Gretsch 6161 amp

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Gretsch 6161 amp

Postby jeffl » Fri Oct 06, 2006 8:42 pm

I stumbled across a 1960 Gretsch 6161 amp, in real good condition. It's got a pair of either 6x9s, or 6x11s (elliptical), with a separate tweeter. I'm pretty sure it was made by Valco. Anybody else ever play through one of these....? I didn't have my harp case with me today, so I couldn't play through it. It's got tremolo,but no reverb. I'm gonna play through it next week. The guy wants $450 for it, so I'm not that interested,but he'll take a trade.
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Postby bosco » Sat Oct 07, 2006 4:19 am

Sounds suspiciously like my LectroLab.

Did you notice if it had EL-84s?

From what I've read, the components used in those days (especially by Valco) were standardized and had the same relative quality so it was rare to get a bad one.

After years of hearin' guitar players bitch about on board reverbs, I almost think it's better to have an independant effect anyway. Tremelo and Vibrato were the rage in the 60s so if you're going to play vintage amps that's usually what you get in the deal.

If you play through it and like it, offer him $300.00 just to feel him out. I'm sure it's worth alot more than that and maybe you can meet him in the middle. Any chance of posting any pics of that old chestnut?

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Postby jeffl » Sat Oct 07, 2006 12:42 pm

I'll try to remember to take a digital camera down to the store when I play that thing next week,Bosco. If I remember correctly, it's the "less art deco" style of 1960; They kept the wraparound grill, but I think the tweeter is behind the big grill cloth instead of having it's own little porthole. And I'm not sure about this either, but I think the top edge of the speaker opening is horizontal and level, instead of being angled like the earlier '60 models. 1960 was supposedly a big year for this amp,with a huge production run, but I've never seen any of these bein' played around here. Mebbe if I got closer to Milwaukee and Chicago, I'd see more of 'em. You'd think it'd be a good surf guitar amp.
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Postby jeffl » Sat Oct 07, 2006 2:10 pm

BTW Bosco, I didn't look too hard at the tubes (valves), because it was so darn hard to see up there, but the only tube I recognized was the 5Y3GT rectifier. The amp belongs to the store owner. He picked it up to use on his forthcoming CD, along with a few other amps over the years, and now he's dumpin' 'em one by one. I got my Champ from the same guy a coupla years ago. He had a '53 Fender Deluxe Tweed he wuz cleanin' up as well, which he had gone all through. That one's on EBay right now, supposedly with a bid of $965. I don't have the loose change to be payin' that kind of money for vintage amps that aren't even in good cosmetic condition. If I was gonna shell out significant bucks for an old amp, it'd have to be a '59 Bassman or a 60's Princeton, and I still want 'em to look good. Even though I play the blues, I jus' don't like the thought of havin' a real ratty lookin' amp up on stage if there's nice ones to be had. My old Silverface Champ's in perfect condition, and I jus' love the classic look of the Silverfaces. This guy goes through all the old amps he picks up, re-solders the connections,checks the outputs, and usually recaps 'em. He wanted to blackface my Champ before I took it, and I told him that I wanted to play it the way it was, at least for a while. I can always blackface it.
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Postby jeffl » Tue Oct 10, 2006 4:57 pm

I'm gonna go test drive that 6161 Gretsch on my lunch hour today; this should be interesting. I've found a few available out there on the internet, and they're all askin' the same general price for 'em. Even if I love it, I don't know if I'll buy it; I might just make a few mental notes and keep my eyes open to see if I can steal one somewhere in the future. I've heard of a coupla guys stumblin' on 'em in antique stores and garage sales, and gettin' 'em for $50-$60. It's gonna be interesting and informative and fun though.
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Postby jeffl » Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:12 pm

Well,IMO, it's a great harp amp! I gave it a good run, A/B/C with a Blues Jr.,and a Pro.Jr. It's got a treble jack and a bass jack on the non-tremolo channel,and I used the bass jack. It blew both the new Fenders away,with alot dirtier sound,and no hum. I tried the treble jack,without the volume even up, and it whined like a kid(maybe it was the tweeter squawkin'). I don't know if that jack was functioning properly, but it didn't matter, 'cuz the bass jack sounded great. It breaks up nice and early,with some nice bottom end, and tons of headroom. I couldn't even really open it up past "6" or "7" in the back room of the store without worryin' about a few other people on the premises. I think it's 14 Watts, and it's loud. I didn't write down all the tube numbers, failing to recognize the numbers on a coupla them, other than the 12AX7s, and the 5y3GT rectifier. But, the store owner checked the NOS replacement cost of the ones I didn't recognize, and it was $70.00 ea.! Even the Gretsch schematic webpage didn't list all the tubes. It is the later 1960 edition, I believe, with the little tweeter being behind the main grillcloth instead of having it's own little cloth covered porthole. It does have the wraparound grille,and the upper and lower edges of the grill cloth run horizontally, not angled. The handle hardware is solid, and only slightly rusty (it's basically a brass and leather suitcase handle). The condition cosmetically inside and out is prob'ly 8.5 outa 10, and it's got the original two prong chord, plus the tremolo footswitch. It's a very cool lookin' amp, and sounds as good as it looks. If I don't pull the trigger fast, it's goin' on E-Bay,but there's already two others out there on the net at the same price right now. We'll see whether or not I can sleep tonite. BTW,Bosco, I forgot to take my camera today, but it looks just like the pictures on the web, if you google Gretsch 6161. It's in better shape than the one on Ebay right now, but he's askin' a little more for it. It's not dirty at all, and everything's there and attached.
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Postby ricochet » Tue Oct 10, 2006 8:03 pm

