It’s Only a Model…

I’ve been asked several times if I can create a ‘profile’ of my signature tube guitar amplifiers. Some guitarists use modeling or profiling amps, and they’ve asked me to create a profile, or even asked me if I can let them create one. To answer that, I’ll go back to visit a bit of tube amp history

Tweed Bassman

Many guitarists, especially those who play Fender guitars, if asked if they could have just one amplifier, would choose tweed Fender Bassman. One of the most lauded and influential amps of any sort, for nearly 70 years it has been the go-to for players seeking robust, gutsy, dynamic, gigworthy tones. The most famous and desirable tweed Bassman is the late 1950s 5F6a version, the “amp for all seasons’.

Significant elements of this design were the 12AY7 first stage preamp, the 12AX7 cathode follower tone stack driver and long-tail phase inverter, the pair of 5881 fixed bias output tubes, the 5AR4 tube rectifier, and the four Jensen 10″ speakers in an open backed cabinet. The clean tones were full and rich, and once pushed past ‘clean’, the amp delivered a dynamic, touch sensitive and musically pleasing breakup. This amp was much sought after in its own time and remains so today. Fender re-issued the tweed bassman in the 1990s, many boutique builders offer their own versions, and it’s become a standard model for digital amps.

As Leo Fender was on a decades long quest for more clean headroom, didn’t like changing existing designs, and kept looking forward, in 1964 Fender created an entirely different Bassman, the blonde piggyback that became another classic amp. In the mid 1960s, even with the advent of the blonde and black faced Bassman amps, the ’59 tweed Bassman remained immensely desireable, as it remains today, a Holy Grail amp. As the British rock scene grew, the demand for such an amp was great, and the Fender Bassman was expensive and hard to find.

Enter the JTM45

Jim Marshall, who owned a small music shop in England, also admired the tweed bassman; it was said to be his favorite amp in 1962 when he commisioned Ken Bran; Dudley Craven and Ken Underwood to build a Marshall version, a reverse engineered 5F6a tweed bassman. They did, but didn’t create an exact copy. Although the circuit was the same, they made numerous changes, some due to parts availablity, others deliberate.

The most significant change, according to Ken Bran, was perhaps Dudley Craven adding larger amounts of negative feeback into the Presence control. This gave the JTM45 a diffenent harmonic content and a richer overdrive tone. Another change that gave the Marshall amp more gain was to use a 12AX7 in the first stage preamp. That the JTM45 was a head, with a separate sealed cab with four 12″ speakers, also added to a different sound. The sum of all the changes was to give the JTM45 more distortion that was musically pleasing, what we now call the “Marshall sound”.

Cookbook Recipes

Tube amp design may be likened to cooking recipes, taking basic ingredients and mixing them in such a way as to create a new and/or desirable meal. The basic ingredients of a tube amp are: power supply; input; 1st stage gain; any additional gain stages; tone stack or EQ; phase splitter, powere output; and speakers. These can be changed, rearranged, and modified to make an almost endless array of tube amp choices. For example, the 5F6a Bassman had the tone stack after the 1st stage preamp and DC coupled cathode follower, and right before the phase splitter. Fender blackfaced amps typically had the tone stack in between the the 1st and 2nd preamp stages, earlier in the signal chain.

Figure 1 below is a 5E3 tweed Fender Deluxe schematic, divided into sections. My first amp, the Texas Tone 12, differs greatly from this design, eliminating one of the input stages, changing the voicing of Preamp#1, the EQ secttion, Preamp#2, the Phase Inverter, the Power Stage, and the Power Supply, in other words, everyting. My lush, dynamic, pulsating tremolo, dubbed the Hypnotic Slam Effect, is based on an old mid 1950s Gibson amp design, but here again, I made numerous changes that makes it somegthing completely different.

Image  credits - James Milsk, Gabe Jacome

When I build a 5E3 type amp, I make numerous changes to eliminate the faults of that design, most noteably, too much bass, too much noise (hum and buzz), too little clean headroom, unsafe grounding, and over-biased output tubes. The result still retains the tweed Deluxe tone and sound, just without the bass ‘farting out’, without the excess noise, without the unsafe grounding, and with the ability to play clean louder and without prematurely burning out the 6V6 output tubes.

