Ceriatone Help and Advice Needed

Nightclub Dwight

Senior member
Messages
687
I guess I learned about Ceriatone Amps here, reading about Tfarny's Ceriatone Champ and seeing the great comments from others as well.  They look like a great value, and I am intrigued.

However....I am a little frustrated with their website.  I realize they have great customer service, but I'm really not that far along in the buying process yet.  I'm still at that stage where I'm researching everything, and changing my mind quite a bit.

I've also been trying to give myself a general education about Tube Amps, reading all that I can get my hands on by Gerald Weber, the Soul of Tone book, etc.  I have a lot to learn, but I think I've narrowed some things down.

I know I need a smaller sized amp as my primary use will be a bedroom amp.  As a kid my amp I learned on was a vintage Tweed Gibson GA 30, and also a smaller and much warmer Maestro Reverb-Echo (which I would kill for today).  I want that tone back, or at least a variation of it.  I love that early breakup, and power tube distortion.

From my research I think I will like something based on a 5E3 circuit--the early Deluxes.  But Tfarny's Champ is interesting also.  What would be the difference between the two, assuming both were going through a 1 X 12 cabinet. I think I might also like something like a Vox AC15, but not sure what ceriatone makes that would be similar.

Can anyone help me decode the Ceriatone website and suggest other models that might be similar to what I need?  The Fender clones are pretty easy with their circuit numbers being listed.  But I am not as familiar with the other models on there, and am lost.  Obviously I understand that the 18 Watt Marshalls are a smallish amp that might appeal to me, but beyond that it gets fuzzy.  For example, the Matchless and Trainwreck clones might be cool, but I don't know anything about those.

I guess this is a pretty open ended plea for Ceriatone input.  I'm building my knowledge, so please don't hesitate to add anything.  Thanks!
 

tfarny

Senior member
Messages
4,481
I've only done the one, and I don't know much at all about tube amps. I will say that for bedroom playing and for recording, the ultra champ is about as perfect an amp as I can imagine. The Tweed position gets the most use, but the blackface setting with treble cranked up and tremolo pumping with a tele or strat is pretty sweet too. On Tweed settings, I start to get some nice breakup early enough that I can minimize my use of the attenuator (it's still a tube amp through a V30). I had him put in a half power switch ($15 option, no it's not listed on the website) but I never use it, I don't think the tone is the same. I think it's a triode switch actually.
His website is pretty bad, it's true. The Ceriatone forum is helpful but pretty dead, but I think the basic assumption going in is that if you are interested in the kits, you already know your stuff, even though he will sell you a completed amp as well. I think he is still oriented towards selling parts and kits to hobbyists, even though most of his customer base at this point has to be guys like you and I who can solder but are not ready to assemble a full amp.
I can't compare mine against a tweed deluxe because I don't own a tweed but I think mine is more versatile because it's also a blackface vibro champ.
Tidbits: The tubes he ships with are decent JJs etc, not any NOS of course, but you might as well get the complete 'with tubes' package.
If you email him and ask about specific stuff, he will get back to you right away. Great in that respect.
I am thinking that my next amp might be a Ceriatone low power tweed twin (5E8A) that Fender sells for 5 grand. I was thinking about that circuit with a 1x12 cab and a half power switch. I emailed him recently about VVR (power scaling) and he said he could install power scaling to any amp for $65, VVR is apparently the next best thing for getting real power tube tone at low volumes - they say it beats hot plate-type attenuators hands down and installs as a master volume.
Matchless and Trainwreck are two of the most respected boutique builders working from Vox designs originally. The Ceriatone Dizzy 30 is apparently a dead on clone of the Matchless DC30, which is supposed to be an update on an AC30. I played a matchless once and it was pretty awesome but they wanted like 6 grand for it. The Ceriatone Creme Brulee is supposed to be a 15 watt version of the EF86 channel on that, basically an early style AC15 with some bells and whistles. If I don't end up getting the 5e8a, it'll be one of the Vox-based ones, I think. You might want to shoot him an email and see if he'll make you a Gibson GA30 or straight AC15, apparently he does a lot of custom work that is not advertised.
What else - Metalman on the forum made up a head cab for me (thanks man!), there are a lot of cabinet makers you can choose from instead of having it shipped from Malaysia at great cost. I'd definitely buy the speakers and cab locally and just focus on the complete chassis w/ tubes packages. The transformers in mine sure looked like a lot of iron for a 5w amp, I would not bother with buying the trannies elsewhere.
 

mayfly

Senior member
Messages
8,309
I think ceriatone is great.  However, i'd get the transformerless package.  This makes shipping much cheaper, and the mains transformers that he uses are not UL/CSA approved.

