This week we had a chat with our guitar amp technician Jim Leggett. Be sure to check out our interview from a few weeks ago, featuring Rick McMurray, the drummer for Ash.
Q: What made you decide to start repairing amplifiers?
I have always had a passion for the warm sound that valve amplifiers produce. Being a keen guitarist and having a background in electronics ignited my interest in repairing and restoring vintage amplifiers.
Q: How did you learn your trade, did you have to go to university?
I trained as a radio & electronics engineer with PYE, part of the Philips group, in the 1970’s. Valves were still in everyday use in radio transmitters, and the principles of valve theory were still being taught at my old college in Glasgow.
Q: Did you have guitar lessons as a child?
My mother bought me an acoustic guitar when I was nine years old from Cuthbertson’s music shop in Glasgow. I attended lessons given by their young guitar salesman, a fellow called Hugh Burns. Hugh went on to become a successful session musician playing the lead guitar on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street as well as becoming the musical director for George Michael.
Q: What is your favourite brand of amp and why?
I have many favourites. I own a Marshall valvestate which uses a valve “front end” which delivers a real mellow sound. VOX amplifiers are a particular favourite and have a wonderful heritage. However, my favourite amplifier is not a valve amp; it is the Roland Micro Cube. This great little amp delivers a range of bright and punchy sounds and can run on its internal batteries, this means I can take my guitar outdoors and enjoy playing in the sunshine.
Q: Do you prefer building amps or repairing them?
I’ve never really got into the design and development of amplifiers. I much prefer repairing and refurbishing old amplifiers. It’s good to be able to give them a second lease on life.
Q: What is your primary goal in your business?
Repairing amplifiers is a tiny part of my overall business activity. Today mainstream amplifiers are mostly manufactured in India or China and once they are out of warranty can be uneconomical to repair. It is only worth repairing high-end valves and solid state equipment. However, my aim now is to buy and restore old valve amps and resell them, instead of fixing new amps.
Q: What do you think is the very best electric guitar money can buy?
I own Fender and Ibanez, but I would like to own a PRS. These are wonderful guitars, but I have become impressed with the new range of Epiphone guitars. They have excellent build quality, and onboard electronics plus they share the Gibson heritage but at a fraction of the cost.
Q: What do you think is the very best acoustic guitar?
I think both the Martin & Taylor range of acoustics have a wonderful sound, however, I do love the beauty of the Gibson Hummingbird as well. Once again my favourite is the Epiphone range of jumbo acoustic guitars. These guitars come equipped with their E-Sonic advanced transducer pick up arrangement. In my opinion, this is a very impressive and well thought out electronics package. Add this to their excellent build quality, and you have a fantastic guitar.
Q: Do you have any amp maintenance tips for beginners?
My main maintenance advice to anyone with a guitar amplifier is to take care when plugging and unplugging the jack. By far the most common fault on the amplifiers I see is dry solder joints on the pcb connections of the input jack sockets. Taking a gentler approach will help reliability and prolong the life of the amp.
Jim is available for guitar amp repairs and can be reached by phone at 07836 503292 or check out his website.