I built my first Bassman type amp, the Texas Tone 2:10 special, as a mini Bassman, for a guitarist using a tweed Bassman that was just too loud for the small clubs he played. I made numerous changes to enable him to play it wide open and get that dynamic touch sensitive tone without being too loud. I used this also as the basis for the Studio Reverb, and the same philosopy – great tone, small package, no too loud, for the Ahmanson and Lancaster signature amps. The former is Princeton Reverb based and the latter is a mini JCM800, but neither is a clone, but rather totally unique designs. The Texas Tone Traveler is another example, small and lightweight with the ability to play clean or dirty at pretty much any volume from whisper quiet to quite loud.

Not to discriminate, the Texas Tone 30 and 50 are loud amps, inspired by the 5F6a/JTM45 but significantly different enough to be unique designs that are more flexible and have less noise. The Texas Tone Ranger is ‘inspired by’ the Marshall 18W, but has very little in common with it.

Modelling Amps

Digital modelling amps come in several flavors. Some merely sample a real amp and store that as a preset. Some are software models built like cookbook recipes. There are others. The problem with sampling is that a tube amp is both dynamic and non-linear, so you would have to sample it with a variety of tubes, input voltages, speakers, and guitar pickups, but the varieties of those are almost endless, so you really can’t duplicate the real thing. Software models get built using standard designs, so you end up with just another Fender or Marshall amp. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what a Texas Tone amp is.

Therin lies the problem. Texas Tone amps are not clones. I can’t take a profiling amp and build a Texas Tone amp, because my tremolo design, my long-tail phase inverter design, and other elements, are not one of their stock building blocks. Were I to take their building blocks of 1st stage preamp, reverb, tone stack, phase inverter, output and power sections, then I would merely be building yet another Princeton Reverb or JTM45, and not a Texas Tone 12, Ahmanson Special, or Texas Tone 30.

I do something different, which is why the Guitar Radio Show called my amps “Distinctly Different” and “the amp Fender should be making”.

Therefore, don’t expect a Texas Tone ‘profile’ for your digital amp, and should you find one, it’s not legit. Let us build you a Distinctly Different Texas Tone amp. After all, you’re distinctly different, and your amp should be too.


Modern vs Vintage

The 1958-1960 Fender® Narrow Panel Tweed Bassman® circuit, the 5F6a, with 40 Watts and four 10″ Jensen speakers in an open-backed combo cabinet, is considered by many to be the best of the vintage guitar amplifiers, with a much sought-after tone, even today. In the UK, theses amps were hard to come by, and expensive. For this and other reasons, Jim Marshall, Ken Bran, Dudley Craven and Ken Underwood reverse-engineered the 5F6a Bassman to come up with the original Marshall® JTM45 MK I amplifier, introduced in 1963.

Although the circuit is the same, there were a few significant changes that gave the JTM45® a distinctly different sound from the Bassman®. Changes in tubes, transformers, components, and voicing were due to a variety of circumstances, including desired choices and parts availability. Especially, the higher gain stage 1 preamp, the four 12″ Celestion speakers in a closed extension cabinet and more negative feedback dramatically changed the harmonic content and overall sound of by the amplifier.

The Texas Tone 30 and 50 series tube guitar amplifiers carry on the same tradition. I started with the basic 5F61/JTM45 circuit and make numerous changes and modifications to bring the amp up to today’s standards.

Texas Tone 30

The Bassman/JTM had two parallel channels, a “Normal” channel and a “Bright” channel. For starters, I modify the Bright channel to become a “Lead” channel- more gain, less bass, and biased for higher headroom and more asymmetrical distortion to emphasize desired even-order harmonics. This gives the Lead channel more of the “Marshall” sound, but also takes pedals extremely well.

With the Normal channel having more of the traditional Fender 12Ax7 voicing and characteristics, the Texas Tone amp gives the guitarist a choice of more of a Fender type sound or more of a Marshall type sound.

With these amps, jumpering the two channels together with a patch cable became almost standard practice. This jumpering gives a thicker sound, and with both channels passing the same guitar signal, also allows the guitarist to vary the volume of each channel to get just the right blend. To that end, we install a Spit/Jump switch on the input to allow for separate of jumpered input choices.

The Bassman and JTM Presence controls had very different characteristics, as Marshall had much heavier negative feedback in the circuit than Fender did. I split the difference a bit, biased towards heavier, rename the control to “Voicing”, and a NFB switch is optional, to provide light or heavy feedback.

Next, we modify the cathode follower tone stack driver to give more gain, less blocking distortion, and smoother, less fizzy-sounding overdrive, which results in more ‘crunch’. Guitarists love this!

