Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Look What Followed Me Home From The Orlando Guitar Expo

My previous post told about my trip to the Orlando Guitar Expo.  Here's the link:


So here's what happened next.  I took the Carvin VTX-100 amp to be repaired.  It basically just needed a good cleaning.  From looking at the amp it seems that it may have set unplayed for quite a few years. 

Here are the pictures and the story.

If you notice, the amp has two completely separate sections.  Seriously, you and your friend can plug into different inputs and have completely separate controls.  That means independent volume, gain, reverb, and EQ's.  That's pretty insane.

What is also strange about this amp is that it has a solid state pre-amp, but a tube power section.  It also has a tube phase inverter.  So go figure that one out. 

The big question is, "how does it sound?"  The guy who sold it to me described it as Fender Blackface Twin Reverb meets a 5150.  I thought that was a bit of a stretch.  Due to the oddball 6CA7 tubes it definitely has an "American Fender" sound.  However, it's more like an early 80's sound.  That makes sense, since it was made in 1980.

The clean sound is very full and robust.  It's not weak like so many clean channels I've heard.  The distortion is a bit odd.  It's supposed to be more of a sustainer than a distortion.  Again, one of the odder points of this amp.  Distortion is a very personal thing so some players are going to be okay with this, and some are going to hate it. 

If you think of the Marshall JCM 800's that were put out during the early 1980's, the American versions were shipped with 6550 tubes (a more "American" sound than the "British" EL-34's.)  This Carvin amp has 6CA7 tubes which are a more "American" version of the EL-34. 

The tubes in this amp are rare Sylvania Made in the USA 6CA7's.  They are giant coke bottle tubes.  My point being it is in the same vein of the JCM 800.  However, it doesn't have near the gain of the famous Marshall.  Here's a picture of the tubes.

The one thing I have always said is that, the last link in the chain of your sound is the speaker.  And I have to give these MagnaLab speakers credit.  They are darker sounding, like Eminence Speakers instead of the brighter British sounding Celestions.  These bring the bass.  I mean, they really bring the bass.  Since these speakers are darker you really have to turn this amp up to balance out the sound. 

Since I play inside with other people in the house. I can't really turn my amps up.  I have always gotten away with playing brighter amps since they tend to sound better at lower volumes.  However, this amp is very difficult to get an decent sound of unless you turn it up to a volume that will annoy other people. 

Honestly, I am going to have to take this amp outside so that I can actually turn it up and see what it sounds like.  Since it is a darker amp, I've found I've had good luck playing bright single coil pickups through it.  I have one guitar with P-90's and that sounded really good too.  I haven't gotten to test it out with hot pickups, but I'll get around to is this weekend. 

So on with an interesting part of the amp.

The footswitch is really odd.  It actually has two cords attached to it.  One for the channel switching and one for the reverb.  That also presents a bit of a problem.  If the footswitch decides to crap out, I have to do everything in my power to make sure it works. 

Here's something that I couldn't find on the internet.

I found pictures of the round magnet speakers, but I couldn't find a picture of these square magnet MagnaLab speakers.  As I said earlier these things are loud.  I will give them credit.  They are extremely well made.  They are very powerful and once they are turned up they balance very nicely. 

This amp sounds like something that Zakk Wylde would like.  I know he would use his own distortion pedal to get the kind of gain he wanted, but I think this would be an amp he would really like.  It has a very strong bass with full mid-range and the highs are not too piercing and not too muddy. 

I am glad they put the model number on the back of the amp or I never would have figured out what model it was.  Okay, I would have found out eventually, but it was only made one year, and the only info I could find about it was from the Carvin Museum. 


Now that I have the amp working, I have to start playing more.  I may be playing outside, but I'll try playing more.  I'll also have to put wheels on this amp.  Seriously, it weighs 100 pounds.  So it's either wheels or I'm going to have to start weightlifting.  So, it's wheels. 

1 comment:

  1. Those FS34 footswitches are very rare, more so than the amp. I have an untested schematic which I'll use to modify a Crate type aftermarket switch to FS34 specs. These amps were really meant for the large stage, and overdriving the output tubes. And, ye can use one channel clean and the other distorted (sustain switch) simultaneous for that Keith Richards effect. I gig with these things, incidentally.