The Rectifier Tube
Replacing the rectifier tube is a good
way to get a different sound from your amp. Going from one type to another
(such as 5U4GB to GZ34) will give you different tones and different sag
characteristics. However, some things must be considered when changing
rectifier tubes. A tube that gives lower voltage may not be able to
handle the current of a higher power amp. The tubes that give higher voltage
may cause your amp to fail. Read on for info on what you should and shouldn't
do as far as rectifier tubes are concerned. Most of the information here
is geared toward Fenders, but the basic knowledge can be applied to other
Solid State plug in
NOS (JAN Philips/Sylvania)
This rectifier tube is found in smaller
amps, most notably the Fender Champ. It's also in the Tweed Deluxe. This
is a directly heated dual diode. It has a pretty big voltage drop, and
has the most sag when pushed. This tube should probably not be used in
anything other than what it came in where Fenders are concerned. Putting
it in a 6L6 amp will give it a very short life and possibly cause it to
arc, not good! I don't understand why Gerald Weber recommends using these
in tweed Bassmans and the like. I've seen them arc under light loads in
2 6L6 amps. Leave these in the Champs and whatever else they came stock
in. Filament draw is 2 amps. I normally carry a few of these, let me know
what you are looking for!
NOS (various brands)
This is a rectifier tube that Fender never
used to my knowledge. It is an indirectly heated dual diode. Indirectly
heated means that it ramps up slower (it takes longer for voltage to pass
through it because it heats up slower) which may increase tube life in
amps without a standby switch. Tubes need a chance to warm up the cathode
before high voltage is applied to the plates. The slower warm-up of an
indirectly heated rectifier can help with this if you don't have a standby
switch. If you do have a standby switch, then make sure you let the amp
warm up at least 30 seconds before going to full power. It saves tubes!
Don't just flip both switches on! Anyways, the 5V4 is a cool little tube.
It increases voltages, so there's a chance that your amp might give you
problems after installing this. These are cool for tweed Champs, tweed
Deluxes and brown Princetons. Just be warned: the increased voltage may
be enough to cause a marginal component to fail with the new voltage level.
Filament draw is 2 amps. I have a few of these in stock. Let me know what
you need and I'll see if I have it!
NOS (various brands)
This is a tube that came commonly in older
Fender tweeds and silverface amps. Silverface amps often specified this
tube in the schematic, even though you normally find GZ34/5AR4's in the
early ones. This is because the tube chart erroneously calls for the GZ34/5AR4.
The 5U4GB is a directly heated dual diode. It has less voltage drop than
the 5Y3 but more than the 5V4 and GZ34/5AR4. Filament draw is 3 amps. Installing
this tube into an amp that calls for a GZ34/5AR4 MAY blow the power transformer.
I've seen enough of these in blackface amps that originally came with GZ34/5AR4s
to know that the 5U4GB will work most of the time. As a matter of fact,
I have not directly seen one of these blow a blackface Fender power transformer.
HOWEVER, if your power transformer is already weak then the extra load
that this tube puts on it may put it over the edge. Don't say I didn't
warn you. I make it no secret that I don't like the way this tube affects
tone in blackface and silverface amps. I sometimes have a few, let me know
if you need one. If you have a silverface Deluxe Reverb, then use this
tube like the tube chart calls for. The GZ34/5AR4 may cause minor noise
related problems or even cause it to fail due to increased voltages. Fender
recommends this tube for use in the tweed reissue Bassman. I like the GZ34/5AR4
in those a lot better.
