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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > National Stage Star 1955, worth it?
National Stage Star 1955, worth it?
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22 posts
Aug 11, 2023
3:46 AM
Hey everybody!!

I hope you are all doing Ok!

I've been on the lookout for a new amp. Something old and cool. Not too big, I have a "big" amp. Not too small, I have one of those too.
I wanted too build one myself, but time, money, etc, etc...

I now have a lead on a National Stage star from 1955. I can't test the amp, it's too far away. But it can be posted to me, no problem.
It's been used as a harpamp. The seller is selling it because he has another(!)

I can't get much info on the amp, other than that it's pretty rare and that it should be a great harp amp.
It's 2x 6L6, octal preamps, tremolo and 4 very cool 6x11 Rola speakers! It's in used but fair shape and looks extremely cool!

Asking price is 1350 Euro.

Does anyone have experience with this amp? It should roughly be like the National Aztec. It's produced by Valco, I've heard, so it might be the same as another brand amp.

Is it a fair price? I'm in Europe, so these kind of amps are somewhat rarer here than in the US.

Thanks a lot!

Kind regards,

89 posts
Aug 12, 2023
12:00 AM
I would suggest that if it is the same circuit as the Aztec it would be a very good mid powered harp amp. It has a number of aspects that lend itself that way including grid leak bias on the input stage, a paraphase phase inverter, one gain stage before the phase inverter and in all likelihood relatively low voltage on the plates as these were initially sold in the cheaper end of the market and used less powerful transformers. All these factors make for a disappointing guitar amp but excellent harp amp. Remember that unless the power transformer has been changed it will want to see American wall voltages not European.
23 posts
Aug 12, 2023
8:23 AM
Thanks Prento,
That's what I was hoping for!
PT is original and is indeed 110V. No problem I have a step-up transformer. It also has nice vintage RCA tubes.
I'm hoping to pay a little less than the asking price. It's difficult to put a price on such an amp. But since I really want it now...
2 posts
Aug 12, 2023
8:30 AM
Probably Valco made which is good
But almost 70 year Rola speakers must be pretty fragile
by now
24 posts
Aug 12, 2023
1:48 PM
Yes, speakers will be fragile!
After talking to the seller, he casually mentioned that one of the speakers has a small tear in it.
That's why he's selling it this cheap. O yeah, and "it doesn't effect tone or anything"...

Well, speakers can probably be reconed.
But if the speakers aren't in top shape and the tubes are "all original" there will probably be more work on this amp.

Does anyone know of replacement speakers? They are 6x11 eliptical Rola. If searched a little but can only find 6x9.

So,...1350 asking price. Worth it? Seller claims that the prices in the US are north of 2000, easy.
3 posts
Aug 13, 2023
7:34 AM
Here is the only listing I could find for this model
This one was reconditioned
It appears only made for one year

25 posts
Aug 13, 2023
8:47 AM
This one looks different!
Maybe a later model??
The one I'm looking at is from 1955.
It has octal preamp tubes. And 2 knobs for tremolo, speed and depth. I've seen pictures of the same amp with just one knob.
I'm not sure if it has a 5879 tube for one of the chanels. I think some do, some don't.

It's hard to find info on these amps...

I think I will definately take the plunge on this one.
3700 posts
Aug 14, 2023
7:54 AM
@Jamo --- If you're considering getting that speaker reconed, just like you would with any vintage amp, make sure that you take that speaker to a speaker tech that specializes in repairing vintage speakers because a lot repair shops will only use whatever kind of paper stock they have at the moment and many times it won't be the correct one and the effect on the sound can and will be quite negative. It's the same deal whenever you get a vintage amp repaired.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
26 posts
Aug 15, 2023
2:29 AM
Thanks for the tip Bob.

I won't get the amp till maybe 2 weeks.
First thing I'll do is give it a thurrough inspection, together with my amp tech. And replace what needs to be replaced.
The tear in the speaker doesn't look too bad in the pictures, but we'll have to see. These speakers should really be something special and hard to come by. I don't want to kill the mojo, ofcourse. But the amp should be gigworthy. A GOOD recone is always a good idea, I think.

