Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How old is that thing?

That's the first question I get asked when people see this amp. But this practically brand new amp has just been through a rough life. This is story of the newest addition to my amp collection...

A couple of months ago I bought an Epiphone Valve Junior head from the used section at an area "Plaza De Guitarras" (actual store name protected). I paid $89 bucks for it, plus another $30 for an 18-month warrantee. I considered this to be an exceptional deal, since they cost $130-150 brand new and the warrantee covers anything that might happen to it within the next year.

So here are some quick specs on this thing:

Epiphone Valve Junior
-5 Watts
-All tube, single-ended, Class A (like that means anything to anyone anymore). Tube Compliment: one 12AX7 (preamp), one EL84 (power amp)
-1 input, I/O switch, volume knob
-about 10 pounds (I guess)
-3 different load outputs (4 ohm, 8ohm and 16 ohm)

It's got a very cool vintage feel with cream and crimson tolex; very vintage. But this amp, which could only be 3 years old at the most, looks a little worse for the wear.

So why do I say that it's already been through a rough life?
When I first got it, someone had completely defiled it by removing the handsome "Epiphone" badge and slapping a HUGE chrome "CRATE" badge right on the red tolex. To further accentuate this awesome modification, the previous owner had also super-glued two chrome flame magnets to the red tolex (one on either side of the awesome Crate logo.) It took me 15 minutes, and one big gash in the tolex to get the Crate logo off. Needless to say I left the flames on there...just kidding...those took another 15 minutes and more tears in the tolex. The worst of it is that the black magnet-backing of these chrome flames is still adhered to the amp, I was only able to remove small fragments...man, what did this guy use? Gorilla Glue? Anyway, it looks super beat-up, but pretty cool regardless, and sounds great. Also, the previous owner had taken the stock "chicken-head" knob off of the volume pot and replaced it with a Fender "witch-hat" style knob...so awesome! There is also a treble cleff sticker on the face of the amp as well, for some reason...maybe it was owned by my fourth grade music teacher, who seemed to have treble clefs EVERYWHERE! Regardless, it's a nice touch...keeping it.

I wish I had been smart enough to document this amazing display of useless modification, but instead I have created this little "re-enactment for you"...this is EXACTLY what it looked like...

Right now I have this thing running into one 12" Celestion Heritage 75W 16 ohm speaker cab. It sounds great from 5-10, but i find it's a little muddy in the lower gain stage (1-5). But when it's fully cranked, I have really been enjoying the open, AC/DC type overdrive. The amps has also responded well to pedals, although the DL4 doesn't sound as good through it as the Twin, but then again, it's the Twin! Last week I gigged with this little amp and it carried just fine on stage over drums and bass and the tech didn't have any complaints over the house mix. So I think it's going to be a great little amp for me!

Currently I have made no modifications to it, yet. I plan on installing the "Bit-Mo Trio" in the hopes that it will brighten up the tone at lower volumes. I did however change out the pre-amp tube which was a stock, generic Chinese 12AX-WB to the quieter 12AX-LPS. I chose this tube because I have been doing recording with this amp and the less noise produced the better. I have found that while it does run quieter, I actually haven't had to sacrifice gain, it really does break up quite well. I also switched out the stock Sovtek EL84 with a JJ EL84 in the power stage in the hopes of tighten up the overdrive a little bit, I haven't noticed much a difference though.

Overall I rate this amp 8/10 for what it is. It's a small, versatile giggable and recordable amp. It looks great, it sounds great, it super modifiable (even a word?) and it's cheap! My only gripe is that it can get pretty muddy at times (especially with humbuckers) and the volume setting takes some getting used to. But it's a great amp and I like it a lot.

Video and Audio clips of this little amp will be featured in future posts.

Thanks for reading,

Cutaway Curator


  1. I have a Crate Vintage Club class A amp we should check out at some point. It actually sounds killer. The circuit was built off the AC-30.

  2. I would love to do a shoot-out between your Vintage Club and the AC30CC2! That would be totally cool!