19 July 2012

Amp: checking retubed Vox Night Train


The Vox Night Train is a very interesting amp, little in size and big in tone. It usually gets very comfortablely any pedal in front of it. But, as typical in any British amp, it's bright and, as typical with Celestions, the NT112 cab' speaker makes it even brighter. Well, that's Vox signature sound, chimmy bright.

I wanted to check a couple of NOS tubes I had around, a pair of RFT tubes that, sounded to be a tad dark when making tests in the Princeton Reverb reissue.
The amp had a Mullard reissue 12AX7 on V1 and a NOS JAN/Philips 5751 on V2.
I wanted to try a darker 12AX7 on V1 and swap the 5751 with a 12AT7, to lower the break-up spot of power tubes (a couple of Mullard resissue EL84s).

The Philips 5751 does an awesome work, making the amp to feel realy responsive and open, taking well anything from slow playing to fast riffs.
Even that the 5751 suits better as a substitue of a 12AX7, because it's current drain is closer to this last, I wanted to check how well can work a 12AT7 instead (about 10 times more current draw!).

So, two things were in my head: to remove a bit of high end on the sound (the Philips 5751 is very bright) and to test if there is a noticiable difference in amp's feeling swapping that 5751 with a 12AT7.

Also, since I am still adjusting the settings of my new pedal board, I wanted to check how well it works with the NT, that usually takes any pedal with ease.

Checking the amp and pedals

First, I have set up amp's controls to my taste, with the guitar connected to the pedal board but, with no pedal active (all them are true bypass).

Then, following my "clean" tone sculpting way, I have switched on the Wampler Clean Buffer.
Well, it's clear that the signal cleans but, it goes really thin and bright then. I had to go back to the amp and lower a lot Trebles to recover the tone. With the Princeton Reverb Reissue, the Clean Buffer is night and day and very wellcome but, In the case of the NT, I don't feel like if it was necessary, at all.

Next pedal I have switched on is the Xotic EP Booster, just to let it bring that special touch that it has. The EP Booster often results in a brighter sound (with switches in factory default settings) but, this time, I didn't noticed such a change, just the nice touch of the EP. The EP Booster sounds a bit brighter in the Princeton.

The last foundational pedal was the Wampler Faux Tape Echo, that I usually leave in a sort of ambience sound. This one went also a bit bright to my taste and, clearly brighter than in the Princeton. I had to tweak a bit the delay also, removing some trebles.

Next pedal to test was the Wampler EGO Compressor. This one went really thin and bright, maybe because the Clean Buffer is before it and, the sound didn't convinced me. I had to roll off practically all the trebles on this pedal. This one works flawless in the Princeton.

I've followed the tests with the three overdrives and the two distortions. The three overdrives work fine. Maybe the one that liked me a bit less was the Plexi Drive, that seems to work better with the Princeton.
The Pinnacle (brighter by definition) went really bright here and, I had to change the Contour control up to feel a more comfortable place. This pedal goes also very bright in Princeton.
Finally, I've found the SLOstortion working way better in the Vox than in the Princeton. The voice in the NT is way clearer and defined and, the sensation of a boxy sound is over.


This is the video I did during my tests. It takes about 17 mins and, there is speach just in the very few minutes, rest is just testing one unit after the other.
I wanted to check also how good or bad the overdrives stack together and, also how they stack with distortions.
Video has no covers, has no songs, just a crazy test of sounds with no structure, to check whatever I was thinking on that moment (picking dynamics, attack, pinch harmonics, basses, power chords, trebles, etc). I appologize for that, in advance.

What I've found is that the Paisley seems to like to push other pedals, whichever the pedal is.
Also, Euphoria into Paisley delivers a good overdrived sound, very balanced.
The Paisley helps to the Pinnacle to remove a bit of high-end content, making it more smooth but, you have to be careful with gain levels on both pedals.
The hardest to combine is, maybe, the Plexi Drive. You can understand this one as an amp so, it should be the last gain active pedal. When pushed with the Euphoria or Paisley, it sounds to me sometimes good for certain things and sometimes a tad compressed and confussing. The Plexi isn't good to drive distortions, by example.

Overall, the sound of that pedal board in that retubed NT works very well the most of times, everytime that I have trebles very well controlled. The Clean Buffer is, maybe, the main cause of that increase in high-end content, that can help a darker amp as the Princeton but, that doesn't seem to help to a brighter amp, as the Night Train.

The second conclusion is that, even choosing darker tubes, as the RFT are, the NT is voiced really bright and, the Celestion speaker mounted in that Vox NT112 cab makes it even more bright so, in my opinion, a speaker' swap can do way more for the tone than a change in tubes (I've tested everything on this little amp!).

Conclussions (updated 20/07/2012)

The pedal board isn't working fine, right now. While in the Princeton some of the issues seem to be masked, in the siper design of the Night Train everything comes in your face.
The guitar, directly plugged to the amp has a very nice vibe and therefore, this tube swap seems good for this amp.

What it's clear is that my tone is going thinner and brighter. Every pedal is thinnening and brighting the signal even more. Clean Buffer, Compressor and Tape Echo sound specially bad.

I've tested those pedals alone before so, I know they are not the root cause and, I'm suspeting some issue related to power supply. I've seen the light of the compressor going on and off during my tests, today.
I suspect on one of my pedal power 2 units, since i've already noticed that when I plugged some pedal on outputs 1 & 2, I had more floor noise coming up.
Or some of the outputs are defective or, the drain of all pedals connected to that power unit is more than the unit can support (I have to check this, reviewing the current drain for each pedal and summing it everything up).

In the past, I had surpresive results with an underpowered Octaswitch II, that produced wistles as soon as it was switched on. If I am over the maximum current consumption, then I can expect anything.

One pedal that was always a bit suspicious is that Polytune, even being True Bypass, I've noticed that it thinnes a bit the sound when it's being placed before the Wah but, since this was also done with a big pedal board, maybe the power supply unit is still the issue.

So, the amp' is ok but, I have to troubleshoot my pedal board, once more and, there is no short path.
I need to go step by step and pedal by pedal to isolate the issue.
OMG!. I hope tis is my last pedal board. I wouldn't like to do this the whole life!.

I will create an entry with my findings.

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