so.

In truth the only way an amp repairer can offer estimates is if the repair is completed first, because one fix can reveal further faults, and fault repair is a necessary part of efficient inspection and troubleshooting – these are not, for me at least, two separate processes. To pretend that they are would, again for me at least, mean indulging in a kind of fiction with my customers, and I am not comfortable with that. But I do guarantee not to do uneconomical repairs – see my pricing page for explanations. I don’t get complaints about my prices, and if I did I would certainly attend to them as fairness is very important to me, as is giving a satisfactory service.

To try to give a guide, it might help if I say that most repairs take one to three hours (refer to the Pricing page for the terrifying implications of this). Complex transistor amps can take longer, as can jobs that are more in the nature of a rebuild, as can modifications that need tweaking and tuning to get just right.

I do promise to warn you if a repair looks like it’s getting uneconomical. And remember my rule – no fix, no fee.

Customising / Modification / Upgrades

Sometimes you hear a sound in your head that you just can’t get out of your amp.

If you’ve got an example of an amp that you think could be doing better, or could sound more like that of someone like-dead-famous then there may be a number of things we could do.

Tweaking and modding

Getting a “hotter” or “cleaner” sound from your amp may be as simple as swapping valves, installing a different speaker (not always the expensive imports) or changing one or two little pre-amp components.

Sometimes it’s a bit more fiddly. One popular mod is “blackfacing” Fender amps from the 70’s. It’s cheaper than going out and buying an original ’63.

Designing and fitting extra gain stages is no problem, though it’s surprising how much spare gain there often is to be found in the most gentlemanly of old amps at the price of a few hours’ work and a resistor or two. However I definitely won’t suggest that re-cabinetting your combo in Guatemalan Wiggly-tree heartwood from the south side of the forest and fitting solid gold jacks will turn you into Link Wray. Duane Eddy, maybe.

Either way, tell me what you hear in your head and I can recommend simple, effective changes that can get you closer to your goal.

The ‘Bill M mods’ for the Blues Junior… these do work and are worth doing. In case you didn’t know, they originated on a forum and are now marketed as mod kits and so on, but generously their originator leaves the details up on the net for people to try themselves. If you want me to do the mods to your amp I am happy to do so. The tone stack and ‘Twin’ mods with the power supply stiffening mod make a worthwhile difference. An all-in cost for putting these mods into your amp might be £75. An output transformer upgrade – to a Heyboer part – also makes a difference but would cost another £90 all on its own.

Steve’s Custom Shop

No this doesn’t mean kicking your Bassman reissue round the yard in the rain to make it look like a ’59… but hot-rodding and customising amps in a rather more radical way than ‘tweaking’ might suggest is definitely a possibility, though it very much depends on what’s already there. More gain stages, more power supply ‘sag’, pentode/triode or fixed bias/cathode bias switches, wholesale configuration changes – it often can be done. Call up for a talk about this.

However, your mum, partner and bank manager will be pleased to know that there are some things we just won’t do. If you want your Fender to sound like a Marshall, the quick cheap way is to flog it and buy a Marshall.

I do build amps, and when I get round to it will post pics of my own harp and guitar amps, which are fully handbuilt including cabs. For me to build such an amp for you (something I have done for people in the past) would have to cost around £1500 because of the hours involved, and given that most of that cash would immediately evaporate in terms of resale value you will probably not want to go that route.

However there are other options…

I can do major rewires on old (and otherwise knackered) amps like silverface Fenders etc. Examples of this kind of thing that I’ve done recently include rewiring the normal channel of a silverface Bassman with a Vibroking-type preamp (and adding a feedback lift switch to complete the VK cloning process), and rewiring a silverface Showman with the ’59 Bassman preamp plus some switchable extra gain.

Budget £200-300 for major rebuilds like that (not bad for a custom-built point-to-point amp). Simpler ‘standard’ mods like chaining the parallel gain stages in old Marshalls are cheaper.

Another way forward might be for you to purchase one of the now quite cheap and widely available classic amp kits (eg those at Ted Weber’s site) – and get me to build it. I can upgrade components and introduce mods as I go. Up to £400 for the labour on such a build.

…a teensy bit more like Little Walter (harp players’ section)

Like the harp tone of your guitar amp but need to lose the feedback?

Tired of the “gain on 1, no sound whatsoever – gain on 2, screeching feedback and a hell of recrimination with your fellow musicians” situation? I can change your life.

Fancy a little bit more variation on the tone controls than bass on 10, mid and treble on 1? Not hard to do.

Simple valve swaps will take us a long way in cutting feedback and increasing volume and grind. I can revoice your amp for harp by switching some internal components. I can advise you on mics too, and maybe flog you one.

I might even let you blow through my 50s black label CR element Green Bullet. [That’s enough harp voodoo – ed.]

NB – also see my Blues Junior Harp Mods page.

Ami jukebox amps

Jukebox amps are complicated and usually completely knackered! I have a lot of experience with Ami valve juke amps, including the devilishly complex stereo Continental. A full rebuild of a totally knackered stereo would get towards £600, most repairs £200-£300 unless it is a really simple matter, as generally there’s more than one fault contributing to your hums, crackles etc. Conversion from 6973 output valves to EL84, £150 including valves – NOS 6973 are getting more and more expensive, and the new ones are unreliable. Conversion to the rock solid, cheap, readily available EL84 is the way forward!

__________________________________________________________________________

* To the competition: guys, instead of copying my wording to advertise your no doubt highly skilled yet strangely unoriginal services, why not save yourselves all that tiresome cut-and-pasting and just put a link to my site and write ‘…what he said’. Or better still, make up your own bloody wording.