SELMER CLAVIOLINE ELECTRONIC KEYBOARD
The Clavioline was a small keyboard which packed into the separate
amplifier unit for transportation, and which was intended for use as a
supplementary unit to a piano. This keyboard was used intensively by
small dance bands in the UK during the late 50's /early 60's, and also
was the distinctive lead instrument on the Tornado's "Telstar" hit back
THE SELMER PIANOTRON PORTABLE
By the mid to late 1960's, Selmer were offereing more sophisticated
portable keyboards for band use. This Pianotron is owned by Des Abbott,
who played it back in the 1960's with his band, The District Line. Also included on the page are catalogue scans of the Pianotron and also the Capri ELectronic Organ.
SELMER VARITONE OCTAMATIC AUDITORIUM
A combo amplifier produced for use with a SAXOPHONE!! A special pickup
was supplied, which was attached to the sax, together with a small
control consul fitted with volume and tone controls. That is why there
are only the tremolo controls actually on the amplifier unit itself!
COMBINED AMPLIFIER & SPEAKER
Selmer imported Leslie Organ parts during the 1960's/70's, and
assembled the organs under licence for sale in the UK. For a short
period in 1967/68, they produced a combo amp for use with the organ.
This produced the famous Leslie rotating speaker sound, but by means of
a moving baffle in front of the speaker; not by actually rotating the
speaker. We understand that one of these units was supplied to the EMI
Abbey Road studios for use during the Beatles recording sessions.
SELMER-LESLIE SPEAKER CABINET
This was produced prior to the above combo unit for use with Leslie
organs. Again, it employed a moving baffle in front of the speaker to
produce the "Leslie Sound".
SELMER SCINTILLATION REVERBERATION UNIT
Produced for a short time in the early 1970's, this spring-based effect
was introduced to compliment the various "SV" Series amplifier heads
that did not incorporate built-in reverb. The example shown is one of
two recently (2003) discovered, still in their original factory
packings - and unopened!
An early solid state "distortion" unit, which Selmer introduced at the
September 1966 British Musical Instruments Trade Show.
Introduced into the Selmer catalogue in September 1968, and described
as being "suitable for use with both guitar and organ". A Wah-Wah Pedal
without the Fuzz effect was also offered.
U.S. BUILT "GENERAL PURPOSE" COMBINATION AMPLIFIER.
Just when we thought that we had grasped the basics of the Selmer
amplifier history, we have been taken unawares by Brandon Tinianov. He
has sent us pictures of an old Selmer amplifier manufactured in
Indiana, USA. This would appear to be a general purpose amplifier,
intended for use with "phonographs" and "recorders" as well as with
"microphones" and "instruments".
U.S. BUILT COMBINATION AMPLIFIER
An even earlier US-built amplifier that probably dates from the 1940's.
We can only conclude that this and the above amp were built for the
parent Selmer Paris company for distribution in the US. They are not
really from the same ancestry as the UK Selmer amps on which this
website is based. Nevertheless, they are very interesting. Thanks to
Dave Huyck for supplying the photos of his amp.
PLASTICS "JUNIOR BEATLE" GUITAR
Selcol was an associate company to Selmer, who were displaced in
late-1968 from their factory in Braintree, Essex in order to make way
for the relocated Selmer amplifier production facility. Prior to being
closed down, Selcol made plastic garden furniture and toys - an
interesting example of which is this plastic guitar which helped to
satisfy the demand for "all-things-Beatle" in the UK during the mid
TAPE RECORDING MACHINE
It would appear that Selmer-Truvoice made tape recorders at some stage;
probably in the late 1950's or early 1960's from the appearance of the
cabinet covering and control panel. This particular example was based
on a Collard tape deck. Many thanks to John Beer for finding this
GENERAL SELMER INFORMATION
DATING YOUR SELMER
Unfortunately we do not have any
information on serial numbers at this stage, although it might be
possible to collect them into a database if there is sufficient
interest to justify this. It is difficult to pinpoint the manufacturing
date of a Selmer amplifier more precisely than to the general periods
defined by the colour schemes. It is worth looking inside the amp to
see if there are any
inspection stamps or electrical components which might indicate a date,
but please read the safety warning below before poking around the
inside of any amplifier.
The one exception is for amplifiers which contain Celestion speakers,
if these can with any certainty be presumed to be original fitments.
Many of the larger and more expensive Selmer amps were fitted with
Celestions, including the popular Zodiac and Thunderbird combos.
Celestion speakers carry a manufacturers date code which indicates the
exact day when the speaker was made, which is a very good clue to the
age of the amp : as guitar amplifiers were in great demand in the the
1960's, it is unlikely that speakers hung around for any length of time
before being fitted.
