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Albert Järvinen - a Twin surprise

September 24, 2014

WHEN I HEARD THE NEWS that I might get to service a couple of the late Albert Järvinen's amplifiers, I was so excited I almost fainted. The amps in question were a pair of Fender Twin combos, the amps Järvinen used at the end of his career, right up to his untimely death. Did these amps sound special? Has the late guitar legend left some of his special mojo in these combos? I was about to find out!

Even though we knew many of the same people, I met Albert Järvinen's son, Silas Järvinen, for the first time in person in June 2014. The guitar amps had been stored in his rehearsal studio in Helsinki. We both took them to our shop, where I put them in a place of honour awaiting their repair.

Ironically, the following day turned out to be the first day of a month-long heatwave hitting Finland. The stifling heat in my workshop almost shut down my brain functions completely. It clearly was time for a vacation. I used my time off to study the history of Albert Järvinen's equipment thoroughly. One of the best sources proved to be Jaakko Riihimaa's and John Fagerholm's great book “Albert Järvinen” (published by Johnny Kniga in 2010). Even though I had read the book already at least twice, I find myself devouring the book with newly-found vigour and enthusiasm. 

New gear through an endorsement deal

After an unsuccessful Hurriganes-comeback Albert Järvinen found himself at a crossroads. He knew there was an audience for his music, so he decided to start his own band, and booked time in a recording studio to get his first solo album in the can. Problem was, he needed new gear. During his hiatus Albert had only kept a minimum of equipment. Järvinen asked his record label for a Fender Stratocaster and a Twin amp, which were to become his mainstays during his solo career. The label got in touch with Fender's distributor, Fazer Musiikki, and both parties agreed on an endorsement deal. A few days later Järvinen took delivery of two guitars and two amps. In turn, Albert agreed to hold a series of Fender-clinics at music stores all around Finland.  

Even though there is plenty of archive footage of the Hurriganes and Albert Järvinen, there isn't too much first-hand information available on Järvinen's equipment and playing style. Luckily, my guitar service assistant Kai Järvinen (no relation) turned out to be an avid fan of the late legend, too. He agreed to lend me his copy of the (long-deleted) DVD Albert Järvinen – Finnish Guitar Legend.

Apart from some great performances, filmed at a number of live and TV appearances, the best part of this DVD is a home video, recorded at a music store in Tampere. Here Järvinen gives the viewer an in-depth look at his playing style and the gear he uses. In addition to his spirited playing this part is also a flashback to Finland of the Eighties.

Do the amps still have some Albert-mojo left?

The day the heatwave finally abated I found myself eager to go to work long before 7 am. The others would arrive much later, so I had a couple of hours all to myself. I sat down and took a long hard look at the Twins. So, here we are, then. Where do I start?

I knew that these old amps had been used regularly, even after Albert's death. This is a good thing, because a valve amplifier's capacitors work a bit like a car battery. If you don't use them their power-absorbing components all dry up and die. Not using your guitar amp regularly, at least once a year, will destroy the amp over time. 

I set out to assess the Twins' general condition. I really like to find out how things were made in different time periods. One of the Twins has had its power tubes replaced at some stage, but the other combo was just as it was 25 years ago. Simply by looking at the old sticky tapes on the amps you get a good feel for the Eighties. At that time duct tape was in general use onstage – you used it to mark out amp settings, to tape down cables onto the stage, as well for all kinds of repair work. This was well before the switch to gaffa tape as the guitar tech's tool of the trade.

I started my archeological tour with the Twin on the left, because there were more control settings still marked out on it. The clean channel's volume setting caught my eye. All the stories say that Albert played very loudly. The books tell us Järvinen knew of – and relied on – the brutal amounts of power available from his combos. Most of the old control settings could still be deciphered. 

Albert's last amp settings were noted on a piece of tape stuck to the grille cloth. As I was about to find out, this Twin already possessed a very healthy amount of output at lower settings. Albert's sound pressure levels onstage must have been deafening!

