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These days, when people hear Benson and Amps in the same sentence they think of the builder of amps in the Pacific Northwest. There was a previous company bearing the name in the late 60s and early 70s.
The original Benson amps were purpose-built for Howard Roberts, jazz guitarist extraordinaire and member of the Wrecking Crew, the most requested session musicians in the 60s and early 70s. There is some additional history below, borrowed from a Vintage Guitar Magazine article.
Sometimes an item comes in like this amp, something somewhat obscure. In this case, the item is also somewhat historically important. It appears to be an early build, bearing the serial number 207. It lacks some features of later versions of the amp that offered plug in modules to change the tone as well as a built-in fuzz.
The amp has been serviced, having received new filter caps in 1990 and some tremolo work somewhere along the way. The work was done professionally.
Dating such an amp can be interesting. There just aren't any resources out there to help. But, we do know that Benson amps started sometime around 1968, and this amp has stock potentiometers from 1965 as well as a 1967 Utah speaker.
Most Bensons out there are the Model 300H. My assumption is that this amp was a predecessor to the 300H, and that is is probably an early one for the company from 1968. There is a bag of tremolo parts from previous work that calls out the build date as 1967.
I searched for days and cannot find any internet information pointing to another Benson 300g.
The amp sounds as you might expect from reading the history. It excels at clean, warmer tones, but it can also get pretty surf-y thanks to the spring reverb and tremolo.
Everything works as it should and the amp runs strong and quiet.
History of Benson Electronics
The origins of the Benson amplifier arise with Ron Benson's interest in attaining the same sound that Howard Roberts obtained from a Gibson GA50 amplifier. After trying numerous amps, and not accomplishing his goal, Ron decided to learn electronics and to build one himself. Howard suggested that he build two, one for Ron and one for him. Howard provided the money for these first two amps to be built. Unfortunately this amp, together with his first signature guitar, were stolen from Howard.
Subsequent to this Ron spent some time designing and building an amp for Howard's studio work. This amp became very popular with studio players in Los Angeles and Ron began to build a number of these. Because they were used by different instrumentalists they were designed so that a plug-in module could be used with the amp to shape the tonal characteristics to be appropriate for each instrument. This early example does not have the module option.
At this point Ron was still operating from his garage. After some complaints from his neighbors, Ron and Howard decided to find a more appropriate manufacturing context. Inevitably Howard found some investors and a company, The Dr. Henry L. Richter Corporation of Monrovia, CA, to manufacture the amps.
This arrangement lasted for several years until the Richter Corp. lost a significant government contract to manufacture radios and went bankrupt. Subsequent to this the L.D. Heater Corporation of Seattle, a company controlled by Gibson, began to manufacture the amps. This company closed about 1974 and so ended the manufacturing of Benson amplifiers.
Overall Ron estimates that at most 2000 Benson amplifiers were built over its lifetime.
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- Case/Cover?: No
- Color: Black
- Dimensions: 19-3/4" x 9" x 23"
- Weight: 32 lbs
- Watts: 50 Watts
- Date: 1967
- Speaker 1 Brand/Model: Utah
- Speaker 1 Size: 15"
- Speaker 1 Code: M115PXC
- Speaker 1 Cone: 106765-T
- Power Transformer brand and/or codes: PT670
- Output Transformer brand and/or codes: OT430
- Choke Transformer brand and/or codes: CK201
- Reverb Transformer brand and/or codes: 17-6726
- Extension Speaker Out? Yes
- FX Loop?: No
- Reverb or other effects?: Reverb, Tremolo
- Power tubes: 2 x EL34
- Power Tube Brand: National
- Preamp Tubes: 7199 & 4 x 12AX7
- Preamp Tube Brand: National
- Filter Caps: Original
- Pedal?: Original, Hardwired
- Pots, codes: Original 137 6540, 137 6741, 137 6724
- Tolex: Original
- Grille: Original
- Knobs: Original
- Handle: Original
- Power cord: Original 2 Prong