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rare Valco made Harmony H420
Country tone! a monster in the studio!
photos and sound clips below! Includes hand made blue fabric cover! Starting at only 99 cents with no reserve!
This is an auction for a very rare and original 1966 Harmony H420 amplifer that was made for Harmony by Valco (who is best known for National and Supro brands). It has a I-xxxx Valco serial number sticker shown in the photos below (dating it from '64-'68) and a Jensen speaker code date of '66. There is a transformer code visible below putting it at 1966 as well (see photos). This is the ultimate find for someone who loves Valco or Harmony! These were sold as the most powerful amplifier in the Valco made amp line back in the day (click here for a link to the actual 1965 Harmony catalog page showing it in detail), but are really a rebrand of the Supro Thunderbolt chassis in a different orientation and more vertical cabinet design. But if you look at the chassis, it is the same size as the Thunderbolt but in a different mounting direction. I have an Airline branded Thunderbolt as well as have owned a National branded one. This is sort of what Valco did in this era. Lots of different amp lines, all that same amp. This is a one owner, ultra clean amp that was used mostly at home for a amplified accordion setup and was rarely ever gigged out. Or really every turned up very loud it seems. It seems to have been babied and well taken care of all of its life, and even had a very nice form fitting cover (complete with handle hole!) that was custom made and well tailored for it in a 60's retro blue hounds tooth fabric that is so cool and well done it really caught my eye! It is just like Mom would have made...if Mom was a professional dress maker! But this is a great display of the love and care this amp received, and it is totally clean and issue free as well as being bone stock as it was the day that it left the Valco amp factory. I am pretty certain when I got it that I was first person after someone at the factory to ever remove the preamp tube covers or chassis screws!
These all handwired, American made H420 amps have become very sought after due to their being so close to the Supro Thunderbolt design. The Thunderbolt has become a holy grail among vintage amp collectors and players for good reason. Its true some of that Thunderbolt mania has been driven by the Jack White/Jimmy Page talk in guitar magazines, but some of it is simply from playing one of these awesome amps. I own three and trust me, one chord into one of these dimed will make you a believer, too! They simply drip some of the best overdriven, harmonically rich tone you can get out there. Period! But once the Supro branded Thunderbolt amps became so hot and expensive in the vintage market these Harmony branded H420 amps began following their lead due to some amp techs noticing these circuit designs being just about the same...or some would say, exactly the same...and then some of them went and talked about that fact on a few message boards and the rest of it is history. And yes, after talking to a few of my amp collector and amp tech friends they would second what these message boards are saying. But one look into the photos I have below of the wiring inside the amp and you can see the point to point, hand wired construction it has using premium components (Mallory, etc) that rivals and work done in the Fender plant at this time. As mentioned above, I am pretty certain I was the first person to ever open up the chassis on this amp. It clearly has had its original transformers in place (although finding a code for both was hard due to their orientation) and you can see photos of them below. As well as all its original components inside. Quite a find for both the Harmony and Valco collector!
Like a lot of the best louder classic guitar amp from the 60's, these Thunderbolt style H420 amps (and later the Harmony H525) were designed to actually be bass amps! But that did not stop the Fender Bassman or the Marshall JTM-45 that was based upon it from being the go to rock amp since they were released. And this amp was cut from that same sort of cloth. It has the same bigger transformer and beefier Jensen 15" 'Special Design' speaker that helps push its volume up above your average amp of the day, as well retaining better low end definition in the process. That is a big part of what the magic in these amps are. The low end stays around even when the amp is cranked way up. It is intoxicating to play one wide open. It has about 30 watts of headroom from its original American made RCA 6L6 tubes. The original RCA 12AX7's are also killer sounding, with a tons of added character and control in the tone section that they provide (more on this later...). These rare original RCA tubes are easily worth big bucks to Fender amp collectors as they still seem quite healthy and put out a nice sound and volume. This could only come from the amp being played at low volume over the years. This one has a solid state rectifier one. I have two with this setup and one another tube rectifier Thunderbolt, but I gotta say the solid state ones seem to kick out a little more headroom with less 'squash' to their tone. The tube rectifier ones are cool, but to my ears more in a recording situation, less in a live setting. I A/B'd this to my '64 tube rectifier Supro and at high volume it clearly had more low end, too. It stayed a little cleaner longer, and was in a lot of ways more 'plexi-like' than my tube rectified one. So there is that. Electronically this amp is totally original and issue free. The pots turn without scratchiness, there are no crackles or pops I can detect and I have had it on and played it quite a bit recently without issue. No issues with the speaker I can hear, and generally nothing to complain about! Usually I would always send a amp through the shop after getting it (as often filter caps or tube issues are clearly present) but not in this case. I wanted to keep it totally original as it is because of the fact that it is such a cool clean example and is totally stock. It has never been touched, yet it still sounds great! I really sat with this, played it, cranked it up and enjoyed it without being able to really find a fault with it. Yes, it has a lot of years on it, but I think that fact that it has been consistently played and well looked after works in its favor. Often it is the sitting around in the closet that will kill old amp parts, whereas this one seems to have had current run through it somewhat regularly over its life span. Also, it is a testament to the built quality of these amps that it is such a solid, simple and killer sounding design that is 45+ years into its life without a checkup! Valco made some great stuff!
