101 episodes

Twice a month, guitar amp guru Skip Simmons fields your questions on vintage tube amp repair, restoration and collecting. Often hilarious and always insightful, it's like no other guitar podcast out there.

The Truth About Vintage Amps with Skip Simmons Fretboard Journal

    • Music
    • 4.9 • 357 Ratings

Twice a month, guitar amp guru Skip Simmons fields your questions on vintage tube amp repair, restoration and collecting. Often hilarious and always insightful, it's like no other guitar podcast out there.

    "Do I Want the Red or the Gold?"

    "Do I Want the Red or the Gold?"

    Are we really running out of vacuum tubes? This week, special guest Thomas Cravener of Amplified Parts joins us to talk about the 2022 new tube shortage, plus a lot more.
    Reserve a new TAVA t-shirt here.
    This week's episode is sponsored by Calton Cases, Jupiter Condenser Co., Amplified Parts and Grez Guitars. You can also use the discount code FRET10 to save 10% off your Izotope purchase.
    Support us on Patreon.com for added content and the occasional surprise. One of our patrons will win a Hello Sailor Fuzz Face this month! 
    Some of the topics discussed this week:
    :27  A cool guy's Traynor and tube stuff from the Forest Service in Chester, California
    1:47 A '60s Heathkit IG-5237 still sealed in the box (stereo FM signal generator)
    4:07 The Fretboard Journal's 50th issue, the Fretboard Summit in Chicago, the legacy of Dumble
    10:08 This week's sponsors: Amplified Parts, Calton Cases, and Jupiter Condenser Co.
    11:12 This month's Patreon giveaway: A Fuzz Face from Hello Sailor! Effects
    13:17 Fire season in Northern California
    14:53 An Ampeg B-12XY with an internal 5-watt amp for speaker-driven reverb, Guild Thunderbird amps
    18:26 Reserve your new TAVA t-shirt (link)
    19:26 Tube naming, revisited
    20:41 Last episode's smoking Earthsound Research G-2000... fixed?; more fuse talk
    23:34 Skip explains his WD-40 stance; Red Green
    27:53 Kevin from Ohio, eBay score Patreon perks, EIA codes
    32:49 Special guest: Thomas Cravener, V.P. Sales and Marketing at Amplified Parts: Russian/Chinese tube supply; Amplified Parts is still buying/selling NOS tubes; Psvane tubes; building Mallory Capacitors (YouTube link)
    56:59 Gibson GA-8; do I need a matched set of 6V6s in a parallel single-ended amp?
    1:02:34 Using alcohol in cooking; kale as shoe repair
    1:05:57 Building a Masco Audiosphere A-8 off the schematic (6V6 or 6L6)
    1:10:15 Jupiter caps at Amplified Parts; the low acceptable DC voltage on leaky coupling caps
    1:12:57 A Flot-A-Tone with a howling problem
    1:15:36 A Masco head from the 50/50 Club gets reunited with its cab
    1:18:00 Trying to match the dynamics and distortion of an Ampeg B-25 and a Marshall Plexi clone; post-power inverter master volume mods, buying pedals off Amazon
    1:23:51 What would Skip buy: A silver-paneled Princeton Reverb, a high-quality clone, or a new hand-wired one from Fender?
    1:27:20 Howling Flot-A-Tone revisited, 6SC7 tubes
    1:27:10 1966 Fender Pro Reverb with a big increase in plate voltage right after using the standby switch; standby switch 101; GZ34 vs 5U4 rectifier tubes; roasted potatoes
    1:37:29 Taming the treble on a Marshall Mercury (we'll attach the schematic to the fretboardjournal.com show notes page so you can see what we're discussing)
    1:42:16 Skip's learning curve: Did he work on ultra-collectible amps when he was still starting out? a '53 Tweed Deluxe with no original parts; William Penn and His Pals' "Swami" (YouTube link)
    Submit your amp questions, recipes and life hacks to the podcast via podcast@fretboardjournal.com and please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify if you love the show. It helps others discover it. 

