The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

In the way back time, I was at Guitar Center in San Jose (on Stevens Creek Blvd for those who hail from Silicon Valley) and I heard this wonderful sound. Fender had released a new amplifier with the goal to do battle with Mesa Boogie in the "combo" space. 1988 it was, and when I heard it, I waited to get some time on it.

Black Tolex, 60 watts, all tube design, two inputs for low and high impedance, a preamp out and power amp in for an effects loop, a line out in case you wanted to plug it into a mixing board directly. A huge 12" speaker, and the ability to drive an external cabinet at 8 ohms. It also had a spring reverb.

But what was magic was how versatile it was. Roll off the treble and you could get a great blues tone. Roll up the treble, back off the bass and you get jangly jazzy sound. Or hit the overdrive circuit and roll back the mids, and you get killer "hair metal" crunch.

I was in love. And I whipped out the plastic after talking the manager down about $150 from the list price, and took it home.

It was everything my GK250ML wasn't. Sure, the Gallien Krueger was a kick ass crunchy metal stereo chorus amp, but it was thin and reedy playing soulful blues, and no amount of foot pedals would fix that. The Super 60 was all that.

But, one day, a guitar slipped off the stand it was on, and landed on the cable end that was plugged into the #1 input, and I lost a lot of versatility.

I took it apart to try to fix it, and back then, probably 30 years ago, it was beyond my abilities. I could see that the jack was smashed, and I couldn't find a 1:1 replacement. Bummer, so I lived with the high impedance input, and the reduced range of the amp from then on.

Fast forward to today

A few months ago, I dusted off the guitar, and began getting serious about playing again. For a long time I would pull it off the wall once a month, do some jamming, and then back up it went.

It began to bug me that it was damaged and not in great shape. So I did what comes as natural these days as breathing, I googled fender amp input jacks, and son-of-a-bitch if the exact replacement wasn't on Amazon, a "Fender Original Part" for $8.

Fuck me, all this time and it was just a quick search away?

I bought 3 (one to put in, and 2 to have as spares) and then forgot about it for a few weeks. Until today that is.

Remember, this amp has been in my bedroom/office pretty continuously since 1988, so it was dusty. I decided that today would be a good day to do the work, so I lugged it out to the garage, and fired up the power driver to undo the 4 large screws that hold the amplifier unit to the cabinet. Then it slid out. The offending jack was hidden, so I had to remove the tubes, and then mostly disassemble the unit to get  access to them. The jack was attached to a small PCB that holds the two input jacks, a foot switch (that I lost decades ago in a move) and all the tone/volume/presence/reverb pots. To get access I had to remove the tubes and free the main PCB. This thing is build like a TANK. It was designed and built in the US, at the Fender plant in Brea California, and it is solid. And the whole amp is capital 'H' heavy.

But once I had it apart, it was pretty easy to desolder the smashed jack, solder the new one in, and then reassemble.

I took the opportunity to fire up the air compressor and to blow out of the cabinet and speaker the decades of dust accumulation. It looks nice and clean.

Reassembly of the cabinet was easy, and I plugged in the speaker and reverb unit (a spring reverb, a real nice touch and a throwback to the sounds of yesteryear.)

Then, it was time for the test. Did I fuck it up?

Plugged in, main power on, and the indicator lamp turned on. Good sign. Let the tubes warm up for a couple of minutes, and I plugged in a guitar to the low impedance input, and WOW what a great sound. I forgot how much that lost capability cost me in flexibility.

I am just as in love with it 33 years after hearing it in the Guitar Center.

But, it does have a downside. Beyond its massive mass that is. It is a 60 watt amplifier with a 12 inch speaker, and it is LOUD. I mean really really loud.

Alas, that reduces the range of sounds I can get, as it takes a fair amount of volume to get that sweet tube distortion that we guitar players love so much.

Thus, while I will keep this, I am looking to get a smaller combo, looking at the Orange Rocker 15. All tube, 15 watts, and the ability to get great sounds at  far more reasonable volumes.

Stay tuned, but for now, I need to get back to the woodshed and remember some of the skills and chops that I once plied with.

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