• Ryan

Converting a Fender 65' DRRI to Handwired '65 Deluxe Reverb

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Now that my "Psuedo-Eagle" is in a good place (without an onboard buffer at the moment) I decided to pivot and convert my Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue to a handwired variation to chase 2018 & 2019 Dead & Company tones. After building a few Dumble-style amplifiers and learning a bunch about amplifier design, I decided to see how far I can modernize a Fender Deluxe Reverb AB763 circuit. This time, I wanted to incorporate some modifications that I think would be super cool.


I picked this amplifier up from GuitarCenter for $650 and it sounded good with a Warehouse Guitar Speaker Retro30 speaker, but I wanted to try to achieve John's Dead & Co tones where he used a JBL D120. The next question about the D120 is if it had a paper surround or a cloth surround E120 recone. Through some networking, I learned that the speaker was a D120 with a paper surround like an original D120. Cool! It turns out that those D120 speakers (or even D131 like my SSS #004 cabinet) are pretty darn expensive! So I decided to try the Weber California AlNiCo 12" with aluminum dome. The members on RUKind share positive opinions about this speaker so I thought I'd give it a try. Long story short, these speaker have BITE and I have not found the neutral and warm tone that my JBL D131's have... yet.. I'm going to continue breaking them in to see how long it will take for them to loosen up a bit.

Moving on from speakers, the amplifier clearly was tinkered with. The normal tone stack seemed to be modified and it would never bias correctly. Worst of all, it would red plate one of the power tubes randomly. I discovered this was due to the octal tube socket was worn out and was losing connectivity between the pins once the amplifier warmed up. I could have just replaced the sockets but I was unsure what else the amp was suffering from. I know that online, folks say their vintage Deluxe Reverbs are "clean" until 5 or 6 on the volume knob and this is exactly where John Mayer sets his volume. It seemed like my amp would start to distort and break up around 2.5. Especially on the bottom end. I tried various tricks such as pulling tubes, 6L6 tubes, solid state rectifiers, etc but nothing seemed to get that wonderful tone folks talk about when they think of a Deluxe Reverb. After studying the component selection and such of the DRRI, I could see a few areas of opportunity. I tried a few mods first before gutting the whole thing such as making Normal input a Bassman tone stack like the custom '68, and adding that channel to have reverb. I learned a lot from