1961 Gibson GA-79RVT
Vintage Amp Replacement Challenge
Writer Rod Brakes Guitarist & Journalist
Having parted ways with a classic amp – a 1961 Gibson GA-79RVT – Rod is on the hunt for an alternative, as he discovers that he may need to look beyond the obvious
Finding a replacement for my 1961 Gibson GA-79 RVT amp has been a challenge. In fact, it brings to mind Captain Lawrence Oates’ famous last words before he stepped out into an Antarctic blizzard, never to be seen again: “I may be some time”. I knew I’d be up against it, but the further I pushed on with putting dozens of reverb/tremolo combos through their paces while practising, writing, recording, rehearsing and gigging, the more I came to accept that this impossible journey was going to leave me cold. The ’61 GA-79 is absolutely one of a kind. And you cannot replace what is unique.
As much as we guitar players indulge in an impulse buy, we are also prone to an impulse sell. At such moments, we’re often more focused on finances and justifying the transaction rather than daily practical use. Usually the full extent of our impulsivity becomes clearer further down the line when we ask,‘How useful is this, really?’
Making good decisions, by navigating the grey area between owning what you need and owning what you want, can mean the difference between being focused and productive, or spreading yourself too thinly and suffering the gnawing pangs of Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.
As us gearheads know, to some degree, spur-of-the-moment buying or selling decisions are always a bit of a gamble. If it does turn out to be a successful impulse buy/ sell, then congratulations. On the other hand, dealing with the fallout of an unsuccessful impulse buy can be as simple as flogging it on eBay. So I believe that it’s actually the successful impulse sell that tends to elicit the most enduring sense of regret.
When it came to laying my anguish about selling the Gibson to rest, the following options were available: wallow in regret; find a distraction; settle for second best; or, live in hope. I’m not comfortable with any of these, so I came up with an alternative approach, which was… find an alternative approach. Time for some advice from an expert in guiding players through the maze of tone – That Pedal Show’s Dan Steinhardt.
After enlightening me on the endless creative possibilities offered by The GigRig G2 system, which allows one-touch control over whole arrays of analogue and digital pedals, my horizons were suddenly broadened and everything quickly fell into place. Instead of looking for an amp that could directly replace the rich tone of the Gibson as my baseline sound, I decided to look to pedals to provide an ultimately flexible system capable of going anywhere, tonally speaking, as need dictated. Using my ’79 Marshall 2203 along with my ’68 4x12 greenback Celestion G12M cab (bought together in ’96 for £350!) as a blank canvas for high-quality effects pedals, suddenly my tonal options felt limited only by my imagination (rather than tied to a single piece of cherished vintage hardware).
With Dan’s pro-level ’board-building skills on tap, I set about assembling an array of pedals that could evoke my favourite soundscapes, including some reverbs and delays that might replace the Gibson’s atmospheric sound. For any interested pedal nerds, here’s the full lineup (as pictured above/left): 1977 Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi; Electro-Harmonix Micro Synthesizer (24V); 1970s fOXX Tone Machine; 1974 MXR Phase 90; Free The Tone AS-1R Ambi Space; Chase Bliss Audio Gravitas; Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall RKM; Analog Man King of Tone; Analog Man Sun Lion (white dot NKT-275); The GigRig G2; The GigRig QuarterMaster; The GigRig Bank Manager; Planet Waves Tru-Strobe; Roger Mayer Bel Air Wah; Mission Engineering Aero EP-25-PRO (left of ’board); Analog Man Chorus (under top layer), Boss DD-5 Digital Delay with Dinosaural ‘dry kill’ mod and finally The GigRig Remote Loopy 2. Phew! That’s plenty to be getting on with...
Ultimately, the frenzied aftermath of selling my amp proved to be the much-needed catalyst for change. Having been shaken up with the loss of perhaps the finest amp I ever had the pleasure of owning, taking a new path with The GigRig G2 has enhanced my musicmaking beyond any previous expectations.
“As much as we guitar players indulge in an impulse buy, we are also prone to an impulse sell”
Rod’s impressive ’board is built around TheGigRig G2 switching system
Sometimes only real spring reverb will do