Out of curiosity I weighed the combo – the scales read a whopping 35.4 kilos (or 78 pounds). This means this amp contains heavy-duty transformers, powerful speakers and a chunky chassis. No cheap plywood here… After just about managing to lift the combo up on my workbench I started my journey into the innards of this Fender Twin. The first thing I noticed was Fender's trusty valve layout chart. I had used a Blackface Fender tube chart as an example in an another blog dealing with the different functions of preamp valves in tube amps. Even though this amp was a much newer model its tube layout still bore quite a lot of resemblance to a vintage Fender. 

Chinese quality from way back when

I inspected all the tubes, one by one. Of the 14 preamp valves installed in the two Twins, only a single one had to be replaced. Ironically, the tube in question had been made in the USA and sold as a NOS replacement. I selected a TAD-branded valve, which has been manufactured in China, as a fitting replacement, bringing the number of Chinese preamp tubes in this pair of combos to 14 out of 14.

I still remember my time at Finnish company Backline Rental: Fender had long been using Chinese tubes in their amplifiers. Even though some snobs tend to equal “Made in China” with “substandard quality”, you can get very decent stuff from there, if you're willing to pay for it. TAD's founder Andreas Hecke has shown that the Chinese can produce excellent tubes. TAD runs its own factories over there churning out very sturdy, military-spec'd valves. Quite obviously the tough tubes Fender had used way back in 1989 must have come from the same type of manufacturer.

What was wrong with the American tube? Its innards had shaken loose, turning the valve into a microphonic nightmare. Microphonic means that it picks up vibrations in the same way a microphone does. With the gain turned up, such a tube can start howling or screeching at the slightest physical shock to the amp, which spells trouble on stage.

I handle amplifier valves in a way similar to old-fashioned lightbulbs. I tap them gently using my fingernails, and listen closely to the way the tubes ring. I've done this hundreds of times, so I know what a “good” valve has to sound like. This valve sounded like it was broken, so it had to be replaced. 

Looking at the speakers

Next, I checked the impedance of the speakers. The amp's impedance switch had been put in the 8 ohms setting. Nonetheless, I measured a speaker load of 14.9 ohms, which means we were dealing with a nominal impedance of 16 ohms, here. Set as it was, the combo's main amp had been running at double the normal load, meaning at half its nominal power rating. Regardless of this, the amp still was ear-shatteringly loud.

Inside the chassis

There were bits of old sticky tape covering the chassis' screws, which proved that this Twin hadn't been opened for 25 years. Inside I found a final inspection label including the date of manufacture and the worker's signature. The combo had been finished on November 29th, 1989, and probably been left untouched since. The workmanship looked good, and the tube sockets were neatly installed on the metal chassis, and not soldered directly onto the component board. One thing was strange, though: The components used seemed like a willy-nilly hodgepodge of different eras. For example, I could find some carbon composition resistors and carbon film resistors, while the majority of resistors were more recent metal film types. These days you pay top dollar for carbon composition resistors in boutique amps. Seems like back then Fender still had many of those stockpiled in their factory. 

All's not well

I could see a blown fuse. To make sure the fuse was really gone, I double-checked the continuity using my multimeter. I checked all the other fuses, too, and found all others to be OK.

The blown fuse was labelled 2 T, meaning a two ampere slow-blowing (T stands for "timed"). I put in a new fuse and hoped for the best. Usually fuses don't just blow all by themselves, there tends to be a reason.

I always use a current limiter, when servicing amplifiers. The current limiter is basically a high-powered lightbulb running in series with the amp's power supply. When something's wrong with the amp the 150 W lightbulb absorbs the faulty current and lights up brightly, giving you time to shut down the amp before a fuse blows or a component melts. When you see a bright light, you simply turn off the amp and start looking for the fault. 