Meanwhile I'm looking for any info I can get on this amp. Has anyone ever used one? Does anyone have a schematic?
I've seen the video by Harpsucker from Germany. Love his videos, by the way! The amp I'm buying looks almost exactly like that. Except for black knobs on the back.

Seems like channels on this amp could be bridged. Different inputs, different options...
Can't wait to check it out!
27 posts
Aug 18, 2023
11:16 AM
I managed to get the schematics from Mr.Valco, Terry Dobbs!

He was so kind to mail me the schematics for the Aztec amp, which is the same except with 3 instead of 4 speakers.

The amp will hopefully arrive at the end of next week.
997 posts
Aug 22, 2023
9:09 AM
Unfortunately you cannot get the 6x11 speakers reconed. The recone kits have not been available for decades. Vintage 47 had 6x9's that are supposed to replace them with an adapter.
Not sure if you can still get them?
202 posts
Aug 28, 2023
9:30 AM
I've got a Valco-made Gretsch 6161 amp from the 50's that uses two of those odd-size oval speakers. Those speakers are quite rare but it does look like the Vintage 47 6X9's that Harpaholic mentions are available on their website. My originals are 4 ohm, like what they sell. I'd see what your amp tech says about just patching the original instead of replacing it. I expect there are more elegant approaches than the old paper towel and Elmer's glue trick we used to use. Let us know what you wind up with.
28 posts
Aug 29, 2023
12:23 AM
Thanks for the info, guys.

I bought the amp for 1250. Seems a nice price if everything is the way it was advertised. I've never bought an amp unseen, so I'm a bit nervous.

Still, the seller seems a nice guy. He has his fair share of vintage amps, including another Stage star which he uses regularly. But converted to 2x12. Uses it for guitar. He won't sell me the original speakers, though...

I'll just have to see first.

Hopefully the speaker can be repaired. Even if it's a temporary fix. Reconing seems to be a valid option. There are some specialists around here. I'll have to check.

The amp will, hopefully, be in by the weekend.
I will keep you posted!
29 posts
Sep 06, 2023
4:03 AM
I finally got it!!

The amp came in today. It was extremely well packed.

First impressions;
It looks a bit rough, as to be expected for an amp its age. Tweed on the corners is mostly worn off. Stains, ofcourse. But that's just "mojo"...

Tubes are all American and seem fine. Metal cans for the octals. Jan Philips 6L6WGC powertubes, RCA 5V4.

One of the the four oval Rola speakers seems to be replaced at some point. It has different numbers, but only one off. So same speakers, different batch?
And wouldn't you know it, that's the one with the small tear in it.
Also, the other speaker seems to have a darker cone with some pencil scriblings on it. This might indicate a recone. Not sure, but if so,... that means they can be reconed.

Turned it on and everything works! Light hum, but nothing to bad. Tubes light up nice. Powertubes have a nice blue glow.
Tried al the inputs and they work. Beautiful tremolo!!
Mic input is MUCH higher gain. So interesting options. Also, by bridging the channels, which should work, because they have seperate volume controls!

But the one bad speaker prevented me from using it other than low volume. It really sounds terrible.
So that's the first thing to do!
I'm going by my amptech asap and get the speaker "glued". Then I'm going to look for a replacement or recone.

So all in all, I am very happy with the amp so far!
3701 posts
Sep 06, 2023
8:04 AM
The reason why the mic input is higher gain is because back then, the amp functioned both as a guitar amp as well as your own personal PA system and back at that time, low-z mics had yet to be invented and all mics made at that time were ALL high-z mics and the higher gain is to make sure that no matter how loud the guitar was, the guitar sound would never be loud enough to overtake the vocals and anything being harp mic specific back then is just made up nonsense by foolish gearheads who know far less than they think they do.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
30 posts
Sep 09, 2023
4:15 AM
Sounds logical, Bob.
I never thought about it that way.