The long-tail phase inverted likewise gets special treatment. Even though Fender used the same basic circuit throughout his amps, some used a 12AT7 and some a 12AX7. What we’ve done with the Texas Tone series is to combine the characteristics of the high-bandwidth phase splitter with those of the higher gain phase inverters, while utilizing a 12AX7 tube. Much as with the re-voiced tone stack driver, guitarists love the re-voiced phase splitter.

Like all Texas Tone amps, the Texas Tone 30 / 50 amps use modern grounding technics, quality components, and power supply filtering to lower the noise floor. High gain amps will inherently have some hiss, and we go to great lengths to reduce hiss and remove annoying hum and buzz. We also use MIL-Spec 600V 150C wiring and NASA soldering techniques (designed for circuits subject to extreme vibration and temperatures.

Check out the Texas Tone 30 and Texas Tone 50 tube guitar amplifiers, available in a variety of configurations – head, 1 x 12, 2 x 12. 4 x10, etc.

Distinctly Different and as versatile as you are- because Your Tone Matters.

Texas Tone Traveler Amp

Inspired by Justin Ahmanson of The Traveling Ones, who wanted a small lightweight amp that sings (the Texas Tone Ahmanason Special), I took the popular Texas Tone Ranger circuit and adopted it for a small yet powerful 12″ combo amp.

The Texas Tone Traveler is a 12″ combo amp that weighs in at only 34 pounds, and yet packs tons of sound and versatility. Two channels, gain, and volume controls allow you to go from clean to dirty and back again, at any volume level.

The Vintage channel with my high/low Tone control provides vintage tube tone. With a single gain stage, you can play at apartment bedroom levels, or wide-open gigging levels and get that sweet singing vintage tube sound live, at home, or in the studio.

The High Gain channel has gain, treble, bass, and volume controls to get cleans or get overdrive distortion at any volume level. I’ve seen guitarist use an A/B box to switch channels (a channel switching relay is optional on new builds); I’ve even seen keyboard players put their piano in one side and their organ in the other!

As an added bonus, it’s extremely pedal friendly, and low on noise and hiss.

For a highly portable, highly flexible, totally versatile combo amp, check out the Texas Tone Traveler!

  • 34 pounds
  • 40 Watts
  • 6L6 power
  • 12″ Jensen speaker

Another Custom Build

Texas Tone “Lancaster” Amp

I’m sending this beauty out the door tomorrow. It sounds awesome! On the Low input it sounds like those famous American amps; using the High input gives you a high-gain beast.

Judicious use of the separate preamp and power amp volume controls lets you play quiet and clean, loud and clean, dirty and quiet, dirty and loud… and by loud I mean LOUD.

The combo puts out 25W easy with a pair of EL34 output tubes, and weighs less than 32 pounds. It can also run 6L6 for slightly more output, or 6V6 tubes for slightly less output, each with their own characteristic sound.

Three-band EQ plus Presence control. Solid state diode rectification

I’m going to miss her but she’s going to a good home.

Are You a Clone?

Hand Wired Amps

When at guitar & amp shows, I often get asked if my amps are like a particular major brand or model, or if I have something similar.  I appreciate what they want – a familiar amp, but built by hand and not mass-produced with low-cost components and/or labor in a foreign land.  They want a hand made, hand wired guitar amplifier that will provide great tone as well as durability.  I get it.

I could do that, pretty easily.  Buy an amp kit at wholesale, assembly it, and then sell it for a mark-up to cover my labor and build costs and allow a profit to keep my business going.  I choose not to do that; there are plenty of places where you can buy a “boutique” clone… if a clone can be “boutique”.  That’s not me.  I suppose it could be, but I’m already busy building my own amps.

That being said, I have models that are ‘similar to’ or better yet ‘inspired by’ those old favorites.  Here’s how.

Boutique Amps

My signature amp, the Texas Tone 12, was inspired by a rebuild of an old Gibson amp from the mid 1950s.  I made numerous changes and improvements, enough so that it’s not the same amp, or even a clone.  I changed the gain structure, the phase splitter, the tone stack, the power tube bias, and the tremolo circuit to a pulsating tremolo that’s been dubbed the Hypnotic Slam Effect.

Another popular model is the 5881 powered Texas Tone Ranger.  This amp was inspired by an old Marshall EL84 18 Watt amp, but actually shares very little with that amp other that general layout of the controls and block diagram.  The list of changes and revisions is too long to list here, but suffice it to say that it’s an all-new design, loved for its versatility to play loud or quite, clean or dirty, or many variations.

The well-received Texas Tone 30 was broadly based on (“inspired by” I like to say) the tweed Bassman/JTM45 design.  I re-voiced: the Bright channel to a Lead channel; the phase splitter; the Presence control; power supply filtering; and changed the output transformer and lowered the noise floor.  It’s not the same amp as its inspirees.