Regarding tone and utility, as soon as you get around 20 watts you're loud enough to gig with with a good speaker
 

Patrick from Davis

Senior member
Messages
2,197
I cannot say for certain, but what you are describing does sound like the Creme Brulee.  But, if you have the ability to afford it, the Dizzy 30 with a true 1/2 power switch (two output tubes rather than four) gives you pretty much the identical amp plus the Vox-esque side for that tone.  I suppose you could also add a pentode/triode switch as well to knock the volume down in another manner.  That would also allow you to have two switchable drops in Volume.  The Matchless amps came with quite a variation of speaker over the years, or so I have read.  You could pair an alnico speaker with a Vintage 30 and have quite the versatile amp there.  The 30 watts is a loud 30, like a Vox AC 30 so it should be fine playing with a band.

I don't know the amps you originally mentioned, so I can't make a direct comparison.  That should be mentioned.  You could also look into 6V6 based amps for lower wattage/power tube distortion set ups.  Good luck
Patrick

 

Nightclub Dwight

Senior member
Messages
687
Thanks fellers, I appreciate the input.

I'm still in the dreaming phase on this project, but wanted to ask this question now to give me more to think about.

Im certain I want low power, thus an AC15 is more desirable to me than an AC30, because I know I don't have a use for all that power.

I'll ask more questions later as they come up.  Thank you!
 

-CB-

Senior member
Messages
5,427
5 watts is loud for a bedroom amp - any more than that and you wont be cranking it up

If I play my Champ up to about 5ish or 6ish on the dial, its breaking up - and loud.

Switching to a EL84 seems to help the breakup - please mind the bias resistor, its different.

On Champs - to me, the best breakup came with models (5E1 and earlier) that had the choke filter rather than the capacitor filter. 
You want to push the output transformer a little... dont go generous there and oversize it.  You want one that is right on the mark, or too small.  Keep in mind that Hammond rates theirs very generously and conservatively.

On Champs, you can use, or not, or switch, the cathode bypass cap for more gain in the low end.  On any Champ equipped with a larger than 8 inch speaker, I strongly suggest a 330pf to 470pf capacitor across the volume control to retain brilliance when you're playing at lower levels.  Those circuits are naturally mid-heavy, and the 1m volume pot will roll off a lot of highs.  You can switch the cap in and out as a "bright" switch if you like.  Anything past about 2/3's volume and there is almost no rolloff of high, so the capacitor makes no effect at higher volumes.

Please watch the voltages - try and keep the voltage on the 6V6 to about 300-320 volts or so.  Going with a modern Champ transformer gives you 425-450 volts on the 6V6, over 200v on the 12AX7's... and the amp will sound a bit sterile, always sound like it needs breaking in.  Low voltage is key.

If you keep the volts low, use the bright cap, use a choke input filter, use the cathode bypass cap, and run it into a 12" Celestion V12 speaker, you'll have a slick little combo.  A Celestion Greenback might be too warm.  Also, I dont like the Jensen reissue's but you might find the P12R ok for that.  You dont want a super bass or mid heavy speaker.

~~~

The 5E3 Deluxe.... must be made with Mercury Transformers, or you'll have to do some finagling in the circuit for it to come out "right".  The finagling involves adding a bias control and going grid bias.  The Mercury transformers will do the cathode bias quite nicely.

The Deluxe has interactive volume controls!~  Neat.  You can get a wide palette of tones there.

Keep in mind its a loud amp to play broken up in a living room. 
 

Nightclub Dwight

Senior member
Messages
687
=CB= said:
5 watts is loud for a bedroom amp - any more than that and you wont be cranking it up

The Deluxe has interactive volume controls!~  Neat.  You can get a wide palette of tones there.

Keep in mind its a loud amp to play broken up in a living room. 

My thought is that I probably prefer the idea of the 5e3 Deluxe circuit, but in reality the lower power Champ would probably be better for my home use.  I don't need a gigging amp, and I do already have a higher powered amp I could use if I did need to compete with a drummer.

Eventually I'd like to get one of each, but it makes sense to get the lower powered option first.
 
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