Canadian Amplifiers – Traynor
Traynor amplifiers were created by Peter Traynor while he worked as the repair technician at the original Long & McQuade music store in Toronto during the 1960’s. What started out as just rental PA’s blossomed into a line of guitar and bass amplifiers also, which were added to the stores’ inventory for retail sales. There were quite a few models produced, but the most popular (and my personal favorites) were the ‘simple’ Fender/Marshall clones. Like most Canadian manufacturers of the day, Traynor used Hammond transformers and Marsland or RSC speakers. The Marshall clones labeled their tone controls a little different. Over to the far right of the chassis were two controls under the heading of ‘Range Expander’. The ‘Low’ was identical to the ‘Middle’ control on the Bassman/Marshall, while the ‘High’ performed exactly like the ‘Presence’ control. The ‘best’ Marshall clone was the Traynor Mark II (YBA-1A). This 2XEL34 amplifier put out 90 watts with its high voltage power supply. Tube problems? No sir, thanks in part to the careful design of the output stage. Why Marshall didn’t use these ideas, presented by Mullard themselves in 1953, baffles me. Today, these amplifiers don’t command nearly the price that an equivalent Marshall will, and that’s fine by me. I’d rather pay a fraction of the price for the Traynor and let the Marshall go to some rich Japanese industrialist.
Pictured above is a very early sample of the Traynor heads that were simple Fender/Marshall knock-offs, and for my money the best value in ‘pawnshop prizes’. Hand wired, simple circuits, with Hammond transformers. Note the early style logo, and the Bassman/Marshall influenced ‘four inputs’. A Canadian ‘Plexi’? Maybe. Later Traynor heads came in a much ‘longer’ cabinet, with their added circuitry ‘bells & whistles’ (non-Fender tone controls with ‘Boost’ features), and are not my personal favorite amplifiers. I look out for the ‘small box’ Traynor heads and modify them to be killer Rock ‘n’ Roll machines. I’ve had dozens of guitar players laugh at my Traynor YBA1’s before they plug into one, and some offer to trade-in their Marshall heads after they hear what I can do with them. Of course, there are also those who offer a whopping $200 for my Bassmaster head (because after all, it is just a Traynor). Those people are politely reminded that even after they kiss my ass the Traynor is not for sale.
This circa 1971 YBA-1 Bass Master (catalog insert shown above) is my personal favorite Traynor for many reasons. Not the least is the great ‘feature’ on all Traynor amplifiers for this time period that you don’t need to remove the chassis for repair or modification! The tag board is accessed by removing the four 5/16″ bolts (the chassis is ‘threaded’), and lifting off the top Tolexed board, handle and all. What could be easier? Certainly not the later version cabinet style, where only a contortionist can remove the separate chassis nuts and bolts. The circuit is a straight 4-input Bassman/Marshall clone, with EL34 output tubes. Earlier versions of the Bass Master were even influenced by the tweed Fender Bassman mistakes, and featured 7027 output tubes with a tube rectifier and 20uF filtering. Not being too aroused by the current price for NOS 7027’s, I modified my personal circa 1966 YBA-1 so that it now uses 6L6’s.
The YBA-3 Custom Special (catalog insert above) is a very interesting amplifier for a few good reasons. Aside from being an excellent sounding ‘Marshall’ amplifier (although it does have the longer chassis to accommodate those extra non-Marshall influenced ‘Boost’ switches in a few places), is has very a unusual (for the guitar amplifier industry) output wiring scheme. Should you be lucky enough to own a YBA-3, or have access to a schematic, study it well. You could ‘borrow’ a few of the ideas and transfer them to a Marshall that ‘eats’ output tubes. Every YBA-3 I have serviced still has the original EL34s in them. I once tried to pass on these ideas through a BBS thread, only to have them shot down. It seems all the ‘tech heads’ out there would rather hunt down NOS EL34s that could take the poor Marshall design than spend the time learning why the design was ‘flawed’. Later I read a thread commenting on an amplifier made by Jim Kelly that had the same circuits and how different and ingenious these ideas were. Hmmm…….
There were quite a few combo amplifiers produced during Traynor’s day, but the Guitar Mate (seen above) is far and away the most common to be seen today. Essentially a Deluxe Reverb with 6BQ5’s, these amplifiers sound great. Other combos to watch out for (I don’t have good catalog inserts to scan) would include the YGL-3 Mark 3 combo, which resembles a Twin Reverb with EL34’s, and the YGM-4 Studio Mate combo, which was the Guitar Mate/Deluxe Reverb circuit with four 8″ speakers! The Guitar Mate/Bass Mate/Studio Mate series ‘featured’ a sealed enclosure, with either a separate speaker cord that plugged into the amplifier ‘head’ and speaker ‘box’, or a small speaker wire discreetly fed through a tiny hole drilled in the chassis and the top front corner of the speaker ‘box’. This sealed box yielded a bigger sound with tighter bass. While they may be considered under powered for bigger venues today, they make great small room and recording amplifiers. In fact, for ‘medium’ sized rooms, I have played two Guitar Mate amplifiers simultaneously. Not a lot of clean headroom, but perfect for down and dirty blues and classic rock ‘n’ roll.
- The first ‘Traynor’ product was just a simple PA column, called the YSC-1. Six 8″ speakers handled 150 watts at 5.3 ohms. This was still somewhat of a novelty in 1963, and was the forerunner to portable PA’s.
- The Traynor ‘Leslie’ was called the ‘Roto Master’, and first appeared in 1967.
- The popular ‘Guitar Mate’ had a few different incarnations. In 1967 the amplifier was cataloged ‘YGM-1’ and pushed 20 watts of Class A EL84 power into an 8-ohm 12″ speaker. By 1969, the ‘Guitar Mate’ was now cataloged ‘YGM-3’ and pushed 25 watts of Class AB power into an ‘upgraded’ speaker (see pictures above). The plate voltages on the EL84s clocked in at approximately 400VDC in the YGM-3.
- You want power, little boy? Try out the YBA-3A ‘Super Custom Special’ (Pete had a problem with modesty). Why use plain old 6L6’s when you can use four 6KG6 TV horizontal output tubes and crank out 250 watts RMS before clipping. It was not unheard of to find a YBA-3A that scoped out at 400 watts with all controls ‘dimed’. The YBA-3A was sold with two 8X10″ speaker cabinets. The rumor is that Dan Armstrong smuggled one over to Ampeg, who quickly produced the SVT shortly thereafter. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
- Traynor refused to list the power output of any of their amplifiers in sales literature or catalog inserts. Instead, they state… “There is so much exaggeration today in R.M.S. ratings, that the consumer may very easily become confused. We have made no reference to the power ratings of any of our amplifiers. We simply ask that you listen to our amps and then compare them on a dollar for dollar basis. Specifications available on request.” Any output ratings listed above are the result of ‘requested specifications’, measured examples, and/or educated guess work over the years.
- The solid-state ‘Mono Block’ bass amplifier was the undisputed champion of Canadian bass amplifiers. Introduced in approximately 1970, it featured 250 watts RMS into a 4-ohm load at 1% T.H.D! Adding the second cabinet bumped up the power output to 325 watts RMS @2-ohms and still had 1% T.H.D. It seems everybody in Canada played one, and they are therefore plentiful on the used market.