Little Tiny Balls

Discussion in 'Ampage Area' started by bobframe, Jul 3, 2008.

  1. bobframe

    bobframe Synchromatic

    931
    Jun 3, 2008
    US
    I have, from time to time, ventured out into the world of boutique builders- both guitars and amplifiers. And for the most part, I have been well satisfied. But here's a tale of one of those sojourns that has sorely disappointed. I ask you to advise me on how to analyze the problem and what to do about fixing it.

    Gerald Kendrick builds boutique, all tube guitar amps from his small place in Texas. He has, I believe, a well earned reputation for producing a quality product. I bought (sight unseen - I'll admit it) a new,15 watt amp called a Black Gold 15 to be used as an "in the house" practice amp. I was expecting a great clean tone and more volume than I could stand, even if only a 15 watt amp. Amp was not cheap- it sells for $1700 new today.

    What I got was OK tone (my Victoria and Swart amps are WAY better), mediocre reverb (again my Vic and Swart kill it) and really anemic volume. Play it on 10 and it will not drive you out of the room- it's not loud at all. It has, to be very honest, "little tiny balls" and it's been that way since the day I bought it.

    Am I expecting too much? Shouldn't an all tube 15 watt amp get pretty darn loud? I play my Swart (20W) at about "5" and my Victoria (35W) at "3-4" with my Gretsch guitars volume set at about 1/2 to 2/3 full volume. I think something is wrong here but I know next to nothing about amps and their inner workings.

    What would you do? Send it back for an assessment/fix? Swap tubes? eBay it?
     
  2. Boyko

    Boyko Gretschie

    Age:
    29
    209
    Jun 2, 2008
    Bancroft, Ontario
    Well, volume output has alot to do with speakers too. But I have a 5 watt tube amp with a 6" speaker (pretty much the smallest combo readily available) and it can get plenty loud. Loud enough to get through the house, and its a decent sized house. Now a 15 watt should indeed be louder, and the last 15 watt tube amp I tried would have been giggable with a 10" speaker. Heck an 18 watt Deluxe Reverb is super loud with its 12" speaker.

    So it looks like you got a dud. For the money you paid you should expect a great amp. If it were me I would give him the chance to check it out and fix it if something is wrong. If he says "thats just how it is" I would either request my money back or eBay it. Use the money to buy a new, smaller, Victoria.

    Note that these observations aren't from any experience with inner amp workings, just from research on buying tube amps. I know a bit about inside of amps, but others could do a much better job on here.

    Hope it works out!
     
  3. bobframe

    bobframe Synchromatic

    931
    Jun 3, 2008
    US
  4. Jukebox

    Jukebox Gretschified

    Age:
    65
    Jun 2, 2008
    Foreston,MN
    bob i would have to agree with boyko. I would send it back and ask him to check it out.If everything is OK, then I would request my money back. For that kind of money, that amp should be singing to you! I have a little Fender 5 Watt canamp with a 8" speaker,and I can blast anyone out of the room with it.
    This could be as simple as a bad ground connection or a bad switch. If his rep is any good at all, he will be happy to check it out.
     
  5. Boyko

    Boyko Gretschie

    Age:
    29
    209
    Jun 2, 2008
    Bancroft, Ontario
    With a 2x10" that thing should be plenty loud. I know someone mentioned on the GDP that a gain of 5 watts only has like 3 decibals of extra power, so the speakers are usually what makes the difference until you get into higher wattages. Usually lower watts means it will overdrive at a lower volume. So by adding speaker size, thats where the real volume comes in.

    By the specs this thing should rock, and by all means should be a nice small gigging and recording amp. For it to have a lack of volume and tone would have to mean poor building or wiring. Phone the guy up and see what he says.
     
  6. Gretsch-Talk

    Gretsch-Talk Administrator Staff Member

    Age:
    69
    996
    May 26, 2008
    Hill Country, TX
    Admin Post
    Yes, a 15 watt with 2-10 should be LOUD. As an example... my 1965 Princeton Reverb and my missed AC-15 with 2-10s. Both of them were/are LOUD. Just a tad under a Deluxe Reverb loud.

    Kendrick... and Gerald Weber are spotty at best I'd say. But I don't think the Black Gold 15 should be dainty sounding.

    I've had kendrick work on one of my amps, and they didn't blow me away and in fact, I had to send it back to them twice to get it sort of right.

    At one time Kendrick was an up and comer, but they've downsized and cut out a lot of products. And, Gerald has gotten a fair amount of bad press over the past few years.

