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epf1961 04/27/2018

Silvertone Smart IIIs : epf1961's user review

« Good Amp for Jazz but Better With Mods (See Details) »

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Value For Money : Excellent Audience: Anyone
I'm a jazz musician, and I use this amp to "busk" outdoors solo using a hollow body archtop with a floating humbucker. I don’t need a lot of volume but I savor a mellow, rich jazz tone with clarity of chords. (I play mainly standards, chord-melody style.) I play it clean but I find I get some extra power and still maintain a clean sound with the "drive" button pressed in but keeping the rotary drive control rolled back completely. I bought this amp cheap at Bookman's and have used it for several months as-is, but recently became dissatisfied with the tone quality, so I did some research and modified it. Per my research, a closed-back cabinet increases bottom end and overall projection (it appears most bass amps have closed backs for that reason), so I built and installed a solid rear panel (the stock one has a hole in the middle). But even with that, the sound was still not where I needed it—Kind of murky and undefined. So then I focused on replacing the speaker. The stock speaker has no power or impedance markings, and online specs do not reveal impedance, so I tested it with my multi-meter and it read 10 Ohms, which is about as close to 8 as I needed to choose between 4 and 8. (Most small guitar speakers are either 4 or 8). Then after much research (actually there aren’t many choices on the market for a 6.5” low-power speaker) I chose the Jensen MOD 6-15. It is an 8-Ohm, 15-watt, 6.5" unit. The amp is rated at 10 watts with a 26-watt peak, so a 15-watt speaker seemed a perfect choice. With shipping and tax it cost about $30, which is pretty much what I paid for the amp, but I went for it in the name of better sound! When I removed the old speaker, I was surprised at how much heavier and beefier the Jensen is, and also the magnet is much larger. It was basically a drop-in replacement, I just had to substitute longer screws because the rim of the Jensen is thicker. When I first played through it, the sound justified the time and expense: I find that the Jensen is more sensitive, so that I can achieve more volume with the same settings. Also, there is a richer low-end and a huge improvement in the clarity of complex chords. I also find it a 100% improvement to play with the amp “on its back” with the speaker facing up. With the amp in the standard position, the sound is changed/attenuated so you can’t really hear what you truly sound like. So, all in all, the amp is suitable for jazz with a little elbow grease and a $30 Jensen speaker. I know I could have achieved the same result by starting with a better amp (dedicated "boutique" jazz amps tend to be pricey), but such as it is, this is a good setup for now.