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Dull sounding Special


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Hi gang, just strolled over from the electric forum...thought I'd ask a dumb question. I just aquired a Valve Special and am pretty dissapointed with the clean sound I'm getting. It's pretty dull and lifeless. Other EL84 amps I've owned have a nice chime and sparkle. Any suggestions? =D>

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The number-one mod for these seems to be an upgrade to the output transformer.

From the weight of opinion, it seems prudent to do that, *then* see what you can do to zero it in.

 

Forgot to mention - I have an EVS, and this is my plan. If you haven't checked out SEWatt.com, then do so; there's at least one thread on tone mods for the Special.

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Bear222 -- welcome to the "other side" of EPI forum madcap.

Before scrapping your OT -- If easy and economy appeal to you, then you might want to look into different brand tubes to clean up your cleans. Works wonders on the VJr.s. May/should help the Special (can't say for sure b/c I've never owned one -- others here have and can relay experiences).

 

Sounds to me like you might have snagged one with a preamp tube on the fritz anyway. Read some of the "tube upgrade" threads on this forum over the past month or so for specific suggestions. Good luck on finding those cleans that should be in there.

 

Hit every BLUE NOTE baaaby..., I'm going to play on:-"

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In case you havn't been over to SEWatt yet, the number one and first mod suggested to make is to bypass the DSP. That, along with adding a resistor and removing one, is all I needed to do to my Standard. Those mods work on the Special as well. Still not happy? - then start spending money.

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Although Steven may be correct on a tube headed in the wrong direction, from what I've read on the forums echo's ricach's remarks... by pass the dsp first.

I haven't read that you need to change the OT first as pointed out by zatoichi.

 

use the search function and see what you can find before diving into the amp.

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not saying it NEEDS to be done *first* - but some very experienced folks (zaphod_phil @ sewatt, among others) have said it makes the single biggest difference, and it's apparently quite simple to do (and less than $50 for the giant economy-sized OT, shipped), even for beginners.

 

It just makes sense * to me * to make the single biggest change first.

 

Did the easiest stuff first: new speaker (Jensen C10Q), NOS tubes (RCA black-plates, cheaper than new JJs if you know where to look). Absolutely forgot to mention the DSP-ectomy, which I plan to do in concert w/ the OT swap.

 

It's not perfect, but I love it & will continue to carve the sound into the shape I want.

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Thanks for all the input everybody, I think I'll try a few new tubes, and definately lose the DSP [i prefer my swirls, and bleeps from pedals anyway] Now that I have a little direction, there seems to be a wealth of info buried here I'll just dig it up. Again thanks!!!

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It just makes sense * to me * to make the single biggest change first.

 

 

I agree - but do the thing that cost nothing first. The DSP bypass is the single most dramatic improvement you can do, and its nice that it costs nothing to do. I emphasis improvement because alot of mods definantly change the sound, but whether its better or not is up to the ear of the beholder. As is most every mod. My resistor mods brightened the sound - not something everybody will agree is an improvement.

 

zatoichi - do the dsp bypass separate from the OT transplant so you know which actually gave you the best improvement.

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thanks, ricach - I'm following your logic!

 

Was in fact just thinking about this. Realizing I'm just feeling my way through the schematic (I *wish* I could print a larger copy!), I'm wondering about the relationship between the DSP and the V2 (the 12ax7 between the other 2 tubes, yes?). Seems to me it's powering the DSP & the TMB (in spite of the attenuation), so by cutting out the DSP circuit entirely there should be more output from the preamp tubes hitting the EL84 - which should thereby be driven harder by the stronger signal, making the amp sound "bigger".

 

Am I way off base here?

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Actually you're right on. The DSP sucks an unbelievable amount of gain, and of course, tone. That's why this is definately an improvement - by the time the tube tone works its way through the DSP circuitry, there's no analog tone left! It's all digital when it hits the power tubes.

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That 7.5k v2 OT also sucks big donkey doodles out of the tone. Bypassing the DSP is free, but a good OT will be the best bang for the buck on that amp. And guess what! The heaters, rail voltages, and bias need to be tweaked, too! The Valve Special is just another green board amp that's better off as an educational platform.

 

Gil...

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And guess what! The heaters' date=' rail voltages, and bias need to be tweaked, too! The Valve Special is just another green board amp that's better off as an educational platform.[/quote']

OY!

 

Really was just after an amp - not a training program for a third (or is it fifth?) career....

 

Resources for the Special are few & far between: since i know ZIP about electronics, any ideas where I can learn about rail voltages & biasing pre-biased tubes? That I can translate to the Special?

 

Maybe I'll just replace the OT, cut out the DSP...and pretend I'm done....

 

Thanks, Gil - appreciate the input.

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OY!

 

Really was just after an amp - not a training program for a third (or is it fifth?) career....

 

Resources for the Special are few & far between: since i know ZIP about electronics' date=' any ideas where I can learn about rail voltages & biasing pre-biased tubes? That I can translate to the Special?

 

Maybe I'll just replace the OT, cut out the DSP...and pretend I'm done....

