In Search of Tone and Quality

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Ashdown Peacemaker

Hi all.

I would love to keep a regular diary here, but I just seem to constantly move from one thing to another!

Celestion Vintage G12, designed in Ipswitch UK

This week I have been in search of tone and quality by trying out some new speakers that Vic King sourced for me – a pair of Celestion Vintage G12’s which he brought along to Monday’s rehearsal. The following morning I replaced the old speakers swiftish and, to my surprise, they took no time at all.

Vic took my BlackStar 50 Head to his engineer friend (Kenny-the-amp), who lives somewhere in deepest Cambridgeshire. Somewhere along the line, upgraded valves made by Hama via Watford Valves had been recommended for their performance in this instance, and would be set up on the oscilloscope and basically ‘tuned’ to the amps optimum performance.

With the BlackStar in transit, all I could find was my old Ashdown Peacemaker 40 watt combo (an old favourite of mine that I hadn’t used since a rebuild some five years previously – the masterful Chris Newman (now living in St Ives) had ‘glued’ it back together after major damage!).

Ashdown Peacemake 40 Watt Combo

This tiny combo, which contained a Celestion Vintage G12, became a favourite of mine, thanks to the introduction from Frank at the Planet Waves store that was in situ under the fabulous Virgin record store on Oxford Street. Unusually, a Fender combo I purchased from them had failed on me. On the very same day, by pure chance, Sky TV were filming a news item on CD sales. They decided to feature me playing in the background – I chose to play a lick from Eric Clapton’s Layla!

As my combo had been sitting dormant for such a long time (5 years!), all the fears of the damage that could be done by just switching it on from the cold was worrying. Although the combo had a cover on, upon inspection a lot of dust had to be removed. The valves and general appearance looked promising but I needed reassurance.

Eventually I called Ashdown engineering for advice but they seemed to be engaged all the time – working like demons on their next project, no doubt! I was troubled by the scary circuit-destruction that I’ve heard happens so often when an Amp had been idle for a similar length of time. After much deliberation I took the brave decision to fire her up regardless.

A good friend of mine, the remarkable Roger Lattapie fires his old amps up using a Variac (Variable Transformer), easing in very low voltages and increasing gradually over a long period of time to achieve maximum mains consumption. Earlier in the week I had burnt-out a peddle accidently using a very low voltage transformer a spares box, but it had the wrong current configuration frying a very nice swell/wah. Nasty electrical burning smells are very unpleasant I must add!

So, I made the decision to run the first extension cabinet from the Ashdown’s cunning 15 Ohm jack output available on the rear panel in conjunction with the combo’s 8 Ohm GR2 Celestion.

Waford Valves, Speaker Delivery Boxes

I eased in the new speaker with the amp gain quite high – warming it up with low gentle chops on the guitar turned down to a mid-low volume, all tones near to full up to get the new diaphragm moving… already I could hear a sweetness as I played a few gentle chords. The Amp was set where Chris had probably left it all those years ago, because after the rebuild and unreliable issues with the Amp, I had moved on. Gradually I gave it some volume and hit a few crunchy licks and then moved to the super boost via the footswitch – fantastic, show me to the stage now!!

Finally I hooked up the 2nd Cab, this time turning the Ashdown Combo away from me so that I could monitor the new speaker in a form of separation. Again I ran the sequence, basking in the glorious drive tones, crunch tones, and those wonderful lead sustains of this sadly discontinued and vastly underrated Class-A British amp.

Well, these speakers seem to have hit the spot for me, and I look forward to giving the whole set up (Blackstar Amp too this time) a run on some up and coming KTBushBand gigs.

Thanks Vic, Chris, Frank, Rog, Ashdown, Celestion, Fender and Blackstar!

See you next time.

– BB

Blackstar HT50 Head
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