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Valve Junior Mods - should I even bother?


Swoop

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So I've just purchased a Valve Junior online, for the mere price of $173NZ, used of course, but apparently in good nick, like new. Of course, I've heard about the issues they have, the improper tube biasing, the humming, the lack of inspirational tone due to the use of less than ideal resistors and output transormer, etc, etc.

 

I've been checking out this website in regards to improving and recitifying these issues.

http://duhvoodooman.com/vjr/vjr_mods.htm

And the things that this guy has carried out seem like the sort of thing that I would do should I wish to modify my VJ, apart from the brightness switch, I'd much rather have it appear completely stock and have the stock control, i.e. the volume control, as that's sort of the purpose of my purchasing this amp.

 

Basically I simply wanted a very simple, but reasonably nice sounding, small, portable amp. My Classic 50 weighs 40kg, so it's a bit impractical to lug up and down stairs all the time, and I pretty much can't take it anywhere. The VJ is pretty much met all those criteria. It was cheap - for me that's <$200NZ, readily available, very portable, very simple, and since I play moslty clean stuff these days, the lack of control options didn't bother me, and in fact I'd consider that a plus in this situation. It's also not a bad looking little amp, I like the vinyl and the cloth and the piping. And being a tube amp has that nice warmth and tone, aside from the aformentioned imperfections.

 

So really, I'm just wondering, should I even bother modifying it? Are these probelms going to be that unbearable for my use? I suppose that's a silly question, and I guess I'm really just looking to open up some discussion about the VJ and these improvements.

 

What level of skill do I need to have to perform these mods? Having successfully rewired my Firebird recently, I'm fairly apt with simple wiring diagrams, and a soldering iron, and considering there is a myriad of documentation regarding the VJ mods - part numbers, places to order the components, and pretty much a step by step guide. Plus, the whole things is basically a PCB, which is fairly simple. Given that, could I do these things myself? I do also understand that I need to discharge the capacitors before performing any modification - something which, albeit important, is not overly difficult. And if any uncertainty is present, I can check that they are discharged with a multimeter. Fortunately, I've learned enough about capacitors, and other electrical components and things in my Physics class at school, to have a reasonable understanding of it all.

 

Also, these modifications are fairly cheap. So given the relative simplicity and small amount of financial investment required, it almost seems silly not to do it. I guess then I have convinced myself that I'll give it a go.

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So I've just purchased a Valve Junior online' date=' for the mere price of $173NZ, used of course, but apparently in good nick, and actually near new. Of course, I've heard about the issues they have, the improper tube biasing, the humming, the lack of inspirational tone due to the use of less than ideal resistors and output transormer, etc, etc.

 

[/quote']

If it's "near new", am assuming you mean newer model version, so humming should be fixed. I have a v1 combo, the hum and buzz is there, but no worse than the Ampeg tube amp I had back in the '60's....it gives me a warm, nostalgic feeling, but I digress...

They're fine lil amps for what they are. I've found they take pedals quite well, AND, it turns out the easiest "mod" to your tone would be the $30usd Danelectro Fish and Chips eq pedal ..... amazing things can be done to tone without physically modding and for little $$$ .... imho.

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I've done several vjs.. with a lot of help over the months from folks here and at sewatt.

 

I've done them with the stock ot and if you choose your mods carefully, the difference between that and stock can be quite dramatic.

 

I think this could be a very good thread..

 

minimal vj mods for better tone.

 

Because the enablers in here tend, perhaps rightfully-boy do these babys sound good and boy is it fun--to encourage you to go far.

 

On the other hand, Layboomo, I believe, has at leasts one amp with no cosmetic changes.. no drilling!

 

He probably went quite far inside, but, I've tried to do them minimalist and I think you can do some fairly simple changes and get very good noticeable results.

 

For instance. I think swapping C6 to 47uF or 100uF makes a nice difference.

I know that C1 2 3 4 swaps do also, and those are just a couple of bucks each tops, two of them less.

 

I know that a couple of cents each resistors in key places, like R10, do wonders for the character of the distortion.

 

All of these are fairly simple to get in, too.. a couple have solder points very close together so you have to be careful.

 

A more spendy change with what I think are really dramatic results is the OT.

 

Again.. you'll be encouraged to do more.. and the reasoning has always been solid.. the results true.. but..

IF you believe the stock amp sounds pretty good already.. just a couple of changes can make a good difference.

 

TWANG

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Sorry, I misquoted the seller. It is 'like new' but not necessarily 'near new'. It could well be near new though, given the amount of use it's had. This is all according to the seller of course, so who knows. How can I tell if it's a new or old version? The old ones have a slightly different front panel do they not? The stripe and valve junior goes through the centre of the front face whereas, on the newer ones, the stripe is at the top, correct? Like this:

 

Old

vjr_front.jpg

 

New

185116.jpg

 

Mine is the new one.

 

I might try swapping the resistors and capacitors as in the link I posted, and leave the OT alone for now. I'm not worried about drilling holes on the inside of the chassis, I just want it to appear stock externally, no extra control knobs or switches on the front panel.