    I almost bought a regular Black Gold (which was 40 watts or something like that in a Deluxe Reverb type cab) amp back in 2000 or so, and my association with them turned me off and I thought better of it.
     
  7. Mark W

    Mark W Country Gent

    Age:
    67
    Jun 6, 2008
    Central Florida
    Send it back. For that much Dunnero you should rock the house with that tube amp.
     
  8. drgonzo2

    drgonzo2 Gretschie

    132
    Jun 7, 2008
    Northants, UK
    If you can try a different set of valves, do so. If that doesn't get it working satisfactorily, send it back. 15watts through 2x10's should be LOUD. Pretty much as loud as your swart - remember, a 100 watt amp is only twice as loud as a 10watt, percieved volume wise. Cranked, there's little difference volume wise between 15 & 20 watts, and both should be able to fill a 200person venue perfectly well.

    ... G
     
  9. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Short answer: A 15 watt amp should be fairly loud, loud enough, IMO to make a living room an uncomfortable place to be.

    Long answer: The clean volume output of an amp is dependant upon many factors.

    Speaker efficiency is a key element. Measured in db/watt @ 1 meter, an increase of 3db in speaker efficiency has the same effect as doubling the wattage of an amp. There are other factors as well such as the presence or absence of a negative feedback loop. A 40 watt Custom Vibrolux Reverb probably has less clean headroom than my 15 watt Blues Jr because the CVR lacks a negative feedback loop. A quick lok at the schematic would reveal whether or not it employs negative feedback.

    Some amps are purposely designed to overdrive at very low volumes and if this is the case your Kendrick may be functioning perfectly but it isn't designed for a clean, twangy sound. I'd start with a phone call to the builder.
     
  10. Boyko

    Boyko Gretschie

    Age:
    29
    209
    Jun 2, 2008
    Bancroft, Ontario
    And there is the techie answer. Thanks Synchro! I knew it was 3db but didn't know what the wattage level was. Definitly not 5 watts, as I had said earlier.

    Let us know how this all turns out eh bobframe?
     
  11. bobframe

    bobframe Synchromatic

    931
    Jun 3, 2008
    US
    I talked to Gerald Kendrick on Friday and I was told:

    That amp is not designed to be loud (huh??). While it is called a Black Gold 15 and I thought it was a 15W amp, he said it's not really 15W. That's is because it is described as having "the same mono preamp circuit as the BG 35 or BG50, but with dual single-ended Class A self-biasing output stages. Comes with a 6L6 and E34L output tube. Each output tube drives its own output transformer and separate speaker". So as I understand it, the amp has one pre-amp, but two power outputs, each with it's own speaker. Pretty weird, eh? NOW I find out.

    So I've already spent a ton on it. What can I do? I don't think *****in' to Gerald is the answer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2008
  12. getbent

    getbent Super Moderator

    Jun 1, 2008
    sunny california
    If you can get your money back... do it.

    for 1700 you could get a tone king!
     
  13. drgonzo2

    drgonzo2 Gretschie

    132
    Jun 7, 2008
    Northants, UK
    I'm not sure what Mr.K's on about,really. An EL34 in s/e class A run at 250-300v puts out 11 watts (source - Mullard datasheet, Jan 1964). A 6L6GT, also run at between 250-300v puts out 6.5 watts (source - STC application report, June 1954). That gives a total power output of 17.5 watts. That amp, as described, should be bloody loud.

    The only thing I can think of, is that the speakers may have been wired up out of phase. Try swapping the positive & negative leads on one of the speakers.

    Hope this helps... G
     
  14. bobframe

    bobframe Synchromatic

    931
    Jun 3, 2008
    US
    Bought it 5-6 years ago. Don't think that's gonna happen.
     
  15. Pappy

    Pappy Country Gent

    Age:
    36
    Jun 4, 2008
    Georgia
    I've been pretty disatisfied with my Kendrick product (but very impressed with his wife's customer service and his main tech's too). I bought a 118 kit that came without 1) tubes and 2) instructions. A couple phone calls and they arrive and I sit down to build this amp. The reason I bought it in the first place was because someone said that it was the best kit out there, not that it was the best amp, but had instructions that were super easy to follow and the best parts possible.

