Traynor YGM-4 Studio Mate

Behind The Eight Ball
Traynor YGM-4 Studio Mate
Amp and photos courtesy of Peter Delgais.
1974 Traynor YGM-4 Studio Mate
• Preamp tubes: four 12AX7
• Output tubes: two 6BQ5 (aka EL84)
• Rectifier: solid-state
• Controls: Treble Boost switch, Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, tremolo Speed and Intensity
• Speakers: four 8″ Marsland 7391
• Output: approx. 20 watts RMS

Vintage-amp bargain hunters often compare the quality and features of smaller Traynor combos to Fenders and those of the larger heads to Marshall. The truth is these robust Canadian amps have their own thing going on.

For players of the late ’60s and ’70s, Traynor amps were so semi-ubiquitous as to be of little inherent interest. Like the mid-’70s silverface Fender combos, they showed up as house amps in clubs and standard-issue backline in rehearsal studios, and never garnered the oohs and ahs of the sexier offerings of the day. Marshall, Vox, Mesa/Boogie… yes please! But that workaday Traynor in the corner? Let your stand-in rhythm guitarist play through that one. With several decades of generic PCB-based, mass-manufactured amps having flowed under the bridge, however, an original-issue Traynor tube amp starts to look more special, and indeed it is. Especially when you’re looking for sturdy, hand-wired, golden-age tube goodness at reasonable prices on the vintage market.

The Traynor brand was founded in 1963 by Pete Traynor, an aspiring bass player who had taken a job in his early 20s as a part-time amplifier repairman at Toronto’s legendary Long & McQuade music store while working to get his music career off the ground. Proving a clever designer and able repairman, Traynor concocted his first original amp, the Dyna-Bass, to overcome the limitations in existing bass rigs. Soon after, Jack Long (one of Long & McQuade’s co-owners) formed Yorkville Sound to produce a Traynor lineup, and by ’65 the new maker was up and running with a range of guitar and bass amps. The Traynor name quickly became synonymous with reliable performance and clear, punchy tone, and provided our northern neighbors with a home-grown amp maker that could fill a gap in the market.

Four 8″ speakers in a closed-back enclosure present a different sonic signature than most guitar combos.

Many players hip to the Traynor thing approach these amps with consideration of their potential for modification, specifically with the desire to turn them into something non-Traynor: the 50-watt Bass Master heads, for example, are popular platforms for conversion to the Marshall plexi circuit. The unusual YGM-4 Studio Mate combo, however, boasts appealing charms all its own, most of which are worth retaining precisely as-is.

The in-a-nutshell on the Studio Mate presents a single channel with high and low inputs, Treble Boost (bright switch), Volume, Bass and Treble controls, a Reverb depth control for the tube-driven spring reverb, and Speed and Intensity controls for the tremolo. Basic specs comprise a 20-watt output stage powered by dual EL84 tubes (labeled with the North American 6BQ5 designator in this case) pushing an enclosed speaker section loaded with four 8″ Marsland 7391 speakers wired in series/parallel for an 8-ohm load. Four 12AX7 tubes cover preamp, reverb, tremolo, and phase-inverter duties.

No, that’s not a typo. Rather than the 4×10″ speaker complement made popular by Fender’s late-’50s tweed Bassman and the Concert and Super Reverb amps that followed in the ’60s, the Studio Mate reduces overall speaker-cone surface area even further with an enclosure housing a quad of the smallest speakers commonly used in any reputable guitar amps (and even then, generally only used in single units). It’s not the only vintage amp we know of using multiple 8″ speakers, but the only notable 4×8″ combo that comes to mind other than the Gibson-made Maestro GA-45, itself thus equipped with the intention of amplifying the accordion, as well as guitar and bass. In the Studio Mate, however, it all comes out somewhat differently thanks to the closed-back enclosure beneath the chassis, an arrangement that enhances low-end and focuses the directionality of the speakers.

We have no idea why Traynor opted to fit the Studio Mate with four 8″ speakers when the same enclosure – with a different baffle – could carry a single 12 or two 10s mounted diagonally. Perhaps he thought the quick, detailed response of smaller drivers suited the studio intentions, or perhaps it was simply to broaden the lineup and put more ink into the catalog. Either way, the configuration brings its own sound to the table – one that certain players might prefer to that of more-conventional speaker formats. Traynor applied the same circuit design to the YGM-3 Guitar Mate, a 1×12″ combo, so there’s little between the two models other than the speaker complement (the legend on the schematic diagram printed on the underside of the Studio Mate’s top cover indicates it covers the “YGM-3 & 4” models).

Though the amp carries two EL84/6BQ5 output tubes, we shouldn’t mistake it for a Vox AC15 or Marshall 18-watter stand-in. The Studio Mate, as with other of its smaller Traynor contemporaries, runs these tubes in fixed bias with a negative-feedback loop around the output stage, rather than in cathode bias with no negative feedback, like the Vox and Marshall models. It also hits them with pretty stout voltages via solid-state rectification. All of this means the output stage is more akin to the Fender template than the AC15 or 18-watter, other than in the tubes themselves. Little else in the circuit is particularly Fender-like, however, and the Traynor pretty much has its own thing going on from input to output.

Removing the combo’s top panel reveals the hand-wired circuit (top), loaded with the same Mullard “mustard caps” found in the most-prized Marshalls. Landing right in the ’70s club-amp wheelhouse, the Studio Mate delivers a single channel with two-band EQ, reverb, and tremolo.


Notable alongside the amp’s generally sturdy performance is the quality of its components. Many were drawn from the domestic market, including the high-quality (Canadian) Hammond transformers. But also prized are the Mullard “mustard cap” signal capacitors sourced from Britain, and Mallory filter caps, also made in Canada. These amps often carried U.K.-made Mullard tubes, too, though they’re not seen in this example. Generally considered over-built to easily withstand any demands put upon them, most Traynor amps of the mid ’60s to mid ’70s are in good working order today, generally requiring little more than some replaced filter caps and fresh tubes for optimal performance (and sometimes not even that, given the quality of the original parts). This tidy 1974 Guitar Mate is no exception, and its owner, VG reader Peter Delgais, finds a lot to love in it.

“To my ears, the Studio Mate responds like a Fender amp that’s capable of all the chime and sparkle,” Delgais tells us. “It doesn’t quite have enough gain to really bark, but introduce a pedal to the mix and you get the tonal pallet of something between a Princeton and a low-wattage Marshall. The 8″ speakers occupy a sonic space that most players seldom explore, and often overlook, but in the right situation I have found really stands out.

“I enjoy this amp very much for the same reasons I love a Champ or Princeton – the unmistakable overdriven tones of an 8″ speaker that I’ve heard in so many of my favorite recordings, but with more volume and low-end from the enclosed back. It also has a lush, cavernous spring reverb, and a jarring tremolo that cuts like a knife.”

More than merely reliable and serviceable, the Studio Mate packs its own personality – one that might excel on the small-club stage just as much as in the “Studio.”

This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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