Virgil liked Small Vintage Combo Amps
Over the years Mr. Arlo worked on many amps, although towards the end of his career he would only take on about 3 or 4 amp modifications or restorations per year. He enjoyed working on old Hiwatts & Marshalls, he also liked modifying Blackface Fenders much like Alex Dumble but his true passion was getting the most out of low-watt cathode bias amps. It was his opinion that these amps worked better with a mic in a studio environment.
Mr. Arlo invested time to understand various odd ball tubes that some of the vintage amps employed, along the way he learned how to get them most out of each of these tube in their respective circuits. This intimate understanding of the components, circuits & how they respond to each other was the starting point in creating his guitar pickup designs. He understood that your guitar amp circuitry actually started with your pickups, then to the guitars internal wiring, then the to cable, the to the amplifier.
He used this knowledge to create the what many pros consider to be the Best Guitar Pickups ever made. Here is a list of Mr. Arlo’s favorite amps.
Ampeg Reverberocket (early 60’s)
Not to be confused with the later models, the early 60’s Reverberockets featured two 6v6 power tubes, a 5y3 rectifier and the super expressive Ampeg octal tubes. This was the first production guitar amp to include Reverb & was also the favorite Ampeg of Ken Fischer (builder of Trainwreck amps).
Here is a great article on these wonderful amps. https://www.vintageguitar.com/15188/ampeg-r-12-r-reverberocket/
Fender Octal Tweed Deluxe (5A3, 5B3, 5C3)
The vintage Fender Deluxe amps had such a unique sound that sound great without any modifications but with a few tricks Mr. Arlo was really able to get the most our of this design.
During the Fender conversion from the 5c3 circuit to the 5d3 circuit they made at least one amp that was labeled a 5d3 but came with a 12ax7 in V1 and an octal tube in v2. Mr. Arlo said. This was the best amp he ever heard, it was the only amp like this he ever saw. He suspected that Fender had one last octal tube on the shelf and wanted to use it before switching over to the dual 12ax7 5d3.
Any Supro w/6973 Tubes.
The old Supro/Valco amps were prized among session players for their great studio tone. Mr. Arlo always gritted towards the 6973 examples of these amps. The 6973 is a special tube that looks a little like an el84 but sounds a little closer to a more focused 6v6. They compress just perfectly with a couple tweaks the old Supro circuits.
Vox AC15 (early 60’s)
The EF86 in the front end of these old AC15s made them very special. You had a combination of the wide range frequency response of the EF86 that didn’t compress or distort like its 12ax7 counterpart, coupled with the unique grind of dual el84’s. Nothing else sounds like this amp.
Any Vintage Single Ended 5y3/6v6 Amp
When talking about single ended 5y3/6v6 amps, most people think of the old Fender Champ but there just about everyone making amps back in the vintage era made one of these little 5 watt gems. Turn it all the way up and shape your tone with your guitars volume and tone pots, there is nothing else like it! Mr. Arlo loved working his magic on vintage single ended amps.