So, earlier in the week I decided that I needed some new blue jeans. I’m down to two pair after having degenerative knee failure on one pair, and a zipper misalignment on another. I asked Jaime yesterday if she wanted to head out to the Salvation Army/Goodwill stores to look for some jeans with me, and she agreed. I have to admit, I was looking for more than just a pair of jeans. I was looking for a tube amp.
See, Savannah, like much of the south (from what I’ve seen) is riddled with pawn shops. They’re everywhere. If you have something– anything– someone will pay you a tenth of what it is worth to take it off your hands, and in a less-than-comfortable retail environment to boot.
I’ll also readily admit that I’m not very experienced when it comes to pawn shops. I’ve been to maybe a half dozen of them in my life, and have never bought anything. They seem like semi-legitimized flea markets. I imagine that most of what they have on their sales floor is stolen.
Well, we did the rounds for about 5 hours yesterday, and I still bought nothing. No jeans from the thrift shops, and nothing from the pawn shops. But, I did find something interesting.
My main goal in stopping at the pawn shops was to look at music equipment. My attention could certainly be grabbed with a sub-$200 American guitar, or a decent tube amp. Who knows– I may even be interested in a banjo (I am in the south, after all).
My main focus, though, was a tube amp. I really, really want one! I’m coming to the realization that while I am capable of learning how to build a tube amp, I may not be daring enough to do so. Every website I see that discusses tube amps comes with a standard disclaimer like:
“Warning: Tube amps contain enough voltage to kill you. Several times over. Even if they are unplugged. Seriously, don’t mess with tube amps if you don’t know what you’re doing or you could die. Really.”
That means that if I want a tube amp any time soon, I need to find one that is (a) already built and (b) cheap, and therefore (c) used and (d) probably pretty old.
I was kind of surprised that the pawn shops don’t deal more in older amps. Just about every pawn shop we visited sold amps by a manufacturer named Kona. These amps look very crappy. Sure, they have a nicely polished circular faceplate on them, but it seems that they are junk. Searches for Kona brand amps at American Musical Supply, Musician’s Friend, and Sweetwater all turn up nothing. I would imagine that these amps are made overseas out of poor quality components, and yield an unacceptable tone. Any way you look at it, they are solid state, and therefore off the table for me.
I did stumble across an amp that I am actually considering. It’s a Peavey Delta Blues. I know, Peavey isn’t typically known as the best amp maker, although they do seem to sell a lot of them. But this amp really looks pretty good.
It’s a 30 Watts all-tube amp, using three 12AX7 and four EL84 tubes. It comes in a nice vintage-looking package. I haven’t actually heard this amp yet, and I can’t find any sound samples online, so it’s hard to tell if I’ll like it or not. Having played a huge solid state amp for years, though, I have a feeling I will like it.
My only concern is that the amp has a 15 inch speaker. Holy cow! I used to have a couple of speaker boxes that had 15s in them. They were EV Force15s, I think. Man, these speakers had some bass! It was way too much bass for me. I know that the tone I seek is light on the bass, moderate on the treble, and heavy on the midrange. So, I’m a little concerned that this amp’s single 15 might cause problems. The good thing is that the amp has an output so I can hook up to an external speaker cabinet if I’m not happy with the tone of the 15.
The other concern is that the tubes are reported to be cheap, unprotected, and to rattle at high volumes. As for the tubes being cheap, I have no idea. I’m sure they can be easily and rather inexpensively replaced. The tubes can be protected with a tube guard for about $26. It looks to be high quality. The tube rattling problem can be addressed for another $24.95 with one of these.
The amp was listed at the pawn shop for $349, I think. I can’t believe I don’t remember the specific price. I’m pretty sure it was $349. I’m hoping to deal down on the price. The folks at the pawn shop made it clear that the price on the tag was not final– “Those prices are just suggestions. Just ignore them.” I’m hoping to talk them down about 20%. That would take the price down to about $279, which seems to be about right based on other used versions I’ve seen sold. Still, that $279 is about $100 more than I can spend on this amp.
I’m a less-is-more kind of guitarist. I’ve been trying to work my “effects chain” down to nothing. I don’t need heavy distortion, I don’t need reverb, and I certainly don’t need chorus. I really just need a hot guitar with thick strings plugged into a good-sounding amp.
I went through and did an inventory on my pedals last night:
- MXR noise gate line driver
- Pot marked 1378013– made in 13th week of 1980.
- Works very well
- Good cosmetic condition (minor chips in paint, foam inside disintegrating)
- Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer
- From mid to late 90s
- Good cosmetic condition (minor blemishes)
- Seems to work fine, just not for my tone
- Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
- From mid to late 90s
- Good cosmetic condition (minor blemishes)
- Why the hell did I buy this pedal?
- DOD FX-80B
- Origin unknown. It magically appeared in my collection.
- Bad cosmetic condition (no battery cover, knob missing top piece)
- I think it works, but I haven’t tested it in a few years.
- DOD FX20-B
- Origin unknown– another mystery pedal.
- Poor cosmetic condition– missing battery cover, and has a piece broken off one knob.
- Scratchy pots, if I recall correctly.
Yep, that’s right– I have an incredibly crappy pedal collection! The only one worth a dime to me is the Noisegate. It’s one hell of a pedal. Simple to use, effective, and built like a tank. This pedal ways about a pound, I’d say.
I ran the numbers, though, and I think I can conservatively expect $100 – $135 total for all of them. I’ve never sold anything on Ebay, but now is the time. I’m considering selling them as a “lot” so I don’t have to deal with a lot of hassle. I also might see if the pawn shop will take a direct trade.
If you take into account the cost of the pedals, that would bring the remaining cost of the amp to around $179-$200 or so, and that is definitely doable!
I’ll be calling the pawn shop tomorrow (closed Sundays) to see what their best price is. If it’s reasonable, I may be stopping in to test out this amp. If it sounds good, I may try to buy it.
Of course, this could all change. I’m going to scour other pawn shops, and check the classifieds for someone selling an “old guitar amp.” There’s got to be someone in Savannah with an old vintage amp and no clue as to what it is worth. I’ve just got to find them.
Anyway, all this guitar talk has got me itching to go fire up the guitar. I’m considering recording a sound sample so you can see that I can actually play. I’ll see if I can get the laptop configured.