    • 1 hr 54 min
    "The Problem Is the Problem"

    "The Problem Is the Problem"

    It's the summer solstice and seemingly everyone is in the kitchen, dishing out amp problems and recipes. 
    This week's episode is sponsored by Calton Cases, Jupiter Condenser Co., Amplified Parts and Grez Guitars. You can also use the discount code FRET10 to save 10% off your Izotope purchase.
    Support us on Patreon.com for added content and the occasional surprise. 
    Some of the topics discussed this week:
    :00 Defensible space, making electricity
    5:40 What's on Skip's bench: Old Supros; a late '20s Lyon & Healy amp sporting the Matchless/Vox treble cut tone control
    9:59 Silverface jewel light washers (coming soon); pre-order TAVA t-shirts and help support the show (link)
    11:12 A Harmony amp with a buzzy volume control; another Harmony with overreacting tone knobs; kale "vodka," bias resistors  
    19:42 New KT66 tubes for a 1966 Marshall JTM45 100-watt clone; restaurant-quality french fries; 807 tubes
    28:46 Pastorelli pizza sauce; tinkering with a '90s Marshall-made Vox AC-15's static; plastic PCB mounts
    37:19 Fixing a vintage Gibson Les Paul amp by cleaning the tube sockets, what's the deal with Fender PA100 heads?; a Sano amp and McIntosh tuner up for grabs
    46:45 Soldering fume dangers and keeping your workspace clean
    49:50 A Larry Chung sighting; an Epiphone Zephyr (a GA-40 with a 15" speaker) and an Epiphone Century (a Gibson GA-20T)
    50:58 Recommended movie: the original Pinnochio, Aladdin, and Little Miss Sunshine; recommended music: Eli "Paperboy" Reed; seeing Merle Haggard at the Sacramento Western Swing Society
    56:46 The naming of tubes; how to find usable tubes at a garage sale; undercooked ramen with peanut butter and chilies; dog harnesses for your amp in transit; tube substitution books ('The Receiving Tube Substitution Guide Book' by Middleton, pdf link)
    1:02:47 Is my Peavey Encore 65 vintage? Working around its finicky solid-state distortion
    1:09:53 Filet mignon with bacon and vodka
    1:13:08 A 1972 Traynor YGM-2 that turns everything to fuzz after 1/2 second
    1:15:50 Should I mod a Silverface Champ when I already own a 5F2-A?
    1:21:00 The Call ("Let the Day Begin," YouTube link), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
    1:22:22 Forming filter caps with a Variac?  
    1:27:44 A 1979 Fender Pro Reverb that changed for the worse after a power outage; William Penn & His Pals - "Swami" (YouTube link)
    1:38:15 Modding a boring 1966 Fender black-panel Princeton with no reverb?
    1:42:11 Why is there a jumper on the 12AX7 of my SF Fender Champ?
    1:44:44 Are 1968/1969 Fender power transformers lemons?
    1:51:14 Mexican pork stew
    1:54:23 Tubes for a Bell 3715 PA conversion
    Submit your amp questions, recipes and life hacks to the podcast via podcast@fretboardjournal.com and don't forget to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

    • 2 hr 2 min
    "What's the Implication?"

    "What's the Implication?"

    It's the 95th episode of the Truth About Vintage Amps! Despite some technical / Zoom difficulties, Skip and Jason talk about replacement transformers, smoking Earthsound amps, bias, and more. 
    This week's episode is sponsored by Calton Cases, Jupiter Condenser Co., Amplified Parts and Grez Guitars. You can also use the discount code FRET10 to save 10% off your Izotope purchase.
    Support us on Patreon.com for added content and the occasional surprise. 
    Some of the topics discussed this week:
    1:32 Econoco, the giant tube rebuilding place in Woodland, California (link, h/t www.reelaudio.net)
    3:16 Cordless yard tools
    4:31 What's on Skip's bench: A Charlie Christian-style amp head for Todd Clinesmith; John Munnerlyn's Magnatone-inspired guitars, the power transformer from a blonde Tremolux head; blue molded caps
    9:56 The Truth About Vintage Amps Patreon page (link); congrats to Patreon supporter Josh F. on winning a Body and Soul fuzz pedal (Body and Soul on Instagram)
    14:18 Nate the syrup guy's 1965 Vibro Champ, redux; inverse feedback; reversing the primary leads on the power transformer
    20:31 Beginner's Corner: Cathode bias vs. fixed bias vs. grid bias
    25:07 Find this guy: Ham operator Armond Noble, the Kon-Tiki, World Radio News
    27:00 A 1964 Fender Super Reverb with a strange volume taper
    30:57 A tuxedo Princeton going to the Los Angeles Guitar Show
    31:45 Mid-'60s Ampeg B-18N with a weird noise and a single glowing power tube that fixes itself with the standby switch
    37:32 A loose rectifier tube in a 1968 Fender Deluxe Reverb
    41:32 Fumes from soldering
    43:35 Fixing the polarity at a local dive bar
    50:38 The goat murder trial is over
    53:25 Sourcing the washer behind the jewel light on a Silverface Champ
    58:04 Schematics for a Webster TP12-1 PA, making a Blackstar cleaner by swapping the pre-amp tube
    1:03:44 A smoking 1973 Earthsound amp
    1:11:20 A Harmony H400 combo up for grabs; the Fender Bantam Bass schematic
    1:15:09 Replacement output transformers for Fender Champs, Princetons, and Deluxes; rewinding output transformers
    1:26:37 Literary recommendation: 'Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies' by Jared Diamond
    Submit your amp questions, recipes and life hacks to the podcast via podcast@fretboardjournal.com and don't forget to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

