Archive for the ‘Friends of Ivan Richards Audio’ Category

Victor’s custom amplifier build progress

June 28, 2012

This is a brand new initiative we are implementing with this blog, to give our amp customers a visual indication re the progress of their custom amp builds. In this example, Victor has ordered a custom-design version of our popular Blue Mood amp series, a stripped-down, single-channel 12 watt 6V6-powered amp, built on our shorter chassis.

Victor is already the proud owner of our Studio Expressionist 15 watt switchable EL84/6V6 amp, please see the blog archive for photos & testimonials re this exceptional amplifier. Victor has now developed an appetite for vintage tones from California, but with the power output scaled down to a more manageable 12 watts at full power, with the option of reduced output in “vintage” mode, which reconfigures the 6V6 output stage to cathode-bias.

The Blue Mood series amps are designed for blues, country, old-school rock’n’roll, roots & jazz stylists with a stripped down single-channel circuit for pure valve tone & no unnecessary frills. Front panel controls include volume, treble, middle, bass (with pull-shift), prescence & master volume (with bypass for pure vintage dynamics), plus power & standby metal toggle switches & neon indicator.

In response to customer demand, from May 2012 the Blue Mood series amps are available with an active FX Loop as an optional extra – fully featured with valve (tube) driven send & return buffer stages, plus separate send & return level controls. A miniature toggle switch on the front control panel provides true hard-wired bypass. This model option is built on our longer chassis.

All amplifiers are individually & meticulously hand-wired by Ivan Richards, veteran OZ amp-tech & musician with over 30 years hands-on experience. All amplifiers incorporate premium selected components – all components are selected specifically to enhance the musicality, serviceability & the on-the-road reliability of the amplifier. All controls, switches, input & output jacks, valve sockets are individually chassis-mounted and hand-wired in the traditional tried & tested way.

Thank you Victor, for your continued custom. Regards – IR.

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A Nice Stack !

February 26, 2012

Hello again, readers ! Two very good customers and also very good friends of ours, Mr Bob Spencer and Mr Simon Bray, sent us this photo quite recently. They have stacked up their personal collections of the Richards amp for a photo opportunity. No doubt they got together to do some speaker comparisons, or some such activity. The photo shows three generations of the Richards amp.

The top amp is Bob’s ‘Lil Buddy’ 6V6-powered amp, old-logo and from an earlier millenium, also discussed in great detail in an earlier blog. The next amp down used to be Bob’s but he sold it to Simon. This amp is a 28-watt KT66-powered beauty, old-logo but from this millenium, with baxandall EQ and gain stages designed to achieve the level of robustness demanded by Bob ! The output transformer in this one was wound for us by N.Z. audio guru, Simcha Delft, based on the original RadioSpares (UK) transformers of the mid-1960’s. We think Simcha may have quit the transformer winding business, which is a real pity. If you have any more information re this topic, please contact us.

The next amp down, in stunning vintage Brit green repro tolex, is Simon’s 7.5 watt “Studio Expressionist” amp head, new-logo, 3rd-generation, 2007 build. Don’t be fooled by the 7.5 watt rating – this amp is not a toy or a ‘practice’ amp, but a serious piece of rock’n’roll kit which earns its keep being regularly hired out for recording sessions, as part of Simon’s hire business. The Expressionist” amps have been described in great detail in previous blogs.

And last, but most definitely not least, is Bob’s 4 x KT66-powered 85 watt monster, old-logo and from the very beginning of this millenium. The same design criteria was applied to this amp as the 28 watt KT66 amp mentioned above. The transformers were wound for us by Sydney audio guru, Martin Kell. This is the amp Bob uses with his band “Raw Brit”, based in Melbourne. Check them out on the web, there are now heaps of videos uploaded.

Thanks guys !

An Afternoon of Speaker Comparisons

October 24, 2011

In this week’s blog we get together with some members of the Sydney Shadows Club, ie guitar playing enthusiasts who love the guitar instrumental music popularised by the Shadows (UK) and many others, in the late 1950’s/early to mid 1960’s.