Next, I mention the Studio Series – the Reverb 1×12 and the JRS 2×10.  These use a totally unique circuit that takes the general block diagram of the tweed Bassman and creates a amplifier that’s clean until driven, takes pedals well, has near-zero ciruit noise (hence the “Studio” designation), and has a natural compression when pushed, can be played wide-open, and isn’t too loud for the studio or small venues.  They can do jazz, county, rock or blues as is, or any style with your choice of pedals.

My latest is a small, lightweight amplifier based on the Ranger.  Small enough to carry “one load” to gigs, loud and versatile enough to play those gigs.  It takes pedals well, yet can stand on its own without them.

Inspire yourself

I build amps that are inspired by great amps of the past, to inspire guitarists of today and of the foreseeable future.

Your Tone Matters

Custom Amp Build

The Beginnings

I was recently contacted by a guitarist looking far a new amp.  He first asked if I have a Texas Tone 12 with reverb but not tremolo.  He’s gigged with that amp, and was looking for something specific.  I have a reverb amp in my line but it’s a totally different circuit with different characteristics.

Because he plays slide on a Gibson SG in a duo, sometimes playing small gigs, he was looking for an amp that has those Texas Tone 12 cleans and that breaks up nicely when he pushes it a little (Princeton-esque), and that has a sweet reverb.  All the other amps he tried “sound great but the volume I have to get to push the breakup creates too much stage volume for the shows we’re playing,” and that “all my sound guys keep telling me to turn it down.”

We corresponded back and forth, with him telling me what he wanted, sonically, physically, and cosmetically.

  • Ivory/cream like a Texas Tone 12, with black grille, chrome trim
  • A shrunken down Super Reverb
  • Texas Tone 12 was a bit too much volume
  • 3-band EQ
  • Tube rectifier sag
  • Single 10″ or 12″ speaker
  • Princeton style cab
  • Fender brownface knobs, with number on the faceplate

The speaker selection process was interesting.  When browsing speaker websites and specs, they say things such as, speaker ‘A’ has “vintage American tone with punchy lows and warm, smooth, bluesy mids and highs, while speaker ‘B’ has “Fatter tone with more depth,” but the response graphs tell a different story.  Speaker ‘A’ has a much louder treble peak, while speaker ‘B’ was more balanced, with a pinch more bass.  He chose speaker ‘B’, based on the charts – balance, and presence – and I concurred.  We also chose a 10 rather than a 12, due to his choice of thick tone from the guitar.

I took his input, and went to work designing an amp that would fit his needs.

Starting with a Princeton Reverb cab and chassis, and our chosen speaker, I went with the same cosmetics as the “Honeybeard” Texas Tone 12 – Ivory Tolex, bluesbreaker style grille cloth, chrome corners and handle, and added a black faceplate with white numbers and cream colored knobs.  That was the easy part.

The Circuit

Because he wanted reverb and no tremolo in a Princeton Reverb package, I chose an AA1164 “reverb-no-trem” layout.  However, I made numerous major and minor changes and tweaks to the AA1164 circuit, all keeping in mind the desired outcome.

  • Re-voice the 1st gain stage for his Gibson SG.
  • Add a Mid-range control to the Treble and Bass tone stack, comparing calculations and frequency response.
    • Less of a mid scoop than a typical blackface amp
    • Shifting the base frequency of the mid scoop.
    • Shifting the frequency of the Bass control
  • Re-voice the split-load phase splitter for smoother breakup and less raspy distortion.
  • Changes to the output section with grid stoppers and a half-power switch to allow the power tubes to break up at lower volumes.
  • 5U4 tube rectifier.   This, of course, changes the high voltage levels, requiring requisite changes throughout.
  • Other changes non-specified.

I was pleased with the result.  The half power switch along with High and Low gain inputs, allow plenty of flexibility.  Using the Low input and half power yields plenty of warm tube breakup at low volumes, great for more intimate shows  Using the High input and full power allows for opening up the amp for more volume for larger shows with a full band.

The Result


The design and resulting amplifier seems to have fit the bill!  We all like the amp.  After his first gig, which was with a full band,  he commented, “Tone for days!”.  I simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief and nod a satisfied smile.


Video of on-stage Low Volume Growl at an intimate concert at The Groove Nashville.

Distinctly Different

Recently, my wife and I attended a music showcase. One of the bands featured a very good local guitarist, one that I’ve known of for over 30 years. He’s always played well, and he’s well respected.

