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cjm



Joined: 16 Oct 2006
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...if you have any suggestions for an affordable small tube amp which could help me to fine-tune my tone, I have to retire my Roland Microcube soon...


I don't really...I haven't used tubes since the early '80s. I been pretty happy with Polytone's Minibrute II and III models, but in part because they don't have tubes and so I don't have to mess around replacing tubes.

Here's why I don't own tube amps: To my ear, if it is powerful enough to take to the bandstand, it doesn't provide good response at low volume for living room practice. Plus, it will kill my back carrying it...and a tube will always choose the worst possible time to become microphonic or gassy.

And if it is small enough and light enough to carry without causing injury, it will generally sound fine in the living room, but it begins to break up at club volumes.

Yes, I know. Lots of people absolutely adore tube amps. This is just my opinion.

However, I also noticed that most builders of small "boutique" tube amps are obsessed with "subtle, warm, breakup at bedroom volume levels."

Well, I don't want "breakup." The "jazz sound" of the '40s and '50s was about a "clean"
sound, and if an amp introduced any distortion it was considered to be either "broken" (and taken to the shop for repair), or too small for the job at hand and replaced at the first opportunity.

Polytones maybe don't deliver the "ultimate" tone (whatever the ultimate tone might be), but they deliver decent performance at both living room and small club volume levels -- they've been reliable for me (and for a number of people I've worked with) over the past 30 years or so -- and they're fairly cheap on the used market.

Would a Minibrute II sound "better" than your Roland? I don't know, because for whatever reason, I've never heard a Roland used in any live jazz setting. A lot of people like them, so switching to a Polytone would probably represent only an incremental improvement at most...except maybe if you like (and use) reverb. I do think the Hammond style spring reverb (which Polytone still uses the last time I checked) still sounds better than digital reverb. But for the past 20+ years I've been using Minibrute III amps (which have no reverb) as a convenience so that I can use the same amp for either guitar or upright bass....So even there, I'm probably not the right person to ask about amps.

Just don't mistake the fact that I have lots of opinions and am willing to voice them as evidence of "wisdom." Wise ass maybe, but not wise. Very Happy
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cjm wrote:
Quote:
...if you have any suggestions for an affordable small tube amp which could help me to fine-tune my tone, I have to retire my Roland Microcube soon...


I don't really...I haven't used tubes since the early '80s. I been pretty happy with Polytone's Minibrute II and III models, but in part because they don't have tubes and so I don't have to mess around replacing tubes.

Here's why I don't own tube amps: To my ear, if it is powerful enough to take to the bandstand, it doesn't provide good response at low volume for living room practice. Plus, it will kill my back carrying it...and a tube will always choose the worst possible time to become microphonic or gassy.

And if it is small enough and light enough to carry without causing injury, it will generally sound fine in the living room, but it begins to break up at club volumes.

Yes, I know. Lots of people absolutely adore tube amps. This is just my opinion.

However, I also noticed that most builders of small "boutique" tube amps are obsessed with "subtle, warm, breakup at bedroom volume levels."

Well, I don't want "breakup." The "jazz sound" of the '40s and '50s was about a "clean"
sound, and if an amp introduced any distortion it was considered to be either "broken" (and taken to the shop for repair), or too small for the job at hand and replaced at the first opportunity.

Polytones maybe don't deliver the "ultimate" tone (whatever the ultimate tone might be), but they deliver decent performance at both living room and small club volume levels -- they've been reliable for me (and for a number of people I've worked with) over the past 30 years or so -- and they're fairly cheap on the used market.

Would a Minibrute II sound "better" than your Roland? I don't know, because for whatever reason, I've never heard a Roland used in any live jazz setting. A lot of people like them, so switching to a Polytone would probably represent only an incremental improvement at most...except maybe if you like (and use) reverb. I do think the Hammond style spring reverb (which Polytone still uses the last time I checked) still sounds better than digital reverb. But for the past 20+ years I've been using Minibrute III amps (which have no reverb) as a convenience so that I can use the same amp for either guitar or upright bass....So even there, I'm probably not the right person to ask about amps.

Just don't mistake the fact that I have lots of opinions and am willing to voice them as evidence of "wisdom." Wise ass maybe, but not wise. Very Happy


I agree about the fact jazz tone is mostly about clean sound, but there is "clean" and "clean".
Actually, distortion can be subtle, before breaking, it just colors the sound the way I like; I love my vintage SF Twin Reverb for that reason, but since it now resides permanently at my friend's house, the place where I currently rehearse with my band , I can't use it at home and need a second amp just for praticing, not gigging.

