Finished MODding the Blackheart BH5H

Discussion in 'Amps & Cabs' started by cybermgk, Jan 19, 2015.

  1. cybermgk

    cybermgk Well-Known Member

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    Got a Blackheart BH5H for cheap not too long ago. NAD thread here. I got it specifically to mod it. I had already modded my Marshall DSL15H a little bit. But, wanted to go a little further on the Little Giant, and make a good Amp better.

    The goals were to fix the small weaknesses in the amp, change the tone into the Marshall camps, boost the gain a little, make it more versatile, and reduce the noise.

    WARNING - Modding an amp like this can be dangerous. Lethal voltages can be found in the caps and kill you. The BH5H will normally drain the caps via the bleeder resistor r13, after the amp is disconnected from power. But, you should double check with your meter on both sides of R14. IF r13 is damaged or becomes open, it may not be draining the charges. In that case one can make a simple discharge tool (some wire, alligator clips and a large ohm ( > than 100K ) and high voltage ( > 250V) resistor.
    SO,

    Replaced the existing on/off switch with a 3-way switch to add a Standby mode. Lot of the components are rated at the no load voltage off 400V. But, the voltage drops once the tubes are heated to as low as 283v at the preamp caps. So, Standby switch will help lengthen the life of the amp.

    Lot of folks convert the amp to just pentode or triode mode and use the switch to do standby. But, I wanted to keep the pentode/triode, because the two modes are noticeably different in tone. With the other mods, wanted to keep that. So moved it to the back, and fitted a Carling, double pole, triple throw switch (off-one on-both on) as standby. You have to just reroute the 0 volt wire from the mains to the plug socket, run the hot wire from the outlet and the 120v tap from the main to circuit 1 of the 3 way, disconnect the High Voltage AC Ct wire from the board, run it and a new wire soldered to that spot to the lugs of circuit 2.

    I Replaced the Output tube’s grid leak resistor R9 with a 500K pot with a 470K resistor across the sweeper and ground side of the pot (to protect the el84, if the pot goes) for a Master Volume. Provides a master Volume of sorts. It does affect overall output volume. You can dial up the old volume to full and get the max preamp distortion, and dial volume down. Stock, that gets you some crunch at lw volume.

    But, with the original volume pot, it also allows for mixing and changing amounts of preamp and output tube distortion for a lot of tone variance. Really like some of the different dirt tones you can get this way. Still, really need VVR mod, or attenuation to get the best of that. Or run loud Likely will add a VVR at some point. But for now, works fantastic with my Badcat Unleash.

    Moved the Pentode/triode switch to the back of the amp to make room for that MV.

    Cut the Europe leads from the mains transformer, at the transformer. They won't be used, and were parked onto an unused, and unconnected tabs on the board. They added a lot of noise to the amp.

    I also moved the othe transformer lines away from the board as best I could and hot glued to the chassis, to also reduce noise.

    I also re-hotglued Electrolytic caps I changed, and some axials I added that were soldered on only one leg, to reduce vibration effects.

    Went with the 'large cap mod' for the EL84 cathode bypass cap C7. Went to 1000uf. Did to keep the bias from drifting, block cross-over distortion (buzziness) and tighten up the bass after the other changes, and keep the low end fartiness away.

    Changed the Mid and Bass filter ,022uf caps to better quality Mallory 150 caps. Same for the coupling cap from the 2nd preamp stage to the output.

    Now on to the tone and gain related changes.

    First, lowered the V1B, or 2nd preamp stage's, cathode resistor from 1.5k carbon film, to a 680ohm metal film resistor. This biases the
    the V1B stage a little warmer, more ‘marshally’ on the clipping, and reduces noise with the metal film.

    Changed the V1A and V1B cathode bypass Caps C1 and C5 to 2u2 electrolytics, to cut some, and thus tighten up, bass, as it also boosts the lower end gain, This brings both more in line with typical marshall values, with a little more marshall mid boost as well.

    Changed R4 and R8, the two preamp plate resistors, to carbon composites to sweeten the tone a bit. Lot of debate out there on the benefits, if any. But some Gurus I respect, adhere to them sweetening tone when used in proper spots like plate resistors. Due to their high voltage coefficient of resistance, their resistance varies with the voltage across them. The effect of this is they distort, with pure 2nd order harmonics. In other words, they distort in a way our hearing likes. Don't really hear the distortion. What it sounds like though, is a vintage 'sweetness. But, have to use them in the right spot, as they bring higher drift and noise as well. Plate resistor is a perfect spot.

