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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink The '63 Fender Reverb Unit. A Must Have?

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This may be helpful to other newcomers, like me, or anybody really. Ok, so I'm new to the surf sound, as some of you already know. And here is what I've learned: From what I've read many people think that the '63 Fender Reverb Unit is a must have for surf guitar.

For those who don't know, the reverb unit is a stand alone reverb "effect" that you hook up to any amp, though instead of being digital like a pedal/stompbox, the reverb unit looks like an amp head and is driven by analog tubes. Inside are several springs in a tank filled with oil (I think), these springs are the key to great reverb.

While many Fender combo amps that contain a speaker(s) have built-in reverb that is pretty great already, the "power" is purposely restricted somewhat because it is housed so close to the speaker, which causes the springs to vibrate/crash/noise. The Reverb Unit is self contained and therefore able to do its job really well, with more power, and without incessant spring crashing (unless you kick it). Combined with a Fender amp that has built-in reverb, this tank will let you open up Davy Jones' locker of reverb!

I know I want one, but I doubt I can afford an original '63, so the reissue will have to suffice. And from what I've read, the reissue, while not being "exact" to an original, comes real close, and is still considered the best outboard reverb tank money can buy. And, it can even be upgraded if you like with a new capacitor (the Nebulas did this for their '63 tanks), and NOS tubes for even deeper tone. A link to a guide on how to perform these mods can be found on the main site under 'web links' under the 'gear' section.

A new Reissue '63 Reverb Unit costs $716 MSRP, but more commonly sells for under $500 brand new from a dealer, with used reissues selling for even less.

So what do you all think, is the ’63 Reverb Unit just as much a staple of surf sound as the Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Strat, and Mosrite guitars?

Do you own one? Would you like to?

~Ace

I'm Batman...No not <I>that</I> Batman. :p

Acehaze
So what do you all think, is the ’63 Reverb Unit just as much a staple of surf sound as the Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Strat, and Mosrite guitars?

Do you own one? Would you like to?

~Ace

A tank is a must!
Once you play through one there is no going back.

The Thunderchiefs

krupanut
A tank is a must!
Once you play through one there is no going back.

Truer words have not been spoken. Very Happy

I bought mine new in the box for $335 or something through eBay.

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

In my opinion it's more important for THE sound to get your guitar plugged through a Fender reverb tank into a big Fender tube amp than to play a Fender or Mosrite guitar. My band actually switched from 2 Jaguars and a Rickenbaker bass to '64 matching 4-pickup Teisco guitars and bass.

http://www.myspace.com/losderrumbes

Guitartrader.com has 'em for $379 with free shipping. Can't beat that:

http://tinyurl.com/g23du

Ace,
your learning grasshoper, keep up the good work.
Althought their is a reverb called a oil can, I don't know if that actually
has oil in it but may look like a oil can, or something, but I believe those came out in the 70's. The Old 6o's reverbs only had springs inside a metal pan or box, No Oil in those. Though there is a foam dampener that is used in transport as to not shake the springs while in transport.
As for if you need a reverb it all depends on the sound your going for.
If it's traditionl drip like the Astronauts,Chabntay(old) or Satan's Pilgrims or Nebulas for new. Then you gotta have it. If your going for a middle of the road sound like the Belairs(old)Insect Surfers(new) a built in reverb will do. Then there is way out there Modern Progressive instro bands like the Mermen who use digital rack mount delays that have long repating
loops or huge cavernous echo type sounds, instead of the tight drip of traditional surf. Figure out what style yuo wanna play, then that will help you figure out what you need. Practice alot, and listen to alot of different bands to see what's out there.
Jeff(bigtikidude)

Jeff(bigtikidude)

Vendo
Guitartrader.com has 'em for $379 with free shipping. Can't beat that:

http://tinyurl.com/g23du

Awww, man. What are you doing to me. I can't pass up that deal. Peanut Butter sandwiches for another week!

Ace,
I agree with the post that a good reverb tank is as important
to a good surf guitar sound as the guitar you use. I bought a
used '63 reissue for $250.00, and it KILLS!!! Twisted Evil

 A lot of the guys here swear by the originals. Many also like

the reissue just fine. The reissues can be modded to original specs.
My reissue has not been modded, and to me sounds great. "Big
Tiki Dude"'s post is right on the money, too. For a trad sound,
the reverb tank is a must. For progressive and "other" types of
sounds, it may not be necessary. There is no oil in the tank.

 Since, I've gotten the reverb tank, I'll never go back: for

surf, blues, rock'n'roll, or anything else I play.

Good luck,

Bob S.