I didn't have the chance to try the Polytone yet, since there are not easy to find here in France and not cheap either but I trust you, many big names in Jazz use them.

On the other hand I tested some SS amp, since they are lighter and mostly cheaper than tube, but the SS amp I tried with my jazz box left me cold, with the exception of the Tech 21 TM60, really affordable, especially in the second hand market (though quite rare), but definitively too bulky for my need (read WAF). I mostly like the dirt channel and the colorfull tube emulation it provides without any audible break. It small brother TM 30 was a real disappointment, to tiny and boxy sound.
Like I said, there still many amps options out there and I'll keep on testing.

Regarding tubes lifespan, for your info, I didn't change any tube in my SF Twin Reverb since when I bouhgt it 25 years ago and it still sound fine.
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cjm



Joined: 16 Oct 2006
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I didn't change any tube in my SF Twin Reverb since when I bouhgt it 25 years ago and it still sound fine.


Yep, that happens sometimes.

I suppose after a career (if you want to call it a career) spent in the electronics industry for my day job, I have other reasons to hate tubes. I'm probably prejudiced.... Very Happy
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Secret2goodtoneispractice



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Location: Spinning & shimmering aqueous sphere

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pol-y-tone?
Idea Cool
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjxM-Z0BIPk&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaVZK5Mn82A
Cool Idea
No, Whol-e-tone
_________________
Beware of alliances that are formed by dividing relationships of others.
.
Trust your own opinion of a guitar or amp. Form your opinion from what you value. Your need, preference, circumstance, experience, and opportunity are the most important factors.
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cjm



Joined: 16 Oct 2006
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
No, Whol-e-tone


I haven't had a chance to hear one of these live, but at that price point -- new amp for about the same price as a 25 year old used Polytone -- Ibanez might be in a position to put Polytone in a world of hurt.
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Secret2goodtoneispractice wrote:
Pol-y-tone?
Idea Cool
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjxM-Z0BIPk&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaVZK5Mn82A
Cool Idea
No, Whol-e-tone


It seems the Wholetone is becoming the last big bargain within jazz guitar community, a strong competitor to Roland cubes, but as a small practice amp, a bit too bulky for me, WAF being a major criteria here.
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cjm



Joined: 16 Oct 2006
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...WAF being a major criteria here...


If you like the Ibanez amp. simply purchase something for "W" at the same time using the money you don't spend buying a more expensive tube amp. Very Happy
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cjm wrote:
Quote:
...WAF being a major criteria here...


If you like the Ibanez amp. simply purchase something for "W" at the same time using the money you don't spend buying a more expensive tube amp. Very Happy


Thanks for this clever suggestion, but I doubt the "spare money" would suffice... Laughing
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another question I have in mind for long: do you think pots and wiring upgrade bring a significant difference and worthy improvement over the stock ones?
I wonder this because certain manufacturers seem to recommend specific pot value for their pickups, claiming this could affect the tone.
Furthermore I notice, when I roll off a bit the vol pot, the way the sound is affected is quite different between my two other guitars; on the my 335 clone, the sound is slightly muffled, not so with my telecaster. So the way the pot behave in the signal could result in either dramatic or benign change in tone character.
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cjm



Joined: 16 Oct 2006
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Another question I have in mind for long: do you think pots and wiring upgrade bring a significant difference and worthy improvement over the stock ones?



My opinion?

Yes and no.

If you change pickup styles, for example from a humbucker to a single coil, you can run into a variety of problems ranging from poor tone to volume pots that behave more like on/off switches at one end of their range than a properly tapered control. I think it's at least reasonably important to follow the pickup manufacturer's recommendations for the pots.

Also, Asian manufacturers tend to use cheap mylar pots that quickly wear out -- effectively changing their electrical value -- as well as causing noise. Brand new, they seem okay. After 6 months to a year...new pots sometimes provide a noticeable improvement.

With wiring, most of the problems I have encountered are cold solder joints or vibration against a pick guard or an ungrounded tail piece -- things that can be repaired without replacing all the wires. The wiring runs within a guitar are quite short relative to the wavelength of the audio signals they carry and I haven't heard any difference when "better" wire is used to replace stock wiring.

Of course, and again this is just my opinion, but it is my opinion that a jazz box sounds best with the guitar's volume pot set at full volume and the tone control at full treble...the amp is where I set the sound and I really do mostly use the guitar's volume control as an on/off switch.

This approach more or less removes both the guitar volume and tone pots from the circuit and minimizes potential "deleterious" effects from both. Both function by shunting signal to ground (earth) and a "pot" is a variable resistor which always introduces noise to the circuit it is part of...so I like to send everything to the amp and sort it out there.

