I’ve never owned a Gibson amp, but I see them around and always think they are interesting. Then a GA-20 showed up on eBay and it caught my eye for a couple of reasons:
1. The GA-20 is very much like a Fender tweed Deluxe. Both have two 6V6 power tubes (maybe my favorite power tubes), simple controls (volume, tone) and compact cabinet with a single speaker.
2. This GA-20 was really cheap at $225. It was cheap because it had been recovered in smooth, black vinyl and has a non-original, non-vintage 12” speaker.
3. Maybe it would be a good project to either restore back to original condition, or mod into a killer little amp.
So I bought it. With shipping, just under $250 invested. Here is what it looked like when I got it:
After kicking it around for a while and doing some research, I decided my GA-20 should be restored to its past glory, and not modded or messed with anymore. I found Rob at Buffalo Amplifiers and decided he was the guy for the job. I drove the amp to Plano so that I could meet Rob face-to-face and hand over my little Gibby. Rob is rare find; he is not only super passionate and knowledgeable about Gibson amps, but he also a fully versed in terms of electronics and engineering.
Here is what we decided to do:
1. Strip the cab of the Fender-style handle and corners, and what appears to be automotive interior vinyl, like what you would find on a bench seat in a 70’s Malibu. Then sand and fill the cab so that it is smooth and even. Apply period-correct black and burnt orange two-tone covering. Make new period-correct baffle board and back panel. Rob also makes his own reproduction Gibson logos based on a mold from an actual GA-20 logo. He will make one for my amp and apply it. Here are some work-in-progress pics of the cabinet:
2. The chassis was in great shape, but the electronics… not so much. Rob will scratch-build a new circuit board and point-to-point wire it with the correct GA-20 circuit. A new Gibson clone transformer will be installed as well. Any tubes that need replacing will be replaced. (Note that the tone pot was dated to 1957, so our estimation of it being a 1958 is probably right on the money.) Here are some work-in-progress shots of the new circuit board:
3. Replace the speaker with either a vintage Jensen or a new Weber, depending on which one sounds the best (Rob’s discretion).
It should only be another week or two and the amp will be done. I’m really excited about it. The GA-20 has a reputation of being a ripping little guitar amp with about 12-watts of pure Gibson tone. It is also considered an excellent harp amp. I’ll post an update once the amp is completed. Also, check out Rob’s website. he does killer restorations, but he also builds his own line of amps inspired by Gibson amps of ’50’s, but they are not clones. But they surely are cool.
Here are some really bad cell phone photos of the amp at work right after I unpacked it from the mailing box. Looks great. Sounds great too, but in a unique Gibson amp way. Good little rock and roll / crunchy amp.