Fratus Amplification repairs tube amps and other audio gear.

Tube Amp Repair in Houston

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Mike's Mods

I usually do mods by request. First, the amp owner and I will talk about what it is about their amp that they want to change.
Epiphone Jr Un-dark Mod I've been doing this mod for a few years, but the new version 3 incorporates most of them already!
Hot Rod DeVille, Deluxe, Blues DeVille Calm-Down Mod Reduces the overall gain to a reasonable amount.
JCM-800 and others in that series Controlled breakup Mod Mod that enables the output stage to start breaking up more easily and at a lower volume.
Most models of amps Volume Reduction Increasingly, venues are demanding that musicians turn their amps down onstage. It is literally true that tube guitar amps do not sound good, or do not have fully-formed dynamics, until they are turned up quite a bit. That is usually too loud these days.
Most amps, but not all Re-Voicing and Tuning Through study of the schematics of an amp, I can determine what makes an amp sound the way it does. After study, I can make changes that change the sound towards the owners goals.

A NEW edition of my book has just been released!

The perfect gift for that tech-head musician or technician that loves to work on guitar amps.
My New Book!
Click for preview of inside.
This new edition has been updated with the latest problems and now includes the parts used in the repair!
New edition of my book, "Guitar Amps and Their Problems, 2.0" - Updated and Improved!
With over 2500 entries of service records for many popular (and rare) makes and models of (mostly) tube guitar amps and other gear!

Trident S20 Mic Preamp Repair

A friend brought me his Trident S20 microphone preamp. It had a whole lot of noise for something rated so highly for sounding like the Trident mixing board's pre. It popped when you turned on the Phantom Power. Noisy gain control. Noise when you switched channels... Really not a nice sound at all.

So I studied the circuit for quite a while, and found out that it was pretty much a standard circuit straight from the chip manufacturer's example circuit. But they had done some seriously dumb stuff that crippled this potentially fine piece of gear. I will repair these and other problems in your Trident S20, and you will be delighted at the change! FINALLY it will sound clear and dynamic like the mixing board's preamp.

Just email or call me for directions on how to get it to me. It is a pretty small and light unit that should ship very well. You will get it back in a very short time. See my Services page for details about how I run the repair cycle.

I have found a lot of the kits and instructions from blogs are not quite as advertised. I think that it is best to review whether the planned mod will actually accomplish the goal. I will undoubtedly suggest one or more mods that will achieve your goals.
If your amp or equipment got water inside it during the flood, please don't turn it on. If you do, you could ruin it or severely damage it and possibly cause a hazard. Get it checked out by someone, unless you know what you are doing.
There are many good techs around that can do that work for you. Talk to them see what it will take.
If you want to try and check it out yourself, then first inspect it carefully. With extreme caution and with it NOT plugged into line current, take it out of the cabinet or open any covers BUT DON'T TOUCH anything. You should be looking for signs of water entry. Mud, silt and leaves and stuff is a sure sign that water got in there. Even little spots of water is not a good sign. It should be completely dry and free of debris.
Only if it never got wet inside, can you then put it back together and try it out. Be very careful, since the amp itself failing is not the most dangerous thing - getting shocked or having a fire is. These things can happen, so make absolutely sure that whoever is doing the work, even the owner, is capable of making sure the amp is not a deadly hazard.

If the amp DID get wet, there will be varying degrees of damage from the flood. Reversing the damage all most always has to do with cleaning out debris completely and getting any water out from inside places you can't see. Motors and transformers are the most vulnerable because of the many delicate windings.
Even fairly clean flood water leaves a film, and sometimes that film stays moist, creating paths for electricity to flow to places where it should not be, like onto the chassis or exposed metal. So, places around the high voltages need to be cleaned. Silt needs cleaned out of jacks, switches and controls. Sometimes you have to disassemble the unit to clean stuff out. It is not easy or fast.

Tube amp repair and custom amps in Houston, Texas.

Guaranteed work and knowledgeable technicians. I will be honest with you about the work you need done to your amp, what parts we replaced, and what work we actually did.

If your amp ever sounded good, it can be that way again. If you never have been happy with it, we can look into improving it instead. Or, you can start over with a completely new custom amp, designed for you.
However, if you just want a prototype to see how an idea would sound, I can do that for about 60% of my custom prices.
It will look like a prototype, but it will be fully functional. Just not made for its looks.

