Posted by: kubiakl | November 24, 2010

What A Difference A Tank Makes


No, seriously.  Wow.

This morning I woke up and opened my new reverb tank from Mojo Musical Supply.  (It was delivered a few minutes before I was due to meet some friends out last night, so I couldn’t do it then.)

It took all of five minutes to replace, and that includes the time it took to research which wire goes in the input and which goes in the output.  Which I never did find a clear answer for, but if you take off the back of the Blues Jr. cabinet you can see that the red wire coming out from the circuit board says “To Reverb” or something like that – so the red goes in the input on the tank, the black goes in the output.  Ignore the fact that on the tank the output port is red.

4 screws, 6 bolts, and a few minutes is all it took to make my amp sound incredible.

One of the reasons for the better tone is that I removed part of my signal chain.  I’ve had a Zoom 505II pedal for almost a decade.  The output jack has been re-soldered so much that it looks like a metal art sculpture, and you have to leave the cable partway out of the jack for it to contact properly.  The only reason it’s stayed in my signal chain is that it has reverb, which I really like when I’m just playing by myself.

But it’s a tone suck.  Even in bypass mode the signal still ran through it.  Removing the digital part of my chain exponentially improved my tone.  Maybe some digital pedals sound good, but after hearing the difference this made you’ll be hard pressed to get me to buy one.  I’m glad to be shot of it.

So now I have an all-analog chain that looks like this:  Guitar (Fender Strat or Epiphone Dot)  ->  Guyatone Micro OD  ->  Tube Works Tube Driver  ->  Fender Blues Junior (with working reverb!).

All of the tone controls on the Blues Jr. are set to 10 (I want the guitar to come through as unaltered as possible), the reverb is set to 5 or 6, and both of the volume controls are around 3.  (The Blues Jr. has a master volume and a preamp volume – I’ve toyed with turning one all the way up and moderating the volume level with the other, but I like the way this sounds.)

The Guyatone adds just a little grit and I like the fact that it only has volume and drive controls – your guitar’s tone comes through transparently.  The Tube Driver adds a lo-fi fuzz (but can be pushed for more distortion) and I set the tone right in the middle.  I could be wrong (and please correct me if so) but I think that’s where the potentiometer will neither cut nor boost your treble/mid/bass.

It’s like rediscovering playing guitar all over again.  8:30 in the morning and I had to force myself to set my Strat down and write about it.

There may be some more changes on the way, now that I’ve seen what a mod can do.  The stock tubes are Groove Tubes but look a little worn.  Blues Juniors have five tubes – three preamp and two power tubes.  The preamp tubes are 12AX7s and the power tubes are EL84s.  Bill M states that changing tubes won’t change your tone all that much but new tubes will sound better than old ones, and he uses Electro Harmonix 12AX7s and JJ Tubes EL84s.  Other people have said they use 12AY7s or 5751s for a softer preamp gain and more clean headroom.  With power tubes you have less options unless you modify the amp to use octal tubes.  I have no desire (okay, honestly it’s that I don’t have the knowledge) to try that.  But it wouldn’t hurt to throw some new EL84s in there and maybe some new preamp tubes.

Changing the speaker could also improve the tone.  Again, I have to defer to Bill M though – he says that better tone can be found through modifying the amp than by changing the speaker, but has some recommendations on his website.

I don’t think I’m going to get into modifying the circuitry of the amp but might make a few more changes to see how it sounds.  New tubes and a new speaker can’t hurt.

And I think I’m going to continue looking for another amp for my overdrive sound.  Ideally I would have a split signal path – one that goes to the Blues Jr. for cleaner, bluesy sounds, and one that goes to another amp for my higher gain sounds.

Hey, it works for Eric Johnson.  I may not have the man’s gear, ears, or fingers, but I could at least steal an idea.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: