Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Amps – They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

I wrote awhile back how I wanted some of that Marshall crunch at marriage preserving sound pressure levels. I picked up a DSL 401 and all was right with the world until it wasn’t.

The great thing about this amp is it can still generate enough volume to strip paint from the walls and any time the cat is out so to speak this mouse gets out the DSL 401 and cranks it up. On my play day last weekend the Marshall crunch deserted me and the DSL 401 started cutting out and sounding hollow.

I consulted my resident expert co-worker; “sounds like it could be a tube, I’ve got a bunch you could experiment with but it could be something else because they don’t make them like they used to.” Since my life insurance policy does not cover electrocution while digging into the backside of a guitar amp I called the local amp doctor.

“Hey, I have a DSL 401 and…” I start off. “It’s cutting out on you, isn’t it” says the amp tech. It could be tubes but more than likely it’s cheap circuit soldering. They don’t make them like they used to.” I finally caught on to the theme and brought it on over.

During my educational visit I learned how a hand soldered circuit board differs from the machine soldered boards in the lower priced amps and that if you are buying an amp, check to see if it is a double sided circuit board. Although those are still done by machine they come out a lot better and he never sees those come in because of soldering problems.

Anyway, lesson learned and once he’s done working on it I’ll report back on the results. I would be curious to know if anyone else out there has had similar experiences with their amps or is it just me. Maybe I have some solder eating microbes in the house...


point2point said...

In addition to the hand-soldered versus machine-soldered debate, there's also the matter of point-to-point wiring versus the use of PC board in modern amp construction. There are many who argue that there are sonic differences between the two. Point-to-point wiring is also easier to fix than a melted PC board, plus you can't do many mods to a PC board as you can with a point-to-point amp.

I think quality control is a also a big part of the debate. I have several point-to-point amps that sound great, but I also have a PC board based Mesa Boogie Blue Angel that also sounds great.

Hope the amp comes home better than new. :)

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