So I guess the bottom line is, I suggest having pots that are close to the pickup manufacturers recommended electrical values; replace cheap mylar pots before they go bad; repair mechanical problems like solder joints and contact vibrations with wiring as required without bothering to actually replace the wires -- and then minimize the effects of the guitar's electrical circuitry by running the guitar "wide open" and by making all the major volume and tone adjustments on the amplifier.

Don't you just love long winded answers from ignorant people?
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
After 6 months to a year...new pots sometimes provide a noticeable improvement.

Quote:

I haven't heard any difference when "better" wire is used to replace stock wiring.

Quote:

a jazz box sounds best with the guitar's volume pot set at full volume and the tone control at full treble..
.



So to sum up, pot quality won't make any tone difference unless they become scratchy.

Wiring tweak is useless I know but what I really meant was how additional components such as capacitors has an impact on how behave the pots when rolled off and how this could affect the sound : more or less treble loss, fuller or thinner tone etc...?

While I agree with you about cranking up the pots to the maximum in order to obtain the full tone potential, rolling off a bit the volume or tone knobs might help to fine-tune your sound under some circumstances. But the result differs a lot from guitar to guitar.

For instance, with my Tele and a distorsion pedal activated, I get a wide palette of sounds from heavy to crunch just by rolling off a bit the volume knob. Not so with my semi hollow.
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cjm



Joined: 16 Oct 2006
Posts: 369

PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So to sum up, pot quality won't make any tone difference unless they become scratchy.


As much a heretic as this brands me, that's my opinion.

It's sort of like bone nuts. Somebody owns a guitar on which they never think of playing an open string unless they're tuning...and somehow switching to a bone nut turns it into a tone monster.

If it makes a difference, I can't hear it.

Quote:
...what I really meant was how additional components such as capacitors...


Cheap caps go bad just like cheap pots do, but the symptoms are different. My approach is to have good caps put in at the same time cheap pots are replaced for being scratchy.

You'll generally know something has gone badly wrong if a cap goes bad...and again, in my humble opinion, if the guitar already sounds reasonably good, (and by that, I mean not obviously defective) upgrading the caps isn't likely to make it sound better.

So, I have good caps installed if I have to have a pot replaced, more or less as an "insurance policy" and the rest of the time I don't worry about them.

Quote:
For instance, with my Tele and a distorsion pedal activated, I get a wide palette of sounds from heavy to crunch just by rolling off a bit the volume knob.


No disagreement with that, but my comments are in the context of a clean jazz sound from an archtop electric...distortion pedals and "crunch" just aren't a part of Johnny Smith's or Wes Montgomery's sound(s) as you explained you are seeking several posts above.

You'll find the occasional high end, custom built, archtop electric without a tone control, and even a handful without a volume pot....The pickup wired directly to the jack.

I'd never go that far...I want to be able to cut off the volume before the guitar goes on to a stand next to the amp...but it helps illustrate that some people have figured out that pots don't improve signal quality. For me, the next best thing -- that preserves the ability to use the volume pot as an on/off switch -- is to set the volume pot at full volume whenever possible and the tone pot full treble at all times.
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my quest for great clean jazz tone, I recently gave a try to the Superchamp XD with my archtop and liked it a lot; Good tones from the clean channel and reasonably loud enough for small gigs. Icing on the cake, extra sound options from channel 2 make it really versatile for other guitar styles.
For the asked price, with everything stock, it's a really good value, if not a sort of bargain.
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As an upgrade to this already old post, I finally decided to swap the flaoter to a routed in humbucker.
I recently gave a try to a Greg Benett JZ3, quite similar design to my JZ4 but with two routed-in HB (Seymour Duncan Design, so reasonably good I guess) and found out that this tone suits me better; as a matter of fact, I prefer a more electric & fatter tone rather than the mix of acoustic+ electric tone I currently get from the Bartolini floater (excellent PU BTW), partly (my assumption) because the acoustic properties of my JZ4 while not being particulary inspiring to my ears, is faithfully amplified by the Bartolini .
On the same day I gave a try to an Eastman AR605 (1 neck floating PU and 2 times more expensive jazzbox) and I notice a better and subtler tone I prefered to my JZ4; hence the guitar seems to be the "culprit" here rather than the PU alone.
Both tests were run with a Fender Superchamp XD I know very well (my current home practice amp).

Since I don't want to trade my Greg Benett , I assume the conversion to a good HB will help a lot.

BTW, I hesitate between Classic 57 and Benedetto A6 (recommended by my luthier who will mount the HB ).

I'd like a cost effective solution if possible.

Thanks for your help.
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mambosun



Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Solved,

The Classic 57 I installed on it works perfectly for me!
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