Since it is nearly impossible to give an accurate estimate without fully repairing an amp, I don't really do estimates except for perhaps re-tubing or installing sets of output tubes, but I will talk with you about your amp and then we can have some general idea of how much it might cost.
People listen to you, but they also hear your amp. It can add to your playing or distract people from your skill.
You may not notice the gradual decline in dynamics and breadth of tone that your amp has undergone over years.
Even the best player sounds bad on an amp with hum, buzz, and peculiar noises that are not part of your playing.

Get in touch with me about your amp's sound. Maybe we can get the sound you want out of it again by repairing it.
We might be able to improve it with a small modification, or maybe by restoring the original design.
If it was a good ever a good-sounding amp, it can be again.
What is it that makes an amp or particular piece of equipment sound good?

If its a good design, then there is hope for it. If its a poor design, then probably no amount of good components will make it good. You may be able to make it as good as it can get, but there will be limitations based on the design.

If ALL of the Model X amps sound bad, then probably its a bad design. If SOME of the Model X amps sound good, but others don't, then it is probably poor-quality parts or loose tolerances.
And, if you can make any Model X amp sound wonderful by simply upgrading the parts, then it is almost certain that the problem is poor-quality parts.

But, in my thinking, if nothing you do parts-wise takes a Model X from bad to wonderful, then its probably a design problem.

Sometimes the design problems are correctable, and sometimes you just need to start over or make major architectural changes. One example of that is Blackfacing a Silverface Fender Twin. The engineers (in most people's opinion) took a great-sounding guitar amp, changed the design to include several new feedback paths, and made it a really good HiFi amp... but a lousy guitar amp, when compared to the legendary sound of a classic Blackface Twin.
You had to reverse those changes, and in other words change the design, to make it sound like the old Twin. No amount of fancy new parts would have done it, you had to change the design.

So, if your amp sounds bad, ask yourself, "Do all amps of my model (and version) sound like this?"
If they do, then design changes are probably in order. If some sound great, then basically you can view yours as "broken."

Whether its broken or needs changes, simple or radical, or if it just needs some better parts, we can look at it and see what the problem is, and correct it.

Call Mike at my name and phone number graphic, but please don't call before 9AM.
Signs that your amp needs looked at include: "Red plating" (tubes are glowing red); Blowing fuses, either constantly or occasionally; Loss of power; Crackling, buzzing or hum from the speaker; Any smell of something really hot or burning, smoke, or fumes from inside the amp chassis. Drop-outs are not good, and neither are microphonics or strange reactions to certain notes.

I also design and build Custom Amps, both Guitar Amps and Audiophile amps.
Great Video from Gerald Weber about doing Amp Repair.
The Grateful Dead's - 'Wall Of Sound'
Repair is usually a turn-key process. People drop off their amp with their problems listed, and get the amp back with all of that repaired and the whole amp checked out. We repair anything that is going to prevent the amp from functioning. If something is "iffy" or optional to repair, we generally ask the customer if they want that issue addressed. But what you as a customer get back is a fully-functional amplifier at a reasonable cost, and reliable repairs that don't need to be re-done. If your budget is tight, we can deal with that as well.

Repair time is usually 2 weeks or so if I don't have to special-order parts and if my workload is not too high. I'll let you have some idea when I know what model unit you have. Be sure and let me know when your next gig is, and I will try to work you in if I can. Same-day repair is available if possible. Priority is given to working musicians or others with a recording schedule or who are on-tour. Please give me as much time as possible to repair your amp.

If your amp needs a special-order part or an expensive, non-stocked part, I need payment for that part up front to order it. When I have the part, the repair process can continue.

Labor Rates are as follows, based on a semi-flat rate adjusted for difficulty.
Now, why would I tell you my labor rates? Because I'd rather that you knew what repairs cost these days, up front. Check around and you will find few places that will tell you what they will charge for a given repair. Most places will insist that you bring it in first, then hang a bench fee on you even if you don't want the work done after all! I'd rather you not bring it in if its not in your budget.

Estimates are hard to do sometimes. Basically I need to find and probably repair the major problems with your unit before I can tell you what was wrong with it! So be prepared to have some idea of what you are willing to spend on your unit. Please be realistic about it, as even what seems to be a minor problem can take an hour to go through the stages of: So unless the problem is with something we can get to without removing the chassis, we could be looking at some significant bench time. Usual charges are over $100 to actually repair something.