The Celestion Date codes are contained in Appendix 1 to "The History of
Marshall" by Mike Doyle. Look for a 2 number, 2 letter date code
stamped either on the rim gasket or the metal frame of the speaker (e.g
17 AH). The numbers give the date of the month, the letters stand for
the month and year.
Website now contains a list of date codes in the
"Doctor Decibels Secrets" section.
(Selmer also used speakers by Goodmans, Fane and Elac in their
amplifiers, and we do not know of any way to date these).
BUYING AN OLD SELMER AMPLIFIER
At this time Selmer amps seem to be enjoying a burst of popularity,
which may be simply a wave of nostalgia or because all the Vox amps
have disappeared into collections !! Unfortunately old Selmer amps are
quite rare nowadays, and I think this is because although they were
manufactured in large numbers, during the late 1970's and 1980's they
were regarded as almost worthless and many ended life in landfills. (In
those days of course, a Vox AC30 could be found in the local junk-shop
for under £100). It's a case of keeping an eye on newspaper
advertisements and music-shops - there are still bargains to be had!
Prices are difficult to define as there are numerous Selmer models and
a limited market. The most popular models are the croc-skin Zodiacs and
Thunderbirds, and in good original condition these presently seem to
command prices in the £1000 to £1500 range (compared
to contemporary JMI Vox AC30 which can sell for up to, and sometimes
beyond, £3,000 in the UK these days). T'n'B heads can be a
great bargain at as little as £250, though finding the
matching cab is often a problem. Nowadays it is rare to find any of the
early 60's Selmer amps in good condition at less than £200.
With Selmers, you can get a lot of amplifier for your money !
SPARE PARTS FOR YOUR SELMER AMPLIFIER
The only sources of used Selmer spare
parts that we know of are:
The simple answer is - usually great !
The solid-state amplifiers of the late 60's are no great shakes, but
the valve-powered models of the early 60's are classic in both looks
Sound is a subjective thing - what I like, you might not. But in
attempting to describe them I'd say that the smaller valve combos with
EL84 & ECC83 valves sound very like their Vox equivalents, and
indeed the small Watkins amps of those years. All had similar circuitry
and components so that's probably not surprising. The AC15 probably had
the edge on treble and tone quality, but certainly not by so much of a
margin as Vox would have liked.
Selmer generally used EL34 output valves for their amps above 15 watts
so you'll get a sound somewhere between a Vox and a Marshall - less
treble and "chime" than an AC30, less grunge than a Marshall, but a
good sound in it's own right, very usable and versatile.
That's all I'm going to say - they're your ears, try one !
For two reasons. The first is the most
important - it might save your life. Old amplifiers which haven't had
attention for years can be in a dangerous and even lethal condition.
I've had several "tingles" and one belt which I wouldn't like to risk
getting again from messing around with things I don't really know much
about. Don't plug straight into an old amplifier you know nothing about
- if you just can't resist the temptation, at least use an RCCD
(residual current cut-off device), a few pounds from the local hardware
store. That will cut off the current in micro-seconds if anything goes
wrong. Ordinary fuses take milliseconds, slo-blo ones longer - they are
designed to protect the equipment, not you, and by the time they blow
you can be brain-dead, which is a bit of a barrier to enjoying your
Reason 2. An old amplifier which has been stored for 30 years in
someone's loft, or had 30 years of abuse by a succession of teenage
guitarists, is unlikely to be putting out it's best performance. Apart
from a safety check, it will probably need new valves (though don't
throw out the old original Mullards or Brimars as a collector will
value them), new electrolytic capacitors ("caps" or "filter caps" which
dry our over a period of time), and probably lots of the other little
red, yellow & green bits inside aren't doing now what they did
30 years ago. Find a good tech recommended to you as experienced with
vintage valve amps - the less hair, the better !! It'll be worth the
A NOTE CONCERNING CURRENCY
For the benefit of our American and
other overseas visitors, the currency used on this website is the
domestic currency of the UK.
Until 15 February 1971 it was in Pounds (£), Shillings (s),
and Pence (d) with 12d = 1 Shilling, 20s = £1.
After that it went decimal to £(pounds) and pence (p), with
100pence = £1.
Now as for guineas, they lost their status a legal tender in the UK way
before electric guitars were even invented! However, many so called
luxury goods were often priced in guineas up to the early 70's,
presumably in an attempt to retain a feeling of status and past
grandeur amongst the gullible UK buying public.
A guinea, by the way, was worth £1-1-0........ or put another
way: 21 shillings.
Confusing, isn't it!
Advert from "Melody Maker" - June 1969.