Guild 99-J : a wonderful guitar amp that needs a new home

Aug 9, 2014 by

Guild 99-J : a wonderful guitar amp that needs a new home

This post is mainly for reminiscence’s sake, as my beloved little Guild 99-J will soon have to find a new home; it’s also one of the rarer amplifiers out there, as Guild didn’t make them for very long, so I hope that this might be of some interest to someone in the future.  For anyone not that interested in old amplifiers, or my personal history, feel free to tune out now…

When I bought this little baby in about 2002, the amplifier I already had was a giant beast of a thing: a Carvin 100W thing, if memory serves, with two giant speakers in, and it weighed a tonne.  It was a lovely amp but, as I was starting to do a few more live shows, it was a nightmare trying to get it to venues, and eventually I knew it had to go.  On eBay, looking for something more portable, I came across this little guy, and was immediately struck by it.  Christ only knows why, as it had been painted entirely gloss black, was more than a little knackered, and needed a fair amount of work.  In any case, it was more portable than my giant Carvin, and I loved valve amps, so it was a relatively easy choice.

Below is a quick recording to show what it sounds like – it really needs a new set of valves, and my playing isn’t fantastic, but it should give you a rough idea.

Front elevation

Front elevation

It didn’t come like this, I hasten to add: as I say, it was entirely gloss black, with no Guild badge or plate, and a badly corroded control panel.  My guess was this it had been handed on to someone’s kid, who had decided to use it in their Goth band in the mid 1980s, and the original coverings and decoration looked a little trad for their taste. All speculation, of course.

Side angle

Side angle

So, first job was to get rid of all the grim black paint (which, it has to be said, had seen better days itself); that, of course, involved taking all the workings and the speaker out as well. Painstripper, scraping, sanding and general cleaning needed to happen before re-covering with the tweed and grille mesh that’s there now. I probably could have replaced the handle, but this was 10 years ago, when the Internet wasn’t quite so forthcoming with its antique amplifier restoration parts; instead, it still has the suitcase handle it came with. For all I know, there might well be a kit with the right colour of tolex and tweed, along with that gold-threaded mesh that the original has.

Control panel

Control panel

The control panel, as I say, was pretty corroded- the lettering was just about legible, but not so much that you’d be able to see it at a gig.  Lacking any metalworking facilities, or ability to remake the decals, the easiest thing to do was to repaint by hand using Humbrol enamel paints.  Perhaps not the most elegant solution, but I couldn’t think of a better one.

Rear view

Rear view

 

The speaker itself was also pretty corroded, so I disassembled it, stripped the old paint off with an Argos-brand Dremel-style tool, repainted with Humbrol Matt Olive Drab, and then covered with a gloss varnish.  It’s a good enough finish to convince a visiting amplifier expert that it was the original finish, which made me pretty happy. The speaker was also re-coned by Wembley Loudspeaker (confusingly located in East Acton) in about 2006, and sounds gorgeous.

Guild serial number

Guild serial number

You may have spotted that there’s a Mini badge on it; as I say, it came into my possession without the Guild badge, and this was around the time that I was also the proud owner of an old-style Mini (named Buffy, if you’re interested).  When Buffy’s head gasket went, I wanted some sort of memento, and the Mini badge seemed the ideal thing.  Looking at the bare front of the amp, it seemed a perfect fit, so that’s where it’s been ever since.

Internal electronics

Internal electronics

The electronics are, as far as I can tell, all original.   The last few times I had it serviced, the techs said that it was working as well as it could, given that the next step along would be to replace lots of components.  Now, I know enough about old amps to know that people will talk at great length about the merits of various NOS capacitors, and I also know that it’s an expensive job to do all that rewiring, so it wasn’t something that I ever considered. (edit: wiser heads than I reckon that the electronics aren’t all original – no idea when things were replaced, or what, though…)

Back panel interior (with scan of circuit diagram)

Back panel interior (with scan of circuit diagram)

The only thing that I can’t locate at the moment is the original circuit diagram – it was brittle as hell when I first acquired the amp, and was affixed to the inside of the back panel. One of the first things I did was to scan it and affix a copy there in its place, which is still there now.

I’m sorry to see it go; some of my proudest moments of recorded music have been made with this amp, and I doubt very much whether I’ll ever have the opportunity to get another one.  It does need looking after, though, and I don’t think I’ll have the time to give it the attention it needs. We’ve had a good run.

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