After selling an amp to finance a new car I promptly searched eBay for a cheap all valve replacement that featured a 12” speaker. Eventually, I was the lucky winner of an original early 1970’s Traynor YGM-3 Guitar Mate for just shy of £200. Bargain!
Not knowing too much about Traynor amplifiers I was amazed to discover the old YGM-3 amps are hand wired, point-to-point using some very high quality components. I think the amp is rated around 22W and uses a blend of EL84 and 12AX7 valves. The speaker was not labelled and I’ve since heard Traynor previously used “Marsland” speakers but I can’t be too sure. In addition the amp features controls for tremolo and reverb that are switchable via a footswitch.
The amp I owned had been modified though – one of the two guitar input channels had been replaced to include a Master Volume control. I almost forgot to mention the bright switch – when engaged, this will strip paint from the walls!
It couldn’t be easier to use this amplifier due to the minimal controls available (bass, treble & volume). Setting the tremolo intensity, speed and reverb was a 2 second job.
This is a closed back amp and has a monster amount of bass available. So much so, the stock speaker simply cant handle it unless you turn the bass down to a low setting. I ended up replacing the speaker with a Celestion GH12-30 Anniversary edition speaker and it made a whole world of difference.
The master volume mod was OK but I always ran the master volume on max and adjust the standard volume control to taste. For venues where volume levels were not too much of a problem it was possible to get some sweet natural breakup with my Stratocaster and a darker, slightly edgier overdrive with the SG. At these settings though I found the amp to be too loud, which was a shame as the volume didn’t really increase after going past six on the volume dial, it simply just increased the natural overdrive. I guess that’s where the master volume could come into play but I’m a man who loves to crank the master volume as much as possible.
One nice aspect about this amp is that it takes effects pedals very well. I used a variety of overdrive & distortion pedals with this amp and I had no problems whatsoever. Of all the overdrive pedals I used, I found the Keeley modified Blues Driver was by far the most natural pairing.
I did find the overall tone a bit bright at times (despite the amount of bass available) and I often thought a midrange control would be a great addition to refine the sound. The tremolo and reverb are absolutely stunning – probably better than any Fender amp I’ve owned or had the opportunity to try.
This amp is well over 30 years old and apart from the speaker change and the master volume mod, the amp was completely stock. These old Traynor amps are built like absolute tanks – in fact, isn’t Mr Traynor the guy who used to road test his equipment by throwing them out of 3rd floor windows to see if they still work?! (I could be wrong about that!).
A nice amplifier that in my mind is really suited to a cleaner sound. You can dirty up the signal naturally by cranking the volume but this amp can get very loud. The reverb and tremolo are really quite special and the way the amp takes pedals means that you could potentially have a warm sounding and fairly versatile valve amplifier at a relatively low cost.
The only reason I sold the amp was purely down to the fact I wanted to go back to a Marshall sound – the YGM-3 never really had a basic sound that was my cup of tea, but this is purely my personal preference. The guy who purchased the amp uses an SG loaded with P90’s (from Wizard Pickups) and it has to be said, using that guitar with a spalsh of reverb and tremolo, he has a very clean, mellow and warm valve tone that sounds really jazzy & bluesy.
Due to the somewhat underground cult status of the amplifier, Traynor has recently re-issued the YGM-3 featuring a different speaker choice and possibly slightly different components. I’d be really interested to know what the reissue is like and how it sounds compared to the original. If anyone has first-hand experience of using both the reissue and the original Traynor YGM-3, please share your thoughts below.