CHAMP ELECTRONICS -" THE VINTAGE VALVE AMP HOSPITAL"
REPAIR OF A BIRD BROTHERS BANDSTAND 100 Watt COMBO AMPLIFIER
Brought to me this time by a real nice guy Tom, from Lincoln which is about 45 miles from Nottingham here in the
centre of the UK. During the original contact phone call from Tom, he told me about
a Bird Brothers combo that he owned, with a 15” speaker, and said that it wasn’t working correctly. At first I thought he was referring to a Bird 4/25 with its 15” Wharfedale speaker.
(The same as the previous amp in this section.)
During the course of the conversation, Tom pointed-out the fact that it had been recovered, and at some
point he also mentioned a sloping front panel and a size similar to a Fender Twin! It was
then that my ears really pricked-up! He was describing an amp that I had never seen or heard of; let alone
one that had crossed over my workbench!
We made all the normal arrangements for Tom to bring the amp to Nottingham on a given day
and time, and this he did. The first thing that struck me (not ever having seen one of these) was the weight.
It's bloody heavy! Removing the back panel revealed why. Not only did it have a pretty hefty 15”
ceramic magnet speaker (almost certainly a re-badged Goodmans) but……it was a 100 watt amp with a quad of EL34’s
and a typical-sized pair of 100 watt power and output transformers!
This photo, the one above, and the one below are three views of the components before any work commenced. You can see
a big black area on the right hand side, which looks like something has exploded/caught fire on a previous occasion?
Scrutinising this blackened area, I couldn’t actually find any burnt components that could have caused
this. That was until I spotted that the screen grid resistors on the 4 x EL34’s looked like a different brand to the rest of the components, plus…they all had Teflon sleeving on them.
This too was different sleeving to the rest of the amp. I now realised that these resistors had obviously been changed at some point.
My gut feeling as to why they should have been changed was that almost certainly
the EL34 on the right-hand-side had gone faulty (grid 1 short?) and had taken its screen grid resistor out with a fireworks display!
Whilst replacing the four screen (grid 2) resistors shown here, I suddenly remembered
that Tom had mentioned on the initial phone call that there was a problem with the amp
screaming. Tom had stayed with me for the day whilst I sorted the amp out for him.
(Actually, I gave him some glue, scissors and a Kraft-knife, and sent him outside to repair some of the bad recovering job). I asked him about the screaming and he reiterated
this and confirmed that the problem had re-occurred the last time he had used
the amp, which was some time ago. He also told me that the JJ EL34’s were new.
They had never really been used with the amp becoming faulty!
Something then sprung to mind and I said to Tom "when the amp started screaming,
was this at about the same time that the JJ EL34’s were fitted?" To which he confirmed
that yes, it was at about the same time! Bingo! I now knew what had happened! This amp had the very same original design problem that applies to all Selmer 100 watt 4 x EL34
models. This issue does not show itself with original tubes/valves like Mullard, Brimar, Tungsram etc
but as soon as any modern day tubes are used these types of amps, they go into a massive scream! I have said this before in previous articles but….I’m not prepared to give-away tech-guys secrets.
Once again however, the cure is staring you right in the face in the above photos!
The added 100uf @ 500 volts cap is to help beef-up the HT supply. The 32uf original was struggling to do the job.
Also, a previous engineer had removed the front pilot lamp and fitted an HT fuse here. There is an internal HT fuse (hiding behind the added 100uf cap), so
I removed this front panel fuse and replaced it with a nice blue lamp. At least you can see when the amp is powered now!
The job finished and the components cover plate replaced. This plate is 2mm mild steel and
is in itself very heavy, hence adding even more weight to the amp.
Finished top view. Oh yes, and I’ve just remembered…even though new, one of the JJ EL34’s was completely
dead! I found a good pull-out that matched up with the other three fine valves,
hence saving the fitting of a full set of new ones.
Back in the case and….note the badly fitted side handles! Tom tells me, from what little information he has found on this model,
that it originally had only one strap-handle in the middle/top.
