Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Rig talk.

Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Mr. Mom » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:22 am

Looking for something at least as loud as a MB LMII.

Pre-Gibson? How to tell if it is "pre-Gibson"? What models(s) should I look for? Blahblahblahblah....

Let the edumacation begin.
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'Cause I don't wear Tonto's underwear.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Happy Face » Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:47 am

On the older models, SMX means it has a tube (single 12AX7) preamp while a SM does not.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby felig » Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:03 am

As far as I know, the "AH" prefix refers to the head being mounted in the UV illuminated box. (BTW, it took me a while with my first AH350SMX to find the little rocker switch that allows you to switch the UV tube on & off--just a FWIW to fellow luddites). Also in the SM vs SMX features--the SM is a 7 band preamp while the SMX is a 12 band--as I recall, there are a couple of other features that the SMX has. For some reason, I've always preferred the sound of an SM to the more elaborate SMX.

I don't know much about Gibson vs. pre/post Gibson. Wasn't Peavey also in the mix? It seems there was an even earlier USA distributor back in the mid-80's--I don't remember who. I'm not familiar with current or recent Trace products--I don't know if I've had any experience with anything more recent than the mid-90s or earlier. The big rig 1518 speaker (single 15" that is in a cabinet that is bigger than most single 18" cabs & weighs about as much as a 2-18" cabinet would) seems to be a perennial product in the Trace line.

What ones are as loud as a MB LMII? I don't know, send me your MB & I'll try to give you an opinion.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Psycho Bass Guy » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:01 am

Mr. Mom wrote:Looking for something at least as loud as a MB LMII.


The smallest (130 watts IIRC) head they made ought to do that wth ease, no kidding.

Pre-Gibson? How to tell if it is "pre-Gibson"?


...meaningless by now. If the amp works and is for sale, it's not one of the Kaman and later Gibson era amps that did the brand in. Trace started out as a high end PA company in the late 70's and got into bass amps later. Since the stuff was imported from England in the 80's, it was VERY expensive but had a stellar reputation for tone and reliability. That all changed a few years after Kaman Music became Trace's US distributor in the early 90's. The prices were still high, but the amps had lots of problems and lots of models never made it into stores because of shipping screw-ups. When Gibson bought Trace outright later, it seemed that they did everything in their power to kill the brand: amps showed at NAMM never shipped, top selling models were discontinued, and the entire bass line took a backseat to very problematic and even priceier guitar and acoustic amps, and service was all but impossible through Gibson.

Trace languished as Gibson sold off its old inventory, until Peavey bought it few years ago. Unfortunately, the damage to its rep done by Kaman and Gibson coupled with the then-weakness of the dollar versus the pound and the later global economic downturn has left these great amps priced out of reach to most players. Today, used Trace amps are some of the best values to be had. They do have a "signature" tone which is somewhat bright and aggressive, but they go plenty deep and get loud as hell for their ratings. All my Trace amps are the rare tube models, but their solid state amps are awesome, and I would not hesitate to use one. The Commando 12 and 15 are THE best small combo amps out there for portable gigging and practice, IMO.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Mr. Mom » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:19 am

Ask and ye shall receive. Thanks!!

So basically, if it is for sale and working and used, it's from the "good" era of Trace Elliot.
I don't know and I don't care,
'Cause I don't wear Tonto's underwear.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Psycho Bass Guy » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:24 am

Mr. Mom wrote:So basically, if it is for sale and working and used, it's from the "good" era of Trace Elliot.


Yep. Most of the problems with the amps were usually minor QC issues, and easily repaired, so chances are, if the amp works, it doesn't matter when it was made.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Mr. Mom » Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:18 am

Psycho Bass Guy wrote:
Mr. Mom wrote:So basically, if it is for sale and working and used, it's from the "good" era of Trace Elliot.


Yep. Most of the problems with the amps were usually minor QC issues, and easily repaired, so chances are, if the amp works, it doesn't matter when it was made.



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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby felig » Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:25 pm

Psycho guy said:

"The smallest (130 watts IIRC) head they made ought to do that wth ease, no kidding."

That's what I gave my daughter, along with one of my old 1153 cabs. She's used it for years as her only gigging amp & she plays a lot of medium venues:

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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby TSanders » Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:49 pm

I had an AH-1200 that I got from Fred in exchange for an Ashdown.

MAN, that thing was LOUD. I ran it with two EBMM HD-210 cabs and it could level small cities with little effort. The Trace stuff has always sounded good to my ear.

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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Gil Escalera » Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:05 pm

A little Trace Elliot education

When Trace Elliot first came across the pond to the US their naming convention was really simple. As time marched on it got more convoluted. Here is the original naming convention used by TE.

