Full Throttle

31 03 2008

1965-66 Gibson GA-5T Skylark 25

Peaking the volume on the Skylark brings out a tiger! It finally gets nice and loud enough to bother someone on a different floor in a house and on chords, it’s all claws and spite. On a G&L Skyhawk, open string power chords can pass off a fair Bon Scott era AC DC imitation while higher up the neck, sharp, clipped minor chords bring to mind a “London Calling” feel. As with lower volume work, single note leads don’t breath the same fire but a light touch elicits a wee bit of “Little Wing” Fender Black Face snappyness while really digging in draws up some of Stevie Ray’s cleaner lead work.

The Sweet Spot

23 03 2008


Moving the loudness nob up to 75% brings a big jump up in volume and single notes are definitely getting juicy. Hard strummed chords bring out the moderate distortion generated by the Skylark and it reminds me of Paul McCartney’s rhythm sound from the guitar parts he played on some mid-sixties Beatles albums.  Not a hard rock sound but forceful enough with it’s wide touch sensitivity to bring out a wonderful range of tones.

Halfway There

17 03 2008


Halfway up on volume and it starts to sing a wee bit but this is a really transparent amp in that you can really hear your guitar. The difference between a well built guitar and a cheap throw together is very evident and the same goes for one’s playing through the amp. There’s very little distortion generated on single note runs at half volume so there’s nowhere to hide if you aren’t used to playing with a crisp, clear tone with little or no sustain. But if you are used to playing in that manner, this is a very bluesy little beast. It’s a great way to hear just how good you really are.

Taking Flight

12 03 2008


Plugging into the GA-5T Skylark, it’s immediately evident that it’s not an overly aggressive amp but a much smoother operator. Lower on in the volume range, it produces a thin yet engaging tone that’s great for strumming open chords, particularly when you want to really lay into them but not push the amp into any kind of distortion while doing so.  This level is also perfect for funky Jimmy Nolen style chord fragment fun or clean and scrappy blues lead work in the style of Johnny Copeland, where you can hear the pick percussively slap each note on the strings. But, it’s a pretty quiet amp at only a quarter of the way up, so unless someone is sleeping in the next room, time to put ‘er up to 12 o’clock high.

The Skylark

12 03 2008


The GA-5T’s common name is “Skylark” and like it’s finely-feathered namesake, it definitely sings sweetly.  As you can see from the photo below, it offers some tonal flexibility with the addition of control nobs for both treble and bass. Ironically, I like the sound of the Skylark best, regardless of the volume, with both of those pegged all the way to the right, which negates the idea of having tone controls in the first place and puts me right back to having an amp with only a volume nob. Just like the Silvertone 1470.

Introducing The Gibson GA-5T

6 03 2008


New month, new amp to examine. This time we experience a big jump up in power from the Silvertone 1470 and peg the bar at a whopping five watts! I discovered this prize example of a Gibson GA-5T, once again, at my fav music store and at the time it beat out a Silverface Fender Princeton Reverb for the honor of riding home with me. The Princeton’s hefty $950 price tag put it at a big disadvantage before I even plugged in but after both amps were played through, it wasn’t even close as to which one sounded better to my ears; Kalamazoo’s finest, the Gibson.

Silvertone 1470 In Closing

3 03 2008


Today we bring this look at the 1966-7 Silvertone 1470 to a close. It’s a good little bedroom practice amp, especially if you live in a place where you can’t crank even a five watter. If you’re into playing jazz, early rock and roll or classic Chicago blues, you’ll probably dig this little one watt silver box. For any “modern” styles of guitar playing, it’s doubtful the 1470 would make a player of such genres happy. It’s just too clean and too quiet. Yeah, you can stick a dirt box into it but with so many small amps that play that game better, what’s the point?

I’m really glad that I happened to walk into that little music store on the day that I did and managed to walk out with this  for $119 USD.  As soon as possible, I’ll throw the lowest power rated vintage Alnico speaker I can into it and that should be a big improvement over what’s in there now. They’ll have to pry this amp from my cold, clenched fingers before I’ll ever give it up.

Let’s Talk About Tubes

1 03 2008


The tubes in the Silvertone 1470 reflect the primitiveness of the amp’s design.  The trio consisting of a 12AU6 preamp bottle, 50C5 power valve and 35E4 tube rectifier was a feature of suggested Western Electric amplifier circuit manuals going back to the 1930’s. Many pre-war radios used this setup and it’s remarkable that the amps’s manufacturer, Danelectro, would pick this tube lineup as late as the mid 1960’s and even more remarkable that it sounds so good amplifying a guitar. 


There are a few other amps at the time that used the same tubes; Harmony 303a, Vox Student (distributed in America by Thomas Organ and not made by JMI of England) and a Gregory 007. Could they have been the same basic amp, made by Danelectro and simply rebranded?


The tubes from this 1470 are labled “Silvertone” and “Japan”. Are they the originals that shipped with the amp?