1950s Premier 88N 25w 1x12" Tube Amp

These Premier 88 amps are extremely curious beasts. This one may date as early as 1948-1949 but it's likely a '50-'51 build. It's in excellent shape, the important features are original, and it runs about 25w and has a huge, wide, full sound. Premiers do their own thing and are inspiring pieces of kit to have around. Lore has it that Link Wray's Rumble was recorded on one of these.

The main "weird feature" is that this has a two-part construction where the amp "head" is in one section and the speaker cab in another. There's a longish cable that lets you place the head as close or as far away from the amp as you'd reasonably like. Two mic inputs, great bass response, and an array of instrument inputs mean that this was intended, more than likely, to be amplification for a small group rather than just a single player. It has a strange and wonderful "tone selector" circuit which operates like a band-pass filter (EQ-style). This is very useful for dialing-in the sound. I found that I liked rolling off the highs and lows a little to give it more of a mids-punch when playing guitar through it.

Winfield Holt of Speaking Volumes up in Burlington went through this thing head to toe and it's working beautifully. That sounds like "normal work" but in the case of Premiers, with their incredibly confusing circuits, lack of documentation, and pasta-noodles-like internal configurations, that's a minor miracle. I've opened my share of Premiers and said to myself, "that's above my station to figure out." He apparently worked on this bit by bit over a year before it was finally complete. It's three-pronged and ready to go. When powering-up, however, the speaker makes a small "chirp" just before it's at full power.

In Winfield's own words:

This late 40’s/early 50’s Premier 88n suitcase guitar amp is one of the oldest and coolest amps I’ve had the privilege to work on. It’s got that clean tone that’s fat, warm and not squeaky clean- just enough of the brown sugar to make it a dream to play. And the overdrive… neck and neck with the best old tweeds. A lovely tremolo circuit and organ style push button tone controls add a heap of charm and tonal range. No wonder Premier is a favorite brand of cats like Link Wray, David Lindley and Ry Cooder.

This model is extremely rare, schematics don’t exist, and information in general is scarce. In the end, every capacitor (both electrolytic and paper in oil) was replaced, tons of out of spec resistors got swapped, and all new tubes were installed. lots of other tweaking, tuning and servicing got performed as well. Lack of info on the circuit and seriously deteriorated components made for an intense job but damn if it didn’t turn out well!

Component specs:
  • 12” Rola field coil speaker
  • 1x 5u4G Rectifier
  • 4x cathode biased 6v6 output
  • 2x 12at7 phase inverters
  • 2x 12au7 Tremelo tubes
  • 2x 12ax7 Preamp tubes