Gartone Vibrato King - An exact replica of a 1960 Fender Bandmaster 'brown' 3x10" combo

Gartone Vibrato King

An exact replica of a 1960 Fender Bandmaster 'brown' 3x10" combo

Posted in Amplifiers & Combos

The 'brown' amps were more sophisticated than the original Tweeds and it is said that they have the finest 'tremolo' circuit ever made. The 3x10" version is a very rare beast indeed and to buy an original would be monstrously expensive. I thought we needed one of these in the armoury to sit between the Tweed Deluxe and the Blackface Pro Reverb. It has now become one of my firm favourites for recording and live shows.

When doing my research I spoke to friend and tone guru Rob Livesey. He recommended I speak to Martin Garton of Gartone Amplifiers. After some discussion he came up with the following specification to be known as the Gartone Vibrato King.

It has two channels both which are very usable. Live I have been using a Lehle Dual SGOS (highly recommended) to switch between the channels, The 'Vibrato' channel has less mid so you can use channel one for solos and go back to the totally amazing tremolo. Yes, its amplitude modulation and hence really tremolo :)

The tone controls work beautifully and the sound is rich with a presence that sits great in a band environment.

I had an external speaker jack fitted to feed my time based efects rack (to be found in a separate article).

For 36 W it's fiendishly loud and the custom built Tayden Speakers work wonderfully.

Notes from Martin

The amp is very simple to use – it has the familiar fender layout of Normal and Vibrato channels each with high/low inputs and volume/bass/treble controls.

Vibrato

This only works on the Vibrato channel.

With the Speed and Intensity controls at zero there will be no tremolo effect, but the oscillator will continue working unless switched off by the footswitch. You will hear the faint pulse of the oscillator when not playing, unless it is switched off. This is true even if you are plugged into the Normal channel.

When switched on the tremolo may take a second or two to start, as it needs to gain sufficient energy within the circuit to start oscillating.

At the lowest Speed settings, a slightly higher Intensity level is needed for a strong effect.

With the Intensity between four and seven you will get a regular tremolo effect. Past seven the sound will start to become 'phasey' and you will hear the high and lows pulsing against each other.

The vibrato is quiet and totally stable at Intensity settings up to nine, at any speed. Once the Intensity is past nine, there may be some background 'beating' when the Speed is higher than four. The beating is quiet enough not to be heard when playing.

All the brown fender amps beat when the trem is turned right up – my 63 Super did and Rob will tell you the same. This is a design quirk of the circuit, and is caused by the amount of energy in the oscillator at the highest Intensity settings.

The only way to completely get rid of it is to reduce the signal levels in the circuit. I spent a lot of time experimenting with this, but ended up going with the stock circuit values. This was for the simple reason that any reduction in the signal level makes the tremolo weaker at all settings and dramatically reduces the phasey high/low pulsing effect.

Leo Fender obviously thought the same and I think he got the balance right. As said the tremolo is quiet and stable until the Intensity is turned past nine and the Speed four or higher.

Presence

This works on both channels. It's not as dramatic as the tweed presence circuit but has a good range from warm and woody to sparkly top end.

Specification

Custom brown 35w 3x10 Bandmaster

Gartone Vibrato King - An exact replica of a 1960 Fender Bandmaster 'brown' 3x10" combo

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