    So I put over 400.00 into a 5W amp. The equivelant of a Champ. 5 watts. 400.00. Seem pricey? And then I spend the money required to get the tools to build the amp (about 75.00) and sit down to accomplish this, my first build. And right away I see that a hole or two needs to be enlarged and the instructions had wires with different colors. I wired it as close as I could to the instructions, all with a guy who's into building electronics helping along the way and when it's all done we plug it in and it's whining like you wouldn't believe. So I called the tech and he said it sounds like it's out of phase so I swap the necessary wires and now the power comes on, the tubes glow, everything seems to be working well. Except there's no output. I can hear the power, but no guitar. So I check the instructions again and it seems right. So I cave and bring it to an amp tech who charged 40.00 to look at it who called me and told me that it's wired completely wrong and would take three hours ($150.00) to rewire correctly. Over 600.00 into a five watt amp. A KIT at that!

    Now, to be completely fair, I haven't emailed or called with this situation. And I'm sure when I save up the 150.00 to get it rewired it'll sound great and hopefully never EVER need ANYTHING done to it for the rest of eternity since so much money's been put into it already.
     
  16. bobframe

    bobframe Synchromatic

    931
    Jun 3, 2008
    US
    Tried switching leads on one of the speakers and the tone, on the clean channel, got muddy and was not louder. Could I have a bad tube somewhere? How do I test for that? Should I just ship this bad boy back to Gerald and let him tell me what he thinks. I'm convinced it is not working as designed.
     
  17. bobframe

    bobframe Synchromatic

    931
    Jun 3, 2008
    US
    Holy crap- ugly story. I thought Mr. Kendrick had his act together.

    It's been awhile since I bought this and was never happy with it and just sort of pushed it into a corner. But It troubles me that there's a "good amp" in there somewhere, and I suspect with a bit of effort I can coax it into emerging. Just not sure quite how- but with y'alls help maybe I can figure out what to do.
     
  18. drgonzo2

    drgonzo2 Gretschie

    132
    Jun 7, 2008
    Northants, UK
    OK. From that, it sounds like the speaker phase was ok as it was. If you can try different valves (pulled from other amp's), do so. If that doesn't make a difference, it's time to break out the multimeter & soldering iron (or find a good tech).

    ... G
     
  19. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    This is little more than an educated guess, but here goes: Kendrick amps have a good reputation so my guess is that either the amp is performing as it should or possibly you have a tube going south that is causing it to distort early. My guess . . . the amp is made to overdrive any time the power switch is on. If there's a tube amp repair guy in the area that doesn't want an arm and a leg he should be able to verify it for you one way or another.

    A lot of players want that in an amp, natural tube distortion and lots of it. If that's the case the best thing you can do is bail out. Put 'er on eBay and cut your losses.

    Now, FWIW, if clean is what you want there are a lot of good amps that do clean without being harsh. My living room amp is a Fender '65 Twin Reverb RI with a couple of tube substitutions to allow it to operate at lower volumes. No kidding, a Twin Reverb with 12AY7s replacing V1 & V2 becomes a pretty docile amp and if you turn it up it'll still rattle your windows long before it breaks up.

    A '65 Deluxe Reverb RI is another great amp for everything from living room playing to medium sized gigs. (You really should start a band Bob.) They weigh about 1/2 as much as a Twin but there is one caveat, they have a tube rectifier which can hinder some of the crisp responsiveness of a Filtertron pickup.

    I have yet to play one, but there is a new Fender Princeton RI out there. It's basically a slightly smaller version of a Deluxe Reverb and costs only a few bucks less. As attractive as the idea seems I think that when push comes to shove I'd go the extra few bucks and get the Deluxe (between the two) because the 12" speaker is more to my tastes.

    One of my favorite amps is a Marshall 2061. They look like a 2/3 size Marshall half-stack and cost about 2/3 as much as a Marshall full stack but they have a great clean sound. They can be cranked into overdrive but they get pretty loud before they break up. It's similar to the vaunted 18 watt Marshall combo but the solid state rectifier gives it a much different character.
     
  20. roadjunkie

    roadjunkie Country Gent

    Jul 4, 2008
    Middletown,PA
    I hope this wil help you out but this is only a thought process. You know thinking out loud! Anyhow I have a Fargen Bastage that is likke yours a single ended class A but I only have one power section at 4 watts. What I found was that when I stick a big bottle in it whatever charm this amp has gets thrown out the window! I bought a Marconi 6V6 that I put in there that would charm your girlfriend out of her knickers! Try putting a GOOD PAIR OF 6V6'S in there. I don't think your power section is big enough to push those 2 big bottles. I would also try some 5881's but no bigger it would just be a waste of money. Hope it helps!
     
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