Cosmetically, this amp is very clean as I mentioned. It has a finger joined pine cabinet just Fender Tweed era amps made famous. It is lighter weight because of this, too! So no breaking your back loading it into a club. You can see the dovetails on the corners just like in a Fender amp. They don't make 'em like that any more. The silver grill cloth and cool 'ostrich' tolex are in nice shape, as is the chrome control panel, knobs and handle. It looks great! There are a couple of small tolex tears on the bottom corners, but all in all it is quite clean. Take a look over the photos to get the best idea of what I mean. It has no musty or mildew odor to it that I can detect. No cat pee or other mystery smells I could smell either. The lettering on the front chrome and control panel is all in very nice shape without any major loss. There is one scratch by the 420 lettering but it is faint. You could shave in the chrome plates if you wanted to. It is in nice and totally original condition!
What can I say about its sound? Well, if you like great sounding, classic overdriven guitar then it is hard to say anything bad about its tone. I mean, it has the perfect range of broken up and slightly crispy clean to gnarly greasy 'amp sounds like it is about to explode' tones in it that all of us guitar players dream about in a tube amp. But it will also due crisp and bright clean and pushed clean tones that are very Deluxe like. Like if a Deluxe had more balls and bass. The wide open sound of this amp is right up there with the big boys and has the ability to get a more of a plexi Marshall-like character than any other style of American made amp I know. And this comparison it drawn mostly out of the character of the overdrive tone and the strength of the bass signal. I have recorded with these amps enough to know the magic they are capable of in terms of getting 'British' style overdrive tones. I recorded two months ago with one of mine, as well as a brown Concert and a Vox AC-30, and it was often hard to pick apart which amp was where. This is the reason people really love Thunderbolts. It is pretty bare bones in terms of controls, but in this case less is more! It has a Volume, Bass, and Treble control as well as three inputs (Accordion and 2 Guitar/Bass ones) that are all voiced differently, as well a polarity line reversing power switch to fight grounding issues. It has a Fender style fuse mounted easily on the face plate as well. Man, the chrome is clean! The knobs are all original as well. The tone controls on this amp are so incredibly interactive and detailed (much more than my earlier Thunderbolt I noticed) and it almost behaves like brown tolex era Fender would in that it ADDs as well as SUBTRACTS bass and treble as it works. At about 12 o'clock the bass and treble controls are pretty transparent, but roll them up a 1/3 and you can instantly hear the high end sparkle jump out and the low tubby bass take hold. And tiny changes make for a big effect on the EQ's. It is super cool. They add gain, too! So you get a beefy overdrive with them up. Roll the bass back to three o'clock and you can here the treble poke out in a wonderful glassy lead sound. It is great for getting an early Stones or Zeppelin style pushed Telecaster tone, but really smokes with a humbucker as well. I was easily about to get into AC/DC type territory with my SG Custom. I absolutely love the tone controls on this amp! It makes for a incredibly versatile unit with sounds that could easy be from a clean Fender Blackface Deluxe to a raging low wattage Marshall. It is a joy to play! You can hear in the sound files below the rich and varied landscape of tones available out of this amp. It takes fuzz, overdrive and effects very well also, but most importantly it is the perfect amp for someone who just loves the way their guitar sounds plugged right in. It brings out the different character of each guitar in a way that no over-designed channel switching circuit boarded amp can today. It really shines over most amps in that way!
Yes, I know a lot of guitar collectors
are into the Supro, Airline, National and other Valco made brands. Also Harmony stuff is hot has heck right now. And all that is not hype. Both companies made great stuff. And
if you ask me, are these amps are only going to get more insane in price as
the years go by? I would say yes. Well for one, they really did not make that many of them, and
I will be damned if I can even get my hands on many of them anymore without
paying out what vintage Fenders and Gibsons get already. I know it to be true
because I have been a long time Supro/National/Valco collector myself, and I
weep when I see what insane money some dealers ask now for the more deluxe
National Map guitar. Or a clean Thunderbolt. Or National New Yorker lap steel. It all has been climbing up,
but it has made some serious jumps in the last few years. Holy moly.