 

This document seems like a good guide to explaining everything, and details the impact that changing certain components will have.

http://www.s2amps.com/docs/vj_kit_inst.pdf

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Sorry' date=' I misquoted the seller. It is 'like new' but not necessarily 'near new'. It could well be near new though, given the amount of use it's had. This is all according to the seller of course, so who knows. How can I tell if it's a new or old version? The old ones have a slightly different front panel do they not? The stripe and valve junior goes through the centre of the front face whereas, on the newer ones, the stripe is at the top, correct? Like this:

 

[/quote']Generally, yes, that's correct, but there is still the slight chance you could get the "newer" looking chassis with the "older" guts - apparently Epi was still using up the last of the v1 stuff after they changed the graphics on the chassis front. I bought one off of eBay that way (looked like v2 on the outside, is v1 internals .... switchover can be determined by the serial number, that info's out there somewhere)...hums/buzzes, but was still a great deal. Now that I have a new VJ head and cab, I'm fixing to start modding this old combo.... starting with swapping out the AC to DC heaters. I have little to lose, other than the buzz ..... [-X/

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I guess I'll have to check it out when it arrives and see what happens. Should hopefully have it by the end of the week, so I can give it a blast on the weekend. And you just know I'll be back here to give a little review, and to figure out just what version I have. Quite looking forward to tinkering with the little thing actually. I was in the electronics store just yesterday, bought a multimeter and a soldering iron stand in readiness for some VJ mods. Had a quick squizz at the electronic components they have. I'm not really totally clued up when it comes to electrical components, but I have enough of an understanding to undertake these simple mods. And it all appeals to me in a very nerdy way, the technical aspects of making the modifications, and all the numbers and figures of different components.

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Indeed I might. And as I said, it's mostly for the portability of it. The tone wasn't the biggest factor in my purchase, but if I can make some reasonably significant improvements for nothing but a few bucks and a little work, then why not?

 

The thing that I am most concerned about it lacking is reverb, there is none! And I do love to have plenty of reverb. I guess I can invest in a reverb pedal if I'm that desperate for it.

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Indeed I might. And as I said' date=' it's mostly for the portability of it. The tone wasn't the biggest factor in my purchase, but if I can make some reasonably significant improvements for nothing but a few bucks and a little work, then why not?

 

The thing that I am most concerned about it lacking is reverb, there is none! And I do love to have plenty of reverb. I guess I can invest in a reverb pedal if I'm that desperate for it. [/quote']

 

Dunno if you've checked http://www.sewatt.com/vj-mods out before, but there's a HUGE wealth of every possible mod you can do to a VJr there..... TWANG might've mentioned it, I see him posting over there. I've been lurking there (you have to register to access the site), it's kind of overwhelming at first for a newb like myself..... but I'm ready to pick up a soldering iron and some parts, and get started on my old combo, I believe.

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Try the amp for a while and see what you think. Some seem to like it in stock form.

 

In the meantime, do as much reading about the mods as you can. You'll want to have a very good idea as to what you're doing, before you touch an iron to it. I certainly wouldn't get all hung up on things like bright switches, gain knobs, negative feedback this, etc. Just do your best research, and you may find that the extra knob gadgets aren't really all that necessary anyway. If nothing else, if you want to try something that would require an extra whole, try it before drilling. You may very well find that you dont' really have much use for it after all.

 

There is no question that the amp is screwed up in stock form, and not near what its potential is, but that doesn't necessarily mean that everybody thinks it's unplayable. You might find it useable as is. Figure that out first.

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Yep, I have briefly checked out SeWatt, and it is a very informative site. I like the modifications that were performed in the link I posted, apart from the brightness switch so, if I perform any mods, I will probably perform similar ones to those. As I said, I'm really not interested in adding extra controls to it, just modifying some of the internals to a higher specification, so it performs a bit better.

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I just did the JP-1 mod to a stock Ver. 3 head today... for such a quick and simple change, (snip the JP-1 jumper wire), I was really pleased with the improvement. Removed some bass and flabbiness, and the tone overall seemed somewhat more airy or spacious if that describes it. Mud was less than it had been for sure. I'd recommend this to anybody that was a bit tired of the as delivered tone but isn't sure if they want to start modifing since it's just so dang easy. Worked for me...