    • 1 hr 29 min
    Tex Amps

    Tex Amps

    This week, we welcome special guest Tony Teixeira from Tex Amps onto the show!
    http://texamps.com
    We frequently get questions about Filmosound conversions. During this episode, Tony talks to us about his process when using Filmosounds, the magic of Bernie-built amps, his own circuit designs and a lot more. 
    This week's episode is sponsored by Calton Cases, Jupiter Condenser Co., Amplified Parts and Grez Guitars. You can also use the discount code FRET10 to save 10% off your Izotope purchase.
    Keep the questions for Skip coming to podcast@fretboardjournal.com for our 95th episode, which we're taping next week. 
    Support us on Patreon.com for added content and the occasional surprise. 

    • 47 min
    "Permissive Parents"

    "Permissive Parents"

    It's the 93rd episode of the Truth About Vintage Amps! Strain relief, stubborn Champs (and Randalls!), blanched kale with sunflower seeds, and plenty more.
    This week's episode is sponsored by Calton Cases, Jupiter Condenser Co., Amplified Parts and Grez Guitars. You can also use the discount code FRET10 to save 10% off your Izotope purchase.
    Support us on Patreon.com for added content and the occasional surprise. This month, we'll be giving a TAVA-themed fuzz pedal to one lucky patron! 
    Some of the topics discussed this week:
    :50 Amplified Parts now carries PSVANE tubes; tube brands
    6:51 Nate's maple syrup
    7:50 Garrett Hongo's 'The Perfect Sound'
    10:19 A Silverface Champ, Little Charlie's Spanish rice, Trustee from the Tool Room, the novels of Charles Portis, the Kalamazoo KEA's unique push-pull circuit
    17:06 Making the two channels of a reissue Fender Vibroverb in-phase; learning soldering as a blind person (link: https://lighthouse-sf.org/tag/soldering/)
    24:56 Putting a few select vintage parts in a new Princeton 5F2A clone
    31:35 @nocoastsaint's tractor tire-as-speaker-cabinet experiment (Instagram link)
    32:52 The Fretboard Journal, TAVA, Doug Sewall's amplifiers (Wampus Cat), getting rid of intermittent noise by moving an amp, cheap surge protectors, Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder's 'Get On Board'
    43:01 A 1965 Fender Vibro Champ that's with a squeal on its vibrato, Capacitor Wizards, bypass cap orientation
    48:11 A new transformer for a Victor projector amplifier and matching speaker
    50:25 Overheating parts during soldering, using a heat sink?
    53:38 The MTS modular tube preamp system
    55:53 Strain relief bushing tips, Pro's Kit, blanched kale with toasted sunflower seeds, madsenamps.com giveaway (coming soon)
    1:01:51 A stiff 5E8A clone with two game changing mods
    1:06:13 A reissue tweed Champ that sputters for 30 seconds every time its turned on
    1:08:12 A Randall Century 3000 solid state amp that decides to change its own volume
    1:11:00 What to source for a cheap but defective 1965 Gibson skylark GA5
    1:16:22 Music recommendation: Jim Hall & Paul Desmond

