Posts Tagged ‘hot rod’

I broke the guide post on one of the 6L6 tubes in my trust Fender Hot Rod Deluxe awhile back, and even though the tube still worked just fine, I used it as an excuse to get a new set of power tubes. So after doing a search around the Internet for a new set of 6L6’s, I found myself on Brent Jesse Recording’s (audiotubes.com) site, looking for some NOS replacements for the JJ’s I had in there.

Not knowing what to purchase, I called Brent up, and asked for his recommendation. Surprisingly enough, he recommended a set of Groove Tubes. I said, “Groove Tubes? I can’t stand ’em.” But Brent explained that these particular Groove Tubes were not the imported, relabeled stuff from Russia or China. They’re re-issues of RCA and GE black plates made from NOS materials and constructed here in the US. Intriguing. I’ve purchase a few sets of tubes from Brent in the past, and he has never steered me wrong, so I decided to take a chance and get a pair.

The tubes arrived yesterday so of course, I just had to install them. What’s the verdict? They sound absolutely KILLER! The big test for me – especially with NOS tubes – is to run them full out to see how they break up. The problem I’ve had with late model power tubes in general (but especially with 6L6’s) is that they feel stiff and the breakup can be a bit harsh.

To me, NOS tubes have always felt much more smooth and dynamic. These Groove Tubes tubes are a huge exception to late model tubes. I can’t believe just how nicely these re-issues break up! The distortion is creamy smooth and slightly compressed with nice bloom and sustain without being too squishy – just how I like it! Caveat: They’re not cheap. These tubes are $80 for a matched pair, but they’re worth every penny! I just ordered a second set for spares since these tubes are limited quantity. They may not necessarily be NOS tubes, but as they’re made with NOS materials, there is definitely a limit. So if you’re looking for new production tubes that sound absolutely fantastic, you gotta check these out!

A word on the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe

It’s my contention that the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe is one of the most underrated amps on the market. Okay, I admit it: Stock it doesn’t sound all that good. But with the right tubes and the right speaker, it can sound incredible! Granted, a year or two ago, I wouldn’t have even considered buying this amp because of the huge price hike. I got mine on special for something like $550 in a blowout sale a few years ago. But the prices aren’t all that bad now. They’ve come down significantly from their nearly $900 price tag, and you can find them for around $649. Admittedly, it’ll probably cost $300-$400 more in tubes and replacement speaker, but what you get is an AWESOME amp. I’ll have clips in a few days.

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Ever been in one of those situations where you have to face up to something you’d said or done, but avoid it all costs because it gives you this feeling of impending doom? I was recently in a situation like this, and it wasn’t at all comfortable going through the emotional and psychic turmoil leading up to the conversation the ultimately resulted in – nothing. No slap on the wrist, no punishment. Just a good conversation where everyone involved learned from the experience.

Anyway, last night I was noodling on my guitar; my eyes were closed, letting my emotions drive my playing. Then I remembered that situation, and came up with the rhythm track for the song. It’s all instrumental – it’s not something I would ever want to put to words, but I did want to convey the emotions. Give it a listen let me know what you think:

Gear Used:

Rhythm Guitars: Strat and Prestige Heritage Elite
Lead: Prestige Heritage Elite
Amps: Hot Rod Deluxe (Strat); Aracom VRX22 (Heritage)

For the rhythm parts, the Strat/Hot Rod is panned to the left of the mix, and the Heritage/VRX22 (clean channel) is panned to the right. The lead part sits dead center.

I’m particularly pleased with the Hot Rod’s tone. The clean tone with that awesome spring reverb is to die for (though I had the reverb down pretty low on it to give the Strat more presence). I’m also diggin’ the Prestige Heritage Elite; especially after I set it up. In particular, I adjusted the pickup heights to smooth out the treble pickup, and to get less boom from the rhythm pickup. It’s now very balanced; and played through the VRX22, it sounds just awesome. I played the lead part through the drive channel of the amp, and set the volume so that it was just on the edge of breakup, so if I dug in a bit, I’d get just a touch of overdrive. I wanted to create an effect of subdued aggression, and the VRX22 is so dynamic, I can achieve that easily.

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Over the weekend, and after a few years of owning it, I finally replaced the original speaker on my Hot Rod Deluxe with an Eminence Red Coat “The Governor.” I had already replaced the original tubes and had some other mods done to the amp to smooth out the drive channel, but there was always something missing, and that turned out to be the speaker. What a difference that has made! I feel like my Hot Rod is now no longer a Padawan but a true Jedi. 🙂

The Hot Rod was my very first tube amp, and when I bought it, I just loved the sound, but as time wore on and as I played some really great amps, my love for the amp faded, and while I’d use it for some applications, it just didn’t have a sound that I considered to be first class. With the new speaker, it is now – in my opinion – a first class sounding amp. The cleans are gorgeous and the overdrive tone is nice and open, but well-defined, with no flabby bottom end. I’m in love again! Now with my Aracom VRX22, I’ve got two great amps!

Here’s a clip I put together while playing around this evening that demonstrates how gorgeous the clean tones are:

I used my Strat for the rhythm part – amazingly in the middle pickup, which I’m really starting to love – and did the simple solo with my Prestige Guitars Heritage Elite with both pickups with about 60/40 mix of bridge and neck, respectively. The reverb you hear in the solo is the spring reverb in the Hot Rod. I have to say that Fender does reverb right. 🙂

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Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
If you’ve had your ear to the ground about the oncoming Fender price hike well, it’s real, and it’s here. I was in a shop today, and a brand new Fender Hot Rod Deluxe – the exact same amp I own that I got for $599, for a whopping $839, with a list of $1200! For cryin’ out loud! This amp is NOT a boutique amp. While a tube amp, it has a solid state well, everything. All the electronics are on PCB boards, and the damn thing’s not even assembled in the USA!

If I was looking for my first tube amp, at these prices, I’d ignore Fender, and get something like an Orange Tiny Terror, or an Aracom RoxBox. The Tiny Terror costs $550 new, and RoxBox head is $895. I’ve played both, and they both sound way better (at least to my ears) right out of the box than the Hot Rod, which I had to spend even more money on mods and better tubes than the stock GrooveTubes that come with it.

Make no bones about it: Fender amps at this level ain’t boutique, not in the slightest, but they’re approaching boutique amp prices. Well, I guess it’s the sign of the economic times.

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