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HELP! Who knows anything about AMPEG VL Valve Guitar Amps?

 
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Skybone
Guitar God


Joined: 04 Dec 2001
Posts: 504
Location: South Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:35 am    Post subject: HELP! Who knows anything about AMPEG VL Valve Guitar Amps? Reply with quote

I've been GASing for a new amp for a while now, as in a fit of despair, I sold my TSL122, and settled for just using the PODxt, seeing as I only play in the house. Recently, a jamming opportunity has arisen and I needed to get an amp for me to get involved. I went to a local music shop and tried a couple of amps out, including a Sunn Model T50C combo, but the one that jumped up and screamed "BUY ME" was an Ampeg VL-503 combo.

I've done a search of the web, and Ampeg still have the owner's manual as a PDF, which is handy, but a little lacking in technical info (i.e. How many pre-amp valves does it have? What Ohm rating is the internal EV speaker? etc). Does anyone know anything about these things?

What really impresses me about it is not only how it sounds, but the fact that it's a 3 channel amp (the footswitch looks flimsy though) with a built in Power Attenuator, Line Out, Direct Recording/DI Out, easy user bias setting, and self biasing for either 6550's or EL34's.

Thanks.
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Skybone
Guitar God


Joined: 04 Dec 2001
Posts: 504
Location: South Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2004 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I finally succumbed (and the shop fixed it) and bought the Ampeg.

What an amp! It's a little heavier than I'd like (38 kg or 85lbs! Which is 6kg heavier than the Marshall) and so getting it upstairs when I got it home was erm...interesting.

I really think after playing around with it for a couple of days, that you really have to try hard to get a BAD sound out of this amp, it really does sound SWEET. The additional features such as the bias switch for 6550/EL34 power valves is good, and bias micro-pots so you can set the bias on the power amp valves yourself using the LED's on the back is a fantastic feature, without even needing a voltmeter. Then there's the Line Out and Direct Record out functions, which can take the output of either the Preamp or the Power Amp, plus the biggest 12" (Electro Voice) speaker I've ever seen. Add in an Attenuator built in, it really is an awesome amp.

The down side though, is that if I want to change pre-amp valves, I have to take the chassis out, as they're inside, which seems a bit daft to me, but there must have been some reasoning behind it. 6 12ax7/ECC83's & 2 6550's.
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Skybone
Guitar God


Joined: 04 Dec 2001
Posts: 504
Location: South Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2004 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amp update:

Woah. Nice.

I've now replaced every valve in the amp now (6 Sovtek 12AX7WC's & 2 Sovtek 6550C's), I tried it with a pair of Svetlana EL34's, but didn't like the result. All the headroom was lost, and they just didn't sound anything like (I was expecting) EL34's to sound like. I put the original (Svetlana) 6550's back in, and ordered the Sovtek's. Replacing the power valves on this amp is so easy. Use the bias switch to select power valve type, pop the bottles in place, switch the amp on & set the bias using a small bladed screwdriver, using the LED's for guidance. Changing the preamp valves is a chore, you have to remove the damn amp chassis as they're inside.

I had to buy a THD HotPlate attenuator for it, as the built in one is more for stage use, like a master volume in fact. For home use (all it gets at the moment) you really need something which can bring the volume down to a tolerable level (for family & neighbours anyway). Great bits of kit the HotPlates though, well recommended.

Clean, it shimmers. Add a hint of reverb, set the tone controls to the 12 o'clock position (giving the amp a neutral voice, and let the guitar do the talking) and it sounds as sweet as anything I have ever heard.

Channel 2 adds a little more growl to the proceedings. If you want that "just breaking up" blues sound, it's so easy to dial in with this amp. And with this sound dialled in, with added OD pedal, awesome rock/metal sounds come from the EV 12" speaker (with the HUGE magnet at the back).

Channel 3 is set so that you can go from the bluesy Ch 2 to gain soaked lead break easily. Even with the preamp & gain controls pretty high, the clarity is pretty damn good, and the sound doesn't mush up unless you really push it.

Overall conclusion: Great amp for not much outlay. They seem to be a bit of a rarity, get one now while the prices are low (if you can find one that is!).
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tokaiguy
Guitar God


Joined: 09 Sep 2001
Posts: 643
Location: Dallas Tx

PostPosted: Sat Dec 18, 2004 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are correct Skybone, these were great amps. They were desighned by Lee Jackson. I have a 502 head with a 4x 12 cab and the head alone is about 85lbs. It's in stock condition, bought it from a friend back in the 90's. Look up Lee Jackson on the web, you might get some more info! TG
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Skybone
Guitar God


Joined: 04 Dec 2001
Posts: 504
Location: South Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Sat Dec 18, 2004 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info TG, great choice of amp!

The best info I found was actually from Ampeg themselves, as they had the Owners Manual as a PDF on their site, which has been quite useful.

I recently had to go back to 12 o' clock on all channels, as I had some Bare Knuckle Black Dog pickups put in my Love Rock which changed the sound completely, now it's dialled in, it sounds sweet. Well, to me anyway.
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