    I tried low noise metal filters in their (stock were carbon film). Tone was definitely more 'clinical'. I definitely like it better with carbon comps. I added some liquid shielding to the resistor wires to reduce their added noise a little. Not that it will do much, as most of the noise is from inside the resistor and how it's built.

    Lowered R5, the slope resistor in the tone stack to 33K. This put it in marshall Territory. Moved the mid cut/attenuation frequency up from 300hz to 550, and lessened the attenuation by 6 db. Basically added more lows, low mids and mids. Also an overall gain boost. Changed to lower noise metal film. Stock, was a mix of Fender and Marshall values in the stack.

    Also, lowered the Treble cap to 330p for two reasons. One was to take a little bit of the top end harshness/beaminess out of the amp. Also wanted to adjust the mid attenuation a db or 2, so that stock tone was JTM45ish, generally speaking. But I could still give a mid and gain boost with another mod and have a more Plexi setting. While I was at it, I replaced the ceramic with a silver Mica to get rid of graininess.

    So, the basic stock changes, made the tone stack go from factory (Green) to the yellow. Can see the boosted lows and mids, and overall increased gain.

    [​IMG]

    I also added a Bitmo Triple bypass. It has one position that is stock, middle which bypasses the tone stack for the most part, and replaces with a basic Princeton tweed like tone circuit, and a third that boosts the mids and adds a little more mid gain, at the expense of reducing the effect of the mid and treble pots. Tone stack on this amp really eats gain and volume. Ergo the two bypass modes.

    So, the end result gives the stock at a somewhat hot rodded JTM45 territory, the Bitmo mid boost adds to the other mods, to bring the tone into the Plexi area. And have the tweedish setting as well.

    Overall, the amp is extremely responsive. The overall tone has the harshness removed from the top end, smoothed out the distortion and is now very, very versatile. And that is just on the pentode setting. Amp sounds fantastic with multiple different classic rock dirt tones.

    Very happy with the tone, noise and performance. Not as happy with some of my water slide decals I created. Might redo those.

    Now the pics.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
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  2. JohnnyGoo

    JohnnyGoo Well-Known Member

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    Thats pretty cool.i got a completely stock Blackheart BH5H.theres no way in hell id try what you just did.i know my limits lol.but hey thats damn cool
     
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  3. frankd

    frankd Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like you have a topnotch rig now. And it just could become your
    go to practice n play amp I Know mine is .Now ya gotta find a bh15 cheap
    to mod I hear those are fairly easy to mod into 74x territory.
    frankd
     
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  4. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    I read this with interest... I have a Little Giant with the Bitmo Triple Bypass installed.
    I'm pretty happy with the sounds I get with only this one mod, but was very interested
    in what you did. I had an amp pro do my installation, in the interests of getting it done right.

    So I'll ask you the same question I asked him: How hard would it be to add an XLR out
    to the back panel of this amp? He didn't think it would be too hard, but his bid on the job
    was more than the cost of a Senheiser 609... so I bought one.

    I find that when I mic this amp, it can sound huge. There's a sweet spot just off center.
    I don't know if I get better sound with the mic than with an XLR line right to the sound man...
    hence my question: How would you go about getting a really tall sound out of this
    Black Heart Little Giant?
    April & Lil Giant@100.JPG
     
  5. cybermgk

    cybermgk Well-Known Member

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    Just adding a line level out, be it XLR or 1/4" wouldn't be horribly difficult. But, it would sound bad imho. Without emulating the speaker and what it brings, the raw signal, even at line levels would be very bad sounding. You would HAVE to run it through a speaker emulation of some kind. THat is probably why he quoted so much, he was likely adding that in.
     
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  6. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    good answer! So the Sennheiser is the actual solution to the small output problem with this excellent amp.
    Okay! By instinct, I chose the right path. I know this because I'm happy with the sound that it makes, and
    sound men I've worked with agree with this conclusion. Sound men are generally happy with restraint on the
    part of performers and their amps, because that give the sound man "headroom' so he can mix for the room
    without too much interference from stage amp volume.

