Friday, April 01, 2011

Tales From the Tonal Fringe, Continued: The Judybox Revival

Sometimes you stumble over something, and as you follow the trail, an entire new world is revealed. People who dig quirky guitar amps are no different, and that led me to the Judybox-partially because it's named after my wife. I decided I had to have one.

The story's quirky. The amps were developed by Al Nelson down in Austin, Texas about six years ago or so, and that's where you'll find most of them. A pretty big splash was made at the 2006 NAMM show which was held in Austin that year, and from what I read on TGP and other forums, the wheels started to come off the project soon after. Deposits were taken and whether they were returned or anyone got amps is anyone's guess.

Suffice it to say there were and are a lot of unhappy people in the Austin area who'd ordered amps and didn't get them.

There are stories of illness and mismanagement, a transfer to shadowy investors, some or all of the assembly being done in China, and that's pretty much where the story ends, in 2007.

The registered address of the business, 8804 Chisholm Lane, looks a lot like a residence with a stable out back. It's owned by a gentleman named Stanley Phillips and has been in his hands since 1972 according to the Travis County Assessor.

Entity Information: JUDYBOX, INC.
AUSTIN, TX 78748-6378
Registered Agent: AL NELSON
AUSTIN, TX 78748
Registered Agent Resignation Date:
State of Formation: TX
File Number: 0800639464
SOS Registration Date: April 10, 2006
Taxpayer Number: 32019547028

Well. What's the story on this orphan?

It's cathode biased, two channels each with its own volume, bass and treble, and reasonably well equipped although looking like it was done in a bit of a hurry. There are no identifying marks on the transformers which look a bit Asian. There are extra taps on the power transformer that could prove interesting.

The tube layout is conventional: 5AR4, 6L6GC, 6L6GC, 12AX7, 12AX7, 12AX7. The voltages are relatively low, with a B+ of only 369v and 309vAC on the legs of the power transformer. Some of the fitments are a little cheesy-the pilot light and power inlet socket are pretty much low grade schmutz plastic, and shot, but overall it looks pretty decent.

Sound wise, this amp does clean in a big way, and it's got a nice deep bass tone that's right for single coil pickups, particularly P90s. The original speaker's been replaced with a Celestion Super 65 that gets the job done well.

Where the story ends, I don't know. If you've got some information feel free to post a comment.

UPDATE 4-7-11
Since I wrote this piece I've been doing the work required to get this amp in serviceable condition and here's what's been done so far..

I replaced the pilot lamp assembly with a military surplus item that the original looked like it had been copied from, got rid of all the ceramic resistors except the cathode resistor, replaced the electrolytics with suitable replacement values, and went up to the hardware store for enough hardware to cook up proper standoffs. This required modifying a few holes and drilling others, but now the board is level, well supported and not preloaded at all.

When you think about it, the screen resistors and grid stoppers do not need to be 5w ceramics, and the dropping resistors do not need to be 10w. 7w and 5w ceramics. Fender did just fine for the last sixty years without that stuff. Plus, smaller resistors make for a cleaner installation and that's the look I'm going for.

Even as we speak the UPS man is supposed to be bringing me a new power socket to complete the job. Then, I can reassemble it and survey the grounding.

One interesting thing I found was the control pots-they're all linear, made by Cosmos Tokyo and very nice looking stuff. I shall try and find a source.


At 12:53 PM, Blogger Robert Luedeman, attorney at law said...

Thanks. It's turning into a real learning tool.

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just finishing up one of these that I bought off Ebay. I got three of them. I did draw up a schematic of the one I got with a board in it, and it is the one that I am still playing with to get it right. Had some very low level 120 cycle him in the speaker, no signal. It seemed to be coming from the phase invertor so I have rewired it to place all the components on the socket and wired the capacitors from the second 12ax7 direct, socket to socket as well. I will see tonight if it helped. I didn't care for the speaker that came with it so I will try a Super 65 as I have one of those here.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Robert Luedeman semi retired attorney and amp mechanic said...

Cool. I've got two of them, one which is the brown one here and one with is red and black and is pretty much original. It was new old stock from a music shop in Corpus Christi and it had a bit of corrosion no doubt due to salt air. I changed the output transformer which was a bit daft. They did make some with two tone green and black but I haven't had a chance to snag one. There was also the Hooligan, which I think was a Revival with EL34s. I've pretty much detailed what I've done with mine here on this blog. You're more likely to see these in Texas, and that's where both of mine came from. If you'd care to do a guest spot here I'll be glad to post it-anything that adds to the knowledge base is useful. Best, Robert

At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Carl said...

I am an old guy looking for hobby things to do so I bought the last 11 that they had at Austin Guitars, so I have 14 Judybox projects total. I just finished the one for my son to use in his band, and I like it pretty well. It was a gain monster though, so I had to calm it down quite a bit on the Fire channel for his use.
I also switched out the speaker for a Lady Luck Eminance speaker which sounded much better.
Send me your email address and I will send you my sloppy hand drawn schematic that I copied from the stock Judybox circuit I got a while back.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Robert Luedeman semi retired attorney and amp mechanic said...

Email sent. It would be nice if you had a green one or a Hooligan-or the schematic, because I'd probably convert the brown amp into a Hooligan. They are good amps, the sound reminds me a lot of old Ampegs. All they really needed was vibrato.


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