Before throwing the power switch I made sure the speakers were connected. Then, with some anxiety on my part, I switched on the Twin's power. The room lit up very brightly in an instant, which made it quite clear that something was at fault with this combo. I started troubleshooting by taking off the power amp valves one by one. In most cases a blown fuse in a tube amp is the result of a faulty power amp valve, which is why I felt kind of sure that there was a quick solution to this problem.

But I was proven wrong. I expected the light to go out after removing the last power amp tube, but nothing happened. The lightbulb just kept on shining brightly. This meant that the fault was either in the rectifier or somewhere in the amp's power supply. This Twin uses a solid state (diode) rectifier, instead of a valve, which is why I decided to hand this job over to a real amp expert. I switched off the amp and the current limiter, and the lightbulb went dark.  

Off to the doctor's

When it comes to amps I always say I'm something of a combat medic. I get about 99 percent of tube amps up and running using my own methods. I have serviced and repaired dozens of amps a day at festivals, but this Twin turned out to be a too hard task for me. This historically important cultural artifact needed expert help. Luckily for me this help was not far away. I rang up Olli Kaske at Midi Factory, and found myself heading for Olli's workshop only a few minutes later.

The Rock history of Kruunuhaka

The combo travelled in style, tucked into one of Ikea's sturdy blue plastic bags. On the way to Midi Factory I ran into our janitor, who is an older gentleman, well-versed in the history of our district of Kruunuhaka in the south of Helsinki. He had once told me that our Custom Boards premises had been the studio of famous photographer Risto Vuorimies in the Seventies. It was in his darkroom there that the covers for the first two Hurriganes LPs – Rock and Roll All Night Long and Roadrunner – had been developed. 

Across the street from Custom Boards there's another old shop, which had been the shop of Finnish jeans brand Beavers, where (the band's drummer, singer and boss) Remu Aaltonen successfully brokered an endorsement deal for the Hurriganes. Beaver's founder Matti Majava had this to say about the early years of the brand:

I was importing second-hand clothes from America. It was originally a used clothes shop, when we started back in March 1969. We started off with a tiny little shop in Kruunuhaka, with an old wood stove for heating. We were selling the illusion of the American Dream, back then. The American way of life had been steadily sweeping in thanks to Rock' n' Roll culture. We started seeing jeans and denim, American sports shirts (the ones with the large numbers on the front and back), suit jackets, bowling shirts and Native American style leather clothes and moccasins. All very fashionable stuff at the turn of the decade and in the early Seventies. But Albert had already been wearing these types of clothes well before they became en vogue!”

As I turned the corner into Maneesinkatu, I looked at Albert's old clothes shop in Meritullinkatu 13. It felt like the amps had finally returned home, home to Kruunuhaka. If they had to be repaired, then it should (and would) happen here.

At Olli Kaske's workshop

After we had heaved the amp onto the workbench I explained to Olli what was wrong with the combo, and what I had already tried to correct the fault. Olli connected the Twin to his Variac, and concurred – there's current going the wrong way. But why and where?

We decided to take a moment to brew some coffee. I'm known as a dedicated coffee drinker, but Olli seems to have taken things far further. With the poised air of a martial arts black belt master he initiated me in the fine art of espresso-making, handing me a tiny cup of steaming brew, strong enough to almost blow my fuse. 

Returning to the Twin, Olli then found out that the rectifier's diodes displayed exceptionally large tolerances, which is why he decided to put in new ones right on the spot. One of the fabled carbon composition resistors didn't cut the mustard, either, and had to go, too. There they were, five tiny components, which had prevented the amp from working correctly. This was all it took to get the Twin up and running again.

When I mentioned my surprise at the bone-crushing power of this combo, Olli decided to make some measurements. We found out that we could get up to 112.5 watts out of the clean channel, which really is a lot. We tried the High/Low-switch, and measured approximately 40 watts in “low”. The low setting results in the combo clipping rather early and nastily, which makes the switch less useful for dropping the overall volume.