During the course of the show, he played several guitar solos, all of them top notch, and kept the rhythm going with style the rest of the time. He was using a Fender® Stratocaster®, which looked to me to be either a 57 re-issue or an Eric Johnson signature model, and a Bugera amplifier, with a well-stocked pedal board in between. This brings me to my first point.

Eric Johnson has a signature tone. If you’ve heard him play, it usually doesn’t take long to discern that, ‘that’s Eric Johnson playing.’ Fender recently introduced a new Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Thinline model. While talking about this guitar, Mr. Johnson recalled some advice that B.B. King gave him years ago:

“You know, you can do this; you can do that. There’s all these things you can do, but find the one thing you do that’s unique, that nobody else can do, and just go with it!”

B.B. King had an instantly recognizable style. So does Eric Johnson. So do many others, from Carlos Santana to Willie Nelson to Roy Buchanan.

While listening to this great local guitarist play his solos, which were all on point and very good, I couldn’t help but notice his tone. To me, it sounded very, well, generic. It sounded like a Strat played through a pedal board. Nothing distinguishable about it, even though it was musically very good and well placed.

During a break in the show, my wife, who has a very discerning ear for music, had asked me who the guitarist was, and commented that he was really good. She’s very honest about her musical thoughts. If my tone or playing or singing is not very good, she will tell me. She’ll also honestly tell me her thoughts about anyone we listen to. I value her opinion; it’s an opinion forged by years of musical training.

As we were driving home after the show, I asked my wife what she thought about his tone. I asked her cold, so as not to prejudice her response. She replied that his tone, “wasn’t very good. It sounded cheap.” Interesting, especially considering that he was a very good guitarist playing what is considered to be good equipment.

That One Thing

Perhaps the greatest compliment I’ve ever received from anyone came from Mark Daven of the Guitar Radio Show. During an interview with him, after he had played two guitars through two different Texas Tone™ amplifiers, he stated:

“Many times I’ll play amps and you can’t tell one from the other. These are very distinctly different sounding amps. They made me play differently. I started approaching the instrument in a different way as I played each one.”

Mark Daven, Guitar Radio Show

When speaking about my signature amp, the Texas Tone 12, he stated that it has a “a pulsating tremolo. Different than anything I’ve heard before.”  He’s heard lots.

Don’t be generic. Don’t settle for a ‘me, too’ sound. Take advice from two masters, B.B. King and Eric Johnson. Find that thing you do that’s unique, that nobody else can do, and just go with it.

For me, it’s hand made tube amps, featuring the unique Hypnotic Slam Effect of the  Texas Tone 12 tremolo.

Low Noise

I’m often asked how it is that my Texas Tone amps have so little hum and hiss compared to many other tube amps, and yet have such sweet tone. It’s by design.

So many tube amps today are descended from amps in the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. Many builders today make tube amps that are either clones or replicas of those amps. Texas Tone tube guitar amplifiers are not clones or replicas. They are new designs that are inspired by those iconic amps of the past. In those rare cases where we make a traditional amp design, it’s updated for low noise and safe operation.

Why not clones or replicas?


In some cases, the choice is clear – safety. Guitar amplifiers of the past had two-pronged non-polarized AC plugs. Turning the plug upside down reversed the polarity, which was interesting because there was no way to know which end was up. The danger of this is that the so-called “ground” side of the amp chassis could become “hot” and vice-versa. Tube amp builders made compromises and concessions to this. Two of these were the Ground switch and what became known as the “Death Cap.”

The Ground switch reversed the polarity of the plug (equivalent to turning the plug over, when you didn’t want to turn off your tube amp). I recall that the trick was to get all the amps on stage to the same polarity.  How did we do that?  Hold your guitar strings and tap a microphone. If you got shocked, you needed to flip your Ground switch or turn the AC plug over.  Ouch!

The Death Cap was a capacitor wired to one side of the AC power, or to the Ground polarity switch. It was intended to get rid of hum if your polarity was reversed. The reason it’s called a Death Cap is that if the capacitor fails, then your amp chassis, and by extension your electric guitar, could become hot with 120 Volts AC, a most unpleasant situation. Today, all amplifiers are built with a three-prong AC plug and a power ground, or at least they should be.


The noise floor of many vintage amps (new ones, too) is quite high. Many guitarists just get used to the noise and hum. I know one who doesn’t like tube amps because they hum and hiss.  I told him, “mine don’t.”  Some guitarists buy noise gates or noise filters or line filters to help reduce unwanted noise and hum. This noise is due to two things – component selection and wire lead dress. A little background may help.


