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Old 17th December 2015, 03:15 AM   #1
rpb123 is offline rpb123  United States
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Default 5e3 Deluxe - first build

I'm building a 5e3 based on the stock fender schematic. My goal is to get the sweetest clean sound possible without really modifying the original design of the amp. People seem to have conflicting reports of how much clean headroom this design has, and I'm guessing that is because there are so many choices of what parts to use... What has been your experience in choosing parts?
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Old 17th December 2015, 03:44 AM   #2
Hikari1 is offline Hikari1  United States
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If you are worried about headroom this is not the amp for you. Period. My experience is it is more guitar dependent than parts dependant. Strats can have some clean sounds...Gibsons almost none. But nothing is gonna make a 5e3 loud and clean...it's barely loud enough to play with a drummer when dirty. Bigger power caps and different coupling values can help but it's more about changing the flabbiness or sag in the way it reacts. Not necessarily headroom. There are, of course, circuit mods and hinge to increase headroom but that is a different discussion. I think if you want headroom you will be disappointed...if you want cleans at band volume you will be really disappointed. If you want to rock out at home at not insane levels to Neil young or Who's Next type tones you will be in heaven.
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Old 17th December 2015, 03:48 AM   #3
rpb123 is offline rpb123  United States
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I hear many reports of old jazz guitarists using these amps. That's what I'm trying to do. Would you say all of that speculation was wrong?
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Old 17th December 2015, 04:03 AM   #4
Hikari1 is offline Hikari1  United States
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That was a different time and volume level. I think it's possible but only at bedroom volumes perhaps fingerpicked. I think they were using what they had at the time....volumes were a lot lower than today and there were no big, clean amps. Personally, a 5e3 would not be my choice for jazz unless it was some kind of really rootsy, bluesy variety or fusion.

If you are set on the 5e3 then an efficient speaker like a alnico blue will help.

Wattage can be a poor indicator of cleanliness or headroom. A 15 watt ac15 or 20 watt deluxe reverb is so much louder and cleaner than a 5e3 it's not even close. I can make my 5e3 break up at almost any volume with my Gretch hollow body and a pick. Think about the famous 5e3 tones...Neil young, zz top, Larry Carlton. Big, layered, crunchy overdrive. That is what it sounds like at anything other than bedroom levels.
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Old 17th December 2015, 04:06 AM   #5
Hikari1 is offline Hikari1  United States
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On the other hand, the 5e3 is a great first build and fun. This is what I think a 5e3 sounds like:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3X1AOlkabwo
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Old 17th December 2015, 04:07 AM   #6
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https://robrobinette.com/5e3_Modific...tm#6L6_Upgrade

I did the 3 way switched feedback mod which really cleans it up
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Old 17th December 2015, 04:11 AM   #7
rpb123 is offline rpb123  United States
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I noticed that the build in the video you posted was a 20w version of the amp, which he said gives it more headroom and bass response. How is the extra 5w typically achieved?
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Old 17th December 2015, 05:37 AM   #8
Hikari1 is offline Hikari1  United States
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Iam not sure. I see a solid state rectifier though. I would look at tweed bandmaster and pro too. A little more headroom. Weber sells a deluxe kit with twice the tubes and wattage. I would like that. Also, there are some "pro" deluxe kits out there with 6l6 tubes.

Personally, I use a 5e3 and ac15 at home but almost always use the ac15 when playing with a drummer. And I always play dirty and through a p90 at special. At home, I play the 5e3 a lot with a Gretch and fenders.
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Old 17th December 2015, 06:04 AM   #9
Enzo is offline Enzo  United States
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To answer your original question, parts selection is not much of an issue. You will hear discussions over whether to prefer carbon composition resistors versus carbon film versus metal film, but really, any differences will be subtle nuance, not a change in headroom. Same with arguments over yellow Mallorys versus "Orange Drops" versus whatever. Again subtle nuance if anything, not headroom.

The single thing having the most effect on the tone of an amp is the speaker.

Transformers a lot less so. Pots are notorious for poor tolerance, so when I hear that someone thinks the Allen Bradley pots sound different from the CTS pots, I suspect the difference is more a matter of difference in value than brand. A "250k" pot could measure anywhere from 200k to 300k and be quite normal.
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Old 17th December 2015, 06:16 AM   #10
Hikari1 is offline Hikari1  United States
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What Enzo said. Also, headroom is kind of subjective. My issue with 5e3's is that I love the tone but they are just just not loud enough at the crunch level I like. I like them for home use (I actually use an attenuator at home sometimes). So for me, that's a lack of headroom when playing with a drummer or other instruments. For other people it might be more than loud enough. But if you are looking for CLEAN headroom, it has very little. Probably the 5e3 and 18 watt marshall have some of least clean headroom of any amp..."Spongy" is the word I would use.

My issue with most blackface-era fenders is too much headroom...I can't get them to break up enough at the volume I want. Vox AC15 is just about perfect. I am guessing a tweed bandmaster would be about perfect too. The transition between clean and dirty is right around where I usually like to set my amps. If you like this...the dynamic area where playing hard gets crunch and dirt and playing soft is clean you will like the 5e3 (if you don't use it with a loud band). If you need more headroom than that I would look at something else.
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