To finish the work on the first combo, Olli rebiased the JJ power amp tubes. With the first Twin running I then turned my attention to its brother. I wanted to try them out running in tandem, once both amplifiers had been serviced.

Biasing for dummies

The second Twin was the one which still had its original power amp valves. The tubes were RCAs, and seemed to be in working order. But, because we had already agreed with Silas that the power amp tubes should be replaced anyway, I took the old ones out without further testing. Albert had been playing this amp for a few years and Silas had also used the combo regularly, which meant that the original valves had probably reached the end of the road. 

I had long been planning to write something concise about tube amp biasing. Would this be a good place to combine something beneficial with something amusing? In my view biasing has not been explained in an easy-to-understand way anywhere, yet. Let me try to demystify the process for your benefit.

Why do we need biasing?

Let’s hope I don’t disappoint you, but actually tube amp biasing is a much smaller, and much more mundane matter, when it comes to your rig’s tone, than many so-called gurus would make you believe. Basically, biasing makes your power amp valves work in their ideal range of operation. It is also a sort of security operation – if your valves run too hot, something they might burn out in just a couple of minutes. I’ve been there and watched it happen.

If the amp’s bias is set too low part of your signal will go missing-in-action, resulting in a weak sound. A too hot bias, on the other hand, will drive the power valves beyond their ideal break-up point – what is usually called the “sweet spot”. In this case your amp would lose a good deal of its dynamic range and touch-sensitivity. In most high-gain master volume amps players rely on heavy preamp distortion for their tone, though, making biasing more of a formality.

What does adjusting the bias mean?

If you imagine an amplifier as a sort of automobile, then biasing is the way to setting its engine’s idle speed. You adjust the bias level in order for the amp to “idle” smoothly and efficiently, without using up too much “fuel” (i.e. electricity). Just as a car uses up fuel when idling at a traffic light, a valve amp will use some electricity, even when you’re not playing.

Playing your guitar feeds more electricity through the tube. If your power amp tube were a jug of water, the bias voltage would make up approximately 7 dl (70 %), and your guitar-playing would then fill the jug up to the top, adding 3 dl (30 %). This whole litre would be the ideal maximum level of saturation (100 %) in our little metaphorical look at the vacuum tube.

  1. If you leave the biasing too low, say at 60 percent, you will not get optimal saturation, as your guitar signal would only fill the jug up to 90 percent. Your sound won’t be hot enough. There’s not enough water in the jug to quench all of your thirst.
  2. If you set the bias too high – for example all the way to 90 percent – you would push the valves into a rating of 120 percent with your guitar signal. The tubes would be driven into over-saturation, they would compress and get far too hot. The jug would run over, spilling water onto the table.
  3. Problem is a tube cannot flow over like a jug, it is much more like a closed container. If you have a closed container filled up to its full capacity (100 %), and you try to force an additional 30 percent of water in, chances are your container will break. This is what happens to a tube, too.

This type of scheme applies to all Class AB (push-pull) amplifiers. Class A -amps are self-biasing (at least in theory), or cathode-biased amps. Preamp valves need not be biased at all.

Biasing in practice

First off I measured the grid resistors soldered to the valve sockets. They are meant to work as protective “fuses” for the tubes. The resistors were all in working order and their readings within specifications.

Sometimes, when a valve fails catastrophically it can take down one (or more) of its protective grid resistors with it. Even if you don’t know how to change these resistors you should find out the resistors’ correct values and keep a couple of spares with you. Without these resistors changing a blown power amp valve is completely useless. If you’re at a gig you should be able to locate a repairperson to exchange the melted resistors for you in almost any city.

Next, I checked the heater supplies, which also were all within specs at 6.42 VAC. The heater voltage should be checked as a routine step. If the inside of a tube isn’t heated no electrons will be able to flow, because of the lack of conductive gases. Usually the heater supplies run somewhere between 6.3 and 6.9 VAC.

