A Briefcase Full of Blues

Kay 704A Guitar Amp with Tremolo

1965 Kay 704 Vanguard Vibrato

Find the full review here: Kay 704 Review

The Kay 704 Vanguard with Vibrato was the world’s first all transistor solid-state guitar amp, introduced by Kay Musical Instruments in 1962. Based on traditional tube amp design of that period, the vacuum tubes were replaced in the hand-wired circuits with seven germanium transistors and four diodes.

I bought this from a guy on eBay. According to the date codes found on the potentiometers, it’s a 1965 model. Completely original. A 5-watt wonder. A single front-loaded 8″ Oxford Alnico speaker. Not a whole lot of lower mid-range. But then again, no low end speaker flab either. The tone of this amp makes me think of Led Zep. Mild overdrive at full volume from my Gretsch 5120humbuckers. Fantastic OD howl from my Silvertone 1445 with its Teisco single coil pickups. The solid-state vibrato circuit is simply amazing! The vibrato effect alone was worth the price.

See more photos of the Kay 704 Vanguard Vibrato here.

Comments

tomas March 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm

glad you are enjoying it!

nice site, added it to my RSS reader….

REPLY

alex March 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

tomas, thanks for visiting the site! ~alex

glassdog March 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I have the same vanguard amp was wondering Its worth having someone look at it. It has some issues with the sound. It mostly crackles It was given to me by a relative. thanks

REPLY

alex March 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm

@glassdog, thanks for visiting the site. Personally, I like these amps a lot, and they are getting much harder to find. I do my own repairs to save $. I would definitely recommend having someone look at it to at least estimate the damage and repair cost. But I wouldn’t recommend spending very much to repair it. $75 to $100, max, and that’s pushing it. Unless yours is in pristine physical condition – and most are not! Good luck! ~alex

 

 

Beatles Amp Rediscovered

Vox UL730 Head

The Vox UL730 amp played by George Harrison on the Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s recordings

The Northwich Guardian reported today that a man in Wicham England discovered that a guitar amplifier he’s owned for awhile actually belonged to George Harrison in the mid-60′s. Apparently that fact went unnoticed for decades until the man took the amp in for repair. The technician discovered Harrison’s identification inside the amp during the repair.

Read the article here: Wicham man finds amp owned by the Beatles

More info about the Vox UL730 Amplifier from www.voxshowroom.com.

Photo courtesy of www.guitargeek.com.

First Solid-State Guitar Amplifier

Kay Vanguard 704 Vibrato
Courtesy Mass Street Music

Lucky me! I was looking for a vintage solid-state combo amp to use at practice, and to give my trusty tube Silvertones a rest. Just scored this one off ebay today for cheap! The very first solid-state guitar amp was introduced by Kay Musical Instruments in 1962. Can’t wait for it to arrive.

 

How it all began…


This story began a few days after Christmas when my son and I stopped into one of Portland’s music shops, Trade Up Music, to browse the used gear. After checking out Trade Up’s nice selection of guitars, my son spotted a small, funky, beat up amp sitting atop the other guitar and bass amps. It was a simple square box, somewhat plain in appearance. The original green vinyl covering was stretched in a few places and had a few tears. The speaker fabric was splattered with paint and a had hole in it! Because of those “faults,” my son thought it had a certain cool factor and retro personality. And it had tubes inside! Cool… a little tube powered practice amp. Or maybe he could use it on stage, or for recording.

Taking a closer look, I could tell it was one of those unimpressive department store amps of the late 1960’s or early 70’s. Basically the kind of stuff we ran away from (but in reality was all we could afford!). It was a Sears amp, model 5 XL to be exact. Well I thought to myself, “A Sears amp? No way.” Musicians didn’t buy these. Only parents bought these cheap amps, paired with an equally cheap electric guitar, so their kids could start their own noise brigade in the garage.

Anyway, knowing nothing about this amp, I grabbed my smart phone and quickly Googled the amp’s name while still in the store. Not much was found, except for some less than glowing information and commentary found at Silvertone World (a great site, by the way). Still scratching my head, my son decided to buy it for less than $90 cash.

Once we got this guy home and plugged into Jon’s modified tele, all my doubts were replaced with astonishment. What unexpected sounds came zooming out of that plain green box! Jon cranked the volume and the tone knobs. The tubes went into overdrive: somewhat snarly and raspy but under control. Subtle highs, growling midrange, and a whole lot of solid bass. Who knew?!

Have a listen…

Who knew there was an real unexpected Tone Gem hiding underneath that Sears label and ugly green vinyl?

Well, that’s how this whole thing started.

{2 comments}

Randy October 5, 2010 at 7:30 am

Alex, thanks for the insight on the 1420! “Less than glowing” is right, because I’ve never had the opportunity to play through one… now, I know! Mind if I use your mini-review on the site for the 1420 page? Funny how just a little hot wire, vacuum and glass can create a Tone Gem, eh?

alex October 5, 2010 at 9:30 am

Randy, greetings! A privilege to hear from Silvertonium. Thanks for your comments. Please fee free to use as a mini-review. I am currently working on full fledged review pages (complete with specs, photos, video, and audio) for this amp and for the 10 XL (1421), which will be posted in the near future.