Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gibson GA-5 Les Paul Jr amp. My 2nd favorite small amp! And about "too big to care!"

This arrived in the mail today. An early 60's Gibson GA-5 Skylark. I love these amps. It's to me, a Champ killer. The Fender stuff is built much better but some of the late 50's to early 60's Gibson amps just have such a great thing going on.

Typical 3 tube 5 watt design: Single 12AX7, 6V6, and 5Y3 rectifier. This one came loaded with a nice RCA 6V6 and 5Y3 and a great nasty sounding GE 12AX7. It was also 100% original. I changed the electrolytic caps and installed a grounded power cable for safety.

I've bought a few of these as fixer uppers and flip them like a burger. They are easy for me to sell cause they are just that good. A bit wider and more open sounding than a tweed Champ and much less dough. I may keep this one, my last one I was bummed about selling.

Now, in the pictures. Notice how filthy this amp looks. Fresh from the barn. When I turned it on it crackled and popped, the pot was filthy. Not sellable in my opinion. I would have bought it at the asking price, no problem but that's cause I can fix it good and proper. If I was just a guy who didn't have those skills I would have turned away. I bought this from the worlds largest guitar store online. Won't mention the name but you know who I am talking about. I did a stint with said company and was baffled by their treatment of vintage gear, good vintage gear like this. No effort made to clean or improve. I suppose somewhere corporate sees that extra effort hurts that bottom line. I like to make money. I like to make as much as I can. It doesn't take much effort to clean something up. People like it when they don't need to worry and don't have to do anything except negotiate a price and be done with it.

But that's the nature of some big ass companies. Too big to care. It's okay to get big, but never give up the caring part! There's money to be made there and more importantly, there are people make happy.

And here's the schematic for you tech heads. Ultra simple signal path. LESS IS MORE!

So what do I like about these over a Tweed Champ? Well, first, I ain't gonna lie. The price! Tweed Champs to me are simply overpriced. No fun for me. Second? I just got back from playing this at my practice space for 2 hours. These amps tend to not fuzz out as much. The notes articulate better for me. Pick soft and you get a lovely clean sound, punch it and it sings, nasty distortion but....clear. I can hear all of the notes in each chord. It really sounds like a cranked Marshall in that respect.

This particular amp has the original .022 famous Bumble Bee Sprague capacitors. Yeah, they are leaking. Can tell by the fact that the volume pot scratches slightly from top to bottom. A little DC on that, and also by the way the notes decay. I may change them and sell those to a rabid Les Paul fanatic. But for now I don't care to change anything else. There is something I like about the slight trashiness.

So what is the difference between a GA-5 Les Paul Jr. amp and a GA-5 Skylark? Electrically, there is no difference. Same great Jensen 8" speaker too. The cabinet is slightly different and the Skylark says "Skylark" on it. The Les Paul Jr amp is a bit earlier, the Skylark was made in the early 60's.

Here's a Skylark I sold 2 years ago:

And the earlier Les Paul Jr amp:

If these amps were mint you would see that dapper Gibson logo on the front. The Skylark had it on the grill cloth, the Les Paul Jr amp has that lip across the top of the cabinet where the logo went.

 If you are considering one of those sad GA-5 Reissues, don't bother. You may find one of these for about the same money and these are simply better amps. And if you find a dead one cheap, they are so simple it won't cost much to get it going again. Even the higher priced ones are worth it as a tool. Nothing beats one of these in the studio. Pure, simple, direct and awesome sound.


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