I HAD A PROBLEM WITH MY AMP ON
a gig recently that ended up being caused by a
bad preamp tube. I didn’t have any spare tubes
with me or even any fuses, and after struggling
to get through the night with a borrowed amp,
I vowed to put together a gig first aid kit. What
should I put in it? —RC via email
You wouldn’t drive across the country
without a spare tire and some jumper
cables, so you should be just as prepared
when you go to your gig. Here is what
I’d recommend you put in your kit:
1) Speaker Cable. If you play a combo
amp, you may not need it, but with a
head/cabinet setup a spare is essential.
2) Guitar Cable. Something could happen
to cause your cable to fail, so always
pack an extra.
3) Guitar Strings
4) String winder
5) Wire cutters
6) Needle-nose pliers
7) Phillips screwdriver
8) Flathead screwdriver
9) Extra set of power tubes. If your amp
uses a pair, buy four. That will leave you
with an extra set. You simply bias your amp
with the first pair, and since the second pair
already matches the first, there’s no need
to rebias when changing to the second pair
10) Extra preamp tubes of each kind
that your amp uses. If it has all 12AX7s,
pack one or two extra. If it has a 12AT7,
bring one of those too. You don’t need a
full set, just one or two of each kind.
11) Extra rectifier tube or solid-state
rectifier substitute that plugs into the
12) Fuses. Make sure they are Slo-Blo
and have the correct amperage and voltage
rating. Remove the fuse from your
amp and take it to Radio Shack to match
it exactly, then buy a box of five for spares.
13) Flashlight. You may need it on a
14) 9-volt batteries. If you use pedals
you might want several of these. Even if
you use a power supply, batteries are good
insurance in case something goes wrong
If your amp isn’t producing sound when
you flip the standby switch to the “on”
position, turn it off immediately and
check to see if the speaker is connected.
It’s easy to forget to connect an amp head
to the speaker cabinet, and when a guitar
signal is put through a tube amp without
a speaker load connected to it, the tube
sockets and the output transformer could
arc, causing major damage.
If the speaker cable is connected, turn
on the amp but don’t play—just listen
closely for hiss or other signs that the
speaker is getting signal. Once you are sure
the speaker is connected, check your guitar
cable and any other audio cables to
make sure the amp is actually getting
signal. Once you’ve determined that the
problem is not with the cables, then go back
to the amp and start looking for things like
a blown fuse and/or a bad tube.
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