The local NSW Central Coast enthusiasts get together for an all day jam session every 2nd Thursday by invitation only at a private residence on a small acreage (so no complaints from neighbours !).

I make a point of attending this jam session whenever possible, at least for an hour or so. You will notice there are always a couple of Expressionist series amps from the Richards Amplifier Company – Australia in attendance.

On this particular day, I turned up with a newly completed 1×12 tone cabinet, which was a custom order for Chet Romero, an Aussie slide guitar specialist, loaded with the Weber 30W Blue Dog speaker. We have supplied this specific Weber model on previous occasions with our Expressionist amps, always with great results.

Part of the afternoon was devoted to conducting comparison tests between the Weber loaded 1×12 cab and a well played in 1×12 cab loaded with the mighty Celestion 15W Blue Alnico model. The cabs are of identical proportions, athough the older Celestion loaded cab was a TV front style, and had a brown basketweave grille, as distinct from the checkerboard grille of the (red) Weber loaded cab. The different grilles do have an impact on tone. We will explore this issue in a forthcoming blog.

Well, both speakers sounded great in their own right, but there were unexpected differences. In all comparisons, a 1963 Fender Strat in original condition was played through a 7.5W Richards Studio Expressionist amp.

This amp was designed from the ground up for home studios and/or home jamming, and sounds just as good as the 15W and 30W models, its just that it breaks up earlier. The ’63 Strat played through such an amp easily replicates the classic Hank Marvin tones from the Shadows golden era.

The majority opinion after numerous Shadows instrumentals was that the Celestion Blue was a bit brighter (but not in a bad way) and quite noticeably louder, and broke up later ! The Weber lacked the characteristic growl in the lower midrange of the Celestion, in fact if anything it was the more refined of the two.

However, we all agreed the Weber sounded great, in spite of the earlier break up. We were intrigued by the fact that the Weber imparted this delicious kind of midrange gronking quality on the wound strings of the Strat. Actually, I don’t have the appropriate words to describe it, but it was definitely there !

The chrome plated stand you see in some photos was one of a number custom made for members of the Sydney Shadows Club by an enterprising fellow. These stands replicate the look of the original stands used by groups such as The Shadows and The Beatles with their Vox amps back in the day.

The Shadows, and Hank Marvin in particular, had their own signature model Burns guitars back in the day. Some of these models have been reissued by Burns of London in recent years, although no longer made in the UK. They do capture the tone from that period quite convincingly, and the well-engineered tremolo (vibrato) design works well for this style of music (but probably not for dive-bombing styles).

In our final two photos we have the ’63 Strat with the 7.5W Studio Expressionist amp and 1×12 tone cabinet loaded with the Celestion Blue, as used in our comparisons. On top of the amp is a Rich Switch A/B to switch between the two distinct channels, and a tape-echo simulator that probably very few of you have seen – the Amtech Age One.

The Amtech is manufactured by a small Swedish company I believe, possibly their main products are in the medical equipment industry. But whatever it is they do, they are obviously serious Hank Marvin fans, as they designed a completely analogue circuitry tape-echo simulator, built in a 1RU high rack-mount enclosure, that comes closer to anything else I’ve ever heard to specifically reproducing the tape-echoes that played such a major role in recording the Shadows sound.

The other cool characteristic of the Amtech is that the preamp sounds very good on its own, with the echoes bypassed. A very warm and musical analogue sound. The pictured amp was one of the very first in our Expressionist series of models. These amps, as per all our current range, were designed and built directly as a result of customer requests and/or suggestions. This example is the Studio Expressionist model, meaning that the output stage can be switched from a pair of EL84 output valves, operating in class-A/push-pull, to a pair of 6V6 output valves operating under similar conditions, but with different bias conditions. In either mode the amp is self-biasing. The unused pair of output valves remains at full temperature for instant operation, but is only drawing a trickle of current, extending valve life.