I took the amp to my tech yesterday. Amp is fine. Some things have been repaired in the past, but nothing extraordinary.

The speaker, however, is a different story. All the other speakers have a darker cone and are stamped 1955.
Same codes.
The one speaker has a lighter cone and different codes. Instead of 55-020 it has 55-019 on the magnet. Code on the basket is also one off. basket is the same exept for some extra holes. Probably for fixing a transformer.
So the speaker has definately been replaced at some point. A shame for originality but it is period correct.
However... It had already been repaired in several spots. And above that it has numerous tears in the rest of the cone...
We tried glueing it, but allas... Unusable.

I am going to try to find a recone. Otherwise I am probably going to order one of the Vintage47 speakers to replace it. At least until I find a period correct replacement. (Which might take a while)

Another option would be to replace the baffle and fit other speakers completely. It's a big cab so plenty of options on cofiguration. But it seems a shame...

I've never played oval speakers. I don't know much about them except for everybody telling me their either "total crap" or "amazing for harmonica".

What would you do?

203 posts
Sep 09, 2023
8:26 AM
I think your chances of finding that odd-sized cone for a rare speaker that's been obsolete for 60 years are next to nil. But who knows, maybe someone on the continent has a stash of them. Seems like I read an interview a while back where Neil Young's amp tech searched high and low and had to call in some favors to acquire what he believed was the last NOS 6X11 for one of Neil's amps. You might consider ordering a pair of the Vintage 47 speakers with the adapters. That might give you a more balanced sound and you won't have to build a new baffle. Plus, you'll then have a spare original. Funny, I was able to find them on their website the other day. Now I can't. Might have to contact them directly.
31 posts
Sep 11, 2023
6:46 AM
It's a shame, but it surtainly seems like I have to replace the speaker with something else.
The Vintage47 speakers seem OK but they have indeed taken them off of their site. I will send them an email. Weber does a 6x9 speaker, but it's not cheap. Especially if I have to pay customs and tax.

The other option is using some "normal", round speakers. The cab is roughly Twin Reverb size. So plenty of options. I would rather keep it original, but with a new baffle I can save the old baffle and speakers. I don't know if the original speakers would stand the abuse of regular gigging.

What is the deal with oval speakers?? How much do they contribute to the amps character?
I have heared/read a lot of unclear info.
Are they efficient or inefficient? Do they emphasize Bass? Extreme early breakup?
I am partial to anything off the beaten path, but I don't know if it's worth it.

Is replacing the original speakers with round speakers going to bring out the best in this (very cool) amp?
And if so...
Combining the ovals with something or get rid of the ovals altogether?
And replace them with what? 6x8(Gibson GA90), 2x10, single 15??
32 posts
Sep 13, 2023
6:21 AM
I managed to solder a female jack to the output transformer yesterday and started testing out some different speakers in different cabs I have.
Same Hohner Bluesblaster crystal mic. Same tonesettings (50%)

The OT wants to see a 4 Ohm load. 4 speakers 4 Ohm, series/paralel.

First I tried the originals with the one bad speaker. Of course on low volume.
Sounded very nice and warm. Very vintagy. Exactly what you would expect. The reason I bought an amp like this!
I didn't want to further damage the speaker, so I didnt"blow through the mic at full volume. I did turn up the volume control, however. And I could turn up the volume control to MAX without feedback! In the second (mic) channel to about a third before feedback.

Then I hooked up a Fender cab with a single 12 Jensen Mod. Terrible! Feedback almost immediately. Shrill and just...ugly.

I then got my big 4x10 amp out and hooked up the speakers. 2 WGS Veteran 10 and 2 WGS G10C/S. Wow!!!
Huge tone. Fat. Crunchy but defined. Much later feedback and loud! Because I was so impressed I started playing around with inputs and bridging both channels. Works like a charm! First channel about 2/3 up. Bridged to mic channel, about a third up. Very full and warm tone. Responsive and defined. Beautiful.