Many amps are built with poor grounding techniques, with multiple ground points throughout. This is a recipe for noise, as multiple ground points cause ground loops, a main contributor to noise. Texas Tone amps are built with solid electrical engineering ground scheme to eliminate ground loops and ensure low noise operation.  Well-respected electrical engineer and amp builder Randall Aiken has a nine-point plan for proper grounding.  As he states, “Grounding isn’t rocket science.”  Makes me wonder why some amp builders don’t follow basic grounding rules.

Lead Dress

In the mid-1960s Leo Fender sold his company to a large conglomerate. They immediately instituted cost-savings, partially due backorders of items sold but not yet produced. The Fender General Manager, Forrest White, had implemented a quality bonus program to ensure high quality work, but this was one of the first things scrapped to increase production numbers. Due to the rush to push product out the door, and without the quality incentives, amplifiers were built without proper attention to wire lead routing, called “lead dress”. Poor lead dress can lead to hum, hiss, oscillations, squealing, and generally negative impacts. Rather than fix this, the company changed their circuits to add anti-oscillation components, and changed component types and values to save money. The end results was that guitarists began to seek out the older amps that sounded better.

Components, Wire, and Lead Dress

Texas Tone tube guitar amplifiers are built exclusively with aerospace grade military specification wire. It’s flexible and yet holds its shape, even with right-angle bends, is conservatively rated at 150C (300F) and 600 working volts. I’ve seen some tube amps use 105C or even 85C wire rated as low as 300V. Since most tube amps produce between 300 and 500 Volts DC, using 300V wire is asking for trouble.

I make sure that the wiring inside Texas Tone amps does not induce noise, by ensuring that high voltage wires are kept away from signal wires.  Any time wire paths cross, they do so at right angles and sufficient air space.  Many sensitive signal wires are shielded.  There are lots of current spike and noise in transformer center-tap wires and choke wires.  These are kept away from sensitive preamp nodes.  I’ve seen some amp builders, in the name of neatness, bundle wires together with tie wraps – a sure recipe for noise.

Amps of the 1950s used carbon composition resistors. Why? Because that’s what was available and cheap, not because of some “sound mojo”. Allegedly, and subjectively, carbon comp resistors are said to be somehow warmer sounding.  Huh?  Many of these resistors aren’t even in the signal path!  Carbon comp resistors have notoriously loose tolerances, poor drift and noise characteristics, and are responsible for most of the crackling and frying sounds heard in most old tube amps.  I’ve also tested 220k carbon comp resistors that read anywhere from 185k to 240k!  Not good when the circuit calls for two 220k resistors tied together, or using one as your supply voltage for a gain stage.  Rest assured, the gain and distortion characteristics of a preamp with a 190k versus a 240k are quite different.

Most of these carbon comp resistors are rated at 350 Volts, not a happy situation in tube amps that routinely see more that 400V!  The resistors used in Texas Tone tube guitar amplifiers are known for their stability, high temperature and voltage rating, and extreme low noise, and they don’t drift like carbon comp resistors. Here’s a comparison:

Type Tolerance Temperature Voltage Low-Noise
 Carbon Comp 1/2 Watt  ±10% 125C 350V NO
Texas Tone USA ±1% 175C 500V 0.10 μV/V
Texas Tone 1 Watt ±5% 155C 500V -10x Carbon Comp

Not only are these components low-noise, high voltage, and high temperature, they have tighter tolerances and they don’t drift, so they maintain your sound.  You want your sound to be consistent, night after night, gig after gig, session after session. You want a reliable musical instrument, not one that crackles, pops, hums, and is unreliable.

When you hear a Texas Tone amp, you’re not hearing hum and hiss, you’re hearing yourself at your best!  When you sound your best, you play your best.  Your tone matters.

Fight Marketing BS

I was looking at boutique tube amp websites, since I’m in that business.  I’m looking to see what other builders’ websites look like, what they’re selling, what their prices are, etc.   I’m often amazed by the amount of marketing lingo, and frankly, total BS that can be found on some of these sites.  I will list a few of these.

Period-Correct Transformers

This one is pure BS. Household voltages in the 1950s were perhaps 10 volts lower than they are in 2017.  Therefore, if you take an amplifier built in the 1950s and run it on today’s power, the test/idle voltages, bias numbers, etc., will all be off.  The high voltage may as much as 30 Volts DC above specification.

