Stereo-Vibing the Crate V50-112

I recently had a chance to play one of these at a pawn shop while trying out an LTD guitar … the amp obviously had issues, so I passed it up the first time … but went back and took a chance on it for the price, later found out the speaker was hooped // no biggie … a quick look at the schematic shows why this tube amplifier exhibits lively (clean tone) dynamics // ie., by way of lack of global NFB in the output stages (… an interesting design idea that has gained in popularity in modern “amp” times)

I was after a portable and cheap enough guitar tube amplifier to build a good stereo pair for running my stereo-phasor systems // … and, above all, in a well matched setting // similar in function to using a stereo solid-state system (a PA !) … the thing about these V50’s is their “very warm” sonic quality, more than you typically see in any tube amp; even from some vintage Fender amps … anyone can clearly hear this in the V50’s Clean channel mode // that’s a game changer right there

ergonomically, the Crate V50-112 is light weight on account of the switched-mode PSU // which replaces your typical hefty power transformer (way of the future) … right there is a good 10 to 20 lbs saved on the lifting // the cabinet is also well enough made and the physical design is easy to get a speaker in and out of, and the chassis easily mod-able as well … I have no problem (so far) with the switched-mode PSU … these amps also get quite loud, giving ample clean/jangly tube power // especially in a light-weight stereo pair combo … the solid-state reverb circuit is ok-enough sounding, and I like the fact that it operates in the output stage of the amp // very useful in some cases … the jFET shunting circuit that prevents popping noises when switching channels works well also … cosmetically, there was a bunch of ugly stuff on there I just had to rearrange // all easily manageable … for the most part, all very good (including the handle) …

as far as electronic mods are concerned, obviously the op-amp based FX loop is the first thing to go // it’s the ONE major thing preventing the amp from having a full-on tube sound that is purely organic in its dynamics … I figured out a way to make all that disappear while allowing the loop to work still … then, I figured out what gives these amps an unduly low-end // it can be quite annoying at times (yes, even with the Bass control on zero) … on some guitars and settings (BOOST mode – with tone controls bypassed) it’s not such a big deal, but to me that’s something that needs fixing when in non-BOOST mode (and the tone stack is in use) …

the tonal response of the amp is now that of a Tweed Twin/Bassman with the wide palette of sounds available w that vintage tone stack // all very RnR compatible … combined with the “non-NFB” 6L6 output stage (= pretty stunning !!)

openHeart

having two of these in matched state allows me to get into my stereo effectors, the way I always envisioned them being used // thanks to the presence of FX-LOOPS … thus, yielding the ultimate tube based stereo Phase/Vibrato instrument amplification system …

to make this happen I run out the FX-SND of the amp I plug the gtr into, go to one of my high-headroom stereo phasors who’s outputs go back to FX-RTN jacks on both amps // so, in this configuration one preamp drives both power amp stages through the FX loop and stereo-vibe/phasor … the second pre-amplifier is not used, its output stage and verb alone are used to amplify the second vib/phasor return channel … the noise floor is now extremely low after the removal of op-amps in the V50 FX-Loop circuits // … in effector configuration this high S/N is maintained by using my high-headroom phasor designs in conjunction with large FX-LOOP signals, something not possible when using the usual (instrument level) vibrato/phasor pedals …

it’s very groovy, yielding a big organic tube amp tone that would raise hairs in a small club // at full power I’m getting a minimal trace of hiss … overall the V50’s re-design now yields best-in-class S/N performance and the potential for a high-performance stereo rig

stereoViber

at this point I can say that the tone of these amps is downright superb // both the clean and dirt channels are more than palatable … I’ll say it again, these amps are unique for their lack of global NFB in the output stage which accounts for some very hip (spanky/loose) response in the dynamics // really great with a Strat or Tele … a pair of Celestion seventy-80’s are on order and a full tube complement from Eurotubes jusr arrived …

good job Crate !!

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I can do the mods for you on a 24hr turnaround … you pay for shipping and insurance both ways, and supply fresh tubes (upon my recommendation) … $325us

RUNDOWN OF THE CRATE V5-112 MODS : FX-SND OP-AMP BYPASS, FX-RTN OP-AMP BYPASS, BOOST MODE BYPASS, TWEEDed TONE STACK, CLEAN CHANNEL LEVEL BALANCE


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