Mesa Boogie 0.50 Caliber (EL84)

This amp, unusual with its master volume control had become unreliable. Occasional red plating, bit of noise. 

The cause is heat damaged circuit board. Just look at the pictures below showing the damaged sections – the dark areas indicating heat damage. 

The problem is that heat damage eventually changes the circuit board material from a good insulator to a partial conductor. The burns do have to be severe mind you. You will usually see inner layers of fibreglass exposed, carbon particles. The only real cure is removal of the effected area. For small areas of damage the effected area can be drilled out but for larger areas a section may need to be cut out.

In this boogies case I took inspiration from a post on the boogie board where the owner replaced the section of pcb with hard wired chassis mounting sockets. 

Steps

  • Add metal plate to chassis
  • Cut holes for B9A sockets and fit them
  • Remove section of PCB
  • Wire up new valve  sockets for connections to output transformer, screen supply, grid drive, cathodes and heaters.
  • Wire up PCB and compensate  for any circuit breaks following removal of damaged section.

    During testing…

    Fender Amp Jack Upgrade

    Post 1990 Fender amps seem to have a variety of input jacks fitted.  The great American amp manufacturer seemed to have tried lots of different styles of Jack but they all have in common flakey behaviour and robustness compared with old amps from 50s to the 80s. 

    In older amps you commonly see open jacks manufactured by the company switchcraft. This is the same company that makes the jack  found on your Fender and Gibson guitars. 

    The parts cost a little more and that is because they are heavy duty nickel plated and designed for years of use in telephone switchboard. 

    A great improvement to any twin, supersonic, deluxe reverb etc is to upgrade the jacks. 

    As illustrated below the jacks are hard wired in and this prevents the inevitable strain and eventual pcb damage on the factory part. 

    Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Problems

    If you are having trouble with any of the following boogie symptoms then I may be able to help you out as I have spent more than my fair share of time on these metallic monsters.

    Mesa Boogie amps are reveered by players for their unique sound. But for us Amp techs they can be a pain.  Not only do they use unique to Mesa Boogie components but they also choose to hide  circuit board markings so that diagnosis can be tricky they are helpful with schematics but they schematics are not easy to connect with the PCB in the amp as there are no component references.

    Special Boogie Symptoms I have come across include:

    Intermittent output, or rather occasional fading output.  This is a common problem in amps usually caused by an unreliable connection somewhere in the signal chain.  Usually such a fault will be either permanent or intermittent and respond to thump on the cabinet.  With Boogie it is extra annoying as the intermittent nature is temperature / time related and of course it will let you down when you really need it to be reliable.

    Bias LED flicker

    Bias light flicker – check the little red or green light on the rear when the output fades.  Sometimes the output fading and the light flicker coincide together and sometimes not.

    Channel Switching Problems

    Channel switching strangeness including flicker,  dim lights, no lights etc.  Seems more noticable on footswitch but that actually it is usually the same with the rear switch.

     

    Marshall DSL401 

    These medium sized combos from Marshall should be very cool.   They are packed with features (like multiple voicings, low noise pre-amp, fab speaker) all in a small box.

    Unfortunately they are not so cool because  they run so hot and they suffer from it.  Look at the picture left.  What you are looking at is a power valve that has had its label “fried” off it.

    The cause  of this problem is that the amps were originally biassed to run a little too hot and also the ventillation is limited with heat rising up but with almost nowhere to escape to.

    One of the main problems can be the bridge rectifer shown below.  This is black square on the right hand side of the picture.  These components supply the pre amp heaters with the super quiet DC.  Orignally Marshall fixed these directly to the boards and they get up to around 70deg celsius.  The problem with this is that the heat so close to the PCB is enough to start melting the solder joints.

    Later Marshall realised this and raised them off the board by a few centimetres, the impact was tremendous and reduced the temperature by about 30%.  I go a step further and add a little heatsink to them too.

    The symptoms of the overheating is faults like cutting out, channel switching problems and general weirdness.  Once modified to remove these issues you have one of the most well thought out practical gigging combos out there.

    Vox AC100

    Wow what a treat.  This 1966 AC100 needs a service.

    Well after all these years yes I agree it’s about time.
    One owner from  new, original cover and used twice weekly in the band.  The sort of thing vintage amp enthusiasts dream about.

    This rarity is one from the erase when pop music was really developing. The Beatles had stopped touring and concentrating on recording Revolver, Jimmy Page was coming out of the studio. Pop was progressing and diversifying. 

    100 watts doesnt sound like much by todays standards. But don’t think this is a slouch though.  This amp drives speakers very deeply indeed and even at low volumes is absolutely room filling.
    Few gut shots below and keep your eyes open for one of these in your attic.

     

    Harp Gear Double Trouble noise reduction

    Some of the early DT models hum intrusively. This can be reduced by lead dress improvements and altering  the positions of the interstage and output transformer. The improvement is significant with 500 percent reduction in hummmmmmm.

    If you would like me to modify your harp gear amp just let me know. Sending the amp in is a good option if you are not in the Bristol area.

    Audio Research (ART) VP1

    After a good ten years use this valve pre amp started developing a little crackling and rustling noise on some of the inputs. The cause is oxidisation on the rotary selectors.  As you can see from the dismantled switch in the picture the contacts on the left are dull with oxidisation whereas the ones on the right are shiny and would provide a good contact. Unfortunately cleaning switches is not possible they must be replaced. 

    Once repaired the owner was pleased to report that the preamp sounded better than ever. Why?   Well this is because of how important a good contact is in delivering the whole signal.  Degradation of contacts over time is difficult to notice as our ears get used to it.  

    WEM Dominator 45 Bass

    So great to hear a 15″ speaker again. This is driven by a 30 watt class A four valve EL84 power section in WEM’s seemingly dated combo. But oh boy does it pack a punch.  Rather than 30 watts you would be forgiven for thinking 100 to 150 watts. Such is the trickery that we have become accustomed to. 

    It’s called a 45 Dominator but nobody seems to know why. Perhaps it was meant to put out  45 watts but that is going to be tricky with EL84.  Maybe it was aimed at middle aged home musicians in their mid 40s. 

    Couple of things to point out about this amp that make it rather special. Features that would be welcomed on many of today’s amps. 
    First of all is the amp chassis cushioning system. The brackets holding the amp chassis have for rubber supports that cushion and absorb all vibrations from the mighty 15 inch Italian speaker. I would so like to see this feature added on to some of the Princeton clone amps and other small Fender combos.

    The other thing that I really like is the preamp screening cans. Most amps have aluminium screening cans to minimise noise in a preamp stage. The problems with these things spring loaded cans is that they tend to resonate and rattle. here  in WEM they have chosen to wrap the preamp tube with a spring loaded piece of  steel. This simple innovation is truly a sign of the innovation that WEM was capable of.