Guitarnerd update

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Yes, I’m still alive! Sorry about the ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ type of vibe… here’s what I’ve been up to.

Well, it’s 3 months since my last post. From a blog (man I hate that word) that originally worked on one or two posts a week, 3 months with nothing new is just plain disgusting. And I apologise unreservedly. My excuse is my workload in my day job is packed solid and guitarnerd jr. is nearly a year old so he’s a handful. In between I have been doing guitarnerd related stuff when I get the chance, but I just haven’t had the time (or energy) to sit down and document it. So here… in this post… is some of what I’ve been up to in the last 3 months.

First up, I’ve been trying to solve my amp problem. I’ve found it ridiculous that I have some of (what I think) the coolest guitars on the planet but no decent amp to play them through. It’s like owning a garage of muscle cars but living on a road full of pot holes. You can drive it, but you’re not going to get the full experience. My 100 watt WASP blew fuses like you wouldn’t believe. Sold it. My Mesa Boogie Mark 1 weighed ten ton and I could never quite get ‘my’ sound out of it. Sold it. So one day I searched gumtree for an amp that I’d owned in my youth and I knew was a great rock machine. One that was cheap as chips and could deliver the goods. One that in recent years due to bands like Sleep, Electric Wizard and The Sword was finally getting the recognition it so rightly deserved. That’s right… I’m talking about the Laney AOR.

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I found a 50 watt Series 2 for $400. Perfect. It looked like it had been gigged a fair bit, but the owner said he’d put a lot of work matching tubes to get the right sound. As it was in Melbourne, my best mate Ben picked it up for me and dropped it off at the courier depot. A few days later and I had myself a Laney AOR… a full 19 years after I’d sold my first one. I was feeling pretty damn nostalgic… that AOR half stack was my first ever tube amp. At the time I knew nothing out of pulling a sound out of the AOR’s various pull boosts and AOR channels so I ended up selling it…. stupid idiot. Though since then I’ve found out that AOR quadboxes are notorious for sounding like shit… so it wasn’t TOTALLY my fault.

I had a gig coming up with my band the Arcolas, so I brought my AOR along to give it a trial by fire. I had a quick 5 minutes before our set to get a sound and I was stoked with the warm, JCM800-ish tone I got. 3 rd in and the amp stopped dead. My dreaded tube amp curse had struck again. I swear, I must’ve offended some Tube Amp Witch somewhere and she put the evil eye on me. So I quickly plugged in the house amp, with was an Orange 30 watt head and finished the gig, slightly pissed.

I brought the amp to Tim and Tym Guitars and after looking at it, he said that the transformer had a short in it. When it heated up… say after 3 songs… the wire expanded and separated and BAM!… instant dead amp. Instead of just buying a new transformer… which would’ve cost twice as much as what I paid for the amp… he ended up unwinding the transformer until he found the break (which was only 60 winds in), soldered it and then put it back together. He also rewired the whole amp with shielded wiring to make it a lot quieter. I finally had a chance to use it last weekend with my C# tuned Iommi ’70 SG Special and it sounded frikken’ SPECTACULAR. No pedals… just a purple curly cord straight into the amp and I had the sound Sabbath albums (the good ones) are made of.

For speaker bins, I use my Goldentone 2×12 which is loaded with 300 watts of Celestion Sidewinders, along with a Laney 1×12 with a 80 watt Celestion.

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There were two main reasons for this. I love ‘tall’ amps as I can hear everything. But the main reason is that the 2×12 and 1×12 fit into my wife’s tiny car without my having to fold down the back seat… which would involve taking out the baby seat. #dadrockproblems

So the Laney is a success and I look forward to using it for years and years. I absolutely love playing through it and it feels good knowing that it won’t die on me mid-song.

But my amp purchases don’t end there. In December I finally managed to buy an amp which I had been after for 5 years at least. The mythical, largely unknown Scion. I also swapped a Danelectro 56 reissue which I wasn;t getting along with for a Peavey Mark IV bass amp, which was a very sweet deal!

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Anyway, back to the Scion. These were made in the 70′s by a electrical genius named Darryl Hoy. The wiring and build quality of these amps were amazing… full Hiwatt quality hand wired military spec. This is the inside of my amp…

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Oh, did I mention that this amp is 278 watts? That’s the output… luckily it’s got a half power switch, which only knocks it down to 200 watts. Which is slightly more manageable I guess. Look at the size of the transformers… they look like World War II bomb bunkers.

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And it just happens to fit PERFECTLY on my Goldentone 2×12. It looks like they were made for each other. Luckily the speakers can take 300 watts. This is actually a bass amp, but I bought it primarily to play guitar through it.

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I contacted Darryl through the Aussie Gear Heads forum and he had this info about my amp:

There were about 150 Scion valve amps built. Most were guitar heads, with approximately 20 bass heads, 20 combos and about five PA heads. Their power ratings ranged from 40 watts to 250 watts.

I’ve checked that amplifier’s serial number ( 4008 ) in my records, and I have some limited information.

Its construction was completed on July 8, 1977. At that time Scion bass amps used a mid-cut tone circuit, loosely based on one used by Gibson in their GA-77RET guitar amp. It was appropriate for the “thump and click” bass tone typical of that era, but rapidly changing bass guitar playing techniques had by then made it a less desirable voicing. That model was eventually updated in 1978, with a new tone circuit similar to that in a Fender bassman amp.

The original output valves were Mullard or Philips 6CA7′s, which were able to withstand the 800 volt power supply. Current production EL34′s may not be as robust as the original valves, so their reliability may be a problem.

Oh, I haven’t actually had a chance to plug it in yet. To tell you the truth I’m a little scared. I’m envisioning me standing in front of it, hitting an E chord… and then being blown through the wall in a mass of splinters, masonry and blood. They’ll end up finding me a week later 50 miles away, still holding my guitar, mumbling something about needing a little more treble.

The Laney is more than enough for what I need… but I needed this Scion. It’s a rare, loud, beautifully crafted piece of Australian history. I’ll probably hardly ever use it, but in case I ever need a guitar amp that can level buildings… I’m set.