Guitar Gear: Recabbing and Rehabbing Guitar Heads

If you are looking to refurbish a classic head, preserve a road gem, are looking to do a custom build, or even are ready to build a new amp from the ground up is your starting place.

Have you ever found that unicorn of an amp online, that dream amp at a price you can’t believe? Only to look closer to see the head is battered, ripped, and even the wood is dented — telltale signs of years of road worn abuse.

Typically these classic gems are discounted simply due to their aesthetics. In most cases, the internals of the amps is perfect. However, the ripped tolex and missing hardware can be a huge turn off for most buyers. I have seen the price of classic heads discounted by thousands of dollars depending on their condition. The more expensive heads are typically tagged with the not so credible disclaimer “never gigged with” or “smoke-free studio.”

So what do you do if you already have a classic head that is road worn? The answer is easy you simply rehouse the head in a new cabinet. I did this recently with a new head cabinet though my reasons were much different, though.

I have a Fender M80 head. For those of you that have never seen one, these are the ugliest heads ever created. The cabinet is adorned with gray carpet, and the dimensions of the amp boggle the rational mind. Where Fender whiffed on the form, they hit it out of the park with function in the M80. The Fender M80 is a 94-watt solid-state amp with crystal cleans and built-in distorted grind that is reminiscent of a classic ’80’s – 90’s guitar amp. I love gigging with this gem, but I had to update its look.

My search was focused on finding an “as-is” head on the used market I could salvage for its shell. Trying to match dimensions was a challenge. The other problem is a lot of amps are disposable. When they fail, the less expensive ones go in the trash. What is left even on the “as-is” market is typically pricey. Research led me to realize a new custom build cabinet would be less expensive and less work than trying to retrofit a used cabinet. I came upon this conclusion when I got to is a website a musician can get lost in for hours. When you consider the countless amp styles, Tolex color options, and hardware, it is dizzying. MojoTone has all of the possibilities to create a period-correct cabinet faithfully. If you want to stand out from the pack MojoTone gives you the freedom to get wild and creative. I opted for the latter.

MojoTone was very helpful in helping me create what I now call “The Platypus.” Imagine an 80’s Fender solid-state head in a Marshall style tube cabinet with retro 70’s Fender Silverface grill cloth. The amp not only sounds cool; it also looks cool.

The brand new cabinet is wrapped in high-quality tolex. It is also adorned with brand new high-quality hardware. It looks as if this amp just rolled off the Fender production line. Looking at my shiny new old amp got me thinking. Would it make sense to recab some of the heads I currently use live?

As I said previously, the condition of an amp’s shell drastically affects its resale value. Putting some of my unicorns or dream amps in new cabinets now while I am gigging with them will allow me to slide them back in their original cabinets years from now when I am ready to sell them. The resale value of the amp will offset the price of a new cabinet now, down the line. This is a sound investment if I do say so myself.

Even if I never sell my amps, it will be nice to put them back in their original pristine shells when my gigging days are over.

If you are looking to refurbish a classic head, preserve a road gem, are looking to do a custom build, or even are ready to build a new amp from the ground up is your starting place.

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