Jeff Bobrofsky Lectrolab R800 Project
I got this email from Jeff Bobrofsky:
Here are the long awaited photos and restoration story of my amp, as promised. Feel free to edit the story as you see necessary. I would be honored to have the restoration project posted on your website(s). Please acknowledge that you received this, as my first e-mail to you got caught by your spam filter. Thanks!
(Click on images to see larger version)
Cliff Babcock, our lead guitar player, found this amp this summer, abandoned and left OUTDOORS, obviously given up for dead. Almost all of the paint had blistered off of the top mounted control panel and the knobs had rust rings in the chrome inserts from water pooling in them. We believe it to be a 60s era Lectrolab R800. The best info I have found for dating and identification is on the Harpamps.com site.
It has a top mounted control panel like the 700 but has dual channels like the 900 series head. Two- EL-84, Four-12AX7 and Two -6AV6 tubes in a push-pull configuration, 18 watts, all point to point wiring. It was loaded with two mismatched 12 inch speakers and a 2 inch tweeter. All were toast. Contrary to Harpamp's information though, the cab is solid 3/4 inch plywood with a leather handle. The covering is cheap, a poor man's black tolex if you will, but it's in surprisingly good shape and has a nice leather handle. The amp was completely disassembled for restoration. The control panel was painted a nice bronze color. All pots and switches were cleaned and lubed and several tube sockets were loose and needed tightening. Now for the surprise...
Credit for this idea goes to Wayne Welch, Battle Creek, Michigan tube guru. Wayne is retired, but spent his career as an authorized factory service rep for several organ manufacturers. Wayne is also an accomplished musician, currently playing bass in a country band. In discussing harmonica frequencies and band dynamics, Wayne suggested 6 X 9 Organ speakers for the amp. Evidently the length of throw from the voice coil is ideal for the frequency range the harp operates in. At first I scratched my head because I was already thinking about a 4 X 8 or 2 X 10 configuration. Then the light went on! I remembered when the Hammond B-3 player joined my former band in 2001. It took exactly ONE gig to discover that the Hammond organ and the amplified harp operated in the same frequency range and that we couldn't share the same end of the stage. Neither of us could hear ourselves or the other guy play. We spent the next three years gigging on opposite ends of the stage for that very reason.
I got on E-Bay and on the first search found (2) Jensen Special Design, 16 Ohm 6 X 9 Alnicos from a 1959 Leslie cabinet in excellent condition for $40.00. They were manufactured in Chicago and the amp was made in nearby Cicero, completing the Illinois mojo/vibe. In a week they were in my hands. In another week they were in the amp, wired parallel. We opted for a side by side speaker configuration to maximize sound dispersion width across the stage.
Credit for the restoration/resurrection goes to Randy Draper, guitar player in my band, sound man, techno wiz and all around good guy. Randy cut a new soundboard and baffle cleats for the 6 X 9s and covered it with NOS vintage 60s Fender grill cloth he had been saving for just such an occasion. New heavy duty rubber feet completed the project. The amp weighs in at a solid 40 pounds, still 13 pounds lighter than the Fender RI Bassman. It is slightly wider than the Bassman at 26 inches but not quite as tall. I suppose homely would be a good way to describe it. A big nondescript black box. But it's my new secret weapon and I will enjoy having fun with the inquiries, I'm sure.
Now for the good part...the sound. All I can say is WOW! About 33% of the volume gate is plenty sufficient. It only has one tone control and about 33% of that seems optimum as well for harp. The tone from the 6 X 9s is fat and full, the best horn-like harp tone I have encountered in my years of amplified playing. It covers the entire frequency range of the harp from deep ballsy lower end to clean high end without harshness or sounding brittle. It seems to prefer the cleaner signal of the Green Bullet as the amp already provides its own overdrive and tonal coloration, but it sounds great with the JT30 Blaster as well.
I gigged with the amp last Saturday for the first time. We had a raucous garage party/jam for my 50th Birthday and the Lectrolab kept up with anyone and anything on the stage, including a Fender Twin. It just sounded awesome and the tone has inspired my playing to say the least. I've got many positive unsolicited comments from friends and congratulations on the amp acquisition from all of the musicians. What a great birthday gift!