Bob

RobbieReverb
A lot of the guys here swear by the originals. Many also like
the reissue just fine. The reissues can be modded to original specs.
My reissue has not been modded, and to me sounds great. "Big
Tiki Dude"'s post is right on the money, too. For a trad sound,
the reverb tank is a must. For progressive and "other" types of
sounds, it may not be necessary. There is no oil in the tank.
Bob S.

Wouldn't modding a reissue to original specs be a lot of work? Point to point wiring, etc. The reissue can be modded to sound very much like an original, but "original specs"?

"as he stepped into the stealthy night air... little did he know the fire escape was not there"

https://www.facebook.com/reluctantaquanauts/
https://www.facebook.com/TheDragstripVipers/

The "Oil Tank" reverb unit is the Tel-Ray. You can learn about this oddity here:

http://geocities.com/tel_ray/

http://www.myspace.com/losderrumbes

Wow, those Tel-Ray's are cool looking! That site is awesome! Thanks for sharing! Shocked

=Ace

I'm Batman...No not <I>that</I> Batman. :p

Some notes ... real short ...

  • oil can echo is actually a delay, has oil in it (to accomodate the turning of a box in a box sorta thing, I suspect it works a bit like binson echo's) and I don't think they have anything to do with surf music! but they look very cool, i was recently outbid on one. Fender made them, just as other brands did. don't know to much more about them though.

reverb tank is not a "MUST HAVE" - apart from food and shelter nothing is and i'd rather stimulate the financially challenged to achieve the best possible and use it to make music then to strive for something that's out of reach.
that being said, a tube reverb tank is THE most important part of THAT vintage surf sound. - if you choose in what to invest first, go for the tank. a lame strat copy into a tube reverb unit into cheap solid state practice amp actually sounds surfier then an awesome vintage JM into a great fender tube amp sans reverb. imho.
standard tubedriven onboard reverb is a good second - but you'd need to buy a reverb equiped amp, only to later want to change to an outboard unit anyway. (been there, done that)

the RI tank mods don't bring it to vintage specs, bill is right. it's got different components, completly different power section, and differnet contruction. changing the tubes DOES vintagify it, the much revered cap mod doesn't: the vintage units had the same 250pF tonecap which the RI has. it does improve the sound on some units, according to some. (including me - but many disagree)

the difference between onboard tube reverb and output tube reverb is in the tube driver (which 'feeds' the springs) mainly. the reverb unit uses an output tube, onboard reverb uses a way less powerfull preamp tube. metaphorically, an outboard just pushes the sound through the springs a lot harder.... think of it this way. onboard reverb is like accidently slipping some gas... outboard reverb is like tightning your ass muscles and apply all power you've got till your face turns red - now, what do you think will make you fart louder? sorry for that analogy....

main problem with the newest units is the tray/pan (the thing wuith the actual springs in it) itself, according to the FDP, appearantly, over the last couple of years, (sound)quality of the accutronics tanks has decreased rapidly. in any case, they have always been varying in sound, and there is therefor by definition an unpredictability when getting a tube tank - vintage trays on ebay get more then what they cost new, so there you go. all fwiw, i'm just citing the fdp here.

alternatives:
- Fender vintage tank
- fender RI tank
- guyatone reverb tank (pseudo-endorsed by the nebulas)
- Cosmoverb reverb tank (from italy)
- Weber kit reverb tank
- a lot of 'boutique-like' builders make clones too, don't know 'em from the top of my head.

cheap pedal alternative:
- Electro-harmonics holy grail
- digitech digiverb
- line6 verbzilla
(none of these sound like a reverb tank or are a worthy substitute: intended for the bedroom starting surfer for practicing. can't touch reverb tank, but they beat no reverb at all)

I'll try to expand and further clarify this list in the near future to put up in the gear faq or wherever it should be. hopefully with list and ebay prices and pictures as much as possible. open source kinda a thing of course, any comments welcome.

okay, that wasn't short. sorry.

WR

Rules to live by #314:
"When in Italy, if the menu says something's grilled, don't assume it is."

https://www.facebook.com/The-Malbehavers-286429584796173/

I didn't think the reissue tank could be modified to original specs. I've ahda fickel vintage tank for awhile, and my bass player who's starting an amp repair shop, actually took my whole tank apart and rewired it. I sat there and watched this like a soon to be father sitting in a waiting room. It looked like there really wasn't much to it. The part's don't seem very expensive either. You could probably make a vintage spec tank for what the reissues go for. I guess that hard part would be(provided you know what you are doing) getting a cab and cover.

"as he stepped into the stealthy night air... little did he know the fire escape was not there"

https://www.facebook.com/reluctantaquanauts/
https://www.facebook.com/TheDragstripVipers/

I think the 2 choices that make the most sense are:
A reissue (the mods are not hard, and I found they improve the sound).
A Weber VST kit.

