Blondeshell 63 user review

Discussion in 'Ampage Area' started by Wrock, Apr 27, 2011.

  1. Wrock

    Wrock Electromatic

    Apr 4, 2011
    Central Germany
    As this amp has been mentioned in some other posts here, I´d like to post a short review here:

    One month ago I received a HUUUUUGE parcel from the US that had this little amp head in it:


    The story:
    Ever since I first played a tweed Bassman (one of the first reissues) back in the early 90ies I´ve been thinking of getting one. The major two things that kept me from doing so were 1) t´s too loud for most settings and 2) it has no reverb (and I always like a little reverb for more dimension). Since the late 90ies I was quite happy with a HotRodDeluxe (the BluesDeluxe was no longer available at that time) and a few years ago I changed to the BluesJr for rehearsals and smaller gigs as the HRD also proved too loud for this.
    Then again, last year after I saw this video I was sold:

    [ame=""]NOCTURNE BLONDEShell 63' amplifier demo [/ame]

    Great sound from a blonde bassman type amp that had reverb! Over the years of playing Gretsches my bassman preference changed from tweed to blonde (quite obvious , I think). By the end of last year I saw a band in which the guitar player played a 6120DSW through a 1963 6G6-B bassman and I knew it was time to take action and get one as this is the GREAT sound with a Gretsch guitar I´ve been looking for.

    The amp:
    Based on the normal channel of a 63 blonde bassman it has some extras:
    1. it has reverb that is usable over the full range - even at 10.
    2. it is reliable: built with top notch brand new components I don´t have to be afraid of having some recap job done or replacing the OT too soon. I really like vintage gear, but from a player´s point of view I´d rather go for a new amp than for a collectible 48 year old that might need a complete change of electronics sooner or later.
    3. biassing is made easy by bias taps and pots - no soldering like on the old ones.
    4. 4 and 8 Ohm outputs.
    5. the plank / F-hole switch: it shifts the EQ..much more mids in plank mode. A GREAT feature if you can´t crank the amp too much. It sounds like you would play with the volume at 4 while really having it set to about two. The original intention was to improve the sound for solid bodies (strat or tele) and to give better results with Gretsches when playing open back cabs.
    For more details on the technical side see Tavo´s Nocturne website

    I´ve got a rather compact solid pine cab loaded with 2 Celestion V30ies arranged diagonally. It´s about 2 inches higher and wider than my HotRotDeluxe and thus smaller than the original 2x12 cab that would go with the original 63 Bassman. Space is rather limited in the band´s car so I had to have it as small as possible. Here´s the rig:


    Production process and shipping:
    As these amps are built to order, it took about eight weeks from ordering to shipping (exactly like announced on the website). During the whole building process I was informed by Tavo of every single step and detail – very good service! Shipping to Germany was quite an excitement because USPS would only allow for up to 500$ of insurance and importing electronics is regulated by stringent CE laws over here. But the amp passed local customs without any hassles except from a 400 Euro rip for import sales tax and customs (23 % of the purchase price including shipping altogether) and in the end it got into my hands safe and sound after about tow weeks of shipping. Again, Tavo was always there and very helpful, I can´t think of any better service.

    Testing, testing…:
    Plugged the Gretsch directly into the Blondeshell with the following settings: Volume 2, Treble 7, Bass 2, Presence 10 without any effects and there it was: full tonal range, nice bass, a very clear, bright sound. How can I describe it best?
    - VERY clean, clear shimmering sparkling TONE! and a very dynamic response
    - very balanced. Even with the new speakers it didn´t sound harsh as I expected it before the test
    - tight bottom end, well defined mids and clear singing, not too stinging heights.
    It´s the sound I only ever experienced with vintage Fenders but not with the recent ones I own or that I´ve played. After a little tweaking - very subtle changes of the settings did the job, a little treble roll off and adding some reverb and within minutes it was gorgeous. The 6120AM sounded like it never did before and I started drooling. Things even got better when I engaged my old Brain Seltzer nocturne pedal (second run from September 2009) with the Bass roll off at noon, finding the sweet spot with the "Gritsch" knob at almost 4 o´clock and then THERE it was that GREAT Gretsch sound. The final improvement took place when I flicked the F-Hole/Plank switch to "Plank". This resulted in an extra mid-boost and now it sounded like I would play the amp at 4 while the volume was just at 2. I was expecting it to be louder at 2, but actually it´s not louder than the BluesJr set to my rehearsal room settings, so the band mates were happy, too (we only have a 20 square meter rehearsal room).

