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GA 19 RVT Minding my own business in a junk store . . .

#1 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 07:38 PM

I write to ask your collective wisdom about this rusty, dusty Gibson Falcon Amp that I literally tripped over in a thrift store near my house in New York. I've never owned one or even played one. I pulled it out, plugged it in (old brown two prong power cord). Red light. Plugged in a Squire from the corner and it operates, and I strike a deal with the guy. From what I can dig up, it was made in 1961, and they only shipped 204 of them. It's rated at 14 watts, and the speaker is a 12" Jensen that appears to be original. It's got the foot pedal, which works. I just vacuumed it inside and out, and plugged my Les Paul into it and ran it through the various settings. This amp is blisteringly loud and clear and turned up, it will peel paint off the wall. The tremolo is super cool and works great, the reverb has a bit of a hum that's not noticeable when the amp is turned up loud, but is at low volume (it stays the same). I don't know anything about fixing amps, tubes, etc. so I can't guess if what's in there is original, but it all looks old to me.

My question is this, what do I do with this thing? I'm inclined to just play it, and try to leave it all as is, but I am concerned about the power cord. What do you all do, replace it with a grounded one? I'd love lose the hum on the reverb but I don't want to get into major surgery if it basically works anyway, and I am not sure I'd know who to bring something like this to. What do you guys/girls think? Thanks! Bill

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1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
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#2 User is offline   stein 

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 11:30 PM

The "type" of guy to take it to would be an amp tech, or a tube amp repair guy. Ideally, someone who specializes in guitar amps, and better if they specialize in vintage guitar amps. Don't know who that would be in your town.

I notice it has two different power tubes. So, that's a clue it's time for service.

You really should get the power filter caps replaced, which need replacing every so often. Especially if they haven't been replaced in the last 10 or 15 years. And you will WANT to get the tubes biased. And also, a matched pair of power tubes there.

That MIGHT solved the hum issue. But also, the amp will sound a lot better. The power cord replacement isn't major surgery.
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#3 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 06:29 AM

There are legions of amp techs around here but I have never seen one of these and as they only made around 200, I doubt anyone else has either. I can't imagine it sounding much better, other than the reverb hum. I'm more concerned about accidentally seeing my skeleton, or it bursting into flames. Maybe it's worth a call to Gibson USA to locate the right tech.
1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
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#4 User is offline   stein 

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 09:58 AM

View PostWillyG, on 24 October 2015 - 06:29 AM, said:

There are legions of amp techs around here but I have never seen one of these and as they only made around 200, I doubt anyone else has either. I can't imagine it sounding much better, other than the reverb hum. I'm more concerned about accidentally seeing my skeleton, or it bursting into flames. Maybe it's worth a call to Gibson USA to locate the right tech.

Gibson made a lot of amps that didn't sell all that well, or that they made in small numbers. Doesn't mean it's not a great amp. I guess another way of saying it is Gibson changed-up the amp line often.

Having said that, the idea of finding someone familiar with THAT particular amp isn't what you should be looking for, but rather, someone familiar with "vintage" tube amps, in particular guitar amps.

Most of these vintage amps will be very similar to each other. Biasing power tubes, adding a grounded cord, and changing power caps will be common to all tube amps. And they aren't a big deal. A cap job and tube replacement (and biasing) IS regular maintenance, just like changing the oil in a car or changing strings on a guitar.
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#5 User is offline   dkevin 

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 11:13 AM

Congratulations on your amp find! I have a couple of these amps and they are great. Yours appears to be the later Crestline Falcon from 62 or so. Sometimes people will trash them for sounding thin and lacking volume. I think your wariness about finding a trustworthy tech and the $ involved in sorting out the issues has merit. I am somewhat surprised that the amp sounds as good as you say without any attention. If it is playable, you have several options. You can sell it as is.. or you could have it checked out by a local amp tech. It would cost you some money to do so but at least you would know what you have and prioritize your repairs. The 3-wire cord can be done when the tech is checking things out and should not be a huge expense. The reverb hum could be as simple as a tube (or cable) or as complex as replacing individual components. As others have advised you, the electrolytic capacitors (if original) are living on borrowed time. If they fail, they can take out your tubes and transformers. Gibson was infamous for using the paper "party" caps which according to some, was a bad idea from the get-go. The cost factor is why I started working on my own amps. There are a lot of helpful people (and a few not-so-helpful) who can advise you and help you learn. Ultimately, only you can decide whether this course is right for you. It is not easy...nor is it simple (as some have stated) but it is an excellent way to own, play through and maintain tube amps that otherwise would be out of our reach.
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#6 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 02:37 PM

Thanks all for your advice. I played the amp some more, and the observation about the sound being thin probably comes from the high end response of the amp. If I twist the tone knob all the way to the right, dogs start howling. I think it's pretty loud. I've got a Blackstar HT 60 soloist (insanely loud) and the Gibson is less so, but it's not out of the ballpark. The reverb hum is not a big deal and I'm going to play it and research techs! Dkevin, the model number is GA 19 RVT if that tells you anything more. There is a serial number stamped into the chassis but I haven't found a resource for that yet.
1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
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#7 User is offline   badbluesplayer 

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 03:45 AM

The first thing to do is to replace the 2 prong plug with a 3 prong plug. At the same time, your tech will change the wiring around so that the fuse gets wired onto the black wire before the switch - the modern way to wire the fuse and switch. He might also remove the "Death Cap." You'll also need to get the electrolytic caps replaced.

