5 posts / 0 new
Last post

210 Sixty Five tone is dull, tone adjustments not fluid

My 210 Sixty Five sounds dull on most settings, and differences on the tone settings down to the slightest nudge (like a 1/16 of a number) radically change the amp from sounding good to just totally horrible and hollow. When I got the amp, it had the wrong kind of fuse in it, a dead tube and the bias was way off. I've since corrected these issues but for how much 'better' it sounds than when I got it, these fixes seem to have only revealed a more substantial problem.

Is it possible that this could be the tone pots themselves? It almost seems as if the inconsistencies in the tone settings are with the tone knobs themselves -- they aren't performing as they ought to be, as though they have aged or aren't fully connected. Getting a good sound out of the tone settings feels like a gamble.

The amp appears to be a transitional model, an early solid state model with a chassis number implying that it should have a third tube but with a medal cover over where the tube should go. This has been corroborated by three techs, two via email and one who looked at the board / made the fuse/tube adjustments.

If that's the case, and I just have a really early solid state model, am I better off just selling it and trying to find a version with a 12AX7 or an RD50? Articles I've read cite the early solid state/two tube versions of the amps as being underwhelming, and hold the RD50, with Leo Fender updated solid state components, as being vastly superior to those early solid state models.

Or is it possible that there is still something wrong with my amp that the tech I took it to failed to diagnose? This has been really discouraging, I'm a working musician (I don't make a lot of money, I saved up to buy this amp) and it has yet to be anything other than frustrating. I'm getting impatient but wanted to inquire here before just selling the thing and writing it off as a mistake on my part.


It's a matter of taste

Forget about articles and Internet bla bla bla. Only you can decide what sounds good for your style of playing, your type of guitar and your style of music. Having played Music Man amps for 30 years I can tell you that any model has the potential to sound great and definitely not dull - if anything, Music Man amps are known for their amazing clarity (upper mid emphasis) that may be a bit too 'in your face' for some players and sound guys.
Yes, you may have to sell this particular amp and get a different one - Music Man or otherwise, but without knowing your style of music, guitar and fx, it's hard to guide you.

From my own experience (information provided 'as is'): An early 12AX7 amp can make all sounds that a later transistor PS silver badge amp can. The reverse is not true - you cannot get the same compression or crunch from the later PS amps.
If we stick to the 2 channel amps, the later black badge 6L6 versions employ a limiter circuit that will accomplish a bit of the same as the old 12AX7 but with a slightly different sound of course.

The single channel 2100/65 amps evolved over a couple of years, the really early ones are similar to the late silver badge 2 channel amps, the later ones are similar to the 6L6 black badge ones.

The 1650RD amp has the 12AX7 limiter circuit, but in the clean mode the amp is exactly the same as most other MM amps with smaller transformers. The 12AX7 tube in these amps has a different function than in the original silver badge design.

Take your amp to someone who knows what a properly working MM amp should sound and respond. Maybe there is a member of this forum close to you?

PS - the cover where the 12AX7 tube socket went continued all through the black badge amps, i.e. amps that never had a third tube. This was just a way to continue with the same tooling and punches to make the chassis parts.

Lars Verholt


Some additional thoughts on your 210-65

Lars is right but there are a few other things to consider. First, is your 210 sixty-five functioning correctly? A lot of things can happen to an amp over 35+ years. These Musicman amps were designed for use with 6CA7 power tubes and although some EL34s can work well, others sound horrible so changing to a different tube manufacturer can make the world of difference. I like the sound of JJ 6CA7 tubes as they have a lot of headroom. Similarly if the op-amps have been changed to a non-original items this can profoundly affect the tone. I think that LM-1458 op-amps are the correct parts and these are available from Monte Allums. If you don’t have the original AlNiCo A10G or the ceramic C10G speakers, non-factory speakers can seriously hurt the tone. What you have described could be partly due to dirty potentiometers which your tech should have cleaned as part of the service. Also on these amps all the tone controls should be set at 10 and then backed off to hit the sweet spot. Second, if everything is working correctly, do you actually like the tone? Third, You mentioned the RD50, which is a different beast. If you tried an RD50 and love its tone, then you should buy yourself an RD50, set the tone controls to 5 and live in sonic nirvana as you will not get exactly the same tone from your 210 sixty-five. Good luck!


Cheers, all of this is

Cheers, all of this is appreciated. If you don't mind, I have a few basic questions, since hey, I might missing some obvious things and you guys could help me realize what I have with this amp. For the purposes of getting the best sound...

- Is there a clear answer between wanting the impedance switch on 4ohms / 8ohms?

- Which component of the amp is my volume controlling, and which is my master controlling? Which is going to get me more breakup, if at all, and is there a sweet spot between the two? I've been leaving the master at 10 and inching the volume up to try and add breakup.

- Would half power, functioning well, give me enough breakup at a reasonable volume to allude to a just slightly broken up Deluxe Reverb? my favorite tone is really just a dry clean tone that is the slightest, slightest bit broken up-- i used to run tubescreamer type pedals in the lower quarter of the distortion control and that was too broken up, even at their lowest, so I decided I wanted to buy an amp that could get an even slighter break up tone naturally. overdrive would be an overstatement of what I'm going for here, but this is a tone I've heard Deluxe's get and thought I might be able to get with a half powered 65 watt amp, something that initially made me pull the plug on a 210 Sixty Five and end my waiting game for an RD50 / saving game for a Deluxe. Also impacting this was that despite having heard they're better sounding amps, the RD50's don't have half power, so hypothetically they would break up less easily than a half powered Sixty Five.

- on another note, what would the general differences between my 210 65 and an RD50 be? If you want to widen the scope to include a Deluxe Reverb feel free, I was initially convinced that was what I wanted but after playing one / playing a friends Music Man, I thought the Music Man might be a more pristine, less muddy version of that if I could just get it to break up the slightest.

I'm using a 90s MIJ Fender Jaguar and ideally could get that tone just playing clean through the amp. Here's a clean tone I could ideally get, and the least clean I'd really want to be, playing at band volume unmic'd. For what it's worth, I'll be gigging / touring with the amp, in mic'd / unmic'd situtations in equal volume, and also recording with it.

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated, I have been feeling discouraged and thinking about selling / saving towards a silverface deluxe, but these responses have helped me put that urge on hold. I do want to believe it's possible this is the amp for me, since after all of my research it really seemed like it was.


Have a listen

Hi Ezra, have a listen to this one: https://www.facebook.com/michelle.collins.12177276/videos/10212393171765...

(even if you are not on Facebook it should let you watch the video after a few clicks). That's my MM amp with no effects, just a 1980s strat on the neck pickup. As it's an outdoor show, I could run the amp fairly open (maybe I did get it too loud in the mix, but for illustration purposes it's good hehe). It's on the low power setting so it breaks up ever so slightly if I strum harder.

Lars Verholt

Log in or register to post comments