However, an amp built today is built with transformers designed for 120V operation, so that negates any need for “period-correct transformers.”  As a matter of fact, if a 1957 amplifier uses a 115/650VAC transformer, and a new amp uses a 125/650 volt transformer, guess what- they both put out 650VAC, it’s just that one does it with a 115V input, and another does it with a 125V input.

While it’s true that if you run are using an old amp from the ’50s today your voltages will be too high, a new amp is designed for today’s higher line voltages.  A “Period-correct transformer” only matters if you’re replacing a power transformer in an old amp.  To that end, some of the new replacement transformers have two primary taps.  One example used in my amps has a 115V primary and a 125V primary.  Bear in mind also, that although 120 VAC is the modern U.S. standard, actual measured voltage is plus or minus 5%.  I usually see 122 Volts in my shop.  When I test my amplifiers, I always use a variable AC transformer to test at 120VAC.

Tube vs. Solid-State Rectifiers

I read on one site about an amp’s tube rectifier having excellent sonics due to a lack of solid-state components.  That’s debatable enough, as many guitarists like the sound of their solid state amps, but then he goes on to say that solid-state rectifiers slam the tubes on power-up causing excess tube wear.  That is simply not true!

Tube-rectified amps generally behave differently than solid-state diode rectified amps.  In general, solid-state diode amps are “tighter” than tube-rectified amps, and tube-rectified amps generally exhibit a bit of voltage “sag” under high loads, leading toward a compressed sustain.  Again, in general.  Some people like solid-state rectified amps, and those amps have excellent sonics.  Amps such as a Twin Reverb® of Vibro-King® have solid-state rectifiers and excellent sonics.  My Texas Tone™ Ranger comes with a solid-state rectifier, and can also use a tube rectifier.

Solid-state rectifiers do not “slam the tubes on power-up.”  In fact, the type of rectifier has nothing at all to due with slamming the tubes on power up!  That particular symptom is a function of the Standby switch.  The Twin Reverb® and Vibro-King® use solid-state rectifiers and a Standby switch.  When a Standby switch is used on startup, waiting 15 seconds between turning on the power switch and switching the standby switch on, then there is no slamming the tubes on power-up, regardless of the type of rectifier.

The whole idea of slamming the tubes on power up is debatable anyway.  Books have been written about it.  The official tube manuals speak of things such as “cathode stripping” and the need for standby switches, but add a qualifier, “except for receiving tubes.”  Tubes used in guitar amplifiers are all receiving tubes.  Some tube rectifiers heat up gradually, and don’t even need a Standby switch.  I like to use a Standby switch, and I isolate them for trouble and noise-free operation.

Cathode-Biased Watts

Some boutique amp builders claim that their cathode-biased 6V6 tube amps produce 18-22 Watts with two 6V6 tubes in a Class AB push-pull configuration.  Um, no.  With 350V plate voltage you might get 13 or 14 watts.  If you’re running 420V B+ you might even be able to get to 16 watts.  By the way. the 1955 GE tube data lists 315 V DC maximum for their 6V6GT tube; a modern JJ 6V6S indicates a 500VDC maximum.  Either way, you’re going to be hard-pressed to get more than 16 Watts from any cathode-biased push-pull 6V6 amp, and that’s running way-above-spec (for anything but a JJ 6V6S) plate voltage (some people call the JJ 6v6S a cross between a 6V6 and 6L6).  I don’t know where they’re getting those 18-22 Watt numbers.  Instantaneous millisecond peaks at the speaker with 50% total harmonic distortion?  I don’t know.  I rate my amps in real, tested Watts.  My cathode-biased 6V6 push-pull amps will output around 14 Watts +/- 2W, depending upon the model.  No BS.

Surface-Mounted Components

One builder claimed a “surface mount capacitor” as the main power supply filtering device.  Huh?  Then he includes a photo and the model of the capacitor.  It’s not a surface-mount capacitor. It’s a multi-section can electrolytic capacitor, the same one used in hundreds of other amplifiers.

These are surface-mount capacitors, not used for power supply filtering in tube amps (they’re tiny, smaller than a dime):


This are multi-section can, of the type used in tube amps (they’re about the size of D cell batteries):


Point-to-Point Wiring

Don’t get me started.  I wrote a whole blog on this.  I do not use “point-to-point’ wiring.  With point-to-point wiring, each component is connected to a tube pin or solder lug or jack.  There are no “boards” whatsoever.  Examples of this style of construction include most old tube hi-fi equipment, 70-era Sunns, and more recently BadCat and Carr.  I sturdily mount all passive components on turret boards or tag boards.  Wires are carefully routed to avoid noise and cross-talk, and I color-code all wiring for easy tracing.

