Author Topic: Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?  (Read 323 times)

Offline Jadam

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Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?
« on: February 28, 2019, 04:33:37 PM »
Hi all,

First post after gleaning so much great info on this site to get me started on my "restoration-lite" of my late '76 mark I suitcase. Thank you all for that!

Here's my question:

Many have noted - and I would agree - that the suitcase sound is a bit muddy. I also have a 70s SF Twin, which sounds great, but using this via the accessory jack, you lose the trem and easy access volume/Eq controls from the front panel. I would like to get some sparkle back in the suitcase. Assume, for argument’s sake, that all voicing/regulation has already been done and the rhodes itself plays/sounds perfectly prior to amplification (in reality this is all still in process).  I have read separate threads on many of these options but it's not clear to me which 1) has the overall greatest impact on the sound 2) has greatest impact on sound per $ spent

So: if I want to keep using the suitcase only, and want it to sound its best (like it does, for example, thru a DI - meaning full frequency response), which has the most effect on the sound?

Options:

1. Rebuild electronics in peterson preamp (through a kit) ($)
2. Replace peterson preamp with something like the VV stereovibe preamp ($$)
3. Add a BBE sonic maximizer (or EQ, or other pre-amp) to the effects loop ($)
4. Rebuild peterson power amp(s) ($ - $$)
5. Replace peterson power amps(s) with some like the VV power amp or the Borish power amp ($$$)
6. Replace the suitcase speakers ($$$)
7. Add external power to the preamp and send to stereo PA ($$)
8. Some combination of the above

Looking forward to getting opinions!
« Last Edit: February 28, 2019, 11:43:27 PM by Jadam »

Offline goldphinga

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Re: Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2019, 04:54:36 AM »
If the original Peterson is working as it should, they sound great stock. I'd experiment trying a few different pedals in the FX loop first. There's also a tweeter mod you can do but I havent done it myself, Im very happy with the stock Peterson sound.

Offline Tim Hodges

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Re: Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2019, 07:05:12 AM »
I agree with Dan, failing that I would go with Option 6, then Option 5.
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Offline Jadam

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Re: Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2019, 12:24:07 PM »
Thanks for the responses.

The difficult thing to know is how “good” stock suitcases can sound. Mine (and probably most, I suspect) is very bass-y and the treble only comes out when turned all the way up and with bass all or most of the way the way down. The window for some sparkle is very small if non-existent. I do like the bass response - especially awesome for any music requiring left hand bass. But when you need to comp it’s more of a burden.

I will try a bbe sonic maximizer first in the effects loop and see what that does. Certainly one of the least expensive options.

Offline pnoboy

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Re: Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2019, 04:08:43 PM »
The suitcase piano has a bassy sound due, in part, to 4 12" speakers in a closed cabinet.  Additionally, in some years, Fender supplied the same speakers used with the Fender Bassman amplifier, which were dull sounding.  Years ago, I had great success in taking out the 4 original 4-ohm speakers and putting in 2, 8-ohm speakers facing the audience.  I left the other openings where the 2 rear-facing speakers were, empty, which was critical to the improved sound.  The Peterson preamp has a 33k input impedance, which isn't horrible, but the piano will have more sparkle with an input impedance above 100k.  Also, the Peterson preamp has a treble rolloff built in.  Perhaps the preamp was noisy, and the rolloff was to diminish some of the noise.  Also, the Peterson power amp, even by 1980s standards, was an anachronism, and IMO entirely unworthy of a rebuild.  In general, the Peterson electronics might have been a competent design back in the mid to late 60s (?) when it was designed, but by today's standards, it doesn't have much to recommend it, IMO.  BTW, I am a highly experienced and qualified EE with lots of experience in analog and audio design, so I'm not just shooting off my mouth.  I can't comment on the VV preamp, as I have never seen its schematic.

I might also mention that most Rhodes pianos will sound better with a preamp that has a filter that puts an adjustable notch in the preamp's frequency response around 200 Hz or so.  I believe there are some Rhodes preamps, either old and out of design, or new, that offer this feature.  I believe that Avion Studios' newly announced preamp may have this feature.

Offline Jadam

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Re: Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2019, 05:45:02 PM »
Years ago, I had great success in taking out the 4 original 4-ohm speakers and putting in 2, 8-ohm speakers facing the audience.  I left the other openings where the 2 rear-facing speakers were, empty, which was critical to the improved sound. 

Were you still able to monitor your own playing in this config (whether live or no)? More to the point, did the improved sound more than offset not being able to hear yourself as well (if that’s a true statement)?

I might also mention that most Rhodes pianos will sound better with a preamp that has a filter that puts an adjustable notch in the preamp's frequency response around 200 Hz or so.  I believe there are some Rhodes preamps, either old and out of design, or new, that offer this feature.  I believe that Avion Studios' newly announced preamp may have this feature.

Is this the “retroflier” or something else? I thought the retroflier was a stage preamp replacement, but I could be wrong on that.

Offline pnoboy

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Re: Improve Amplified Sound: Best Bang for Buck Upgrade?
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2019, 03:48:25 PM »
You can hear yourself just fine, because sound comes out of the holes where the speakers were.  If you want to hear yourself even better, get a stage piano and put an amp behind you or next to you.