AH = Amplifier Head; the number following the AH was the wattage, and the number following the dash was the number of equaliser bands (i.e. AH300-7 = Amplifier Head, 300W, 7 bands)
GP = Graphic Preamp; the number following the GP was the number of equaliser bands. They first used 11 bands, then they standardized to 7 and 12 (i.e. GP7, GP12)
SM = Sound Management; this was their name for their "new" more flexible preamp (i.e. AH150SM GP7; note: at this point they started printing a GP7 or GP12 on the front panel)
SMC = Sound Management C series: this referenced the inclusion of a dual band compressor. Two compressors are used, however the controls for these two compressors used one rotary control that adjusts the compression level for both the HIGH and LOW frequency compressors simultaneously. (i.e. AH250SMC GP7)
SMX = Sound Management X series: this referenced the inclusion of a dual independent band compressor. Two entirely separate compressors, one optimised for LOW frequencies and one optimised for HIGH frequencies, but both individually adjustable by the user. It also referenced the inclusion of an INPUT BLEND control which allows you to select the signal to drive the rest of the preamp from two entirely separate FRONT END circuits. One being a SOLID STATE circuit using an FET to provide a very high impedance input, the other being a VALVE stage, also providing a high impedance but in addition adding that something extra that only a valve can. Any mix of these two input stages can be selected using the INPUT BLEND control. It also referenced the inclusion of an adjustable CROSSOVER section found on the rear panel of the larger STEREO units. (i.e. AH600SMX GP12)

As far as speaker cabinet designations went, the first TWO digits represented the speaker size, the THIRD digit represented the number of speakers, and the FOURTH digit represented the ohmage of the cabinet. If there was a letter H tagged on at the end, that represented a high frequency HORN. So...

1048 = 10" x 4 @ 8 ohms
1028H = 10" x 2 @ 8 ohms w/Horn
1524 = 15" x 2 @ 4 ohms
1818 = 18" x 1 @ 8 ohms

The first units were all TOLEX. The rat fur came later. My first TE rig was an AH150-11 and a 1514; still have it. [smilie=grinning-smiley-003.gif]
I also have an AH250SMX GP12 that I usually use into an Eden D210XLT or Genz Benz LS112T. [smilie=cool-smiley-031.gif]

- Gil
To "B" or not to "B"... that is the question. ;)
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby steveonbass » Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:50 pm

I had a GP12 when they first came out. I hated the sound and found myself tweaking it between every song until it broke - repeatedly - Easily the worst amp purchase I ever made. I am not a fan.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby Mr. Mom » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:27 pm

Again: Thanks!! All those letters and numbers are starting to make sense I I peruse the used gear classifieds.

Another question: What's the "Series 6" thing about? As in AH300 Series 6?
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby andrew » Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:43 pm

Psycho Bass Guy wrote:They do have a "signature" tone which is somewhat bright and aggressive, but they go plenty deep and get loud as hell for their ratings.


Bright, aggressive and loud as hell is my favorite tone. [smilie=grinning-smiley-044.gif]

No wonder I'm a Trace fan.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby El Tookay » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:48 pm

The Mk 6 series heralded the beginning of the Kaman era of distribution, along with the SM and SMX range. Mark Gooday left Trace Elliot in late 1995/ early 1996 (some say that was the beginning of the end...), and around the same time, Trace went to the green rat-fur coverings. The SMC range was all Gibson's doing. During the Kaman era, Trace brought out the400 watt VA-400,and the QuattraValve and HexaValve amps which were frighteningly loud, 200+ and 300+ British watts each. Later came the V4, V6 and the uber-rare V8 heads along with two hybrid heads, the V300H and V600H which were based around the Trace V-type pre-amp, a slightly different take on the Alembic F-1X.

I have owned a bunch of Trace amps, and have never had a problem with any of them. The 7-band SM series gets a sound quicker, but you can really tweak on the SMX series. I had an AH-250 with the GP-11 EQ,and that thing was built to withstand nuclear war- the two power reserve caps were bigger than Heineken mini-kegs. Big and heavy as hell by todays standards, but they can still cut through the murkiest Marshall stack like a razor through cotton. Best part is now they can be had for 'a buck a watt' or less.
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Re: Trace Amps: Edumacate Me

Postby felig » Mon Sep 07, 2009 6:58 am

"The first units were all TOLEX. The rat fur came later."

The first Traces that I remember were in some molded, industrial plastic-looking, cabinets. When our daughter was pretty young, we took a vacation to Michigan, & I saw a used Trace rig in this type of cabinet--I think the company logo may have even been molded into the head cab. I don't recall if the speaker cab was in the same style, it was years ago. I just remember that I wanted it bad, but the spousal censor prevailed.
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