I know this post if kinda worthless without a clip, but it will have to do for now as I don't have one ready. (I'll save my apologies about my crummy playing for when I do follow up with a clip).
Background: Several weeks ago I sent my Frenzel BUD-50 to Joe for some work to make it more Jerry-flavored. The BUD-50 (the name is derived from B
istortion, not something, uh, kinder
) is based on Fender’s AB763 architecture. The first channel has a single volume control and a B/M/T tone stack, while the second channel is altered: no vibrato, and instead this channel has two foot-switchable gain and volume settings that share a common tone stack (Gain1, Gain2, common B/M/T, Volume1, Volume2), essentially making this a three channel amp. In its original design this channel had a huge amount of gain; JCM800 territory, but 6L6 flavored. When I ordered the amp I told Trevor Frenzel I wanted an amp that had BF cleans on one channel and a plexi-like tone on the other. Unfortunately, Trevor ran into some persistent oscillation problems trying to bend his design to do this, and we eventually agreed on BF tones for both channels, which was fine. The second channel had a little more gain than a typical AB763, but it was still squarely in Fender territory. It was still a sweet sounding amp, just not the Fender/Marshall one-two punch I was originally looking for.
After seeing Joe mentioned here and hearing his modded Fender Twin demos, though, I really wanted to see if he could do something with the BUD-50 to make it a better platform for Jerry stuff. I approached Joe about modding it, and he said he was interested as long as it didn’t turn into some epic tone quest. It was a bit of a gamble for both of us, as Joe had never seen one of these amps, and I had never worked with him before, and I was trusting both his ear and his skill set. But I was really struck with Joe's confidence: he boldly and unequivocally stated that, sight unseen, he would make the amp better. I liked that, so I sent the amp off to him for mods
Joe went through the amp thoroughly and made a number of small but important changes -- it's a cathode biased amp, and Joe corrected the bias so that it was hotter, installed a stiffer rectifier, changed the tone stacks, changed some of the caps to better qualitity parts, changed output tubes, added a pre-out, and cleaned up the second channel. He probably did some other things, too, but those are the things I'm aware of. Basically, he made a number of small but important tweaks, adjustments,and parts substitutions. The amazing thing was he basically did all of these things in a single weekend, and for a reasonable price. We talked, he figured out the amp’s architecture and its shortcomings, we talked again, and he went to work. I was deeply impressed with his knowledge -- this was someone else’s one-off design, and he just went in and had his way with it, lol. Total badass.
So I got my amp back from Joe last night, and all I can say is WOW!! He totally nailed that clean-but-biting Jerry tone I was looking for! The amp is very clean now, and warm, but not shrill or ice-picky at all. It didn’t sound bad before, but now it sounds like a blanket was removed, and I’m clearly hearing the guitar’s tone. He removed mud that I didn’t even realize was there. It sounds amazing cranked, but even at bedroom levels it’s incredibly playable, and it really brings out dynamic playing. I asked Joe to go for an early 80’s tone, and I think he did a great job of getting that. With the K120 I have it’s very detailed and rich. I imagine with E120s it would totally nail that 90’s-era tone that Jerry had in his last few years, too. I’ll post some clips when I have time to record something -- the amp is crisp enough to expose all of my flaws as a player, which is one way I know it’s in the right range for Jerry stuff. I could not be happier with how it turned out.
tl;dr: Joe did an amazing job tweaking my boutique, one-off amp, and I am very, very pleased with the results. Joe really knows his shit!