 

Wedgie

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Hey guys, yea I have a BlackHeart Little Giant, and theres a few mods out there for her, people are just raving about, i belive the blackhearts are made with mods in mind, but i just cant bring myself to mess with the way it sounds, i reallllllllly think it sounds killer stock, i think im gonna have to buy a used one on the cheap to try and mod out. i would try playn a while with out doin anything, some one on here also sugested to me to get a eq pedal, i just bought a cheap one but it does wounders on the amp with out any mods, just a thought

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Hey guys' date=' yea I have a BlackHeart Little Giant, and theres a few mods out there for her, people are just raving about, i belive the blackhearts are made with mods in mind, but i just cant bring myself to mess with the way it sounds, i reallllllllly think it sounds killer stock, i think im gonna have to buy a used one on the cheap to try and mod out. i would try playn a while with out doin anything, some one on here also sugested to me to get a eq pedal, i just bought a cheap one but it does wounders on the amp with out any mods, just a thought[/quote']

 

+1 on the eq pedal !!! I run a cheap Danelectro 7 band eq (Fish and Chips) in front of my new VJ head and cab (and old combo), and it (as well as my old VJ combo) sounds like a totally different amp .... now I can start modding my old combo with no fear, and if it comes out sounding great, I can run it through the cab....heh. But, yeah - I don't know if the Blackheart is as simple as the VJ (just a volume knob), but MAN, that $30 eq pedal is worth every cent. Max out all 7 bands plus max out the level slider, and it overdrives the amp right nice at nice low volumes.... I love it.

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I have to say that you can mod the amp without adding any controls and have a lot better amp, and tailored to you specifically in the process.

I've done some with no added external controls and boy, was I surprised at how good it can sound just with the volume control and your guitars control.

 

 

there are things I like.. like the tweed tone and NFB but essential.. hardly!

 

I'm going to try the reverb stuff as soon as I get out of this place and back home. *Neato.. web access in the waiting room of the mayo clinic.. now that's service, eh?*

But definately, for me, there are internal changes that really do grab you once you hear them. And some of them aren't all that hard either.

Still, you want to read as much as you can, take your time, be safety conscious, and ask.. ask... ask..!

TWANG

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To mod -- or not to mod? Hmmm.

Mod a 1 knob amp w/o adding tone controls and at the end of the day you still have 1 flavor. It may be a flavor you like better, but it's flavor range is all still vanilla (or chocolate or whatever).

 

So do you add tone controls? You can, but you'll spend more to do that than you spend on a 7 band EQ that will do more tweaking (7 db frequency channels) than the three knob tone bank. Plus the drilling, soldering down time opposed to the plug-n-play EQ. But hey, everyone is different. Do your thing.

 

I personally prefer a wider range of tones to work with.

With 4 pedals -- an EQ, compressor, overdrive, and reverb -- my stock V3(s) wail every blues, jazz, funk, rock number that I call upon them to deliver. Plug-n-play works for me.

 

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

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They're looking at lesions.. and it aint looking good.

 

You get what you get, sez me, and like it.

did some more today, but at least this stuff didn't make me feel like I just wet myself.

 

 

a tone stack wouldn't be my first choice on a vj because you suck power.. and it's a bit harder, not as expensive as an eq pedal though.

a tweed tone on the other hand, is fairly easy and can even be tweaked a bit to your personal idea.

 

And I think the NFB really does, in not add a flavor, at least add a topping, esp. on a three way switch. Also not real hard or expensive.

 

TWANG

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To mod -- or not to mod? Hmmm.

Mod a 1 knob amp w/o adding tone controls and at the end of the day you still have 1 flavor. It may be a flavor you like better' date=' but it's flavor range is all still vanilla (or chocolate or whatever).

 

So do you add tone controls? You can, but you'll spend more to do that than you spend on a 7 band EQ that will do more tweaking (7 db frequency channels) than the three knob tone bank. Plus the drilling, soldering down time opposed to the plug-n-play EQ. But hey, everyone is different. Do your thing.

[/quote']

 

I didn't buy the Valve Junior to be a spectacular, do everything kind of amp. More of a 'go anywhere' amp, something I'm happy to, and can easily take with me, along with a guitar and just play. I can take it out on the porch on a Friday night and jam with some mates in the open air over a few beers. And being a tube amp it will, or at least I hope it will, still sound nice.

 

That's why I wondered if I should bother breaking it open at all, since its purpose is pretty simple. Why bother modding it? But I checked out some mods and saw how I could easily make a few improvements, with little money invested, and little overall downtime for the amp.

 

If I want something with a lot of EQ, an overdrive channel, and all of that, I'll use the C50.

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But I checked out some mods and saw how I could easily make a few improvements' date=' with little money invested, and little overall downtime for the amp.

 

If I want something with a lot of EQ, an overdrive channel, and all of that, I'll use the C50.

[/quote']

Sounds like a plan, then. Enjoy it, whatever you do ...

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I'm still waiting for mine! We've just had a long weekend, so it's kind of understandable that the seller never got 'round to sending it to me. But now I've been told that she was selling it on behlaf of her son and they're waiting for the money to transfer from her bank to his. Dunno why they didn't give me his bank in the first place, or why they can't just send it. I have paid for it, and the money has been received. It's been 10 days already. Should've only taken half that.

 

Hopefully I'll have it by Saturday, but somehow I doubt it. Probably Monday. We'll see.

 

As for a 15 Watt, I would suggest a Blackheart BH15 112.

http://guitars.musiciansfriend.com/product/Blackheart-BH15112-Handsome-Devil-Series-15W-1x12-Tube-Guitar-Combo-Amp-?sku=483097

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