The next step was measuring each tube’s plate- (pin 3) and grid-voltages (pin 4) off of each socket. In our case the values were the same for each of the power amp valves. In case of a serious component failure inside the amp’s wiring you would get differing readings between the tubes. In such cases you would first have to get to the bottom of the underlying problem, before swapping tubes would make any sense. Here everything is hunky-dory, and I note down the values for reference during the actual biasing phase.

Negative grid voltage or bias

As a last step before biasing I measured the negative grid voltage at pin 5. This reading is connected to the grid inside the valve which regulates the flow of electrons from the cathode to the anode. This negative voltage can also be measured without any tube inserted. It sounds kind of confusing that the voltage measured at the socket pin is negative. Does a larger negative voltage mean a higher or lower signal level? When were biasing – with a tube inserted – we will use a different meter to gauge its performance. Then, the voltage readings will be positive. What does this mean? 

Tubes, and their appetite for current

Every vacuum tube is an individual case. The way a valve consumes and processes electrical voltage and current is crucial to its own, and the amp’s, functionality and performance. Even if you hated Ohm’s law at school, you should bear with me for a few moments:

A guitar signal is voltage. Each preamp stage adds voltage, until the signal reaches the power amplifier.

The power amp valves are geared to produce current (amperes). The tubes won’t put out any watts, unless there is sufficient voltage supplied by the guitar signal. For a guitar amp trying to amplify our tiny little guitar signal into a mighty roar this means (in simplified terms):

Volts (voltage) x amperes (current) = watts (power)

The larger all these numbers are the louder your amp will be. Power amp tubes are divided up into pairs of two or four by the process of matching. The tubes are measured at the factory (or by the supplier) and graded as “low amplification” (low current draw), “medium amplification” (medium current draw) or “high amplification” (high current draw) – often denominated by a number on the package. Biasing allows us to use the power amp valves at their optimal operating level, regardless of their grading.

A tube’s life expectancy

A good flow of current is a precondition to amplifying a guitar signal. Like us humans a valve ages over time, making it less and less efficient. There’s a large efficiency drop right at the beginning of a fresh tube’s working life. Because of this we can adjust a new valve to draw a little too much current. The first drop at the beginning will make the tube settle into its optimal operating conditions. When a tube’s efficiency starts deteriorating with age – leading to a drop in current draw – you can readjust its bias-idling to give it a new lease of life.

Many players swap their power amp valves too early, because of their amp’s tone and dynamics becoming lackluster. By readjusting the bias you can “widen” the grid to let more electrons flow from the cathode to the anode (increasing the draw), leading to the valve getting back to its optimum level of saturation. This step can very often be repeated a couple of times, until the valve is so worn out that it isn’t capable of drawing enough current anymore. When this happens it is time for a new set of power amp tubes, because – according to our rendition of Ohm’s law – if there’s no sufficient current draw, no amount of voltage will turn out a powerful signal.

The grid

I can see how “tight” a tube’s grid is “woven” by measuring the voltage at pin 5. The lower the voltage reads the tighter the grid standing in the electrons’ way is. A low voltage means less current running through the valve – it runs cool. The higher the voltage is raised – meaning less negative grid voltage (i.e. a smaller number) – the hotter the signal becomes, because the grid impedes the electron flow much less. For starters – and to stay on the safe side – we can set the negative grid voltage to -30 VDC, before putting a new tube into the socket. Once the valve is in place, we will be able to monitor its current draw and fine-adjust its bias using the amps internal trim pot(s).

The old tubes in the Twin didn’t seem to have been matched all that well, or maybe their biasing had been changed somewhere along the way, as the two pairs were reading slightly different voltages (-55 and -57 VDC). These voltages are so low that I can plug in new tubes without fear of damage.

Bias values

The bias is calculated in relation to the anode-voltage. Some of my biggest amp idols, like Ken Fischer (Trainwreck Amplifiers) and Gerald Weber (Kendrick Amplifiers) do their biasing by ear, going for about 35 mA for a 6L6-type. I like to do things much more methodically, and use a TAD Bias Master. 