Now, here is where an interesting story takes place; or is it just pure coincidence? Right….the Bird Company that made the Golden Eagle, the 4/25, and the Talisman (the other amps featured in this
section of the website) plus a few other models, was based in Poole, Dorset, UK. They traded under the name ‘Sydney S. Bird & Sons’….note the word ‘sons’ which certainly suggests more than one (obviously!). The company that made this amp traded under the brand name of ‘Bird Brothers’ so…..are these any of the brothers from the original Bird company
from Dorset? Tom, the owner of this amp, has found some more information on the Bird Brothers equipment and from what I can gather, the company was from somewhere up-north here in the UK
which is a long way from Dorset way down there in the South, but hell….who knows?
If you study the word ‘Bird’ on the 15" Goodmans speaker and compare it with the same word
"Bird" on the background of this article (being the logo from the original Dorset Company),
you can see that they are of a very similar typeface but.....take a close look. On the background word the
"r" connects to the "d" at the top whereas on the speaker the
"r" connects to the "d" at the bottom! Maybe they are not the brothers
from Dorset after all?
Nevertheless, as more information surfaces on either company, you can be sure it will be added to the website accordingly!
Serial Number 015. Tom (again the amp’s owner), has found only two more of these in the world! I believe
that one is in Portugal and the s/n on that one is 005. This would possibly suggest not many of them were
And a final front shot. The master volume control had a completely wrong knob on it, and
unfortunately the only one I could find was similar but not exact. I have since heard from Tom, who is over the moon with her performance now.
And there is no more screaming now!…..Bloody wicked!
Plus a final word here: If there is not really any family or company connections between Sydney S. Bird & Sons
and Bird Brothers, then I still don’t think it really matters that I have put them together in this
section of the website. It all still makes for great and interesting reading!
Cheers for all your support, John.
Tom the owner has now got back to me with further
information on the origins of Bird Brothers Amplifiers, and also how he managed
to obtain the amp described above.
"It's a familiar story to all of us gear heads. Late at night I found a very interesting amp listed on eBay as "mid 60s combo amplifier". It had been
re-covered at some point in its life but still sported its original 15" "Bird Brothers" branded speaker and seemed all good. I couldn't find much out about the amp but I ended up winning the auction and waiting tensely for it to arrive. It was a little battered from the postie when I received it but
I fired it up and it had lovely cleans and just a touch of distortion.
I was in a funk/rock band at the time and was really keen to crank it up. I played a couple of gigs and on the second
one a fuse blew, and so began all the problems! It was never right after that and would squeal and crackle continuously!
After languishing in the house for awhile, I brought it to John to have it sorted. He did some fantastic work whilst I waited and diagnosed and fixed multiple issues, brought it back up to its full 100w, and in turn back to its beautiful sound! Anyway, here's a little history about these amps:
They were branded and sold by Bird Brothers of Rochdale. Peter and Arthur Bird owned two guitar shops during the 70s and
80s around Manchester; Guitar Player of Rochdale and Rock Island in Oldham. Bird Brothers also sold their own line of flight cases, although unfortunately the one for this amp is nowhere to be seen! This particular amp was built by TVM in Salford, a group of ex-admiralty engineers,
with the amp design being based around that of the Fender Bandmaster. They chose a 15" speaker to give a punchier
sound when compared to a 12" speaker.
These amps have a 100w rated output, running four EL34s and four ECC83, with solid state rectification. They have two channels, Bright and Normal, with universal Treble, Middle and Bass controls. There is also Master Volume. The numbers were very low but they did receive a good review in Beat Instrumental. Besides the large "Bird Brothers" logo on the speaker, the only other markings on the amplifier is the hand-scribed serial number, this amp being #015. After extensive research I know of three in existence, including my own. One of the others has been converted to a head (these amps are by no means light!) and the other is in Portugal, with its original flight case, serial number 005!
The two channels have interesting response; the Normal channel is pretty bright but not so loud, giving most of the volume straight away. The Bright channel has plenty of volume and is very bright, but this works nicely with a Telecaster and the 15" speaker! Since
the amp has been back to working capacity I have been getting lovely sounds with it, from beautiful cleans with an SG or Telecaster, through to blues/rock tones, and even more when she's warm! Thanks John!!"
John - So now we know that Bird Brothers were not a
spin-off from the old Sydney Bird Company of Poole in Dorset!