All repairs are concluded with a final test:

I can rebuild, re-cap, or restore your amp into whatever shape you want it to be. Or, I can repair just what you want fixed, as well.

I NEVER put in parts that you don't need, unless it is part of the diagnostic process. If I do put in a part that does not contribute towards the repair of your amp, I don't charge for them, and all old parts are returned.

Mods: If you don't like the way your amp sounds, we can discuss what would help it. I don't believe in blindly doing other people's mods to your amp. I could, but there would be no warranty that it would solve your problem or not hurt your amp.
First, let's make sure your amp is working the way it should. Then we can talk about how to get your amp to sound the way you want it to sound.

I've been chosen by Mesa-Boogie as one of their authorized repair centers in Texas.
I am also listed for support of Ceriatone Amps, a semi-kit vendor.
References available.

Call Mike at
my name and phone number graphic
from 9AM-6PM, Monday-Friday.
The "Amp Repair Guy."
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Contact me... my name and phone number graphic from 9AM-6PM, Monday-Friday.
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Why was this site called

Well, I've been developing some plug-ins for tube sockets. My first product was the HushPuppy. It plugged into your output tube socket without any changes to your amp circuit, and reduced the power output dramatically. That way you could practice or record without having to turn down the volume. It worked pretty well, and in fact I incorporated them into some of my amp designs. But they were a pain to build, and people complained about the price.
But products keep getting better! I have released limited quantities of a solid-state replacement for 12AX7 tube. It has many good qualities, and the HiGain version has more gain than ANY 12AX7 tube. Give your amp an instant gain boost! See the Products Page for details. Or go to Synthetic Tubes for the full story. They are not like the Fetrons that made the scene quite a few years ago, and they are not at all like a more recent offering that I read about.

On A Personal Note: I'm a technician who really enjoys the sound of guitar music. So most of my time is spent on repair, design, and listening.
I've been doing technician work since the mid-70's, in audio, digital, video, radio, and in industrial and computer electronics. I've worked on lots of things, but I've now chosen tube-type amps to repair.

Serving the areas in and around Houston, such as Alvin, Angleton, Baytown, Bellaire, Clute, Conroe, Deer Park, Dickinson, Freeport, Friendswood, Galena Park, Galveston, Humble, Jacinto City, Katy, Lake Jackson, La Marque, La Porte, League City, Missouri City, Pasadena, Pearland, Richmond, Rosenberg, South Houston, Stafford, Sugar Land, Texas City, The Woodlands, West University Place and all the Greater Houston Area.
If you are up to the drive, serving Austin, San Antonio, New Braunfels, Corpus Christi, Bryan, Round Rock, Georgetown, Huntsville, Beaumont, Lake Charles, Port Arthur, Victoria.
Receiving UPS, USPS, and FedEx shipments of amps from all around. It is best to ship "return shipping paid" to get a better shipping rate.

Acoustic, Alembic, Alesis, Allen, Ampeg, Ashdown, B-52, Bad Cat, Behringer, Carvin, Crate, Crown, Diezel, Earth, EBS, Eden, Electro-Voice, Epiphone, ENGL, Fender, Fuchs, Gallien-Krueger, Genz-Benz, Gibson, Hartke, Hiwatt, Hoffmann, Ibanez, Johnson, Kendrick, Korg, Krank, Kustom, Laney, Legend, Line 6, Marshall, Matchless, Mesa/Boogie, Metaltronix, Orange, Peavey, Randall, Rivera, Rocktron, Roland, Silvertone, Soldano, Sound Research, Sovtek, Squier, Sunn, SWR, Tech 21, Top Hat, Trace Elliot, Trainwreck, Traynor, VHT, Vox, Yamaha, Yorkville Sound.

Would like to see:
Andrews, Ashton, B.C. Rich, Blackheart, Blackstar, Bogner, Bruno, Burgera, Carr, Díaz, Cornford, Elmwood, Framus, Garnet, Heritage, Hughes & Kettner, Koch, Matamp, Mojave, Naylor, Reeves, Rick-Tone, Ross, Selmer, Session, Sewell, Soultone, Stephenson, Straub, Suhr, Supro, Synaptic Amps, THD, Tone King, Two-Rock, Valco, Yerasov

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