A handy measuring tool

An easy way to measure the efficiency of power amp tubes is to insert specialized sockets between the valves and the tube sockets, and connect them up to a bias meter. Inside the Bias Master's sensors a special one-ohm resistor converts the amperes running through the tubes into easy-to-meter millivolts. I hooked the TAD Bias Master up to the Fender Twin and turned the amp on. I remembered the value of the anode-voltage I had measured before. As the amp warmed up, the grid values climbed to 25 to 27 mA.

Brown Sound

You have to keep in mind that raising the bias will lower the anode-voltage. The term “Brown Sound” describes the sound of valves with a low anode-voltage. Usually a lower the anode-voltage leads to a crunchier sound.

You can achieve this effect by using a Variac to drop the amp’s mains power supply artificially. In this way the mains transformer’s secondary coil will send a lower voltage to the tube’s anode connected to pin 3. If you adjust your bias correctly the sound will be warm and crunchy. The drawback in this method lies in the lower heater voltage, which has its own impact on the valve’s efficiency. The best way to achieve a Brown Sound is to install a separate transformer for the heater, which is getting its power before the Variac.

Another way to achieve a crunchy tone is to use very powerful and efficient tubes, which draw a lot of current. Because such a tube needs more current the anode voltage will be lower, and the bias will be reset in relation to the changed parameters. The sound will seem crunchier to most people. It is important to get the relationship between all the settings right. It also depends on the amplifier in question, whether the bias pot will have enough of a range to be able to compensate for power amp tubes that are vastly different from its factory specs.

I measured the Twin's lowered anode-voltage and compare its level to the values on my bias value chart. The bias was still a good deal too low.

Understanding the bias value

In contrast to the negative grid voltage, with the bias value, more really is more. A higher value will result in a hotter-running valve. I turned the trim pot full on, but the meter still read too low. It seemed these tubes didn't seem to suck up enough power. You could call them low-powered. Usually a bias trimmer has a much wider range than this one here, allowing you to use a much more diverse field of different makes of valves. This type of narrow trim pot is rather unique.

Cold biasing

Virtually all manufacturers bias their tube amps “cold” at the factory. This way the tubes run cooler, don't age as quickly, and the fail rate is much lower. At Backline Rental I used low bias settings for all amplifiers that didn't rely on power amp distortion for their signature sounds (read: almost all amps, expecially Heavy Metal and Thrash stacks). The amps sounded good and the valves didn't blow up. With non-master volume amps correct biasing is more crucial than with a master volume amplifier. I could just have given up and run the Twin at these low bias values without problems, but this was not the time for compromises. I wanted to get the biasing right for a number of reasons.

Selecting a different set of tubes

You're left with two options in situations like these – swap the trim pot or swap the valves. I opted for the latter. I picked up a different set of matched power amp valves. The PC-values (PC = plate current) printed on their boxes were different. More is more in this case, so I was pretty sure these valves would raise my bias-readings.

I plugged them in, and I knew I had a winner. Now, the bias levels were much higher in relation to the anode-voltage. The bias was even high enough for me to use the trim pot to set it a little bit lower, leaving a wee bit of welcome leeway for adjustments further down the line. 

Just to repeat it once more: As tubes lose their efficiency, when they get old, you have to raise the bias levels to keep them at the correct working level in relation to the anode-voltage. This way you can get a lot more mileage out of your power amp valves, before they start to get really “tired”.  You can use clever online calculators and charts to determine the correct biasing value, like the Weber Bias Calculator.

Mismatched tubes, good tone?

Let me play the devil’s advocate turn what we’ve already learned about biasing and matched sets of tubes on its ear: The early years of Rock spawned a whole wealth of great guitar sounds. At that time biasing was largely unknown by anybody outside an amp factory. This means that plenty of fantastic records have been made with unmatched, badly adjusted valves. You used whatever you could get from the nearest TV- and radio shop to make it through the next gig.