    • 1 hr 17 min
    "I'll Be There Briefly"

    "I'll Be There Briefly"

    It's the 92nd episode of the Truth About Vintage Amps! Harvesting capacitors, recommended reading, Fred Astaire and more. 
    This week's episode is sponsored by Calton Cases, Jupiter Condenser Co., Amplified Parts and Grez Guitars. You can also use the discount code FRET10 to save 10% off your Izotope purchase.
    Support us on Patreon.com for added content and the occasional surprise. This month, we'll be giving away a handmade pedal to one lucky patron! 
    Some of the topics discussed this week:
    2:19 The great tube shortage on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Western Electric 300Bs, a million dollar vacuum tube
    11:39 Good goo for repairing rotten cabinets
    13:59 A Precision Electronics PA amplifier with no model number; the rising prices of vintage PA heads
    21:37 Recommended reading: Garrett Hongo's 'The Perfect Sound' (Amazon link)
    22:43 Mic pre-amps at Tiny Telephone, RP2s, the Tiny Telephone podcast, Keep the Dream Alive (link)
    29:42 Drawing layouts and schematics with DIY-fever.com's app (link); National Geographic's 'The Rescue'
    32:29 A 1950 Fender Deluxe signed "Lilly" (Instagram link)
    34:40 A bunch of tweed amps at Skip's; a 1953 Fender wide panel Tweed Deluxe score at an estate sale
    38:54 Good-All branded caps vs blue molded caps
    40:01 Harvesting old coupling caps: Which brands are worth saving?
    43:27 Building an Angela SSE amp with a few mods: The cathode bias on the second half of the 12AX7, experimenting with a Variac to lower B+, Zener diodes to a center tap, repurposing an old jukebox amp, recommended book: 'A Fortune Life,' by A. B. Facey (Amazon link), vegetarian congee
    50:46 Recommended music: Fred Astaire's The Astaire Story; Fred Astaire and Barney Kessell
    52:44 Lesser known vintage amp brands with surprisingly good tone
    56:32 Bahamas plays "All the Time" on a Skip-modified Fender Champ at the Fretboard Journal (YouTube link)
    56:59 Buying a new boutique amplifier to get a modern reliable tweed sound
    1:01:19 Strain relief for the power cord in a Gibson GA88s, Grandma's Smoked Country sausage from Broadbents Hams (link)
    1:05:12 Skip is taking visitors again; Loma Rica Mexican cuisine; lots of disc capacitors up for grabs; a Heathkit SA-3 integrated stereo amp
    1:11:00 Daisy chaining amps, a Bugera BC30-212, and a desire to make a foot switchable daisy chain through the effects loop
    1:15:08 Running a guitar into both channels of a Northern Electric PA, redux
    18:11 Reusing the factory solder during a Fender Champ fix
    1:20:17 A silverface Fender Champ with an annoyingly loose can capacitor
    1:22:36 A 1967 Deluxe Reverb with a broken reverb tank
    1:26:07 Fixing a Gemini VI project; Texas breakfast tacos
    1:30:35 Early electrics at MIM.org; the Appleton guitar APP guitar (link) 
    1:32:25 An antique building with a buzz and/or ghost problem; "Be Thankful for What You Got" (YouTube link)
    Haven't joined the Fretboard Journal yet? Use the discount code PODCAST and save $5 off your next Fretboard Journal order. 

    • 1 hr 36 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
357 Ratings

357 Ratings

Thing 1243 ,

TAVA! WOO HOO!!

Love it when a new episode comes out and I can listen while building my latest vintage amp clone. Skip is knowledgeable and quite funny. And you don’t have to WATCH anything while building a high voltage circuit! What more could you ask for?

valve master ,

Thanks for the podcast

I’m a big fan of vintage tube Amps I have a collection myself. Wish I knew more about the electronics involved in them other than just changing tubes. Anyhow grateful for the lighthearted conversation and the technical information.

claussoegaard ,

Best podcast around

I was in the middle of my own amp learning journey and randomly decided to search to see if any amp themed podcasts existed so I could keep learning while going on walks etc. Man does this show deliver. Not only is the podcast fantastic, there’s also a whole community of listeners helping each other out with various things. Can’t recommend this enough.

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