    If that paragraph is unintelligible or too much technobabble for the newbs or the techno challenged,
    I'll explain: I have a small lightweight amp that sounds really good at bedroom levels. So that makes it
    a great practice amp eh? But if I want it to be louder so it can have effective presence at a live venue,
    I need to up the volume without destroying the sound quality.

    In consultation with other members here whose opinions I respect, we conclude that the best way to
    up the volume of this cool little 5Watt amp is to put a specially designed microphone (Sennheiser 609)
    in front of it, just off center and give that signal to the soundman who is mixing the vocals and the
    acoustic guitars and all. In that way, the signal runs through the P.A. board and out to the BIG speakers,
    but mixed with everything else so that the sound is effective.

    The key word here is effective. That's what we trust the sound man to deliver to the audience.
    And if they get up on their hind legs at the end of the performance, we know that the combination
    of performer and technician was effective.
     
  7. milesdeem

    milesdeem Well-Known Member

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    Very educational.
    I've only changed tubes in a Class A before. The change to a 3 way on/standby/off switch interest's me....the lil' 5 watt Laney Cub 8 doesn't have "Standby".
     
  8. cybermgk

    cybermgk Well-Known Member

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    On the BH5H, you can measure voltages that are right at and near a lot of component's thresholds and limits, until those tubes heat up and add their load. Standby lets em heat up, add their load then sends a much safer, tolerable voltage. Hopefully will add some lifetime to some of those caps.
     
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  9. Voxman

    Voxman Moderator Staff Member

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    Very very cool! I'm doing, somewhat close, to the same with my Boogie MKIII since after 25 ? yrs it's gotten a bit dodgy! Thing is, soundwise , It's never let me down :cheers:
     
  10. Huntroll

    Huntroll Active Member

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    A few years back I built one of these:

    http://www.mojotone.com/amp-parts/a...kface-Super-Reverb-Style-Amp-Kit#.VNlWOGc5DIW

    kit-blackface-super-reverb-5550013.jpg

    I drove and bought it from a guy 100 miles away that never really got started on it.

    I took my time and added some custom parts like a polished stainless steel cap bank housing cover and the best vintage pointer knobs I could find.

    I had the chassis powder coated satin black before I started in on it.

    It doesn't have over 10 hours on it.
     
  11. Huntroll

    Huntroll Active Member

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    Col. Mustard -

    I highly recommend that you invest in an Altair power attenuator.

    They go in-line between the amp and the speaker, have an adjustable LINE OUT, and you can blast the amp wide open and turn down the actual volume level, (attenuate), with the big knob on the front.

    They use nichrome wire, (like a toaster), to do the load matching.

    Please don't bother with a Scholtz Power Soak, (they use resistors), they aren't near as good.

    H.
    altairpw5.jpg

    altairpw5side.jpg
     
  12. Huntroll

    Huntroll Active Member

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    Here's some pics of my Super Reverb Amp build . . .

    BUILD-1.JPG

    BUILD-2.JPG

    CHASSIS-5.JPG

    TUBES-1.JPG

    CAPS-1.JPG


    CB-3.JPG
     
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  13. Voxman

    Voxman Moderator Staff Member

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    Cool Build, but .... sniffin the cork, I preferred the SOZO Astron/blue molded copy? caps, if they really are, http://www.sozocapacitors.com/purchaseBM.html .. they still have to " break in " but to my ears the Sprague orange drops are very Treble forward and again, to my ears, the O`drops take 2 years to start breaking in .. just offering an alternative sounding cap that at best will be interesting reading if your not interested in them. In my Boogie MK III, red stripe, rebuild I would never use anything else but an O`drop`s as that was part of the original design and again, to my ears, they don't sound the same as they do in other designs being original the original to the Boogie circuit design
     
  14. Huntroll

    Huntroll Active Member

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    Voxman, It's great to connect with an electronic musician!

    When I built the amp I didn't really do any research into what was best component wise, I pretty much trusted Mojotone do to it right.

    When I bought the nicer cloth covered wire and and other parts that were missing, I got them from Weber. How about those blue anodized tube sockets?

    I found the amp kit on Craigslist, I could have never afforded a new one.

    Building the amp was second nature for me since I had been an electronic technician doing amp repairs for decades prior.

    Do you have a Huntron Tracker?
     

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