The "bedroom" alternatives could be ok, but it all depends how important to you is sounding like a trad surf. I wouldn't spend $100 for something that's not really what I want.
Ran

kickthe_reverb_
The "bedroom" alternatives could be ok, but it all depends how important to you is sounding like a trad surf. I wouldn't spend $100 for something that's not really what I want.
Ran

That's a great point.
The tank is worth the extra dough.

I had my local Guitar Center order me a RI tank from fender. It ran me right at $325.
Best investment I've made in a long time.

The Thunderchiefs

Wow, this thread has become really good, lots of info here, thanks guys! Keep it going in the future if you have more to add.

Wr, you wrote a really informative post and I thank you for sharing, hope to hear more from you in the future. As for the "must have", we all have different priorities, food and shelter being among the highest I agree, but I'm someone who's gone without both, at times because I was forced to, and at others because I chose to. Faip, this is a surf guitar forum, and equipment are "must have's" just as much as paint and canvas are to all the starving artists out there.

Peace,
~Ace

I'm Batman...No not <I>that</I> Batman. :p

I had heard that Fender did make an oil can reverb later in the 70's or so, is this true??
Great site, Is that you Zak? good to see you on here if so.

Jeff(bigtikidude)

LosDerrumbes
The "Oil Tank" reverb unit is the Tel-Ray. You can learn about this oddity here:

http://geocities.com/tel_ray/

Jeff(bigtikidude)

as to what the best choice is ... the Weber kit is a good option IF you know how to solder such a beast, and preferably build your own box. that way you can make it cheap. if you need to have it build, buy the box for $100, and substitute the not so good parts that come with it (tubes and some hardware) it might get more expensive then the other options, it all depends.

It also depends on where you are, see, I 'm in Europe, and the cheapest NEW RI tank is still 600 euros - that's over $700. secondhand they still go for 400+ euros. shipping from the states brings S&H, customs and power issues (we're on 220V here) upping the nice prices you get with around 50 to 100%.
I have that Italian cosmoverb (handbuild true PTP 6G15 circuit) - in retrospect i would have chosen something else (i bought it years ago) because they use modern electronical components, and since its true ptp (no circuit board) it's very hard to change those. It's a great unit, but there's room for improvement. obviously, it would be way more expensive to get it to the states then to me in the netherlands, so i don't consider it an option for someone in the US, they just get too pricy.

I have the weber kit on order, I'll let you know how it turns out, but it will be a while.

as for the pedals - they can be had way cheaper the $100 on ebay, esp the digitech and the EH, and at bedroom volume, they don't sound all that bad - they actually get worse at higher volumes. at 1/4th or less of the price of a tube tank, I think they are a serious option for the beginner and bedroom dweller. they keep some 'sell again' value if you later on buy a tank, or they serve as a back-up'. they are also handy for purposes other then surf, the other more laid back reverbs (on the digitech I have at least) are way better then the 'tank-simulation'. nifty little thing to own anyway. but that's me.

WR

Rules to live by #314:
"When in Italy, if the menu says something's grilled, don't assume it is."

https://www.facebook.com/The-Malbehavers-286429584796173/

BillAqua

RobbieReverb
Wouldn't modding a reissue to original specs be a lot of work? Point to point wiring, etc. The reissue can be modded to sound very much like an original, but "original specs"?

My bad! Sad That was very poorly worded. Sometimes
I fail to remember how literal and technical it can get
within this group (a good thing!). Of course point to point
wiring would be out of the question from a cost effective-
ness standpoint. What I really meant to say was that a
few simple mods could bring a reissue fairly close to
sounding like an original. Of course there are guys who
think the reissues could never ever sound anything like an
original, and those who think the mods are unnecessary.
Anyway, sorry for the misleading post...

Bob

Bob

RobbieReverb

BillAqua

RobbieReverb
Wouldn't modding a reissue to original specs be a lot of work? Point to point wiring, etc. The reissue can be modded to sound very much like an original, but "original specs"?

My bad! Sad That was very poorly worded. Sometimes
I fail to remember how literal and technical it can get
within this group (a good thing!). Of course point to point
wiring would be out of the question from a cost effective-
ness standpoint. What I really meant to say was that a
few simple mods could bring a reissue fairly close to
sounding like an original.

actually quite a few people seem to change the pcb board for a hoffman board, a drop in replacement for the pcb board (have to build it yourself first tho) ... not that much work.
I doubt whether it's cost effective and worth it though if you first hacve to buy the RI tank.
check out the fdp if you want to know more, there's tons of info there.

WR

Rules to live by #314:
"When in Italy, if the menu says something's grilled, don't assume it is."

https://www.facebook.com/The-Malbehavers-286429584796173/

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