If you have decided to take the plunge and build your own guitar tube amp, please permit me to share my early projects/mistakes with you to help get you going within the right direction. However, make sure to really want to construct your own:
You need to be fairly handy around electronics already, and aware of the risks built into high voltage tube electronics and the precautions to take when focusing on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation that you will save money… unless your time and energy may be worth nothing at everything you can probably do better purchasing a completed amplifier, even from the Cayin Tube Amp, but certainly on the open market as used
All said, though, there is a lot of satisfaction in completing and playing an amplifier you built yourself and achieving the license to help modify/tweak/voice your creation to perfection… so let’s get started:
Stumbling Through My first couple of Projects – My first project started as an AM radio, it had occurred to me this chassis and most of the components was quite ideal for an octal-tube-based Fender Champ-like single-ended amplifier and i also wanted to hear the difference in tone between real tubes as well as the tube modeling in my Roland Cube amp… After studying good quality tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon a strategy and:
* I fought using the old transformers (insulation switching to dust whenever you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (utilizing the old radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement of the major components to get a tube guitar amplifier)
* Found out that true point-to-point wiring isn’t the best choice for experimenting
* I couldn’t find a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight In my opinion it was because of the underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never get back to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a whole lot but it didn’t answer my fundamental questions regarding tube-tone because I didn’t end up with an iconic amplifier being a reference after the project
* I spent some frustrating evenings redesigning and reworking my first effort and after that for my second major project I broke down and bought a kit that promised a clone of any vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving several pennies from time to time on components isn’t satisfying when you find yourself investing lots of time building the project and facets of the result look cheap (e.g. a plastic alternative to a ‘proper’ metal construction Speaker Cable or worse… sacrifice tone (e.g. cheap electrolytic capacitors)
I’ve grown a little leary of un-branded chinese transformers that may not have even been hi-pot tested not to mention certified by a safety agency; and who knows what laminations, etc. are utilized in the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t your best option for adding additional functionality towards the stock circuit and very frustrating to work with
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great whenever you plug it into a proper speaker & cabinet combination
The Initial DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
Using the above experiences in mind it is actually time and energy to summarize some considerations for the very first project:
* Simple project however, not under-featured… something that might be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for quick access, simplified assembly and room to modify
* Well documented, well supported… not always with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but alternatively with a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* An entire kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* Top quality parts using the possibility to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you may want excellent value over extravagant components to lower your downside if your project doesn’t come out phczif or you lose interest.
* Standard sized chassis for convenient sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 508ia provided by the kit supplier, or a desire, determination and ability to build (and finish) your personal cabinetry
* With all the above given due consideration my third time was the charm!
You ought to look for a professional supplier of tube-amp kits, and choose a model that suits both your taste in tone along with a satisfying set of features to your first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!