Unbalanced valves result in unsymmetrical clipping, which is an effect many guitarists like. Many overdrive-pedals are based on unsymmetrical clipping, like some of Mike Fuller’s Fulltone-pedals or some of the creations by Finland’s sound guru Miikka Paatelainen. You can still get this effect in your amp. If your tubes are badly-matched in just the “right” way (in the right relationship to each other), you will get odd-numbered harmonics, resulting in a juicy tone that will stand out in a mix. Personally biased and (mis-) matched tubes are another part of guitar amp mystique that can be exploited by the marketing departments of amp makers.

Time for a test run

Now it was time to try out both combos. I set up the pair of Järvinen-Twins side-by-side, hooking them up for simultaneous use. I was so excited I had difficulty remembering which Twin was which. Which amp would prove to be the better-sounding one – the JJ-equipped version Olli had biased or the combo I had loaded with a set of TAD's more saturated 6L6s? I felt so excited, like being 16 again. Silly, isn't it?

The clean channel

I plugged in a Nash S-63 and selected the clean channel. I was greeted by a very Fender-ish clean tone with spades of headroom. I instantly took to the bright and clear tone. The reverb had to be applied sparingly. It wasn't as full-sounding as a Blackface-era spring reverb, but sounded very good when applied with taste. The amp on the right had a good “ring”, as well as a tighter and brighter bottom end, which pleased me very much. Somehow the combo on the right sounded a bit more coherent – the differences between the amps were small, but noticeable. This might also have been down to differently aged capacitors. I simply had to peek at the Twins' backs, and was relieved to find that the combo I had equipped with new tubes and re-biased myself was my favourite. Placebo effect or no – time to switch channels.

The overdrive channel

The overdriven side of things sounded surprisingly lush – more Marshall than Fender – fitting a Strat-style guitar to a tee. There was a fair amount of bottom end, without the bass swamping the clear trebles. I remembered Albert once remarking that the Twin gave him “all possible sounds in the same amp”. Seems this wasn't blatant advertising speak at all, but the genuine truth. At least with singlecoil pickups…

As my next move I hooked up my humbucker-equipped guitar to the pair of Fenders – not such a good fit for the Twins, as it turned out. The clean channel's tone was just about passable, but I was in for a huge shock, when I switched to the overdrive channel. With this humbucker-equipped guitar the overdrive channel had no finesse whatsoever and sounded more like a fuzzy transistor amp than the valve combo the Fender Twin really is. Strange, as the Fender-style guitar had worked so well…

I returned with the Nash strapped on, and started sending Albert's riffs and licks from his Hurriganes-period into the darkening evening sky of Kruunuhaka. My personal favourite still is "It Ain´t What You Do", which I remember having seen Albert play on TV sometime in the Seventies. He played the riff in a special way, using both the open low E-string, as well as the octave on the A-string. After going over it for some time, I finally managed a decent version of the song myself. My electric guitar-riffing days have been behind me for many years now, so I turned off the video camera to spare myself public embarrassment.   

As the day turned into night I switched off the lights and stepped onto the sidewalk. As I walked home I remembered the words of Jukka Orma (who also lived in the district of Kruunuhaka): “Albert always sounded like himself, regardless of the gear he used.” And he should know, because he played with Albert during the time Järvinen used these very Fender Twins.

As I walked up the stairs I realized that the amps hadn't made me sound like Järvinen at all. The older I get the more I find truth in the notion of the tone coming from a guitarist's hands, and not his (or her) equipment. I sipped my evening coffee, while I watched this clip from the 1970s on YouTube, the music of my hero filling the room.

Thank you for all the music, Albert.


 Kimmo Aroluoma

The writer is the owner of Custom Boards Finland. He is a veteran guitar tech who has toured for years with Finnish bands HIM, Amorphis, Michael Monroe, The Rasmus and Von Hertzen Brothers. Today he designs pedalboards and runs his own web shop in Helsinki, Finland.


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