    About one week later I played it at a gig for the first time (in front of 300 people) and it was AWESOME. I never had such a good sound on stage before. I had the volume between 3 and 4, treble somewhere between 6 and 7 (rolled it back a bit compared to rehearsal room settings), bass almost off and presence wide open at 10. Didn´t need much of the reverb, because the venue was large enough for natural reverb. I had the gig recorded with a Panasonic SD10 but unfortunately the camera cut off or at least didn´t record the low frequencies too well so there´s virtually no bass on the video and the whole sound is shifted towards more mids and heights.

    Anyway, it was a great gig with a great guitar TONE!!!

    There´s a video by Pete and Rene from Australia in which they did a side by side comparison of the Blondeshell to a 64 blonde Bassman: [ame=""]Nocturne Blondeshell v 1964 Fender Blonde Bassman [/ame]
    What remains to be done?
    I´m still trying to get it recorded properly so I can provide some sound files that really show the tone.

    So if you´re looking for a Bassman type amp with some useful extras and a great dynamic twangy TONE, don´t be shy and give it a try! :D
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011
  2. ruger9

    ruger9 Country Gent

    Nov 1, 2008
    I want one of these SO bad... I just can't seem to work up the funds in this economy. :(
  3. brian blaut

    brian blaut Gretschie

    Jun 6, 2008
    SF Bay Area
    your vids aren't coming through for me.

    I'd love to have one of these amps. I'm sure they're worth EVERY penny. Problem is, I don't have enough pennies. PLUS, right now, I like the simplicity of a single 12" combo. I'll bet you can stuff that thing into a blonde Deluxe Reverb cab though, right?
  4. Wrock

    Wrock Electromatic

    Apr 4, 2011
    Central Germany
    Oh, right. What went wrong? I marked the link and hit the YouTube button.

    The amp head is the size of a Princeton Reverb so theoretically it should work. The thing is the speaker cab. You just can´t have the same sound with an open back built-in speaker compared to a closed back cab.
    Next week I´ll haul the rig over to my other band and then I´ll run the head through different cabs. Until now I only played it htrough the 2x12. I always loved the convenience of combo amps, too, but this sound... I never had it with ANY of the combos I played.
  5. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    I'm saving for one now. Also saving for a Steve Stern Jet.

    Once I have those, I'll behave myself for a while....

    Mr Marlin
  6. HHudson

    HHudson Synchromatic

    Jan 10, 2010
    'Yurp, pro tempore Germany
    Thanks for the review Wrock, that's beautiful and an amp to dream about :D
    ... hmmm... if it would comply with the the hand luggage restrictions?
  7. workknot

    workknot Country Gent

    Feb 15, 2009
    Brainerd, Minnesota
    Anyone know what the cost is on this amp if purchased in the USA?
  8. Geezer

    Geezer Synchromatic

    May 28, 2009
    McGill, Nevada

    No you won't. ;)
  9. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    It's on Tavo's website listed at $1850
  10. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    Damn. Foiled again!!!

    Mr Marlin ;)
  11. BarryMClark

    BarryMClark Country Gent

    Apr 4, 2011
    I have been lusting after one of these for the better part of a year. I am not sure when if I can ever spring the dough for one, but they sound great!
  12. Buxbaum666

    Buxbaum666 Gretschie

    May 18, 2010
    Congratulations. It's indeed a dream amp. :eek: I've been gassing for one, too. I'll probably settle for a Marsh Bassman clone one day because it's less expensive.

    Tavo once told me he wouldn't build it for 230V because it would mess with the sound somehow. Has he changed his mind or are you using a voltage transformer for the amp?
  13. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    I've looked into this with Tavo.Mercury Magnetics will actually build you an identical transformer to the origional, just tuned to European mains. You just need to get a good Tubes tech to fit it, and burn it all in (to ensure safety), then you're good to go.

    Tavo used the Mercury Magnetics transformer, you just order the version you need for the power supply you have.

    In theory, you should get the same mojo.

    Mr Marlin
  14. Wrock

    Wrock Electromatic

    Apr 4, 2011
    Central Germany
    It´s all original to 120V so I use a step down transformer. Available from Thomann or Tube Amp Doctor.
    I didn´t wnat to change the PT because I wanted it to sound like I heard in on Tavo´s videos.

    The things I really like with the Blondeshell are the extras the Marsh doesn´t provide, namely reverb and the extremely useful Plank/F-Hole switch.

    I´ve heard somebody took one over to Norway by plane. Size is (H) 24 x (W) 50.5 x (D) 22cm and weight approx. 15 kg.
  15. jeffm1

    jeffm1 Electromatic

    Feb 28, 2011
    I'm going to do a Mercury upgrand on my 65 deluxe reverb when the warranty is up. Man that is one fine looking bassman clone and being a fan of vintage type fender amps it's right up my alley. I went to the website to look it over and ended up buying a shirt. All I can afford at this point unfortunately. Very classic look and I like the f-hole plank selector switch. NICE!
  16. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    so cal
    where are Wrock and Marlin these days?
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