Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #125439  by Jon S.
 Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:34 am
I'm glad it was helpful.

For amps with triple tube preamp gain structures, a really nice mod can be to substitute a 12AU7 for the 3rd gain stage 12AX7. Where the 2nd and 3rd gain stages are shared by different sides of the same tube -or- one side of the triode is being used by your reverb or trem circuit, sometimes you can also substitute a dual triode 12DW7 (1/2 a 12AX7, 1/2 a 12AU7) for the 12AX7.
 #125555  by James-T
 Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:33 pm
I’ve got a tweed blues deluxe I bought new back in 2009. It was on a whim as a spare amp for friends to play. My main amp has always been a twin, most recently a 73 silver face twin with 2 late 70’s MS-12 black shadows in it which have huge ceramic magnets.

I’ve grown to really love the deluxe and use it more often than not for gigs. True, it is limited in its clean headroom, and here is a good clip of it in action last summer being pushed by my American standard strat with Area 58 pups. But for most gigs I play it’s fine.

In the last few months I put in a JBL D120F I acquired through Craigslist in an adjacent city that I had a friend pick up for me. It had just been re-coned through Orange County and not even played yet – why the guy was selling it is beyond me because it was only $200 and that is less than the re-cone job, let aone shipping.

This was an experiment because the blues deluxe is really well voiced with the standard speaker – not really a jerry tone but a respectable amp on its own accord. After putting the amp side by side with the twin I realized that the stock speaker just does not have the bottom end and articulation of the mesa speakers. The D120f turned the amp into a completely different beast. Just an amazing change. It is a great match for single coil pick-ups and for my PRS with a dual sound middle pick-up. I’m going to offer a different opinion and say it gets you pretty close to a sweet jerry tone, if you have the right guitar. Do I feel I need to spend more dollars and mod it – definitely not.

Now here’s the thing, I’ve got a 98 Les Paul DC with 65 gibson PAF’s (the real deal) and for those low output sweet vintage pick-ups the JBL/ blues deluxe offers a sound that is just ever so slightly compressed and the twin with the vinatge mesa speakers is actually a much better voicing. But the PRS is night and day better through the blues deluxe with JBL, and so are my 2 strats.

My advice. Be savy, hunt down a D120, if you can and if you want to keep your amp you won’t regret it. I also can offer a similar suggestion to what’s been said earlier on this thread. Be wary of chasing an elusive sound with the wrong hardware. My first twin was a Rivera era from 84 and I dropped $300 into so-called upgrades (black face mods amoung other changes) only to find 73 silverface twin loclly a week later for $650, and my choice was to take a bath on my upgrades and unload the 84 for the silverface and I havn't looked back. The 73 amp is better than the modded 84 amp, even without JBL’s in it as of yet (which I’m a few days away from finishing a birch cab with another two d120f’s – also purchased locally on craigslist through patience). I’d be wary of many speaker swaps but my amp tech did recommend an Eminence wizard for the blues deluxe. In fact the wizard went into my 84 twin which is now for sale! It has got a db rating of 108 and is quite articulate. Readily available and sometimes in stock at decent guitar stores. Will it get you that JBL jerry tone. No. will it change your amp – yes but you may like the stock speaker more which has a cool break up.


 #125886  by mk-ultra
 Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:15 pm
wow,jon s. that really looks good, how did you figureout how to do all that?that looks like a hand wired amp.i'd like to learn a little about that.impressive!-drew
 #125887  by Jon S.
 Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:49 pm
It looks like a handwired amp 'cause it IS a handwired amp! I can't take personal credit though, that beautiful layout/wiring is by Pete Cage, Cage Audio, Damascus, MD. The best amp tech I've personally ever had the pleasure to work with.

Here's Pete's web site:

The current design on my Cage one-off/ex-Blues Deluxe is more-or-less a tweed tone stack and brownface power section. I'm currently using 5881s for less power/faster breakup (they give me exactly 30W before clipping versus the 6L6s they replaced which were running just over 40W). This is NOT a Jerry rig AT ALL. It's blues/rock rig.
 #126049  by mk-ultra
 Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:05 pm
hi,jon s ,thanks for the reply and info on cage audio.i may look him up to talk to him since he's right in maryland.i'm right here in delaware(lewes beach).anyway thaks a ton for the replies.i'm starting to learn a litttle about my amp,this is my first tube amp.i played acoustic for about 13 years and have been playing electric for about 9 months.i started out with a squire strat and a fender mustang iii.then got a epi tribute+ and the blues deluxe when i found out how much i like it.please excuse me for being very excited about all this,i am very passionate about playing. :-)
 #126052  by Jon S.
 Sun Mar 24, 2013 10:53 pm
My pleasure.

If Pete does a BD conversion for you, you'll keep the stock cabinet and trannies. Speaker replacement is optional (up to you). But everything else will be gutted and rebuilt. He'll speak with you directly about what you're shooting for tonewise and you'll be able to have him customize everything else in the tone stack and power section.

FWIW, here were my instructions to Pete and I feel he nailed them for me.
In sum, I'd prefer to have bass, mid, and treble controls plus a negative feedback-varying presence control but beyond that, I'm fine with delegating to and trusting you to come up with a practical, good-sounding design.


After thinking about it further, this is how I'd articulate my ultimate goal with the amp: what I'm shooting for is an amp that excels at getting that so-excellent cleanish punchy full-sounding tweed tone and grinds when pushed but not into the point of full-bore dimed 5E3 tweed Deluxe rattiness, rather more defined/refined. I think this is pretty much what I already told you but perhaps rearticulating it this way is helpful.
Pete also included at my request a proprietary master volume control. What's nice about it is its sweep in full is only between full on and around half volume, i.e., the "useful" range for these types of controls and that's it.