True point-to-point wiring example:


Turret board wiring example:


I looked inside one award-winning boutique amplifier advertising 100% true point-to-point wiring.  He is correct, and it’s a mess inside, with gobs of silicone holding everything in place and wires and components everywhere.  On the other hand, I see other builders that seem to be neat-freaks, with wires tied together in bundles, which is a recipe for noise.   Neatness counts, but neatness in correct wire dress, not looks. Substance over flash is one of my values.

It matters not whether an amp uses a PC board, tag board, turret board or true point-to-point wiring.  What matters is whether the components are sturdily mounted and selected for long life, laid out logically, and that signal, power, and heater pathways are routed for low noise and easy troubleshooting, and that you tell the truth about your amps.  Rest assured that all of these criteria are met in Texas Tone™ amps.  In many cases, the hiss is so low that you have to play your guitar to verify that the amp is turned on. It’s why power lights are so important!

Be aware

Don’t fall for marketing BS.  Don’t just buy an amplifier because your guitar hero plays one.  Do you play and sound exactly like your guitar hero?  If not, then using the same guitar and amp won’t make you sound like him.  I can play with a Twin and a 335, and I still don’t sound like BB King, nor if I use a Strat and a Marshall stack will I sound like Hendrix.

If you want a reliable amplifier, with high quality components, low-noise and easy troubleshooting wire routing, and above all great tone with no BS, chose Texas Tone™. Why? Because “Your TONE Matters”.


I’m not going to lie to you or trick you into buying one of my amps with marketing lingo.



What does “Inspired By” mean?

Vintage amps sound great, or do they? Unless you’re a professional or collector with the means to pay for one, you’ll probably never know, except when you hear someone else play one. You may never hear one, as people that own them often don’t tour with them, because they’re too valuable, or fragile.

One thing is certain. They’re old. They have outdated grounding schemes that are noisy. They have capacitors that have dried out. They have resistors that have drifted from their original specs. It may sound good, or it may not.

So people buy clones. Sometimes they pay large sums for a factory “reissue.” But, what is it that you really want from a good tube amp?

Before you decide, know what you really want.

Sometimes, the most difficult thing to ascertain when making a decision, is, what is the desired outcome, what is the goal? Is the goal to have a 5E3 Deluxe, a 5F6a Bassman, or a JTM45? Why? Because they’re great amp? They were great amps. They’re iconic. They’re the standard.

Many times, though I hear from guitarist questions or complaints about these designs. Things such as,

  • “How can I get more clean headroom from my tweed Deluxe?”
  • “My Bassman/Marshall clone is too loud for the venues I play. I have to turn it down, and then I don’t get the tone I want.”
  • “The amp is great, but it’s heavy” or “it’s too noisy.”


Texas Tone™ tube guitar amplifiers are inspired by famous designs.

The Texas Tone 30 is inspired by the 5F6a Bassman/Marshall JTM45. But it’s not a clone of either one.

  1. I dispense with the Bright channel, and add a Lead channel. Why? The Bright channel simply had a high-pass capacitor that bypassed high frequencies around the Volume control. My Lead channel actually changes the gain and frequency response of the channel, allowing for both more distortion and a better ability to take pedals.
  2. The resistors are chosen for low-noise, stability, and long life.
  3. Modern grounding techniques allow for less hum and hiss.
  4. I use a phase inverter that is more balanced and still high gain, and a different output transformer, to push the output tubes to optimal performance.
  5. I scale back the Presence control with a more subtle Voicing control.

The results is a loud 30 Watt 12″ combo amp that can play with sweetness or crunch. I call it my BB King amp, because with it, even I can get those sweet tones.

The Texas Tone Ranger is inspired by the Marshall 18W amp, but it’s not a clone, or even close. For starters, it uses a pair of cathode-biased 6L6 output tubes for the full-range tone those tube are famous for, rather than the EL84 tubes of the Marshall. Secondly, I use the ‘normal’ channel as a practice channel, with less volume and a single non-interactive tone control that is a high-pass/low-pass design, rather than a simple treble roll-off. The TMB channel is a rocker.

Inspiring Better Living through Better Tone

It’s my experience that when you have better tone, you’re inspired to play more, to play better. I once told a band mate that if you have the right tone, you can play anything. Think of your favorite guitarists. Chances are, he has a signature style, a signature sound, a signature tone.

Inspire yourself. Go practice. Sound good and be heard.