In EL84 mode, naturally the amp sounds distinctly British, with either CH-1 (EF86 pentode), or CH-2 (12AX7 “top boost”), although Hank Marvin enthusiasts would automatically choose CH-1 for the most authentic tones possible from any amps we’ve heard thus far. In 6V6 mode with either channel, the amp delivers tones that would only be possible from some of the more obscure 50’s/60’s USA manufactured amps. For example, the combination of CH-1’s pentode preamp with cathode-biased 6V6’s would suggest vintage Gibson amp tones. Perfect for rock-a-billy, jazz, swing, blues, rhythm&blues, etc. CH-1 and CH-2 can be patched together in-phase (or combined with an A/B/Y pedal) for a huge tone.

Well – thanks to the Shadows enthusiasts for their input into this week’s blog. Please see earlier blogs describing how the Expressionist series amps have been used for recording and performing by very demanding contemporary guitar stylists. For those who might be interested, I believe that Amtech have an Australian distributor. Please tune in again next week !   Regards – Ivan.

Rockgod Music School

October 17, 2011

We are breaking with tradition this week by creating two blogs in the same week ! We are giving a free plug to a very good customer of ours – that fine fellow Mr Jonny Gardiner.

Located just around the corner from us, in Brooks Avenue Wyoming (NSW), in what used to be the Mad Cow Theatre (?) is the Rockgod Music School. This is the brainchild of Jonny Gardiner, originally from Sydney and now resident in Wyoming, a veteran of many years in rock bands.

The school teaches students guitar, vocals, drums, bass and keyboards and incorporates a number themed teaching rooms (eg the Hendrix Room), as well as a large sound stage area for rehearsals and performances, including in-house PA and recording equipment.

What is different about this music school compared to other alternatives ?

Jonny devoted about 3 years to putting together a curriculum of rock which creates a structured approach to enable the students to learn the sort of music they want to play, backed up by appropriate and timely coaching in technique and music theory.

The second major difference is that unlike most music schools, that have the occasional or even yearly concert, the Rockgod Music School students gig at the end of every term. Jonny reckons this is the single most important part of the curriculum – the gigs are great fun and are the best possible motivation to keep students playing and practicing for the next big gig !

Jonny is the vocalist/guitarist with one of Sydney’s most successful covers/corporate functions bands – The Nevilles, as well as maintaining a solo career. The Nevilles came to prominence when regularly appearing on Channel 9’s “The Footy Show”, and receive bookings from as far away as Hawaii, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Jonny has quite a collection of guitars, amps and FX pedals. The amps are all valve (tube) models (of course), including Marshalls, Fenders and Vox’s. We are still working on upgrading him to a Richards KT66 amp. We are pleased to say that we are the service centre for all Jonny’s valve amps, guitar electronics, pickup upgrades, etc, analogue FX, plus students amps. Robert Fyfe is providing service to the music school PA sytem and providing custom-made leads/interconnects.

Finally, and best of all from my caffeine-addicted perspective – the music school has opened the Central Coast’s best new coffee bar, the Rockgod Cafe. Located only 5 minutes from the Gosford CBD. I’ll meet you down there !!

www.rockgodmusicschool.com.au

Chet Romero takes delivery of his new 1X12 tone cabinet in red tolex with checkerboard grille

October 16, 2011

Chet Romero is pictured here proudly displaying his brand new 1×12 tone cabinet in stunning red tolex & checkerboard grille, built by the Richards Amplifier Company – Australia. This tone cabinet is loaded with the Weber Blue Dog 30W alnico instrument speaker, specifically intended to be matched with Chet’s most recent amp acquisition – the Orange Tiny Terror 15W head. As you may have read in previous blogs, we have been servicing Orange amps for many years now, for the musicians of Central Coast NSW, and also for Bondi Intermusic of Sydney.

You can see that our standard Richards Amplifier Company logo is missing from this cab, instead Chet has supplied us with his own personal logo which is basically a truckers symbol of a very shapely and unclad female reclining on the bonnet of a truck. We are happy to indulge our customers requirements and personalise our cabs in this way, so bring it on ! Easy to see that Chet is a staunch St George supporter, by the way.

