Witham based Essex Amp Repairs was
formed in 2011 by David Brett & Dave Bailey. With over 50 years service experience between them, they were the ideal people to get the low down on all things loud.
What is the most common fault that develops in transistor and valve amps?
Both types of amplifier can suffer from dry solder joints, corroded switch contacts, dirty/worn pots, etc. The only real difference surrounds the main active components, i.e. the valves or transistors themselves. Those items apart, many problems can be common to both types of amplifier.
Are transistor amps more reliable than valve amps or does it depend on the make?
Build quality rather than make, or technology,
has the biggest bearing on reliability. However, valves being electro mechanical devices are inherently more fragile and subject to wear and physical damage than transistors and other solid-state devices. A well cared for valve amp need not be an unreliable piece of equipment.
If you treat your amp with care, it will reward you with years of reliable service.
How often would you recommend a valve amp be serviced?
It depends upon the frequency of use and the conditions the equipment is being used in. As a rule of thumb, if the amp is gigged once a week, then an annual service should suffice. It is a good idea to coincide the service with the annual electrical safety test. That way you can save a journey to the workshop. Every item serviced by Essex Amp Repairs is tested for electrical safety as a matter of course.
What do you make of the big manufacturers outsourcing to the far east, has it had an impact on build quality/reliability.
Outsourcing alone does not lower build quality. Build quality is driven more by what customers are prepared to pay for the product than it is by the location of the factory that made it. The far eastern manufacturers will build to whatever specification the customer defines.
‘Taming the beast.’ - A 100w Marshall
head undergoes a 50w conversion.
So given the right specifications, they can build very high quality products. While production costs are currently lower in the Far East, on a “like for like” basis, there would be production cost savings. However if a manufacturer specifi es a high end product, the production costs will go up accordingly. Even in the Far East you can’t build a Bentley for Daewoo prices. Market perception would make it difficult for a manufacturer to sell a high end product with a “made in the Far East” label on it. So although technology can assist in giving more features per pound spent, ultimately there will always be a connection between cost and quality that is unavoidable. And that means that mass-market pressure on point of sale prices will inevitably drive quality down. The success of the boutique amp market reflects this.
Finally what is your favourite all-time amp?
The quick answer is “my amp”. In truth there is no all time favourite, the best is simply the one that suits your requirements most closely at any given time. I generally favour simple amps, such as the venerable Twin Reverb, or classic Marshall’s like the little 20W 1974X.
There are plenty of very good complex amps
out there, but for me ease of use and simplicity win every time. If an amp has a very good core tone, with as few controls as possible, then I’d usually be quite happy with it.
Essex Amp Repairs are situated at:
Freebournes Industrial Estate
CM8 3TH Witham
Tel: 07910 038163