(5AR4) Chinese GZ34
This is the tube that came in almost all
blackface amps with a rectifier tube, some brown amps that came with a
rectifier tube, and the tweed Bassman and Twin. They were usually branded
as Mullards or Amperexes (but made by Mullard). It is an indirectly heated
dual diode. This tube gives the least sag of all rectifier tubes mentioned
here. They give the highest B+ of any tube mentioned here. Filament draw
is 1.9 amps. NOS examples of this tube are very expensive. Mullards go
commonly for $50 - $60 a piece (or more). At this price, the Chinese version
is a viable option. This tube is my favorite rectifier tube in blackface
and silverface amps. They are almost solid state in their response. Installing
the GZ34 in an amp with any other tubes mentioned above will increase voltages
and reduce sag (if the amp draws enough current over the rectifier to cause
it to sag). This may give a pleasing sound to you, but be warned: the voltage
increase may cause problems. Parts that have been working together for
25 years sometimes don't react well to increasing voltage on them. Also,
you don't want to install a GZ34/5AR4 in a Deluxe Reverb or Princeton Reverb
that came stock with a 5U4GB. This will increase voltages and those
6V6's are already way beyond their limits in these amps! This tube works
nice in the reissue Fender Bassman. It gives a bit of sag where the stock
solid state rectifier doesn't. If you like headroom and punch, then leave
the solid state rectifier in. This tube also comes stock in the reissue
Marshall JTM45 and Bluesbreaker.
This is a British military rectifier tube,
mostly made by Mullard as far as I know. Not to be confused with the GZ34.
It's a neat looking tube for sure! It's very tall and has an ST shaped
bottle (it has a shoulder). It has a neat brown base too. The plates are
spot welded and sutured as well. It drops voltage a bit less than a 5U4GB.
The 5U4GB dropped 5 more volts in my Super Reverb (430 plate volts for
5U4GB vs. 435-436 for the GZ37). The filament draw is 3 amps. This would
make an ideal substitute for a 5U4GB if you have the space in your amp
(these are maybe an inch taller than a regular 5U4GB). Once again, don't
install it in an amp that the filament tap isn't up to it.
This is a plug in replacement for a tube
rectifier. It's made with silicon diodes, similar to what the blackface
Twin Reverb, Bandmaster, Bassman, Showman and others came stock with. Installing
this will give more power, and no sag (none associated with the rectifier
anyway). Many people like these in their blackface/silverface amps. They
make the amp louder, tighter, and more responsive to pick attack. Notes
jump more. Now on to the warning part: This thing may cause problems
in your amp! The solid state rectifier increases voltages in the amp
that may cause weak and old components to fail. An example of this: I put
one of these in an amp for a friend. After a week or so the amp started
popping really loud, like at speaker blowing levels. It turned out to be
a bad cathode bypass cap. The increased stress the solid state rectifier
put on the amp probably caused this component to fail. It failed at a gig,
and wasn't a pleasant experience for the customers at the bar! I like
the way an amp sounds with a solid state rectifier installed quite a bit.
The tightness and punch are cool. It's worth a try for sure. The solid
state rectifier should never be installed in a stock blackface/silverface
Deluxe Reverb, Princeton Reverb, Champ or Vibro-Champ. Also, it is
important that you get your amp rebiased if you are going to the solid
state rectifier from a tube one.
What is Filament Draw?
The filament in a tube is the part that
heats it up and gets the electron party going. Different tubes have different
current draws. As far as filament draw is concerned, it is always OK to
go to a tube with a lower filament draw. BUT, don't forget the other things
that a particular tube will do! Going to a tube that has a higher filament
draw is sometimes OK. BUT, there's no guarantee that putting the extra
load on the power transformer isn't going to blow it! As a general rule,
I always keep the filament draw on the rectifier tap where it came stock
or lower. Reissue Bassmans are good for either the 5U4GB or the GZ34/5AR4.
Other things to consider
when installing a different rectifier tube.
When you change the rectifier tube in
an amp, it changes the voltages in an amp. This will affect bias. When
installing a different rectifier tube, especially from one that gives a
greater drop to one that has a lower drop (ex: 5U4GB to GZ34/5AR4), it
will cause the amp to be biased differently. This needs to be checked/adjusted
when you change this tube. Any time you change the rectifier tube to
a different type, you should have the amp biased. Some techs may call
what I'm explaining here hogwash or just plain too conservative, but I
like amps to work properly so I stand behind this. Old amps that have worked
for many many years don't always like to get things changed around on them.
Sometimes they will let you know in short order that they didn't like it!
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Last updated 11/19/00