 

 

 

Having played with Men at Work, the Foreday Riders, and many more, plus composed music for film, television and live theatre productions, Australia’s wildest blues guitarist is about to launch his latest band Chomp Incorporated in November 2011, so watch out for more news about that ! Chet played that delicious little slide guitar solo on Men at Work‘s last single, Everything I Need (from the Two Hearts album).

This Weber-loaded tone cabinet sounded phenomenal either with the Tiny Terror or our own Richards Expressionist Series amps. In next week’s blog we get together with some members of the Sydney Shadows Club and compare the Weber against the Celestion 15W alnico Blue speaker. They both sounded great, but there were unexpected differences ! Thanks to Chet Romero for his news and his continued interest in our products and services. Regards – Ivan.

Bob’s “Lil’ Buddy” amp returns to HQ for a complete overhaul

September 17, 2011

This is actually the very first amp I designed and built for Bob Spencer, a much loved and admired Aussie rock guitarist formerly of such bands as Finch, Skyhooks, The Angels, etc, and more recently RAW BRIT, as well as facilitator/coach on the Weekend Warriors programme in Melbourne. This amp was built back in 1997. We actually met in 1995, when Bob was recording the Temple Gods album, in a studio somewhere on the Hawkesbury River. He showed up at my house in Gosford at about 11 o’clock at night, to get a modification done to his AC30 clone amp (built by Ross Nichol in Melbourne, I think ?). This is how you meet guys like Bob !!

This was at the time when I was working from the kitchen/family room of our house in Wyoming (NSW) – there were amps waiting repair from one end of the house to the other, and amp parts stored in every room of the house – even under the kids’ beds, etc etc. Not the ideal way to live, and eventually I rented my current workshop space. Anyway, Bob made himself at home in the kitchen, my wife made us cups of tea, and I got on with the job. Bob obviously liked what he saw and heard, and kept making the trip up to the Central Coast whenever he needed something done to his amps and pedals.

Bob was living in Katoomba (NSW) at the time, in a charming house built 100 years ago or so. Once he discovered I built amps/pedals/power supplies, he started getting stuff custom-built. First up, he ordered  two rack-mounting preamps – the first enabled him to switch between a Hiwatt voiced preamp and an Ampeg voiced preamp. The second one enabled him to switch between two AC30 voiced preamps. Bob was the first customer to purchase my first two successful pedal designs in 1997 – the Rich Drive and the Rich Fuzz. We kind of agreed on what we were looking for in a pedal, as well as what was missing from commercial pedals, and a lot of collaboration went into those two pedal designs, especially the Rich Fuzz. I love that kind of stuff ! Both pedals are still available today (2011), and the designs have not been altered in any way, although the cosmetics continue to change.

Bob was building a home-studio in the house at Katoomba, and ordered a low powered amp (6V6 output valves) to drive a 1×10 cab housed in an isolation box. I originally built a switchable 8W/4W push-pull amp, based on the designs I was using at that time. This was well before the current craze for low powered amps. We soon realised, however, that a mere 8 watts wasn’t driving the chosen 10-inch speaker hard enough to achieve the optimal recording results when mic’d up ! There is definitely a lesson there for everyone. The power output was increased to 12 watts, and then 15 watts, substituting different transformers. The circuitry itself stayed the same. Why is the amp called the Lil’ Buddy amp ? It’s because at that time I was calling everybody my little buddy – regardless of how tall they were. Something to do with a 70’s TV situation comedy called Gilligan’s Island. Thankfully, I have stopped doing that.