Your tech might be able to fix any humming too.

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#8 User is offline   dkevin 

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 08:20 AM

Actually there are two GA-19RVT's with slightly different schematics. The early one has a rear-facing chassis (like a 5E3) and uses a 7199 tube as the reverb driver. This amp is very highly regarded for its tone. The later (Crestline) variant uses a 6C4 to drive the reverb and has a forward facing chassis. This amp (yours) has a rep for sounding thin and lacks volume. However, the reverb and the tremolo are still considered to be awesome. When you look for the GA-19RVT schematic, the 7199 version is probably the one you will find. If you download a copy of the M-216RVT (Gibson-Maestro version of the Falcon) it will be the correct version for your amp. (I use EL-34 World's Tube schematic page). Just check that the 6C4 is used for the reverb. Even if you are not planning to learn tube amp maintenance, having the schematic and being able to identify the problem parts is important. I have found that Gibson used a few "labor-saving" devices to speed production. One of these is a tone network that looks like a small piece of orange taffy with three wires protruding from it. This is a collection of resistors and small capacitors sealed in epoxy and attached to the volume pot. As new, it probably functioned well. But 50-60 years down the road, it is one of the reasons why this amp lacks oomph. This network is but one of several pinch-points in the amp. If you are content with the sound of this amp (as-is) then there is no reason to worry yourself further about optimizing the circuit. The advice given you about replacing the two wire cord (removing the death-cap)and updating the electrolytic capacitors is sufficient to protect it (and yourself) for the time being. Enjoy!!
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#9 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 03 March 2016 - 06:44 PM

So the update is that I gave this amp to my friend, who is an electrical engineer and geek for old guitar amps, a few days ago. He called and said "I've polished your turd!" All he did was change out a few leaky caps, fried resistors, put in a three pronged chord, and replace a few dried wires. The reverb hum is gone and "The Turd" now has much better low end response and overall tone. I'm going to order some new tubes and we may make some incremental changes including replacing the Sprague P.O.S. Tone taffy mess but it is GREATLY improved and I think it may be a sleeper cool amplifier, the reverb and tremelo are badass. Thanks for your collective advice!
1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
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#10 User is offline   scooter500 

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Posted 07 March 2016 - 06:41 PM

Nice find and story. I WILL take time to look in 2nd hand stores! :)
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#11 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 09:50 AM

I like thrift stores and pawn shops. 99% of the time, there isn't anything of interest but if I keep checking them, eventually something cool turns up. This is why I call my music room "the island of misfit toys".
1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
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#12 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 17 July 2016 - 05:13 AM

We did some more polishing of the turd, minor surgery and new tubes. I believe this is the offending bit Dkevin pointed out. The amp now sounds terrific, thanks for all your help.

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1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
0

#13 User is offline   Sunburst PB 

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Posted 02 November 2016 - 03:11 PM

Your GA19RVT is one of my all time favorite amps and I hope to come across one someday.
2011 Gibson Custom Shop ES-355
2002 Blueridge BR-183
1999 Fender Hot Rodded Precision Bass
1998 Fender Telecaster
1966 Fender Coronado II
2013 Epiphone DR-212

2013 Takemine GY93 New Yorker
2012 Ohana CK-35-SN Soprano Ukulele

2000 Behringer BXL450 Bass Combo
1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb RI
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#14 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 26 November 2016 - 11:02 AM

View PostSunburst PB, on 02 November 2016 - 03:11 PM, said:

Your GA19RVT is one of my all time favorite amps and I hope to come across one someday.


I have been playing it for a few months now and it really has a great sound, like a Princeton, but better.
1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
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#15 User is offline   WillyG 

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Posted 27 November 2016 - 07:27 AM

View PostSunburst PB, on 02 November 2016 - 03:11 PM, said:

Your GA19RVT is one of my all time favorite amps and I hope to come across one someday.

I see that you have a Telecaster. I found a gorgeous one (also in a junk store, but that's another story) and that guitar sounds fantastic with the Falcon amp.
1977 Les Paul Deluxe
2000 American Standard Telecaster
Taylor Holden Village GS Mini
1961 Falcon Amplifier
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