Something about this is the fault of folks like Jack White but also niche
guitar selling guys like me as well, as I have long been selling them on
eBay and elsewhere, talking them up to dealers, turning countless friends and people onto
them when I can. Shooting myself in the foot. Here I go again. Good old
fashioned supply and demand. I guess I need to find a way to get over my
memories of buying these Thunderbolts for $100 back in the day. Oh, well. Anyway, the important thing is that this amp is going to make someone really happy, and that in the end is what my mission is all about.
Valco has a long and rich history of making many
cool lines. The Supro brand began in 1935 as a line of guitars being made by
National-Dobro, the famous line of resonator guitars and electric slides.
The Supro brand followed its brother lines as the mother company Valco was
born in 1936 as part of a move from California to Chicago. Valco's name was
an amalgam of Valco's primary owners first names (Victor Smith, Al Frost,
and Louis Dopyera), and with the move the company saw a shift from acoustic
instruments to amplifiers and electric instruments. It was an organization
that was on the cutting the edge, and its innovations of this time include
the first archtop with no soundhole for fighting feedback, and first two
pickup electric guitar, a six coil pickup, fiberglass guitars like this one,
and some of the most deluxe double and triple neck slide guitars ever
produced. They embraced a very ornate, Art Deco and early Moderne look to
many of their guitars, with beautiful ornate Epyptian influenced motifs for
position markers and spare two tone streamline body designs that recall high
end stylized furniture of the day. They were truly on the cusp of culture
and taste through the 40's. By the late 50's and early 60's, Valco had grown
to be an enormous manufacturer, and had several brands it was making and
marketing itself, such as National and Supro, as well as ton of others being
distributed under other brands like Airline (Montgomery Wards), Harmony, Oahu,
Silvertone (Sears), Custom Kraft, Tonemaster, even Gretsch and many others.
Many models were almost identical under different brands, often with a
different logo, pickup configuration, or sometimes a different finish. They
made a lot of excellent guitars in this period, and some of their most
collectible designs now fetch big bucks as I mentioned. With their
'Res-o-glass' bodied guitars they were entering into a 'jet-age' and
futuristic look and style that was also very high quality. They certainly
recall the designs of concept cars of the day. Their pickup design is
brilliant, actually, offering what is in my book some of the fattest, most
toneful sound in any guitars from the 60's. If anyone has seen or played
either Jack White's Airline, the Supro Thunderbolt, or the famous National 'Map' guitars, you know
what I mean. This is a really rare find for someone who even has the most
complete collection of Valco guitars and amps, or someone who wants a
excellent sounding, super reliable amp.
Enough talk! Now listen! I put a lot of guitars through this amp and they all sounded awesome! It spits gold out of that
there 15" Jensen speaker. Yes, click on these links and get to hear this amp live and in person:
...some bright and hairy 70's rock lead playin' on a '52 Tele...
...a huge and solid rock rhythm tone from a 60's Danelectro on the neck pickup...
...a great cleaner overdrive tone on the bridge pickup of a 60's SG Custom...
...a great naked clean tone on a '52 Tele with the treble up and bass at 3 o'clock...
...SG Custom with the treble up and bass at 12 o'clock...
...a killer dark bluesy with the SG neck pick and bass up and treble at 12 o'clock...
...another 70's rock lead one on the bridge pickup of the SG...
...a clear and articulate single coil attack from a '52 Tele...
...a more laid back bluesy one on both pickups on a 70's Tele Custom and bass knob up...
...finally a great dark rhythm tone on the neck of a '61 Gretsch 6120...
This vintage Valco made Harmony H420 amp is sure to put a smile
on your face. This is quite a find for the collector or the player, so snap it
up! I am starting it all at only $.99, so get in there and bid!
UPS Ground or Expedited US Postal Service in the USA. I
prefer a certified cashiers check in the US, but take Paypal as well. Paypal
only on international bidders, please email me for your shipping rates
oustide the 48 contiental states. No shipping or bidding to anyone outside
of USA, Canada, UK, EU, Japan, or Australia without my prior approval
please. I may have to remove the neck to ship it to you if you live in
certain places. Payments must be made or confirmed within 48 hours (unless
otherwise stated by me personally) or I move to the next bidder on the list.
I hope this goes to a happy home! Auction is as is, no returns whatsoever.
Please do not bid unless you have the money to buy it and plan on following
through with your bid. Don't blame me if you grow warts on your face when
you don't pay. Its the spirirts' will, not mine. I only say this to try and
convince these folks to please not bid and save everyone the headaches. I
know this is not of the majority, so thanks for bearing with me. All sounds,
songs, and images are copyrighted material, so pirate them at your own
peril. Seriously, I have a team of trained rabid attack dogs that do nothing
but cruise the internet looking for interlopers to feed upon. You probably
aren't even reading this, but if you are...beware their wrath.
Anyways...feel free to ask questions! Thanks!
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