This amp was used for recording of course, but also gigs, rehearsals and teaching. I recall seeing Bob’s blues band in a pub at Crow’s Nest (Sydney) years ago, using the Lil’ Buddy driving a Wasp 250 watt/4 x KT88 amp used as a slave, into a pair of 2×12 cabs, loaded with Etone speakers (from Peakhust/Sydney, no longer manufactured). What a sound ! Some noise complaints, though. How rude ! At the beginning of this millenium, Bob & missus relocated to Melbourne and also ordered firstly an 85 watt/4 x KT66 amp which is currently Bob’s stage amp, and secondly a 28 watt KT66 amp. Both amps were custom designs employing baxandall EQ, and other features unique to Bob. The Lil’ Buddy amp fell into disuse for many years.

So where do we stand right now ? Well, Bob and Paulene are in their new residence in Melbourne, and Bob is setting up a new home studio and is preparing to do some recording, so there is a valid reason to refurbish this amp and bring it into line with the current Richards amp range. Although this is still a custom amp, it will be somewhat similar to our Blue Mood models. As you can see from the photos, new component panels have been pre-wired to install in the chassis. The amp also has received a new output transformer (a critical component in any valve amplifier), new pots/jacks/capacitors, and so on, plus a bit more attention to electrical safety issues, in line with today’s compliance environment. The power transformer on the chassis was the third such unit, this one giving us slightly over 15 watts rms.

Some of you will have noticed a Headphones switch on the rear panel – unusual in a valve amp – this switches the ouput to a resistive load and attenuator, so the amp can be operated safely but at headphone levels. The Headphone jack can still be connected to a speaker in this mode of operation. So who is the guy playing the Craig Upfold custom Tele in the first photo ? This is Jonny Gardiner, creator of the Rock God Music School here in Wyoming, and also the singer/guitarist with successful Sydney-based band The Nevilles.

Jonny was kind enough to give us his review of this amp after the update was completed. These are his impressions:-

“this amp has the warmth of a Vox but with more clarity (and also more gain), ie the individual notes really ring through ! this amp’s forte is those delicious sounds inbetween clean and dirty, ie the crunch sounds ! a satisfying aspect of the amp’s performance is that you can control your dynamics with pick attack ! (ie the amp has great touch sensitivity)”

To finish off the blog, we have a photo of Bob playing with RAW BRIT in Melbourne with his Richards 85W/4 x KT66 amp head. Some great live videos of RAW BRIT in action have been uploaded to youtube.com, so you can check out these great players doing their thing.

Barry takes delivery of his new 2X12 Tone Cabinet in white tolex

September 8, 2011

Barry Wellard, one of our local rock’n’rollers here on the New South Wales Central Coast, today took delivery of his 2nd 2×12 Tone Cabinet. This cab features vintage white tolex covering, nicely contrasted with a black & gold speaker grille, top strap-handle at Barry’s request (we also offer heavy-duty metal side-handles from Penn), and is presented in the TV Front style. Various other options are available.

The cab is loaded with a pair of the wonderfully musical Celestion G12 “Blue” Alnico speakers, resulting in a cab power rating of 30 watts total, and a cab impedance of 8 ohms (parallel-wired 16 ohm speakers). The rear panel heavy-duty metal jack plate features a pair of parallel-wired jacks to facilitate connecting an additional cab. These speakers will enhance the tone of just about any amp !

The dimensions of this cab were optimised to suit the chrome-plated speaker stands made for members of The Shadows club in Sydney. These stands replicate the look of the stands used by groups such as The Shadows & The Beatles with their Vox amplifiers back in the 60’s.

Barry currently owns two Richards amplifiers: a 30 watt Expressionist (4 x EL84) head with EF86 and 12AX7 channels, plus the custom addition of reverb, as well as a custom-design variation on the Blue Mood series amps loaded with a quartet of 6L6GC output valves for a very conservative 60 watts output. This latter amp was specifically design for Barry’s rhythm guitar playing style to facilitate huge chord sounds with lots of clean headroom.

Every purchase of a Tone Cabinet from the Richards Amplifier Company Australia includes a complementary speaker lead. Heavy-duty lined covers are available as an optional upgrade. Cabinets are available in 1×10, 2×10, 1×12, 2×12 and 1×15 semi-open-back format, constructed either from furniture-grade ply with a choice of tolex coverings or exotic Australian natural timbers as an optional upgrade.

