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  • Writer's pictureHugh Hardy

The ’63 Blonde Bassman … the “Setzer” Amp

Being a huge Brian Setzer fan, I have always been interested in the early 60s Blonde Bassman with the solid state rectifier – the 6G6B circuit – the one that Brian Setzer has always favoured. Apparently, the 6G6A circuit had a few bugs, and it is the “B” circuit that fixes all that. I really didn’t expect to own one of these great amps for a while, but it’s certainly been on my radar. The fact that Mr. Setzer has publicly stated that these are his favourite amps, aided by the fact that “his people” buy as many as they can get their hands on, has driven prices up. So I had little hope… Anyway, the other day, one of these amps came up on ebay, and it was located only an hour drive from me! I put in a low bid (the ask was 4k!). Needless to say, I was successful (thanks, Gord!), and in a couple of hours from auction end, I had the the new (to me)amp home!

What I almost always do with old Fender amps, is to take them apart, grab my nylon brush, some Armour All RIM CLEANER, a bucket of hot water, and scrub the Tolex and the grille cloth. The grille actually comes out really well, as it’s a tough synthetic material and it cleans up like new… most of the time, anyway. It’s great to do this on a sunny day so you can dry the cab and head box quickly – particularly the grille. You don’t want this stuff wet for too long. And be careful not to get the paper tube chart wet! Anyway, after an hour or two, my 6.5/10 condition Bassman was now 8/10!

So what’s the story with these amps? Well, you can see from the next pic that there’s a plug where the rectifier tube should be. The SS rectifier gives us a tighter, cleaner tone. I should add that the amp had already been gone thru (and re-capped) by the most excellent amp tech, Tim Dudley at Superfuzz Audio, so I was really pleased about this – added value and a promise of reliability.

Plugging into the Bassman, I was struck by how HUGE the tone was… basically clean at 3-4… BUT HUGE SOUNDING. Of course, the closed back 2 X 12 with a pair of Weber speakers (at 4 ohms) didn’t hurt. Now something I found out was that the “Bass Instrument” channel is basically different in that it has an extra stage of gain, and that some guitar players (yes, this is not considered a bass amp by today’s standards) prefer that channel for it’s lower volume (dunno why it’s quieter, but it is), slightly mushier, rich (cholesterol laden) tone. The “Normal” channel is the classic Bassman sound – nice and tight and chimey and on the clean side – until you get over 5 on the dial… and LOUD (I use an attenuator to knock it down just a tad – maybe 4-8 dB). Another known fact about these amps is that the Treble and Presence controls are very interactive. I found that moving the Treble control from 6-7 changed the whole character of the amp… very useful – and really a huge addition to the versatility of this bad boy!

You can actually get these amps to scream as well… a very convincing AC/DC sound is easily do-able. I’m mighty impressed and I keep saying “best amp I own” with each new acquisition (I said that with my red 1969 Tremolo 50 Marshall – thanks, Nige!)… but, man, this time I MEAN IT!… this may be the best sounding amp I own!!!

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