Only other 4 Ohm cab I had was my Musicman 65 that I have just put in some cheap ratty ceramics for lo-fi hill country blues guitar playing. RL Burnside style.
Sounded... well,... ratty and cheap. Not even bad. But not much bass and a lot of breakup.

What I've learned (again) is the importance of good speakers!

To answer my own innitial question "worth it?"---YES!!
It is a very handsome amp and sounds wonderful. It's definately something else than the standard Blues Jrs and Bassmans (with all respect, of course!)
And I am very happy with it.

Since the speakers do have a huge effect on the character of the amp I am going to look for an original replacement. This will probably take quite some time.
I am also still hoping someone can recone the old speaker.

In the mean time I will be looking for a "stand-in".
Options as I see it;
- Vintage47 speakers (2x) if the still make them. Next to two of the originals
- Making a new baffle for 2 original speakers and one or two round speakers. Either 2x8, a single 10 or a single 12.
-Making a new baffle for whole different speakers.I'm thinking 4x8 or 2x10 (2x12 would fit but doesn't appeal to me)

I would very much appreciate any suggestions on speaker pairings and such. Especially from those who have experience with these elliptical speakers.

Thanks a bunch!

Kind regards,
33 posts
Sep 13, 2023
6:28 AM
Just got email from Vitage 47.
The DO NOT make the speakers anymore...

That's one option less.
204 posts
Sep 15, 2023
11:11 AM
A new baffle with two ovals and two round 8"s is a cool idea. Two ovals and a 10" might also be cool but I think you'd have to use an 8 ohm 10" to get the right series/parallel impedance and then you'd be getting half the juice to each of the two ovals that the 10" is getting. Might be okay though. I think I'd first look for "vintage oval speakers" on ebay and see if you find a pair of 6X9 4 ohm car speakers that look compatible. NOT the two-way or three-way speakers that became popular in the late 70's but the earlier simple cones used in the 60's and early 70's. You could fabricate adapters from 1/4" plywood with a jigsaw. I know there were some decent quality speakers used in a number of European cars so you might not need to ship from the US. Just make sure they're 4 ohm. If you can't find a good looking pair, even just one to replace the torn up one is worth a try. Keep us posted.
34 posts
Sep 21, 2023
4:21 AM
Well I've tried finding oval speakers. But they seem to all have vanished!
I tried an Hammond/Leslie repair guy I know. He has plenty of ovals, he says. But all are 16 Ohm!
So I could take 4 of these and wire them to 4 Ohm. But it is quite a gamble tonewise, I think.

There is a speaker repair shop that everyone keeps pointing me to. If anyone can recone the speaker, it's him. But he is on holiday and won't be back for another week or two.

So,... I am going to make a new baffle. But I haven't desided on what speakers to use. I would probably use two of the original speakers. But I don't know what they sound like, so I am not sure what to pair them with!
I have a spare Lil'buddy I can use. Or I could order two 8"s, probably WGS G8C.
Or maybe ad a 12" cannabis rex.

I've been using my 4x10 amp as a speakercab and was playing around with the amp a little. It really is amazing.
It doesn't like mics that are too hot. My 520 with CR is too much. On the other hand, mics that I put on the shelve for being too weak do great! And every mic sounds and acts totally different. It's really cool!
Also the different inputs make a significant difference. Some mics react better on the different inputs. And the mic channel is totally different in sound than the instrument channel! Loads more gain, much fatter and woolier. Again, some mics work great on it, others don't.

I might start a new thread on oval speakers, their characteristics and what to pair them with.

Thanks for the help!

Kind regards,

3702 posts
Sep 21, 2023
10:08 AM
@Jamo --- when this amp was being made back in the early 50's, every amp was also doubling as a personal PA system and there was no such thing as a low-z mic back then and it's no surprise that the microphone channel is a lot hotter because since the amp was also performing as a PA in addition to being a guitar amp, the microphone channel was always voiced hotter to make sure that no matter how loud the guitar was, it would never be louder than the vocals. It definitely was NOT intended for harmonica microphones, which including bullet mics, were basically standard PA mics back in the day and most harp players don't understand that. Another thing to bear in mind that impedance levels at the amp jacks oftentimes were higher than they are now and so part of it is having a proper impedance match between the mic and the amp. There are a number of amps that were made back then that you don't need the hottest mic you can get your hands on, as you have now discovered. The CR element has an enormous, very heavily exaggerated midrange presence rise and in some of those old amps, can be too much for it and it's also a similar deal with crystals as well. A ceramic element mic may be easier to deal with on that amp.

Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
36 posts
Sep 27, 2023
5:38 AM
Hi everybody,

I have made a baffleboard to fit 2 of the original ovals and one 10 inch speaker.
Why? Because I have a spare Lil'buddy. So I might as well.
Baffle made of 9mm poplar plywood. Couldn't find pine, but I don't think it will matter that much.

Tried it just now. And it's amazing! Although I think it's mostly the Lil'buddy I'm hearing. It's getting more of the amps power and is probably more efficient.

It is VERY bassheavy. In a good way, though.
It has a very nice clear tone but breaks up nicely if you dig in. Specialy lownote draws sound fenomenal.

Feedback occurs pretty late. And dialing back the amps volume doesn't hurt the tone as much as with my other amps. It keeps a nice and full tone and still some breakup.

I have still to experiment some more, ofcourse. This was all tested with my Hohner bluesblaster mc151. With the volume knob. This mic seems to suit the amp. I have a saltshaker American mic that also sounds nice. I have a small Ronette crystal mic that totally sucks on all my other amps but sounds amazing through this amp.

So very fun!!

The mic channel is a bit much. It has the 6SJ7 preamp tube. But maybe with a low output mic...
With guitar it really rocks! Very thick saturated tone.

For now I'm going to keep the amp like this and see how it performs in a band. I have high hopes!

If I can't get the original speaker reconed, (If I can I'm going to use the original speakers, even if just for the sake of originality.) I will probably use another speaker next to the Lil'buddy. Another 10 inch will fit easily, so maybe a Ragin'cajun or at least something with a bit more high end. A 12 inch speaker would also fit. 4x8 or 1x10 + 2x8. But I will probably go with a 10 or maybe 12. If I can get another efficient/loud speaker like the Lil'buddy this amp might be able to cover all my gigging needs...

Any speaker recommendation is most welcome.

Thanks all!
37 posts
Oct 06, 2023
5:28 AM
Hi all,

For anyone that is still interested...

I made a baffle for 2x10 and fitted the Lil'buddy together with a Ragin Cajun. Because that was what I could find. I have also got a C10Q, but I haven't even bother trying it. I thought about a Cannabis Rex but couldn't find one second hand just then. It would probably be overkill, anyway. This speaker combination is LOUD!
The amp itself overdrives pretty early, so I have no need for speaker breakup.
Adding the RC really put some aggresion in the sound. I had been testing the amp standing next to it, like I mostly do, to minimalise feedback. But standing in front of it nearly made my ears bleed!
It might even be too loud for my gigging needs! I didn't even think that was possible with electric harp!
Turning it down a bit doesn't really hurt the sound though, so it is perfect.

Using two efficient speakers made me turn down the volume quite a bit. But I can still turn it up to about 50% on the instrument channel and about 25% on the mic channel. Tone still set about have way up( or down) seems to be the sweet spot for harmonica.

I did, however, experience some microphonics from the 5879 tube. The louder speakers are probably not helping with that...

Plugging in a Dano guitar in open D in the mic channel, turning up the tone and the volume, makes me sound like Hounddog Taylor!!

Bottom line: Incredible amp. If you find one or anything similar, grab it! But don't bother with chasing down the oval speakers. Just take them out, and put some speakers of your liking in. Ofcourse you can then send me one of the originals...

Kind regards from the Netherlands!

207 posts
Oct 08, 2023
8:07 AM
Two 6L6s do seem to love two 10s. And yeah, more efficient speakers can make a huge difference in volume.
Glad you found a way to add the magic back into this amp. Have fun!

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