Barry is a founding member of The Rebel Rousers, a 50’s/60’s rock’n’roll band, and has recently acquired celebrity status by appearing in the pages of The Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine, see page 257 of the September 2011 issue. Barry has become famous not for his guitar playing, but for his dahlias, a variety of flower as supplied to Saskia Havekes, a prominent Sydney florist.

Bob’s Rich Split pedal returns to HQ for 18V MOD

July 16, 2011

This blog continues directly from the previous post where we discussed the Rich Switch (Active) A/B/Y pedal. The Rich Split is another of our functional, problem-solving pedals, which are intended to be as transparent as possible, rather than creating a specific sound. Not very glamorous or exciting, but in fact very important to the modern musician. This pedal doesn’t even have a fancy label (yet), but instead relies on good old Dymo tape lettering.

Bob Spencer is one of my long-time customers, and a loyal and trusted friend. Actually, quite a few of my customers end up becoming friends of mine, which is something I treasure. Bob probably bought the very first Rich Split, which actually had a fancy label, but it’s been redesigned since then. The Rich Split is custom-built to each order, but generally is built with 2, 3 or 5 splits and with 1 or 2 line transformers. The Harbuch broadcast/studio quality line transformer is quite bulky, and this dictates the size and weight of the pedal. However, the superior performance of this transformer justifies the extra size, weight and cost. See the previous post photos for a look at this transformer.

Originally the Rich Split and Rich Switch pedals were optimised for +9V DC operation, but now regulated power supplies of alternative voltages are commonly available. From June 2011, both pedals are shipped optimised for operation from a +18V DC regulated power supply (which we can supply you at cost). This provides greater headroom for the professional user. All pedals are still shipped loaded with a fresh 9V battery, for immediate use. All pedals are play-tested and functionality-tested by the builder before shipping.

So, therefore, Bob has sent his 3-way (with 2 x transformers) splitter back for the +18V DC mod and a power supply. I believe Bob has been using the splitter to facilitate live recordings of gigs of the Melbourne-based band (with singer Mick Pealing) – Raw Brit.

Well – here is the product description of the 3-way splitter shown in the photos. The Rich Split pedal is a 1-in/3-out active, buffered splitter, featuring a high input impedance and a low output impedance, which allows you to split your guitar signal, and run long cables, without sonic degradation ! The intention of this pedal is to facilitate the trend among guitarists to record and/or perform live with multiple amplifiers and/or effects chains – without impedance loading, ie sonic degradation – and resolve the problem of earth (ground) loops safely and professionally by incorporating broadcast/studio quality line transformers on outputs #2 and #3.

The Rich Split runs dead quiet and features low-current-draw circuitry with individual buffers for each of the 3 outputs. The non-signal-inverting design ensures against phase problems. Therefore, all signals routed to your chosen destination (amps, pedals, FX processors, recording desk, etc) will be perfectly in-phase, and when combined will not result in a ‘smaller’ out-of-phase sound. The pedal can be powered from either the internal 9V battery or via the external +18V DC adapter jack. For recording purposes, obviously battery operation will achieve 100% hum-free operation, but at the expense of headroom.

The transformer-isolated outputs #2 and #3 make it possible to use two or three amps simultaneously, without having to lift the earth (ground) on any of the amps. This potentially lethal ‘earth-lifting’ was the usual solution (in the bad old days) for eliminating hum introduced by earth (ground) loops when connecting two or three amps in parallel – definitely NOT recommended, plus its illegal. With the isolation provided by outputs #2 and #3, all earth (ground) loop problems are eliminated.

Thank you, Bob, for providing us with the subject for the 2nd of this week’s blogs. In another blog to follow, we might consider some of the issues that arise when hooking up multiple amps.

www.ivanrichards.com

www.bobspencer.com.au

www.greatergroovemusic.com.au

www.myspace.com/bobspencermusic