 

Thanks, Gil - appreciate the input.[/quote']

 

Heh heh. Thought you were just after a cheep amp, but what you got is a box of boutique amp tones begging to be set free, and a virtual door to a whole 'nother universe of possibilities! And all you have to do is step through!

 

Translate? Yes, absolutely. Plenty of info available at http://www.sewatt.com/ and http://www.ppwatt.com/

 

Learning to mod isn't so tough. At worst case you may need a couple of aspirin occasionally. There's tons of info out there on the web. Just don't expect to cram it all in in one night. This stuff can take a while to sink in.

 

Many of the same tweaks done to the VJr as well as the tweaks to the VStandard to bypass the DSP can be applied to the VSpecial. The point is, it's just an amp, so all the same rules apply. The only minor drawback is that you'll need to transpose part numbers from the other amps to yours, but if you can read schematics, that's no problem at all. And if you can't read schematics... still no problem! Just check the FAQ at SEwatt! That place has become a virtual diamond mine full of links to rare and precious jewels of knowledge, including info on how to read schematics!

 

Gil...

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I've actually been pouring over the very few Special/Standard threads there for the last few weeks. I've downloaded the illegible schematics, at which I squint and guess, and I've been reading through everything I think might help...but of course, how would I know what would help?

 

I think I'll shield & re-pot my guitars while I think about it....

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That 7.5k v2 OT also sucks big donkey doodles out of the tone. Bypassing the DSP is free' date=' but a good OT will be the best bang for the buck on that amp. And guess what! The heaters, rail voltages, and bias need to be tweaked, too! [u']The Valve Special is just another green board amp that's better off as an educational platform[/u].

Bear222 & zatoichi -- Since cgil and others here are aparently right about the Special, then why not just re-sell it and go with a new V3 VJr? I'm not trying to be contrary here. But, it seems to me that the Special w/DSP disabled and OT swap is still something less than a V3 out of the box? Is it really worth the effort (unless of course you are more 'into' working on them instead of playing them)?

 

Does anyone at all like the DSP? And, anyone know why did EPI tossed in that tone sucking gremlin?

 

Hit every BLUE NOTE baaaby..., I'm going to play on:-"

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The DSP was just some cheep trash chips they couldn't pawn off anywhere else! [-o<

 

But even without the DSP, the VSpecial is much more than a VJr or even a Blackheart. It's got two preamp tubes with a cathode follower stage to properly drive a TMB tone stack at low impedance like a Bassman or a Marshall. And since the first preamp tube has both triodes in parallel, you can do a lot of great tone tricks with that; such as using separate plate and cathode resistors for a cascade/parallel switch, and while it's parallel, you can have a volume knob on each like a jumper'd plexi or bassman, which turn into stage gain knobs when cascaded. Good stuff! Lots of opportunities with the VSpecial, and a heckofalot more elbow room to work with, too.

 

Gil...

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Thank you cgil for clearing up some 'whys' about the Special. After some reading I had presumed as much about that DSP circuit.

 

So, Bear222 & zatoichi -- looks like you may want to keep that Special after all -- if you want to do some soldering. Good luck finding you tones guys.

 

Hit every BLUE NOTE baaaby..., I'm going to play on:-"

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...it seems to me that the Special w/DSP disabled and OT swap is still something less than a V3 out of the box? Is it really worth the effort (unless of course you are more 'into' working on them instead of playing them)?

Can't speak for others' date=' of course, but I DO play it: it's not the first amp I've owned, but it IS the first one that felt like MINE. Modifying it will only enhance that feeling - and much more effectively than just slapping a sticker on it...(IMO).

 

Does anyone at all like the DSP? And, anyone know why did EPI tossed in that tone sucking gremlin?

Don't care if anyone likes it. As for why they added it: DSP circuitry has been popular in small amps for a while, so - marketing. For me, the DSP added nothing at all to the consideration: tone controls, an actual gain, and a 10" speaker (along with the popularity of the Junior) carried the day.

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Bear222 & zatoichi -- Since cgil and others here are aparently right about the Special' date=' then why not just re-sell it and go with a new V3 VJr? I'm not trying to be contrary here. But, it seems to me that the Special w/DSP disabled and OT swap is still something less than a V3 out of the box? Is it really worth the effort (unless of course you are more 'into' working on them instead of playing them)?

 

Does anyone at all like the DSP? And, anyone know why did EPI tossed in that tone sucking gremlin?

 

Hit every BLUE NOTE baaaby..., I'm going to play on:-"

I don't really care for the DSP on mine, except for the reverb. I don't use any effects except distortion and reverb on any amp anyway. I DO like the reverb tho, it sounds better than any pedal I've owned or tried. I play with the other effects once in awhile, but not often. I've had my Special for about 16 months now and I really like it, the only problems I've had with it are, it did sound VERY dull till the speaker broke in and the standby switch is cheap and flaky. I've had a version 3 VJr combo for several months now and I like the Special much better. More guts and gain, smoother sound, louder too. I can also dial out alot of the middyness on the Special that both amps have, I prefer a more American scooped tone, than British sounding mids. I've tried lots of tube combinations on both too, and the Special seems more sensitive to different tubes.

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