If you can list the tubes, I might be able to help you source them.
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Postby jeffl » Tue Oct 10, 2006 8:15 pm

I'll get back to ya' on that one,Rico,and I appreciate the offer. I made the guy an offer over the phone, tradin' him my Champ ( I don't think I'd use the thing if I got the Gretsch ), so I'll see what happens. I have a cousin in Altoona,Pa., who has about 10,000 NOS tubes in his house, left over from his dad's electronic repair business. He's got 'em all catalogued and has been hesitant to sell 'em off, since he does repair work on the side too, and they've got sentimental value; I know he'd prob'ly have them in stock, and the price would be right.
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Postby t bone bruce » Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:02 pm

The power tubes are 6973's, I found a picture of the amp at http://www.vintagegretsch.com/html/amps_1.html
schematicheaven.com didn't have a schematic for the 6161 unfortunatley.
There's a site about juke boxes, which apparently used 6973's quite a lot , and you can use 6CZ5's or 6EMS as a replacement. Here's a link...
http://www.jukeboxfridaynight.com/artic ... tsswap.htm
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Postby ricochet » Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:29 pm

There's often a workable substitute, or mod to let you sub a more common tube. :D
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Postby jeffl » Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:45 pm

[quote="ricochet"]There's often a workable substitute, or mod to let you sub a more common tube. :D[/quote] Oh,but mad doctor,sir, this is a vintage 1960 amp; substitutes just won't do. (actually, the first thing to go,if I get it, is the two-prong power chord.) And,thanks very much for that link,tbone. Anybody wanna buy my '78 Champ Silverface (unmodded)? It's nearly mint; no tears,bright grill cloth, and it's a fine harp amp. Great for practice, and small gigs. PM me or it might be gone.
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Postby ricochet » Wed Oct 11, 2006 1:53 am

You bet substitutes will do! That's not only SOP for vintage repair work, it's 1960 SOP, too. (I can remember that, I hung around the local TV shop from age 5, looking over the TV man's shoulder and bugging him constantly about what he was doing.)
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Postby jeffl » Wed Oct 11, 2006 11:43 am

[quote="ricochet"]You bet substitutes will do! That's not only SOP for vintage repair work, it's 1960 SOP, too. (I can remember that, I hung around the local TV shop from age 5, looking over the TV man's shoulder and bugging him constantly about what he was doing.)[/quote] I bet you were a interesting kid to have hangin' around,too. We've had a few kids come around our car store over the last 20-25 years that I've been there who kept gettin' their dads to bring 'em down all the time over their early years, and by the time they were 10 or 11, they knew all there was to know about 'em, and some stuff the salesmen didn't even know. Occasionally they could be a pain in the butt, but I've always enjoyed bein' able to carry on intelligent conversations with precocious kids. Anyway, I wuz kiddin' about subbin' tubes...I could care less; all I care about is what sounds best in the thing. It'll be interesting to see if he treats me good on this potential purchase, 'cuz he's also a customer of mine, AND I've done a few small promo freebies for his band, having contacted a couple fest promotors and a radio show host for him without expecting any cash considerations for my efforts. I told my wife there could be a new baby in the family if all goes well. I had to fire up both my Peavey 30 Classic and my Champ last nite, just to convince myself that I couldn't get rid of the 30,and I wasn't losin' anything I needed if I got rid of the Champ. The Champ's a great little practice amp,etc., but I've always bemoaned it's lack of bottom end response. I jus' like the look of the little tyke.
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Postby bosco » Wed Oct 11, 2006 1:26 pm

Go, Bubba, Go!

That's a cool looking vintage amp.

As you know, after MUCH field research, I believe tube amps in the 15-18 watt range with elliptical speakers to be close to the holy grail for amplified harp tone. And this comes while owning a vintage Blackface Champ and a Bassman RI, both highly regarded and sought after for harp.

Have you ascertained whether those are 6x9s yet? Your silver face Champ ought be worth close to what he is asking for the Gretsch, that plus little cash should do it. It looks like they are sought after...both the examples on E-Bay had over 20 bids on them.

BTW- I have a couple of great local sources for NOS tubes as well, so between all of us, we should have you covered.

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Postby jeffl » Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:27 pm

"Have you ascertained whether those are 6X9s yet?" Well Bosco,the Gretsch pages list 'em as 6X11s,and they look like it in the cabinet. I haven't even looked at a 6X9 anytime in the recent past, so I can't remember how long they look, but when I eyeballed 'em yesterday,they looked longer than 9. The last amp I saw with a 6X9 that I recall is my sister's old Silvertone suitcase guitar amp. I agree that the sound of the elliptical speakers is great! What I really like about the amp is that it breaks up nice and brown without havin' to push it hard. My 30 really only breaks up at high volumes,even down-tubed,so it's alot cleaner than the Gretsch. The 30 really cuts through a band though, and allows you to hear those quick high notes that you just touch on, and makes high warbles easier to hear. I just gotta make sure that this guy goes through this amp before I even think about takin' it off his hands. I'm gonna ask him to plug his guitar into all the jacks and give it a run, and test the tremolo and footswitch,etc. He's become a pretty good friend over the years, and I'd hate to get into a bad deal with him. With the new equipment I've bought from him (several amps,mics,sound and recording gear,etc.) there's a warranty to preserve our relationship, but on this kind of stuff anything can happen: the freakin' thing could fry on me the first time I play it. He hasn't called me back yet, and I guess I wouldn't shoot me a price without goin' through the amp first.
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